With gorgeous mountain scenery, pretty beaches, great food and marvellous wine, Georgia is a perfect destination for any traveller. You can visit the fun-loving capital, Tbilisi, at any time of year; in summer, head into the Caucasus mountains for hiking or head for the warm shores of the Black Sea coast.
With a beautiful position along the banks of the Mtkvari River, Georgia’s capital Tbilisi is a picturesque city which is compact enough to explore on foot. It’s easy to feel the country’s history in this former Silk Road stopover: towering above the city is the ancient Narikala Fortress, and it’s great fun exploring the cobbled streets of the Old Town.
Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace offers a perfect location, with stunning views of Tbilisi’s historical heart, both from the hotel’s newly renovated rooms and suites as well as from the rooftop ‘ATI’ restaurant. After taking a stroll to the modern part of town, take a moment to recollect at the hotel’s Pauza spa or enjoy the views from beside the gorgeous outdoor pool.
Tbilisi is also a diverse, modern city with innovative architecture, stylish museums, theatres, thermal baths and a great nightlife. Another of the best places to stay is the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, which is right in the centre of town and boasts a gorgeous reception lobby, an on-site gym, and fantastic city views from the rooms.
Sleek and modern Batumi, on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, is Georgia’s seaside playground. While the centre retains a charming Eastern European Old Town feel, other parts of the city have undergone exciting change, with inventive architecture now a common sight. The seafront boulevard is where to go for many of Batumi’s top sights: the Alphabet Tower which resembles DNA strands twisting around one another, and the evocative Ali and Nino sculpture, inspired by the classic Caucasian novel depicting a love affair between a Georgian girl and an Azerbaijani noble boy. Stay at Le Méridien Batumi for seafront and city views, great spa facilities, and easy access to the spectacular display of the Dancing Fountains just around the corner.
One of the top places to visit in Georgia is the small town of Stepantsminda, reached by driving north from Tbilisi through stunning mountain scenery, taking in the beautiful monastery-fortress of Ananuri en route. Stepantsminda itself is home to the iconic image of Georgia: the tiny Gergeti Trinity church nestled on a hillside, with the enormous looming bulk of the snow-capped Mount Kazbek behind. It’s a perfect place to enjoy hikes in these beautiful mountains, before returning to the home comforts of the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi with its relaxing spa and pool, and excellent restaurant.
For a perfect seaside getaway, you won’t find a better place in Georgia than Shekvetili. As well as the Black Sea beach, the resort is home to the Tsitsinatela amusement park and Miniature Georgia, where you can see models of all the county’s top attractions. Stay at the Paragraph Resort & Spa Shekvetili, Autograph Collection to enjoy the excellent spa and complimentary fitness classes, as well as lounging by the fantastic outdoor pool or sipping a cocktail on the top-floor bar.
You can’t leave Georgia without trying a khachapuri: home-baked breads combined with salty sulguni cheese. The simplest khachapuri is the Imeruli, which is simply bread stuffed with cheese, while the Adjaran is a boat-shaped bread topped with cheese and an egg. Head to Retro in Batumi for some of the best khachapuri in Georgia.
Georgians are excellent at barbecued meat. Kebabs, known as mtsvadi, are usually delicious juicy pork, but you’ll also find lamb and chicken available. Accompanied by flavoursome vegetables, mtsvadi make a perfect meal. The best are home-cooked, so if you’re invited to a barbecue, make sure to accept. Otherwise, there are plenty of great places to eat mtsvadi in Tbilisi: Chashnagiri restaurant is a strong choice.
Georgian cuisine is extremely wide and varied, but one of the top dishes to try is the iconic khinkali, small meat- or cheese-filled dumplings. There’s a special technique to eating them: hold them by the knot and bite in, then suck all the hot broth out before eating the rest of the dumpling and discarding the knot. You’ll find this delicious dish everywhere but, when in Batumi, be sure to visit the restaurant simply named Georgian Kitchen, where the khinkali are particularly delicious.
Georgia has a wine-making tradition dating back thousands of years – it may even have been where wine was invented – and the wines you’ll get here are excellent. Whether you prefer white or red, make sure you visit at least one bar or wine cellar to sample the county’s fine vintages: Karalashvili’s Wine Cellar in Tbilisi is one of the best.
Any trip to Georgia should include a good few days in the capital city, in which you’ll find a wealth of things to do. Start by exploring the gorgeous Old Town, calling in at the ancient Anchiskhati Basilica and the nearby puppet theatre: one of the most fun things to do in the city is to take in a performance here, and you don’t need to understand Georgian to enjoy it. To get a great perspective on the country’s ancient settlements and more recent history, pay a visit to the unmissable Georgian National Museum, then, when evening starts to set in, take the cable car up to Narikala Fortress for great sunset views over the city.
Visiting the northwest corner of the country and gaining a real glimpse into traditional rural life is one of the most interesting things to do while in Georgia: the mountainous region of Svaneti is peppered with dozens of defensive towers once used in ancient feuds. Base yourself in Mestia and learn about the Svan culture, then get yourself out into the gorgeous Caucasus Mountains for some of the world’s best hiking.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Georgia, you can’t miss a trip to Sighnaghi. This stunning Italianate walled town is in the heart of the wine region, and you can spend a happy day wandering the town walls, sampling the local vineyards – at which wine is fermented in clay pots buried in the ground, producing vintages with a unique flavour – then finish up with a meal at the marvellous Pheasant's Tears restaurant.
One of the most unique things to do while in Georgia is touring the country’s excellent Soviet architecture, which is astonishing in its innovation: check out Tbilisi’s Palace of Rituals and the marvellous Georgian-Russian Friendship Monument on the road to Stepantsminda. Architectural highlights of a very different kind can be found in the gorgeous churches that dot the landscape: the Svetitskhoveli cathedral at Mtskheta, just half an hour from Tbilisi, is particularly impressive. Other alternative things to do in Georgia include a skiing trip in the resorts of Gudauri or Bakuriani, or spelunking in the Prometheus Caves around the city of Kutaisi.
The Georgian language is the most widely spoken member of the Kartvelian language family, which is unrelated to any other language in the world and comes with its own unique alphabet. Although most Georgians speak some English, any efforts to use Georgian will be appreciated; handy phrases include “gamarjoba” (“hello”) and “madloba” (“thank you”).
Published: July 26, 2022
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