Not to be confused with the better known US state, this former outpost of the Soviet Union is a country situated between Russia and Europe with a long, proud history and a culture all of its own. The western coast on the Black Sea is sub-tropical at its southernmost point, featuring palm beaches popular with holidaymakers throughout the Caucasus region. Most of the country is dominated by rolling hills and national parks, although some areas along its border continue to be unstable and are generally unsafe for travelers.

When to Go

Georgia’s weather is generally warm in summer but the highest peaks remain snowcapped throughout the year.

The summer is generally hot throughout, although temperatures climb higher in the east of the country near the Black Sea where it is also more humid and rainy. Winters are much colder with snow on higher ground.

Getting There & Away

Tbilisi is becoming increasingly connected to major destinations throughout Europe and the region including London and Frankfurt although from October 2006, a dispute with Russia meant that there were no direct flights between the two countries although the situation is likely to change. See travel advisories on the country for the latest information.

Overland routes by bus and train are also possible from Azerbaijan, while boats run between a number of Turkish port cities. Travel in and between towns and cities is mostly by taxi or minibuses, or marshrutka, which are popular with the locals and are extremely cheap. Check you know where you are going though as these minibuses keep to a fixed route and have in the past taken uninitiated travelers farther from their intended destination than they planned.

Health & Safety

Georgia, although safe in the capital and in the center of the country, remains extremely dangerous in the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhzia. The Chechen border can also be volatile. Travelers are advised to stay away from these areas and should also take caution when trekking without a guide in remote, mountainous areas which have seen kidnappings in the past. Potential abductees may or may not be comforted by the news that kidnappers have in the past often released captives even when a ransom has not been paid, a sign perhaps of the enduring Georgian sense of hospitality.

Altitude sickness can also be problem in these areas and trekkers should be careful not to change altitude too quickly.

Food & Hospitality

Tbilisi is home to a number of upper class international hotels along with budget options including bed and breakfast and hostels although these can get very full in the tourist season. Outside the capital, mid-range hotels are available in the bigger cities, while lower range accommodation is available at a very reasonable price and is a good opportunity to sample the warm Georgian hospitality.

There is a variety of culinary styles in the capital including Italian, western fast food and Asian. Georgian wine is considered the best in the region and is certainly worth a try. The most satisfying eating experience of all is perhaps a Georgian feast, or supra, which is the biggest of social occasions.

Itineraries

  • Four days in Tbilisi
  • Two days Mtskheta
  • Three days in Kazbegi and Racha

Additional time

  • Two days in Ushguli
  • Two days in Vardzia

Highlights

tbilisi: the capital is a patchwork of historic buildings, baths and different culinary styles but with a very Georgian identity.

mtskheta: a UNESCO World Heritage site, this ancient city just outside of Tbilisi was the former capital of Georgia.

ushguli: officially the highest village in Europe and also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

kazbegi-and-racha: the highest areas of the country in the Georgian upper Caucasus with remote, snowcapped mountains.

vardzia: Georgia’s foremost cave city dating back to the 12th century. What out, here be dragons, so says some brochures.

Activities

Bathing: take a relaxing sulphur bath and have a massage in the Metekhi Bridge area of Tbilisi.

Sightseeing: visit Georgia’s ancient cities, famed throughout the region, and the cave cities including Vardzia.

Trekking: snowcapped throughout the year, Georgia’s upper Caucasus Mountains offer spectacular views.

Relaxing: hit the beaches along the southern Georgian Black Sea coast, an area popular with former Soviet officials.