Welcome! Today we are heading across the Atlantic Ocean to visit Georgia and unearth all there is to see and do in this delightful destination. What? You don’t have to cross the ocean to get to Georgia? It’s on the east coast? Ohhhh. Wait a minute. You must be thinking of the wrong Georgia! I am not talking about the land of peaches, peanuts and pecans here in the US. I am talking about the transcontinental country of Georgia!
Situated at the crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe – this Georgia is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored. And luckily Lauma Trika, Management and Marketing Director from Georgia Travel RSP accepted my invitation to a recent Wanderlust Wednesday to show us just how shiny this gem is.
So – let’s get on our virtual plane and take off for the other Georgia!
Location and Language: So yes – this Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region that sits at the juncture of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. It is bordered to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia and to the east by Azerbaijan. The capital of Georgia is Tbilisi with a population of around one and a half million people. Georgia has its own language and one of the things that distinguishes Georgia from others is that it is spoken only by the four million people who reside in the country. Plus – it has its unique alphabet as well!
Getting There: There are three main airports including one in Tbilisi – which is located in the middle of the country, one in Batumi – which is a seaside resort – and the other in Kutaisi. Getting there from the US is typically on Turkish Airlines. Bonus – no visa nor vaccines are needed – just you and your passport.
Currency: Georgia has its own currency – the Georgian Lari and as of this writing it was coming out to be around three lari would equal one US dollar. Lauma advised that although credit cards are accepted in the major cities you want to carry little bit of cash with you while traveling across the country most of the guest houses and restaurants in smaller towns won’t accept credit cards.
When to Visit: There are 11 regions in Georgia and for such a small country the climate here is quite diverse and thus every season has its charm. Winters are snowy everywhere except in the capital of Tbilisi, spring is sunny and mild with a few rainy weeks in April, summers tend to be hot especially in Tbilisi and autumn is similar to spring but a bit colder. You should also be prepared because even in the summertime temperatures vary – for instance – in the mountains it tends to be colder and at the seaside it’s more humid. Fun Fact: If you visit in November, you can tour the big plantations and can participate in the tangerine harvest. Bonus – you can take as much as you want and Lauma shared they have guests who come every year for those tangerines and always take at least a box home.
Destinations: Georgia is divided into several different destinations and together they make it a country that you can visit any season as in summer there is the beach, in fall there is the harvesting of the grapes and in the winter there are the ski and mountain resorts.
- Sea Resorts: The sea resort of Adjara – located in the southwestern part of the country on the coast of the Black Sea – is home to picturesque beaches including Batumi, Kvariati, Sarpi, Gonio, Tsikhisdziri, Mtsvane Kontskhi (the Green Cape) and Kobuleti. There are also black sand beaches in Georgia – including Shekvetili and Ureki.
- Batumi: This city is considered the second or subtropical summer capital of Georgia – and is referred to as the Black Sea Pearl. It is also the administrative center of the autonomous Adjara region. This is a fast-developing area at the moment, as skyscrapers are popping up on the skyline – but there is still an old town district featuring renovated 19th century buildings. Here you can enjoy the sea and you can also enjoy the mountains – as they are only a one-hour drive from the city. A popular family experience here is visiting Batumi Dolphinarium.
- Ski Resorts: Georgia is also home to several different ski resorts so if you are a skier there is sure to be one to appeal to your style.
- Gudauri: This is the most popular in the mix and is an international resort for everyone that well known around the world because it’s one of the oldest. Not only that but it is the highest ski resort in Georgia at 3,276 meters – or 10,748 feet and boasts the highest ski slope and ski lift in the country. And it is filled with all kinds of things for my adventurers – including heli-skiing, freeriding and paragliding. Per Lauma it may not be as developed as Europe’s ski resorts but it’s genuinely nice ski resort and the price is right!
- Bakuriani: This ski resort is more local and kid friendly and is great for families.
- Mestia: Lauma described Mestia as a faraway freeride paradise.
- Goderdzi: Offering primitive powder for the intermediate freeriders – this one is very remote and a little bit wild!
