Georgia (Europe) has been a destination in my wishlist for nearly 10 years since I saw a tourism commercial in Estonian national TV channel for the first time. So many beautiful green mountains, historic places, building etc. Back then I just could not afford travelling and for the last past five years or so, somehow other destinations have been favoured instead (because of the budget, travel companion or vacation period). This year I guess the odds were on my favour and I am extremely grateful to that!
As I had done my previous research, I knew that the best time to visit Georgia is roughly either May or September as the winters may be rather cold, while mid-summers may get really hot. Both preferred months have their own pros: in May you will see the most beautiful greenery nature you can imagine while in September you can taste the sweetest ripen fruits. We had our trip in late May.
For my previous trips I have had a huge help from the Eyewitness Travel Guide books. But as it seems they have not published Georgian edition yet, so I had to do more research of my own. Thank you, Mr Google!
We stayed in Tekla Palace Hotel in Old Tbilisi for the whole holiday and our ten nights cost 1 890 laris (about 650 euros). This is a rather good price for that location: main streets are just around the corner and Freedom Square stays 500 meters away. It is interesting to know that the palace was built in 18th century by King Erekle II for his daughter, Princess Tekla. Our room was quite small and the bed mattress was a bit too stiff. Except that, everything else was great – the hotel staff is absolutely lovely, as almost all Georgians here are!
We took sightseeing bus routes which take you to all major tourist attractions by hop-on-hop-off bus (see below, red line) and a bit tighter marsroute cab (green line). Red line ticket costs 50 laris, green line 40 laris, but if you take both, the price is 75 laris. I would say it is worth going. However, if you are willing to take longer walks, almost everything can be also reached by foot.
I would also recommend trying sulfur baths (30 laris for public use and 90 laris for private use) and a cable car to Narikala fortress (minor cost for the ticket, cannot remember exact amount).
A monastery complex built in rock near the Azerbaijan border. The history of the place goes back to 6th century when the founders started spreading Christianity here. The caves are more exclusive as some monks are still living there nowadays.
Because of my pregnancy we did not climb much, but there is definitely much more to see than we did (heard some comments from other tourists there). Note: go with proper footwear that is easy to climb with, some rocks are quite slippery! Had to be really careful and at some point even use all fours, foot and hands.
The roadtrip there was a journey itself. We used Google Maps, which appears to be missing some other accesses, therefore had to drive through quite a rough road. See a video below.
I advise to take your food along because the trip lasts long and there are not many opportunities to grab something on the road.
UPLISTSIKHE – GORI
Uplistsikhe in another rock-hewn complex. That cave town dates back to Early Iron Age. The place is much more convenient to access and easier to climb than David Gareja is. The views are magnificent!
It had an entering fee (cannot remember how much, guess it was not over 10 laris per person), but it has a cafe with reasonable prices and wifi connection.
On our way back we drove through Stalin House Museum in Gori city. Because of Estonian people history with Stalin, we basically ran through the museum and did not spend much time there.
As Borjomi mineral water is number ONE export article in Georgia, visiting Borjomi park seemed as a must. At first I thought there is nothing much to do, but after visiting the park I would recommend going there. The waterfall sound, children laugh, beautiful nature and relaxed people – only positive vibes there. If you are more adventurous you can rent an ATV tophills and see the park more widely. If you are not up to that then take your picnic bag with you and gain energy from the surrounding beauty. Also, some 30 minutes walk away is a hot spring bath.
Entering the park costs 2 laris per person and going to bath should be 5 laris.
KAKHETI – TELAVI
Now, with that day-trip I had a huge mistake in my plans. We drove two hours to winery district and two hours back to see wine cellars and get a tour there, but what I did not know was that I should have booked a tour at least few days earlier! The tours and degustations were all sold out in several cellars we tried to get in to (some were also closed), and so we missed that one out. At least we had a chance to get a glance at the cellar and buy a few bottles of quality wine from one manufacturer – a good souvenir gift to someone who enjoys wine. And well, the mountain roads there were also worth seeing!
Georgian cuisine and wine have always been highly rated. I was most pleased and excited by visiting a home-restaurant on our way back from Borjomi. About 25 minutes away there were quite many home-restaurants on roadside and we picked one that had an outdoor stove smoking. The owners were an old marriage couple. The wife made us absolutely delicious hatchapury and the husband chopped and grilled perfect minced meat, both basically infront of us. We left with such warm feelings that it was an experience by itself.
We did not have to disappoint in any Tbilisi restaurants as well. Only one place had a bit poor service, though the food was good.
Most places add their tips automatically on the bill.
We noted that the variety of souvenirs is quite large. When most of the countries we have been to have basically the same goods in every other souvenir shop, then in Georgia you can find many different gifts and goods to take with you. Take time to explore these shops!
A good idea is to buy Georgian sweets named Churchkhela: a traditional candy which is very light to carry in your baggage.
I am really really pleased with the trip to Georgia and I do recommend you to see it yourself as well! ❤