10 Unmissable Experiences You Need to Try in Georgia

Dashbashi Canyon is a mountain gorge of tumbling waterfalls and steep slopes covered by scattered foliage
Dashbashi Canyon is a mountain gorge of tumbling waterfalls and steep slopes covered by scattered foliage | © PROMA1/Shutterstock
Jessica Dellow

With otherworldly landscapes, an ancient wine-growing legacy and crowd-free ski resorts, Georgia’s time in the travel spotlight is long overdue.

An air of mystery still hangs over this beautiful country, found at the juncture between Europe and Asia, yet intrepid backpackers have already started exploring its storybook towns and snow-cloaked pine forests. Follow their example and while away the days whizzing down mountains, sipping the nectar of the gods in ancestral wine cellars and digging into traditional feasts cooked up by the enormously welcoming locals.

Kazbegi-across the Caucasus

Pack your camera and lace up your walking boots. On this day tour, you’ll discover the treasures of Tbilisi in the morning followed by an optional trip to the sixth-century Georgian orthodox Jvari Monastery. Throughout the day, you’ll get to snap photos of Jinvali Reservoir’s glacial waters and explore the battle-scarred ruins of the 11th-century Ananuri fortress – home to fading frescoes and underground dungeons. Explore the depths of Kazbegi, too, located far up north where mountains and fresh air are in abundance. It’s also home to the centuries-old Gergeti Trinity Church, which sits on top of a mountain right near the majestic Mount Kazbek. Plus, if you fancy a thrill, you can request to go paragliding, rafting or horseback riding during your day, too.

Mount Kazbek, one of the highest peaks in the Caucasus Mountains, is made from hardened lava

Bakuriani-Borjomi full day tour from Tbilisi

Pull on your fluffiest jumper and thickest coat, this 15-hour tour takes you into the Narnia-reminiscent wilderness of Bakuriani, found at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. Climb on board the special Kukushka train to peer down at the river-carved Borjomi Gorge – where bubbling hot springs are hidden among an army of bushy pine trees – and breathe in the fresh alpine air from the train balcony. Soon, you’ll arrive at Bakuriani ski resort, home to a variety of slopes that are suitable for all abilities. Here you can carve serpentine tracks down snowy pistes, before gulping down glacier-fed waters at the final stop; the Mineral Water Park.

Native forest, twirling waterways and mountainous landscapes make up much of the ecologically diverse Borjomi Forest

Cycling and kayaking at Colchis National Park

Cycle along twisting forest paths and glide across glittering waters on this six-hour tour of Colchis National Park. Setting off by car from Batumi, the city’s striking neoclassical architecture soon gives way to tangled woodland and lush wetlands. First, you’ll explore the wilds on two wheels – listen out for the lyrical chatter of migratory birds who flock to nearby Lake Paliastomi – then you’ll clamber into double kayaks to paddle on the enchanting Golden Lake. If you’ve worked up an appetite there’s also the option to swing by a local restaurant for traditional Georgian dishes and wine.

One of the largest lakes in Georgia, Paliastomi is home to a wide variety of wildlife

Bathe in the natural healing waters of Abanotubani

You know you’re close to Abanotubani, an ancient district in Tbilisi, if you spot plumes of steam and the distinct smell of sulphur that fills the air. But don’t let this deter you. Soon you’ll approach the brick domes that house the city’s hot sulphur baths and have the chance to sink into the healing waters, fed by natural thermal springs. You’ll emerge not only with pillow-soft skin, but a newfound insight into the history of these baths, imparted by a local guide.

Abanotubani, in the ancient district of Tbilisi, is known for its brick-domed sulphur baths

Signaghi, Bodbe monastery + wine-tasting

A labyrinth of cobblestone streets and pastel houses ringed by the plant-twisted remains of 18th-century fortifications and backdropped by a cinematic mountainscape, Sighnaghi, in the famous winemaking region of Kakheti, should be at the top of your bucket list. It’s also known as the City of Love, because, much like Las Vegas, people come here to tie the knot. You’ll sip on vintage wine from centuries-old cellars, soaking up views of the Alazani Valley from atop the historic walls and exploring an ancient monastic complex will do the trick. This tour promises all that, plus time to grab a traditional Georgian carpet as a souvenir.

The Georgian Orthodox monastic complex of Bodbe Monastery is dedicated to St Nino, who spread Christianity throughout Georgia in the fifth century

Wine Tour in Kakheti, Telavi Town, Georgia

No trip to Georgia is complete without a wine tour in Kakheti. The region’s rolling hills are braided with miles of vineyards that make the most of its optimal wine-growing topography and as a result, oenophiles are spoilt for choice. Luckily, this tour has done the hard work for you, whisking you away by air-conditioned bus to fairytale town Signanghi and Batonis-Tsike castle to soak up some culture, then treating you to wine tasting and a food masterclass at Tunnel Winery Khareba’s. Make sure you wrap up to see the chilly 7.7km (4.8mi) tunnel, stacked with ageing wines.

Georgia is known as the birthplace of wine, so a wine tour is an absolute must on your trip here

Feasting in Garikula

If you’re one to use your stomach as a travel guide, Garikula is the place to go. A goldmine for foodies, this hospitable haven entices in guests with medieval-style markets, selling a cornucopia of locally grown vegetables, kilos of honey, fresh cheese and eggs. In the evenings, get your hands on a demijohn of wine to sip from carafes under the stars, and make sure you swing by the local baker for some fluffy Garikulan bread to tear into when nursing your inevitable morning hangover.

Georgian cuisine is made up of a mix of flavours from all around the world

Old Tbilisi Walking Tour

The vestiges of a storied past still cling to Tbilisi’s eclectic architecture, religious sites and nature-ravaged hilltop fortress. Over the course of this tour your guide will share the intriguing history of the Georgia capital. Be sure to wear comfy shoes as there are plenty of stops: an ancient fourth-century Persian citadel now known as Narikala Fortress, the regal Kartlis Deda statue on Sololaki Hill, the Hobbiton-like baths of Abanotubani, the wild cascade of Leghvtakhevi Waterfall and the crooked clock tower of a puppet theatre, to name a few.

Discover the intriguing history of Georgia’s capital on a walking tour of Old Tbilisi

Tsalka – Dashbashi Canyon – Kldekari Fortress

Walk in the footsteps of bloodthirsty medieval kings on this eye-opening private tour. Equal parts history and nature, this experience is led by a friendly guide who kicks things off with a visit to the overgrown ruins of the 9th-century Kldekari fortress – its name literally meaning ‘stone gate’. While there be sure to dig out your camera to capture the unbeatable views across the emerald valley. After lunch in the city of Tsalka, you’ll be visiting the magical Dashbashi Canyon, where waterfalls cascade over mossy volcanogenic rock, spraying you with a cool mist.

The Dashbashi Canyon is a natural masterpiece carved out by the Khrami river

Borjomi, Castle Rabati, Vardzia

Not one for couch potatoes, this tour takes you around the three cities of southern Georgia in the span of a day. First stop is Vardzia, an impressive rock-carved monastery site that appears torn from the pages of Lord of the Rings. Once you’ve juiced up your Instagram feed and heard about its ancient military origins it will be on to see the mountaintop Rabati Castle, a grand fortress established in the 9th-century. Final stop is resort town Borjomi – hop on the ferris wheel for sweeping views across the region.

The Borjomi Water Pavilion in the pretty Borjomi Central Park

Get inspired and start planning your trip to this wonderfully diverse country at georgia.travel

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