- Health and Wellness Resorts: Health and wellness in Georgia is a little bit more on the medical side than most destinations – but that doesn’t mean there are not opportunities for recharging your batteries in nature and so forth. But because some of you actually do travel for this type of wellness, I asked Lauma to be sure and give us an overview of exactly what is available. First – prices are very friendly which is typically the big draw when we go out of the US for treatments. In addition, there are many different health resorts and each of them treats different types of ailments, illnesses and diseases. Your best bet is to get diagnosed prior to arrival but of course you can do that here as well. One of the nice things about the medical resorts is that they’re located in different regions of the country and they just so happen to be beautiful areas. Meaning when you opt to go here for treatment – you also have the chance to do some sightseeing and tours as well. Lauma highlighted three of the resorts to give us an idea of what they are all about.
- Specifics or Specialties of the Resort: Forest air and mineral waters
- What is Treated at the Resort: Diseases of the osteo-articular system, diseases of the nervous system, diabetes mellitus, dermatology, diseases of urogenital system, kidney disease and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Akhtala: The resort is partially renovated.
- Specifics or Specialties of the Resort: Therapeutic mud
- What is Treated at the Resort: Diseases of the musculoskeletal system, muscles and tendons, diseases of the central and peripheral nervous systems, gynecological diseases and skin diseases.
- Tskaltubo: A balneological resort well known since 1892 and one of the oldest.
- Specifics or Specialties of the Resort: Mineral Water
- What is Treated at the Resort: Central and peripheral nervous systems diseases and musculoskeletal disorders, gynecological diseases, Cardiovascular diseases, endocrine diseases, urological diseases and skin diseases.
One thing Lauma said to be aware of is that the medical resorts must be purchased as packages starting at a minimum of seven days. The beautiful part for those of you who are interested in visiting these therapeutic options to deal with medical issues in a more natural way is that we can a combine your treatment along with exploring a new land. For my health coaches, fitness instructors and yogis – how cool would it be to take a group here where you can really use mother earth to heal and promote wellness?
Side Note: Lauma also mentioned that phage therapy is now being practiced in Georgia – which is an effective treatment solution for patients who have bacterial infections that do not respond to the antibiotics.
- Wine Region: A trip to the biggest wine making region – sunny Kakhet, Racha – is a great way to learn about the winemaking traditions, discover the adorable “City of Love” Sighnagi and its picturesque monasteries and museums, enjoy amazing views of Alazani Valley and of course – drink some wine! Fun Fact: In Sighnagi you can get married really fast with no preparations needed – just take your passports and your mate and you can get married in the same day! Georgia is one of the world’s oldest winemaking countries whose key wine grapes are the red grape variety saperavi and the white grape rkatsiteli. The country is also strongly associated with the continuation of ancient winemaking techniques including the use of clay vessels called qvevri for fermentation and storage – where – similar to ancient amphorae they are buried in the ground outside or set into the cellar floor for temperature consistency. The best time to explore the wine region of Kakhet is starting from September until the middle of October as it is rtveli time which in Georgian means harvest. This is grape picking time and is a joyous tradition and features celebrations that been going on for thousands of years. In fact, Lauma likened it to our Thanksgiving as it is the time of year Georgians go home to their parents’ house and the family comes together to harvest the grapes. And Lauma said they love when people join them as they feel guests are gifts from God and they treat you that way when you are with them. Soooo if you wanted to experience if for yourself, we can make that happen with a local family – cultural immersion centered around wine – who’s in???
- Mountain Regions: There are five major mountain regions for you to explore in this mountainous country.
- Mountain Adjara: Adjara is an important tourism destination and includes Georgia’s second largest city of Batumi as its capital. The journey from here to the nearest mountain will take about one hour. Since it is so close to Batumi it is not as well preserved as the others as they already have seen a lot of tourist traffic – but Lauma assures us they are still worth seeing while in Batumi.
