Freeriding, snowtubing, paragliding, heliskiing… you’ll find it all at Gudauri, Georgia’s largest ski resort. With 60km of slopes, it’s situated on the south-facing plateau of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and enjoys maximum exposure to the sun. Beyond the sprawling resort, the postcard-perfect views change dramatically with the seasons: wreathed with mist or bathed in crisp sunshine, carpeted with winter snow or with wild lilies in summer.
Marco Polo Hotel Gudauri
Courtesy of Marco Polo Hotel Gudauri / Booking.com
No chance of boredom in this renovated 1980s hotel located at the heart of the resort, just steps from a gondola ski lift. You can swim, play tennis, pool or ping pong, and even go bowling in the hotel’s own alley. It’s also perfectly placed for summer walks through flowering meadows onto the surrounding hills with its wild goats and the ruins of a tower. The stylish rooms favour understated neutral shades and junior suites offer a sitting room with the bed on a mezzanine above. There are several bars and the main restaurant serves classic Caucasian cuisine, from aromatic walnut and aubergine salad to rich khachapuri (cheese bread).
The loft has views towards Khazbegi mountain, while the popular pool and sun loungers look straight out onto soft snow. You can ski almost from the doorstep. After you ski back at nightfall, you’ll be serenaded by live music at supper. Hearty breakfasts set you up for another day on the slopes: made-to-order omelettes, traditional buckwheat and homemade fruit lemonades.
Various well-equipped accommodation in a functional base, close to a hairpin bend in the winding mountain road and a short stroll from the ski lift. There’s a new block in this multi-site hotel, great for people wanting to self-cater. Each smart-serviced apartment has its own little kitchen, bathroom, sitting room with cable TV, music centre and free Wi-Fi. The neighbouring pool and spa cost a little extra and there’s also a good restaurant next door.
Gudauri’s Best Western offers a free shuttle bus to the ski lift. Every room has a balcony with mountain views. Crisp linen and pristine plate glass are offset by wooden details, dark green walls and egg-yolk yellow curtains. This is a hotel working hard on the details, from the pine-smelling sauna and outdoor hot tub, steaming in the mountain air, to the high-ceilinged Georgian-gourmet restaurant.
A couple of cows wander past the half-timbered chalets and roadside cafés. At the northern end of Gudauri, with fewer new hotels and more hostels, the family-run Retro is a budget-friendly hotel in a comfortably faded style. There’s a dartboard and table football in the little bar, where you can down shots of honey-chilli vodka or sip sweet Kindzmarauli wine, with its hints of damson and spices.
The Quadrum is located at the top end of town, where the old military highway winds upwards towards Kazbegi. It’s a 10-minute drive to Gudauri’s most breath-taking viewpoint and the striking Treaty of Georgievsk Monument. Sandro Ramishvili’s inventively stepped architecture ensures every spacious room of the Quadrum has a view; in the suite, you can even see the mountains from the jacuzzi. A state-of-the-art pool feels as if you are swimming into the snow outside. The second-floor restaurant serves Georgian classics like meaty khinkali (dumplings) or lobio (bean stew with coriander).
Seize the day from a laid-back resort set slightly away from the main road and close to the ski lift. Almost everything you need, from a spa to a little cinema, is on site and there are grand views from the lounge’s plush sofas, bedrooms and terrace. Try salty sheep’s cheese or nutty vegetable phkali appetisers in the restaurant to go with some exceptional Georgian wines, like Chateau Mukhrani’s soft, semi-sweet crimson Khvanchkara with its hints of raspberry and strawberry.
Fusion-queen Tekuna Gachechiladze founded the Khasheria restaurant at the Lodge and the menu showcases her characteristically innovative takes on traditional Georgian ingredients: pumpkin with damson sauce or spicy kupati sausage with pureed chestnuts. Wash it down with natural wine, fermented in big clay jars called qvevri. From the palm-fronded lounge to the pine-decked outdoor hot tub overlooking the mountains, the hotel has a luxurious and elegant feel. Included is a sauna, steam room, gym and glass-walled pool.