Said to be “situated at strategically important crossroads where Europe meets Asia” by the BBC, Georgia offers a unique and ancient cultural heritage.
At 70,000sq km, the country is smaller than Austria and surrounded by neighbours Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia.
Although it is a relatively unknown or even, undiscovered, country, there are many reasons to visit: Its wine and delicious cuisine, unique culture, Unesco World Heritage sites, flora and fauna, beach resorts and sunshine, and glorious mountains.
Georgia is also home to Ushguli, a community of four villages in Svaneti, one of the most densely populated areas in Europe. This is also a Unesco World Heritage site.
What is great about Georgia is that it is an all-year travel destination. It doesn’t matter which season you choose to visit the country, as there’s always something to experience and discover.
Georgia has also been ranked eighth in the Top 10 Safest Countries in the World list by Lifestyle 9.
Here are some things to experience in Georgia:
Tbilisi (formerly known as Tiflis) is the capital of Georgia, and its largest city. Its name means “warm location” in the Georgian language, and is believed to have come from the area’s numerous sulphur hot springs.
The city, which lies along the banks of Kura River, is known for its diverse history and architecture, which is a combination of medieval, neoclassical, art nouveau, Stalinist, Beaux arts, and modern structures.
Some popular attractions in Tbilisi are the Sameba and Sioni Cathedrals, Narikala Fortress, Opera Theatre, Georgian National Museum, Rustaveli and Agmashenebeli Avenues, and Freedom Square.
According to Architecture And Design, it is one of the “most beautiful cities that everyone should visit at least once”.
Meanwhile, 205km away from the capital, at the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, lies the picturesque Tusheti National Park.
Located along the Black Sea coast, Batumi is Georgia’s second largest city and the capital of Adjara.
According to Lonely Planet, it is Georgia’s summer holiday capital and it is “nestled in a backdrop of mist-wrapped hills, and has many new hotels and attractions”.
Popular for its entertainment and nightlife, the port city offers clubs, bars, music, art and film festivals, opera and theatre, restaurants and casinos.
Among its places of interest are Batumi Boulevard, a waterfront promenade with a park and beach; the 130m tall Alphabetic Tower; a historical old town district with refurbished 19th century structures; and the Batumi Botanical Garden.
Kutaisi, a city in west Georgia, is home to the medieval Gelati Monastery, Motsameta Monastery, Bagrati Cathedral, Sataplia Cave where you can see dinosaur footprints, and Prometheus Cave with its waterfalls. It is said that during the 5th and 6th century, Kutaisi was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Colchis.
Legend has it that this was where Greek mythological hero Jason and his band of heroes, the Argonauts, arrived at during their search for the legendary Golden Fleece.
World Heritage Sites
Georgia has several Unesco World Heritage Sites. The Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery are good examples of Georgian medieval architecture, and were centres of education and culture in ancient times.
Former capital Mtskheta offers many historical monuments, including the Svetitstkhoveli Cathedral, Jvari Monastery and Samtavro Monastery. The archeological remains at these sites reveal Georgia’s advanced knowledge in the arts of masonry, pottery and metal work since ancient times. There are also souvenir shops here selling sweets, spices and handicrafts.
Food and wine
An innate part of Georgian culture is its 8,000-year-old wine-making tradition. Rtveli, a traditional winemaking and harvest festival in Georgia, is usually accompanied by feasts, musical events and other festivities.
The Georgian way of wine-making in clay pots known as qvevri, is passed down from generation to generation by families and friends. These egg-shaped vessels are used to age and store the wine. The entire community joins in the activity of harvesting and wine-making.
There are 18 wine origins, 525 grape varieties, and 121 wine cellars here. A big part of all Georgian vineyards are located in the ancient and unique wine-making region of Kakheti.
Georgia’s cuisine is characterised by its use of herbs and spices, for bold yet balanced dishes. Cheese and bread feature prominently, too.
Beaches and mountains
For those who desire some sunshine and relaxation on the beach, there are sea resorts you can visit between May and September in regions like Adjara, Samegrelo and Guria.
If you prefer the cool mountains, you can have fun from December to April at ski resorts in Gudauri, Bakuriani, Goderidzi and Mestia. Snow activities like freeriding, off-piste skiing and ski runs are available here.
For those who wish to visit a health and wellness resort, you’re not left out. There are spa and mineral spring resorts in Tbilisi, Borjomi, Tskaltubo, Sairme and Nunisi. In fact, Tbilisi is famous for its sulphur baths. There are also resorts with magnetic sands at Ureki and Grigoleti.
Adrenaline junkies and outdoor lovers can go hiking and trekking, rafting and kayaking, caving, paragliding, bird watching, horse riding, biking, and on four-wheel-drive adventures in Georgia too.
For more information, visit www.georgia.travel.