Incomparable in its mountain landscape, undeterred by its turbulent past, Georgia is now becoming an increasingly popular destination. Packing everything in, this small country offers snow-covered peaks, bustling seaside, hiking trails in lush nature and century-old defense towers. Here, are the best spots to put on your bucket list once you decide to visit Georgia.
Mtskheta and Jvari Monastery
Just a short ride away from Tbilisi, the capital, this UNESCO World Heritage Site holds the banks of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers junction. Acclaimed for its many Christian sites and famed as one of the spiritual centers of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the town attracts huge crowds during the year. Beautiful frescoes of the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, one of the excellent models of medieval Georgian religious architecture awaits you here. Another important site to visit is Jvari Monastery, located on the hill overlooking Mtskheta. It’s believed that St Nino, an evangelist who brought Christianity to Georgia, raised a wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple in the 4th-century.
Possessing a history of more than 2,000 years, Telavi was developed by the Kakheti kings, the Romans, the Russian tsars and the Georgian monarchs. This means an uncommon collection of architectural sites to wander through, starting from the defenses of the Dzveli Galavani (old fortress walls), to the Batonis Tsikhe (fortress of the lord). Telavi also is a home to a 900-year-old sycamore tree. From here, you can also visit Alaverdi Monastery – the second tallest church in Georgia after the Holy Trinity Church in Tbilisi.
The city of love, as former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili called it, Sighnaghi offers marvelous views over Alazani valley. It lives up to the fame of being one of the most charming towns in the country. Red rooftops with the background of the Great Caucasus mountains, narrow cobblestone streets, and colorful timber houses is scenery you won’t want to miss.
Tusheti National Park
Gushing down the northern part of the Greater Caucasus mountains, right at the edge of Chechnya and Russia, the Tusheti National Park is for those who love extreme and breathtaking views of rising peaks. Another UNESCO site of the country, Tusheti is known for its brick-built towers, constant change of weather, splendid scenery, warm people and long lasting history and traditions. Tusheti truly is one of the magical places of Georgia.
Located on the hills of Shida Kartli, the town is believed to have been a major economic and political center of the Kingdom of Kartli. Today, visitors discover monolith cave residences scattered across eight hectares of land.
Gudauri has become the country’s prime winter destination in recent years. Situated 2,000 meters above sea level, the ski resort offers mesmerizing views of the Greater Caucasus range. Here, the ski season starts in December and continues until April, providing skiers a variety of runs. And even if you are a beginner, you can still enjoy the slopes of Gudauri. Additionally, the area has become a well-known destination for heliskiing and free riders due to its powdery snow and less-packed inclines compared to other European ski destinations.
Named after a monk Stephan, who built a hermitage here (that later became the Georgian Military Road), Stepantsminda attracts many travelers with its gorgeous scenery, hiking opportunities, rafting, rock climbing and the Gergeti Holy Trinity Church that sits at an elevation of 2,170-meters on the foot of Mount Kazbegi.
Vardzia, a cave town, located in southern Georgia, offers different layers of monolith churches, shrines, and caves that were inhabited from the middle of the 12th-century, but was abandoned after the Ottoman takeover of the country in the 16th-century.
Newly-renovated Rabati Castle was built in the 9th-century and was called Lomisa Castle until the Ottoman takeover. What makes this site a unique landmark is that it developed under the influence of different cultures over the centuries. The castle spans seven hectares and includes a church, mosque, synagogue and a minaret.
The central city of Samegrelo region and a stopping point on your travels to Svaneti, Zugdidi is home to the beautiful facades and captivating architectural exhibits at the Dadiani Palace. Even if you don’t plan on going to Svaneti, you can head to Martvili Canyon or the hot springs nearby the city.
Camouflaged by the snow-covered peaks of the Greater Caucasus mountains, Mestia is the central town of Svaneti region which doesn’t stop to surprise its visitors. The iconic symbol of the area, a stone-built and square-shaped tower, is one of the magnificent landmarks to explore here. Do remember to visit the national museum, you’ll learn a lot about both the region and the country, and will be able to see what impeccable treasures Svan people saved during various invasions.
Located at the foot of Shkhara mountain, Ushguli is a breathtaking village to explore. Another UNESCO site, it is also considered as the highest village in Europe where people permanently live at 2,000-meters above sea level.
The coastal city Batumi in Adjara region has gained its popularity with bustling nightlife during summer, neon lights, modern architecture and several festivals held here througout the year. Even though it might not seem like it, Batumi is one of the oldest cities in the country. Its roots go back to the age of ancient Greek colonialism. The evidence of that period still exists but is relatively rare.