Georgia, not to be mistaken with the state Georgia in America, has had a huge impact on world history, more than most people would realize.
Georgia is the birthplace of two of the most important things in history, wine making, and Joseph Stalin. One better than the other…
But for British football fans, this country is most famous for the cult hero Georgi Kinkladze. A source of joy when he was running around British defenders back in the mid 90’s.
Georgia also has its own 33-letter alphabet thought to be based on the sort of Aramaic spoken in the time of Jesus. It is totally different from the Latin Alphabet that we use in the west, but luckily you will find most street signs these days are written in both.
This was my 5rd trip to Georgia, and I know I have said it before with other destinations, but this is a very fast changing place.
Georgia has gone from being an unknown tourist destination the first time I was there in 2010 to one of the hippest destinations in 2015; it’s far from the off beaten track destination it used to be.
Even Donald Trump has invested money in Georgia to build Georgias´s own Trump Tower, in the sub-tropical beach town of Batumi.
Yes, Georgia seems to have a thing or two for American Presidents, they even named the highway going from Tbilisi International Airport to the center of the capital George W. Bush Avenue.
Georgia is actually one of few countries in the world where you could enjoy your breakfast in shorts next to the beach in Batumi, go downhill skiing in Gaudarui during midday and then enjoy a glass of red wine in one of the wineries in the eastern part of the country during dinner.
Most people start off their adventure in the capital Tbilisi.
Tbilisi is the capital and by far the largest city in Georgia, located on both sides of the Mtkvari River with a population of roughly 1.5 million inhabitants. Founded in the 5th century but rebuilt no more than 29! times since it was founded, the Old Town Tbilisi is largely intact with narrow alleys and big crooked houses built around courtyards, similar to Sicily in Italy.
The newer parts of the capital recently got a huge face lift with modern architecture
Tbilisi is truly a city Rich with history and modern architecture.
Tbilisi is a nice city to walk around, parts of the old city are closed to traffic these days, so the streets are full of local art shops, restaurants, wine bars and small shops selling the traditional Georgian candy “Churchkhela”
One of the most overlooked destinations in Georgia is the city of Kutaisi.
Kutaisi is located about 4 hours west of Tbilisi with local transportation and has no more than 2 UNESCO World Heritage sights and one of the most spectacular sights anywhere in the world.
While both Gelati Monastery and Bagrati Cathedral are easy to reach from Kutaisi with public transport, Katskhi Pillar is more of a hassle to reach. There isn’t direct transportation, so you have to Hitchhike there as I did. To get a lift was never a problem, the problem was to describe the where I wanted to go, since like all other people I talked to in Georgia knew that Katski Pillar was in the country, but nobody seem to know its exact location.
After asking numerous people, I finally found someone that had seen it on the way to the town Chiatura.
So if you want to visit Katskhi Pillar, head towards Chiatura, you will see Katskhi Pilla from the road, it’s about a 30 min walk in a small dust road to reach Katskhi. There is no accommodation in the area, but there is a campsite just down the hill from it.
To the far west in the country, there is Batumi, and it offers its beautiful black sea pebbled beaches. Batumi it’s the party capital of the Caucasus with a seasonal nightlife that will match any other European city. With big name international DJs on the beach-front clubs in the summer season, it is THE spot to go for people in the old Soviet.
Svaneti is the high mountain area in north-west Georgia, offers some of Europe best hiking areas and even the Second highest mountain “Shkhara” which at 5,193m (17.040 ft) is 400m (1.312 ft) higher than Mount Blac in France. In fact, Georgia is part of the highest mountain range in Europe, The Caucasus Mountains that border Georgia and Russia.
The entire Svaneti Region is a UNESCO heritage sight.
I will not write much about Svaneti in this post since I’m planning to write an own post about hiking in Svaneti in the future.
In the northeast part of the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia are Kazbegi and the famous Holy Trinity Church that´s located on the top of one of the heights hills towering over the town city Stepantsminda at the height of 2170m.
Additional info about Georgia.
Citizens of most western countries don´t need a visa and can stay up to one year without getting one
Tbilisi International airport is the main point of entry and can be reached with direct flights from most big cities in Europe and the middle east.
Kutaisi Airport is served by Wizzair from Warsaw, Katowice, Kiev, Budapest.
There´s a direct train line being built from Istanbul to Tbilisi that should be finished now late in 2015
There´s also direct trains to Baku in Azerbaijan and Yerevan in Armenia, both those cities is also served with minibusses trough out the day.
Where to Sleep
Like in the other countries is the Caucasus so are the opening more and more hostels/guesthouses every month around the country.
It´s a good idea to check a few hostels online at Hostelworld if planning to book in advance, some of the cheapest hostels in Georgia is pretty and often used by poor immigrant workers. A decent hostel starts from 5usd for a dormitory bed, and the better hostel that starts from 7usd+ often include breakfast, and free coffee/tea. “All” hostels have a guest kitchen so you can make your own food.
Medium Size hostel that has the best? Location in Tbilisi. Friendly staff, 24/7 reception, good free wifi and free breakfast. 7.50 USD for the 8-bed dorm.
Hostel Batumi Globus.
Small cozy hostel less than 5miniutes to the waterfront. Very Friendly staff, the small backyard where it’s good to enjoy a beer or two. From 6.30USD for the 8bed dorm.
Georgian currency is lari (GEL) 1USD = 2.39Gel 1 Euro = 2.54 Gel
Georgia is not as cheap anymore as it was only a few years ago, a daily backpacking budget should be around 35USD.
There´s ATM´s that accept western bank cards in every big city but bring extra cash if planning to spend time in Svaneti.
1,5L Bottle of water – 1 GEL.
0.33L Coke/Pepsi – 1 GEL.
Meal in a local restaurant – 12 GEL.
Meal in a good restaurant – 30 GEL
Big Mac meal at McDonald´s – 14 GEL.
Coffee in a coffee chain – 4 GEL.
Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro) – 3 GEL.
Beer local 0.5L can – 1.90 GEL.
Beer imported 0.33L (Heineken) – 3 GEL.
Gasoline (1 liter) – 2 GEL.
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