People keep asking me why I’m always travelling to the Republic of Georgia. Did I find love there? A business partner? Did I lose my adventurous spirit and found there a comfort zone? The truth is that there are many reasons to travel to Georgia. While I can’t rationally explain why I like the country so much, I hope this post will help you understand why you should visit Georgia at least once in your lifetime.
So keep on reading and we will figure out, together, why the country is a magnet for me and why it could become the same for you. The pictures will give you an indication of what to see in Georgia, a country with hospitable people, great cuisine and picture-perfect scenery.
1- THE PEOPLE
One of the main reasons I’m a frequent traveller to Georgia, is because of the people. They are welcoming, friendly, proud, not subservient and with good cultural level. They love a healthy debate and take hospitality to the core.
2- THE FOOD
Georgian food is very diverse, often based on the country’s rural nature and austere history. Khinkali, a local version of dumplings, which can be filled with potato, beef, cheese or mushrooms, is a very popular option. But khachapuri, a pizza-like dough filled with cheese, which comes in many versions and toppings is everyone’s favourite, including myself.
Although there’s more to Georgian cuisine than these two popular dishes, I could easily live on khachapuri adjaruli, a boat-shaped dough topped with melted cheese, a soft boiled egg and dab of butter. Just make sure you exercise enough to burn the calories! 🙂
3- NATURAL SCENERY
Despite its diminutive size, nature in Georgia is very diverse. To the north, around places like Kazbegi or Mestia, you have the mighty Caucasus mountains with their snow-capped peaks. Around Kutaisi you will find forests and canyons, or therapeutic spring water in Borjomi. Let’s not forget the Black Sea beaches of Batumi and Poti, and the magic of autumn, when the trees turn bright yellow and orange.
4- BUDGET FRIENDLY
Georgia has always been a budget friendly destination. On my most recent trips, I saw that the currency, the Georgian Lari (GEL), had devalued by 30% since my previous visits. So if you’re on a very tight budget, you can have a meal for 10GEL (roughly 4USD, £3.30, €3.70).
If you’re not counting coins, you can have a bottle of good red wine for 30GEL (12USD, £10, €11.30) in a good restaurant.
Although not necessarily known as an upmarket destination, you will find many options to stay in comfort and luxury all over the country.
Tbilisi, Batumi and Borjomi have a good selection of luxury hotels and refined restaurants. Bear in mind, though, that luxury hotel prices are in US dollars.
7- THE WEATHER
Yes, the weather. In summer the capital Tbilisi will see temperatures of up to 35 Celsius. On my winter visits, I’ve rarely seen temperature fall below 5C. But it’s good worth remembering that it does snow in many parts of the country, especially higher up in the mountains. Gudauri, near Kazbegi, is a good place to go skiing or snowboarding, with great infrastructure. Other ski destinations include Bakuriani and Mestia.
8- THE RESTAURANT SCENE
Having such a rich cuisine, it comes as little surprise that Georgian cities have a great restaurant scene. Tbilisi has a huge variety of restaurants serving Georgian and international cuisine. I recommend sticking to local food, since you can have anything else in other places you travel to.
Chardin street, in Tbilisi, has many good restaurants and cafes lined up – try Tifliso Restaurant (44 Chardin Street) for authentic Georgian or Aladdin for Arab and international cuisine, followed by shisha. Many places also have very original decor, ranging from ultra-modern to traditional, from artsy to nostalgic.
Tbilisi was founded around the site of sulphurous thermal waters. The area called Abanotubani has a number of public and private bath houses, where you can have an exfoliating massage and plunge into a pool filled with sulphurous water – known to be good for the skin and also known to be good in the treatment of asthma and rheumatism, among other benefits.
The town of Borjomi, home to country’s most famous mineral water, was renowned during at the time of the Russian Empire as a healing place, thanks to the therapeutic properties of its water. Today the city also has good, modern spa hotels, like the recently opened Rixos Borjomi.
There’s a reason I left wine as number 10! Research indicates that wine has been made in Georgia for over 7,000 years, so the country can be considered the birthplace of the drink. Also, over half of the grape varieties in the world come from here. Add to that the fact most of the wine is still made in the traditional, artisanal way in family estates and monasteries. My favourite variety is Saperavi, a dark, dry red wine.
Wine is so much part of the Georgian’s everyday life, that many houses are decorated with vines.
“Is Georgia safe? What about the war?”, I hear often. Firstly: which war? Secondly: yes, Georgia is one of the safest countries you’ll ever travel to. Petty crime is nearly unheard of, murders, tourist kidnappings, as cited by Come Back Alive, are absolute nonsense. Police corruption is gone, unlike other countries in the region, and our friends in uniform are quite well trained. There’s no war – the conflict in Russia happened and finished in 2008, and the Abkhazia conflict is frozen, you can even travel there with no problem, as I explain here.
On the other side of the spectrum, some sources reveal that Georgia is the third safest country in the world, only behind Singapore and Korea. To avoid any shadow of doubt, Georgia is one of the safest countries you’ll ever visit.
Despite the periods of foreign occupation, Georgians worked hard to keep their own culture and national identity intact. Historically, there is some influence from Russia (despite resistance) and Persia, especially in architecture and painting. The country also has a rich literary tradition, with The Life of St Nino being a good read. The arts also thrive in the here, from ecclesiastic to contemporary styles. You will see some quirky works by local artists and sculptors everywhere around Tbilisi and Batumi. Last but not least, Georgian cinema, despite small, started making its mark in the world scenario, with Tangerines, a co-production with Estonia, being nominated to the Academy Awards (watch the trailer below).
13- OLD TBILISI
Old Tbilisi, the historical part of the Georgian capital, is worth a trip on its own – so much so, that on some trips, I’ve only stayed in the capital. Walk around historical buildings from the 17th to 19th centuries, as well as art deco. Many of them desperately need some renovation, but to me, this is where the beauty lies.
The decaying state gives the area a lot of character, creating a melancholic, almost romantic atmosphere. Parts of Old Tbilisi, especially at the foot of Narikhala Fortress, have been renovated, with the contrast making it even more interesting to explore.
14- VISIT A COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T EXIST
If you are in Georgia and have a bit more of time, you can legally visit the breakaway region of Abkhazia, stage of a bloody conflict in the early 90s and the central theme of the movie Tangerines. Its independence is only recognised by a handful of countries. Although possible, it is illegal to travel to Abkhazia from Russia, but you can do so via the town of Zugdidi, in Georgia.
It’s pretty much hassle-free, you just have to contact the authorities in Abkhazia a week earlier and explore this part of Georgia where most Georgians are not allowed to.
Despite being a small country, there are many more than just 14 reasons to visit Georgia. So, why not discover them by yourself?
So, what did you know about Georgia before reading this post? Would you consider visiting it in the future?