‘Vacation’, what does this term even imply? For every person, the meaning is decided based on various criteria. For some, it maybe leisure, for some adventure, for some exploration and for some simply a break from the monotonous routine. The country of Georgia has always been the subject of my fascination since I’ve heard tales and experiences of friends and relatives who have visited this hidden gem at the intersection of Asia and Europe. Georgia’s natural beauty of Caucasus mountain villages and black sea beaches surely steals the cake of offering a buffet of options for every type of traveler.
If you like fast-paced city life then Tbilisi offers an array of attractions as well as a rocking nightlife. Batumi’s vast beaches and laid-back life is a suitable option if you want to laze around at the beach sipping a margarita. If witnessing natural beauty and experiencing breath-taking views is on your list then Gudauri, Stepantsminda, and Borjomi will not disappoint you in any way.
I stayed in Georgia for 6 nights and 7 days and covered Tbilisi, Borjomi, Mtskheta, Gudauri, and Stepantsminda. Let me take you back in time and let’s revive the stupendous days I spent in this dreamy country. P.S- I’m still reminiscing the days, wish to go back.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia. The city’s architecture is inspired by old world charm; narrow lanes, endearing cafes, small shops, vintage buildings, stone pavements, street art and so much more. Transportation within the city is quite convenient thanks to Taxify and Yandex, extremely affordable and safe if you want to commute within the city. I spent my day visiting Sameba Cathedral which is the main cathedral for Orthodox Georgian church. Georgian National Museum was my next stop where my mind sauntered in the land of ancient scriptures, coins, jewels, war history, weapons, and Georgia’s past. I think every city’s visit is incomplete if you don’t take the time to peep into the foundation of that place.
Rike park’s cableway to Narikala fortress is a must do activity. Sadly, the day I chose was very hot, based on the weather you can do this in the morning to see the city in broad light or late evening to see the lit up Georgian city of Tbilisi. The cableway ride was short but the best way to get a panoramic view of the stunning city. One can spend the evening taking a stroll in the city lanes and looking around the little cafés’ which proudly boast of their simplicity and local flavors of Georgia.
I love long walks in new cities, I personally feel the nerve of the city can be felt when you take walking tours and explore the place on your own. If you have kids with you then Funicular is a good option to explore. Tbilisi has a night vibe and one can enjoy foot-tapping music in clubs and lounges even at wee hours.
Hotels: Radisson Blu Iveria, Courtyard by Marriott, IOTA
Day trips can be taken from Tbilisi to Kakheti (land of wine) and Sighnaghi depending on the weather. P.S (If you’re a vegetarian you might have to struggle with the availability of food).
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta
My next destination was Borjomi, on my way to Borjomi I visited Mtskheta, one of the oldest cities in Georgia and I was astonished to see Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The structure of the church, paintings on the wall, the wooden cathedral and every element in that historically rich cathedral ages back to 4th century. They say that structures of that era hold in them, not just untold tales and religious beliefs but are also a standing witness to evolution and time. (I will give an in-depth analysis on Svetitskhoveli Cathedral soon). You can also take a detour to Uplistikhe (oldest urban settlement in Georgia) or Gori (Stalin’s birthplace).
I usually sleep during drives so that I can be all fresh for my next activity, however, the drive from Tbilisi to Borjomi was so picturesque that I couldn’t sleep for even a minute fearing that I would miss the captivating sight of mother earth. It’s tough to let go something you think you might never get a chance to see again. Borjomi was an escape from the hot Georgian weather, into the arms of nature and undiluted freshness of fragrant breeze. Borjomi felt calm and away from the fast-paced city life. My evening was spent at Borjomi National Park, walking around the park and appreciating the hilly terrain, mini waterfalls and the flowing water with tiny pebbles. It’s not common to be a part of evenings which you can cherish and smile each time the thought of it occupies your mind. For me, that evening was magical, serene and most importantly picture-perfect. Early morning was spent exploring the vast stretch of Hotel Rixos and taking a walk around the property which includes dense forest areas, non-operational railway track and scenic sights.
