Over the last few years, Georgia has become a popular tourist destination, and it is easy to see why!
Located in the Caucasus, it straddles Asia and Europe, and it feels like somewhere in-between the two continents.
It might be a small country, but it has plenty of interesting sights and activities to fill a two-week holiday.
A trip here comes with the added benefit of visas being available on arrival for 94 nationalities and it is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe.
In short, Georgia should be on your bucket list. Read on to find out what to include on your itinerary in Georgia.
5 Reasons You Should Visit Georgia.
1. Fantastic Hiking and Jaw-Dropping Mountain Scenery.
The main reason to visit Georgia is the fantastic Caucasus mountains running through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Russia.
I always thought the Alps was the highest mountain range in Europe, but I was wrong. It is the Caucasus at over 5,000 metres high.
There are two mountain destinations in Georgia which stand out – Upper Svaneti and Stepantsminda.
The former for its multiday hikes past glaciers and ancient villages and the latter for its uninterrupted mountain views.
Upper Svaneti is the most difficult to get to of the two destinations. Travelling here involves an overnight train plus a 2-hour bus journey or a 10-hour bus journey from Tbilisi.
However, there are benefits of being tucked away in a remote corner of the country on the border with Russia.
Svaneti has a strong local culture. The villages even have their own unwritten language.
Tall stone defence towers are typical of the region. In past times these were used as fortresses where villagers could hide during local blood feuds.
Today the area is safe, and the 4-day Mestia Ushguli trek has become the most popular multi-day hike in the country.
Stepantsminda is closer to Tbilisi and Svaneti. It does not have the remote feeling or the pretty villages of Svaneti but the views of Mt Kazbek, rising from the village below at 5,054 metres high, are breath-taking.
Stepantsminda is also home to one of Georgia’s most photographed monasteries, Gergeti Trinity Church. It balances on a cliff edge providing fantastic views of the valley below.
It only takes 3-4 hours to get here from Tbilisi, so there are considerably more tourists in Stepantsminda than Svaneti. As a result, there is many more accommodation option, including one of the region’s top-end spa hotels, Rooms.
Even if you do not stay overnight make sure you visit the Rooms restaurant terrace for a drink. Stretching the full length of the hotel, there is no better place to get a panoramic view of Mt Kazbek.
2. Wine tasting in Kakheti.
The title here could have stated “food and wine”, but unfortunately I was not a huge fan of the food.
The local Georgian cooking is based on cheese and walnuts, which makes it quite heavy. The wine, on the other hand, is excellent!
There is an ongoing debate about whether Armenia or Georgia was the first country in the world to produce wine.
I am not going to weigh in on that debate since my knowledge only really extends to drinking it. However, a visit to the wine region of Kakheti is a must.
Located in the south close to the border with Azerbaijan, farmers in the Kakheti valley have been producing wine for over 6,000 years.
During the years when the country was part of the USSR, the region was one of the main suppliers of wine to the communist world.
Georgian wine is still not well-known internationally, but that might change in the future since Georgia has the climate to produce a wide variety of high-quality wines.
Georgia is also the only country in the world where you can try amber (or orange) wine. It is produced by the same grapes used for white wine, but the skin is not removed, giving the wine an orange colour.
Today most wineries are open to tourists. They are best visited with a driver or on a group trip to allow you to do some tastings.
There is very little public transport in the area except for the two larger towns of Sighnaghi and Telavi.
Sighnaghi is the best place to base yourself for a visit to the region.
The hilltop village features houses with colourful wooden overhanging balconies and fabulous views over the Alazani valley.
When walking the cobbled streets, you could imagine you were in Tuscany.
3. Old and New Architecture in Tbilisi.
Tbilisi is a mix of old and new. From historic hanging wooden balconies to futuristic buildings, there are an array of interesting sights to see if you are into architecture.
Tbilisi reflects its geographical location being a mix between Europe and the Middle East. This is particularly apparent in the charming old town.
When walking the cobbled streets, remember to look up at the elegant balconies with intricate carvings and painted in radiant (if often pealing) colours.
Narikala Fort, high above the city, has fantastic views and it is the best place to view the city’s modern buildings.
4. Fabulous Monasteries.
Monasteries and churches in the region are built-in extraordinary locations.
It seems like finding the most challenging place to build was one of the requirements to be considered a suitable spot.
Precipitous cliff edges make for beautiful exterior photos. However, the majority of the monasteries are bare inside with little to see.
One exception is Gelati Monastery, located in the middle of the country outside Kutaisi.
Every inch of the interior of this medieval monastery is covered in detailed frescoes and paintings from the 12-18th Centuries.
When travelling around the Caucasus, it is easy to feel like you have seen too many monasteries and churches, but Gelati Monastery and Gergeti Trinity Church should both make your shortlist.
Gergeti Trinity Church has the added benefit of being in Stepantsminda, so you also get tremendous mountain scenery.
Gelati Monastery and Kutaisi, on the other hand, are perfect stop to break up a journey between Tbilisi and Svaneti.
5. Learn About Communist History In Georgia.
Whilst walking around cosmopolitan Tbilisi, it is easy to forget that Georgia was part of the USSR and behind the iron curtain for 70 years.
In fact, did you know that Stalin was born in Gori, a small town an hour and a half from Tbilisi?
His mausoleum is in Moscow, but there is a museum dedicated to him in Gori.
The museum portrays an interesting interpretation of world events.
Stalin is still seen as a hero by many who live in Gori. The museum talks about the achievements of the shoemaker’s son, who came from humble beginnings to rule one of the most powerful countries in the world.
His meteoric rise can clearly be seen from the house he lived in as a young boy, which is one of the museum exhibits.
However, mention of the darker side of Stalin’s rule and the million dead is absent.
Few statues of Stalin survive, but in Gori, you can find two. The statue standing in front of the museum used to have pride of place in the main square.
It was pulled down in the middle of the night in 2010 to avoid protest before later being relocated to its current position.
The second one is outside Gori State University.
This post is written by our guest blogger Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite. Kristin loves to travel in style to exotic destinations.