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With its incomparable mountain landscape, position at the intersection of Europe and Asia, and fascinating – if turbulent – past, former Soviet republic Georgia is becoming an increasingly popular destination. Packing everything in, this small country offers snow-covered peaks, bustling seaside spots, hiking trails in lush nature and century-old defence towers. Here, are the best spots to put on your bucket list once you decide to visit Georgia.
In its more-than-2,000-year history, the city of Telavi has undergone influences from the Kakheti kings, the Romans, the Russian Tsars and the Georgian monarchs, meaning there’s a truly incredible breadth of architectural sites on offer. Start with the defenses of the Dzveli Galavani (old fortress walls), then head for the Batonis Tsikhe (fortress of the lord). Telavi also is a home to a 900-year-old sycamore tree and the Alaverdi Monastery – the second-tallest church in Georgia after the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi.
Located in the hills of Shida Kartli, the town is believed to have been the major economic and political centre of the Kingdom of Kartli, a late-Medieval monarchy which once ruled eastern Georgia. Today, visitors can discover monolith cave residences scattered across the sprawling natural landscape.
Gudauri has become the country’s prime winter destination in recent years. Situated 2,000m (6,562ft) above sea level, the ski resort offers mesmerising views of the Greater Caucasus range. The ski season starts here in December and continues until April, offering a variety of runs to suit all levels. The area has also become well-known for heliskiing and freeriding due to its powdery snow and relatively low tourist numbers compared to other European ski destinations.
Vardzia, a town in southern Georgia, offers monolith churches, shrines and caves that were inhabited from the middle of the 12th century, but abandoned after the Ottoman takeover of the country in the 18th century. It’s another fascinating spot and well worth making a detour for.
Newly renovated Rabati Castle was built in the 9th century and known as Lomisa Castle until the Ottoman takeover. This site is particularly unique because it developed under the influence of so many different cultures over the course of several centuries – as evidence by its church, mosque, synagogue and minaret.
The central city of the Samegrelo region and a stopping point on your travels to Svaneti, Zugdidi is home to the beautiful facades and captivating architecture of the Dadiani Palace. Even if you don’t plan to go on to Svaneti, you can head to Martvili Canyon or the hot springs near to the city.
Coastal city Batumi in the Adjara region has gained popularity thanks to its bustling summer nightlife, neon lights, modern architecture and the various festivals held here throughout the year. It’s also one of the oldest cities in the country, with roots in ancient Greek colonialism – evidence of which can still be seen.