Even though Georgia is a small country, it boasts a variety of charming cities and villages to explore. Most of these places require several days to wander through, but there are a number of options if you want to plan a weekend getaway from Tbilisi. The following places are not that far from the capital and offer beautiful views, historical sights, and cultural experiences.
Sighnaghi is one of the most famous towns in the Kakheti region, due to its charming cobblestone streets and wooden balconies. In addition, the city, which was founded in the 17th century, is rich in history. Sighnaghi is a relatively small town with a limited number of things to do, but these include visiting the history museum, walking along its medieval defense walls, and enjoying the views of the Caucasus Mountains and Alazani Valley.
Once you explore the town itself, you can go to Bodbe Monastery, the final resting place of St. Nino, a person who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century. Another option to explore the area would be to go to Telavi, the central city of the region. Located only an hour and a half from Sighnaghi, you can explore the palace of the 17th-18th century Kakhetian Kings, visit the history and ethnography museum located in the palace, and wander through the palace of Prince Aleksander Chavchavadze.
And once in the region, don’t forget to try local qvevri wine.
Stepantsminda, or Kazbegi as it is more familiarly known, is a small village nestled at the base of Mount Kazbegi. Located a three-hour drive from Tbilisi, the road towards the village goes through the Georgian Military Highway offering splendid views of nature. On the road to Stepantsminda, make sure to stop by Ananuri Castle and admire the beautiful views of Zhinvali Reservoir, a hydroelectric dam with the turquoise-colored water.
In addition to the breathtaking views of the mountains, the Stepantsminda is famous for the Gergeti Trinity Church, surrounded by mountains. You can hike up there from the village or take a delica taxi if you’d like to experience a bit of an off-road ride. And if you are a hiking lover, you’ll want to hike to the Gergeri Glacier.
Situated only 90 minutes from Tbilisi, Gori is another small city you should visit for your weekend getaway. Known as the birthplace of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, here you can visit his house museum, see his personal railway carriage and learn more about his childhood and adolescent years. In addition, you can explore Gori Fortress, a medieval castle standing above the city. It’s believed that the citadel controlled significant economic and strategic routes and housed a large army.
Once here, go on a half-day tour in Uplistsikhe, located a 25-minute drive from Gori. This ancient cave town includes several structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages. It is famous for the unusual blend of different styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, together with Christian and pagan architecture.
The former capital and the second largest city in Georgia is rich in historical and cultural sights worth visiting once you are here. There are various possibilities for getting to the city; you can either take a minibus or a train. Even though it’s a bit far from the capital, the drive time being around three and a half hours, Kutaisi still makes a great getaway option to mix leisure and culture for the weekend.
Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, wander through the streets of the city and admire the Colchis Fountain, visit the museums and Sataplia Nature Reserve to see the footsteps of the dinosaurs, appreciate the futuristic parliament building, or walk through the Prometheus Cave.
Kutaisi’s location offers great day-trip opportunities if you’d like to pack your itinerary to the fullest.
Akhaltsikhe is home to Rabati Fortress, another splendid sight to explore over the weekend. The castle was originally established in the 19th century and was originally named Lomisa Castle; however, during the different invasions the area has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Most of the buildings that you can see today date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. What makes this place so unique is that the complex is home to different religious sites including a synagogue, mosque, and Orthodox church to name a few. There’s also a museum, shops, and various hotels where you can spend the night.
Vardzia is another cave town located around a four-hour drive from the capital. This 12th-century landmark stretches along the cliff for approximately 500 meters up to 19 tiers. The masterpiece of Golden Age and the period of King Tamar’s rule, the area features significant series of frescoes, 79 separate cave dwellings, 242 rooms spread across eight tiers, several chapels, 25 wine cellars, a meeting room, and a pharmacy, to name just a few.
This resort town situated in stunning Borjomi Gorge is home to the mineral water of the same name. It’s believed that these mineral springs have various curative powers; therefore, it is frequently visited by people with health problems. The city itself doesn’t offer much in the way of things to do, but one of the must-do things is visiting the park and try the natural spring water, which has a completely different taste than the bottled Borjomi water. The small, nearby town of Likani is home to the summer house of the Romanov family, the one-time Russian Imperial family.