With a delicious cuisine, unique hospitality, diverse culture and ancient history, Georgia, the country, is one of the most enchanting and amazing countries we have ever known.
Even with so many attributes, almost no one knows Georgia. Even Google seems to deprecate them, putting the US state of the same name first on an internet search.
If you’ve never heard of this little country in the Caucasus either, get ready as we now give you 10 reasons to fall in love with it – and run over there!
1 – The wine
There are traces that wine was invented in Georgia 8000 years ago!
So, you can understand why this is one of the national symbols. Almost everyone has vines at home and an invitation to have an afternoon coffee is nothing more than a pretext for tasting a glass of homemade wine.
For the more discerning ones, rest assured that you will not only find home-made produce. You can also visit successful wineries that are even winning international awards.
2 – The monasteries
Georgia is fighting a dispute with Armenia (among many others) for the title of the first country in the world to adopt Christianity.
Regardless of who is right, the point is that this long history with the Christian religion has yielded incredible monasteries scattered throughout the country. There are monasteries carved in stone; Others that are simpler but hide important stories; Or even – our favourites – the ones that are on top of mountains and have incredible views.
Tbilisi is full of museums, restaurants, monuments, art galleries, night clubs, bars, street markets and friendly people ready to help you. While other areas of Georgia maintain a quieter atmosphere, Tbilisi overflows life.
One of the landmarks of the city is the monument “Mother Georgia” (Kartlis Deda), which stands at the top of Sololaki Hill. With her left hand, Mother Georgia offers wine to the guests and with her right hand, she holds a sword to defend against enemies. A perfect representation of the Georgian personality.
*You may also like to read about Sighnaghi, a charming Georgian town only 100 km from Tbilisi.
4 – Svaneti
This mountainous region in the north-western part of the country has some of the most emblematic landscapes we have seen during our travels. Get ready for dirt roads, almost medieval villages, lots of mountains and streams of crystal clear water.
Access to Svaneti is so complicated that during the thousands of invasions suffered by Georgia throughout its history, very few have managed to get there. In addition, the cold climate also helps to keep the region isolated, since the weather often blocks the only paved road.
This isolation was vital for the Svans (as the locals are known) to preserve an independent culture, which can be seen in gastronomy, dance, architecture and even language. The capital of Svaneti is Mestia, a charming town surrounded by mountains and with several trekking options.
“A remote city, from a remote region, in a remote country”.
It was after reading this description about Ushguli that we decided to meet the hidden village. How isolated could it be? Much.
We took more than 6 hours of hitchhiking from Mestia plus quite a bit of walk to reach the village of medieval towers. The village has as background the majestic Mount Shkhara, the highest mountain in Europe. Ushguli is the last village of Svaneti and is so isolated, but so isolated, that when the winter comes, it is not possible to enter or leave. Whoever is inside stays in; Whoever is outside is left out.
So, it is important to be organised before visiting: remembering that the winter in there goes from December to March – but it is already cold in autumn. For the more adventurous ones, it is possible to do a 5 days trekking between Mestia and Ushguli. We did not dare but we met other travellers on the road who, though tired, were amazed by the landscapes they had witnessed.
6 – Batumi
Georgia has no outlet to the ocean but it has coast in the Black Sea! Batumi, besides being the second largest city in the country, is also the nicest beach over there!
Batumi is full of cobblestone lanes, colourful houses, modern buildings, artwork scattered along the waterfront, as well as several bars and restaurants. It looks like the Caucasian version of Las Vegas!
The sea water is calm and the temperature pleasant for much of the year. The only issue is that it is a stoned beach. Prepare to get many marks on your body.
Oh, and if the factor “history” is important in your travels, you would like to know that it was from this city that Joseph Stalin, at the beginning of the 20th century, planned many of the protests in pre-Revolution Russia!
7 – The food
Located between large countries like Russia, Turkey, China and Iran, Georgia has always been considered an important trade route. The confluence of so many different people in a same space did not go unnoticed and the exchange of culture is reflected also in the Georgian gastronomy. And what a wonderful result!
It was there where we tasted some of the most memorable dishes of the trip, such as:
Khinkali – a kind of stew or fried dumplings stuffed with meat, cheese, mushrooms or others
Khachapuri – a type of bread with cheese – lots of cheese – It has its variations, including Adjaruli that comes with egg and butter (photo above)
Ostri – almost like a goulash
Mushrooms au gratin
Grilled meats that look like kebab variations, among many others.
Meals in Georgia are real feasts!
8 – Hospitality
According to a Georgian proverb: “Guests are sent from God.” In short: get ready to be treated like a king!
Georgians are one of the most hospitable people we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Another consequence, perhaps, of the strategic location of the country, which made Georgia a commuter route.
During the two weeks we were there, we were invited to sleep in people’s house; Taste a good bottle of homemade wine; Stroll through a village; Picnic with some gentlemen who were giving us a ride; Dine with a family at their home, well, to sum up, there were many invitations.
PS – just to give a taste of the Georgian reception, some tourists are randomly chosen to win a bottle of wine when they land at the airport by immigration officers! That simple.
9 – Kazbegi
This area is full of charming villages, churches, nature, good food and has even ski slopes (in winter of course!).
Kazbegi is currently the only access by land between Russia and Georgia. Whoever chooses to cross to the neighbouring country by car, bus or ride (like us!), better be ready for a few hours of immigration!
10 – It’s a cheap destination
It’s expensive to travel, particularly away from your own country. However, there are still a few destinations to explore that do not weigh so much in your pocket. And Georgia is one of them!
A dinner for two in a medium-sized restaurant goes for about US$ 15;
A bed in a hostel for about US$ 10;
A room in a medium hotel with breakfast goes for U$ 15;
And this is considering the average price of the capital Tbilisi. Outside the big cities, you will find everything a lot cheaper.