Hotels: Rixos Borjomi, Crowne Plaza Borjomi
Imagine opening your eyes to the sight of vibrant mountains in different shades of perfectly dipped greens, soft breeze touches your face and you feel a tingling chill in your gut, you walk towards the lush green valley to notice flowers in lilac purple and Tuscan yellow, as you move ahead you hear the sound of soothing water gushing through the mountains creating a symphony of its own, you look up to the sky and see soft cottony clouds which seem to be within your reach, a few moments later you discover you’re at an impeccable destination where you can converse with yourself in the most peaceful and innocent state of mind…this is a usual morning in Gudauri, Georgia. Gudauri was an instant love for my family and me (P.S. my niece wants to visit Gudauri every year).
I never thought I had the guts to try Paragliding, but I was so mesmerized by the beauty around me that I decided I shouldn’t be missing a bird’s-eye view of that place. I can rightly say it felt nothing less than heaven, gazing at the marvels of scenic landscape, my eyes felt like a DSLR capturing every frame of magnificence with precision and utmost perfection. Paragliding was the highlight of my entire Georgia experience.
If you choose to visit Gudauri during winters then you can try snowboarding, skiing or ski touring. It is said during winters Gudauri looks like a white sheet of cream covered in snow.
Hotels: Gudauri Inn, Marco Polo
‘Destination: Cloud Nine’. It’s difficult to articulate the exquisiteness of Stepantsminda, every little element of this town is worthy of appreciation. This may sound like a hyperbole or me simply glorifying my words, but I assure you that my words don’t do justice to what my eyes witnessed. Stepanstminda is a nature lover’s dream come true; fresh, untouched, magnificent, appealing and exotic. I visited the Gergeti Trinity Church in Stepantsminda, the ride to the top is bumpy and only trained drivers can drive you to the top of this location. To be honest, during the drive I had this question pop up several times, is it worth it? But, well if you miss this then you might not be able to forgive yourself for not being a part of that dreamy setting. (well, if you travel with your partner he/she may crib about the ride but you can make it up to them by proposing in the most romantic location, a little discomfort is a price you pay for the most soothing scene).
If your thirst for adventure is intact then you might want to go hiking in Stepantsminda or simply a short trek to see the Gveleti waterfall. Stepantsminda also offers tourists paragliding, river rafting, kayaking and mountain biking.
Hotel: Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
Georgia may not be a very publicized destination but it surely makes hearts flutter and minds wander. For me, the entire trip will be a treasured memory of a perfect family holiday (some pictures will make it to my photo frame so that I can often recall Georgia days). The only few hurdles that I faced during my trip was the language barrier and sometimes a not-so-friendly attitude towards tourists. However, Smart Travel Georgia was like a friend I found in a distant country, they arranged for all our tours and transfers, I highly recommend seeing Georgia through Smart Travel Georgia.
Georgia was indeed the much-needed break I deserved and I did find myself more relaxed and rejuvenated upon my return to Dubai. Goodbyes are hard but a promise gives hope, as I left the country and bid farewell to the unknown faces and streets of Georgia I promised myself to return again…
So, does your bucket list include Georgia?
Best time to visit: May to September (Summer), October to February (Winter)
Cities to visit: Tbilisi, Batumi, Borjomi, Gudauri, Stepantsminda
Tour company: Smart Travel Georgia (friendly and affordable)
Must try: Kaccha Puri (Georgian bread/ Pizza), Churchkhela (Georgian Snickers)
Must Visit Sites/ Activities: Sameba Cathedral, Georgian National Museum, Rike Park cableway, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral(Mtskheta), Borjomi National Park, Paragliding in Gudauri, Gergeti Trinity Church in Stepantsminda, a short trek to Gveleti waterfall.