- Kazbegi – Kazbegi National Park is located on the northern slopes of the mighty Caucasus range and it is a protected area at 5,033 meters or 16,512 feet above sea level. Kazbegi is the third highest mountain in Georgia and is surrounded by myths and religious traditions. Thanks to its easy accessibility it is also the most popular mountain destination in this region and is quite popular in the summer for hiking, rafting, paragliding, jeep tours and other activities – as well as the skiing we discussed earlier in winter. This one is situated closest to Tbilisi.
- Tusheti: This remote mountainous region is only open in the summertime typically from the end of the May to October – as once the snow falls the road is closed. Once the snows melt however, the amazing 45 miles of unpaved, curvy road 9000 feet high Abano Pass is available again. There is only one way to enter and that is from Kakhetian Village’s Zemo Alvani and it’s recommended to use 4X4 – as an average car will get stuck – as well as the services of a professional driver – due to the fact that it is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Tusheti is a paradise for hiking, trekking, bird watching and horseback riding. You will also spot the shepherds with their sheep here and there are opportunities to stay at local guest houses to get that complete cultural immersion that I love so much. Per Lauma it is one of the most beautiful places in Georgia and not to be missed.
- Khevsureti: This is a neighbor region of Tusheti that is also as remote as it is beautiful with lots of interesting things to explore – plus the road is not so dangerous! Khevsureti is home to some fantastic defensive architecture and spectacular scenery of steep forested valleys and blooming mountain pastures. Fun Fact: Men in the remote area were still wearing chainmail well into the 20th century. Today few villages have permanent inhabitants as there’s no road access from about December to May when the Datvisjvari Pass is closed.
- Svaneti: This historic region is extremely popular thanks to the medical villages with their tower houses. Located in the northwestern part of the country it is inhabited by the Svans – an ethnic subgroup of Georgians. It is about a six- or seven-hour drive from Tbilisi and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Per Lauma it is their pearl and is quite beautiful and therefore quite a popular destination for hiking the glaciers and lakes and skiing in the winter – as we briefly mentioned above. The good part about the skiing here is that the ski resorts though nice – are not very developed and therefore not as crowded – and yes – that means social distancing friendly.
- Canyons and Waterfalls: These are truly the secret treasures of Western Georgia and would be closer to the Tbilisi airport.
- Martvili Canyon: Amazing waterfalls and the opportunity to take a boat ride through the beautiful waters beneath them.
- Kincha Waterfall: This one has the honor of being the tallest one in Georgia, is absolutely beautiful and free. And for my romantic guys who want to pop the question – what a fabulous setting this would be!
- Okatse Canyon: Picture this – walking in Okatse Canyon is like walk above the trees per Lauma!
- Caves and Cave Cities: All three of the caves are located in one region and each is unique in its own right. The difference between them is the length of the walking required to get through them as one is a longer walk than the other – or you can opt to take a boat ride through them if you prefer.
- Sataplia and Prometheus Caves: These caves are millions of years old and filled with stalactites and stalagmites and underground rivers. Sataplia is also home to dinosaur footprints which makes it a great living classroom for the kids!
- Vardzia – The cave complex of Vardzia is the Georgian jewel of medieval architecture is the largest cave in the country with more than 600 caves and rooms making it like a city inside.
- Cave Cities: These include Uplistsikhe – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Center – and David Gareja – which is a complex of two monasteries built into a cave.
Types of Travelers: Oh gosh – all types – from families to companies to destination weddings – and more!
- Adventure Tourism: Georgia is a playground for adventure so for all of you guys who are into everything adventure you’re definitely going to find it here! And I am super excited to be able to offer you these adventures in this truly hidden gem – including rafting, hiking, paragliding, bike tours, hunting, jeep tours, endure tours, horseback riding tours and more. The sky’s the limit and we definitely can keep you guys well fit during your trip!
- MICE Tourism: Georgia Travel RSP can arrange everything you need including transfers, accommodations, team building excursions, entertainment and cultural programs, conference halls, experience exchanges and seminars. So, for my corporate clients looking for a location for team bonding – especially after many teams have been apart and working from home – there is plenty of space and opportunity here.
- Wedding Ceremonies in Georgia: Georgia Travel RSP would love to help me help you plan your destination wedding in this picturesque paradise that boasts a number of fabulous backdrops for you to choose from. And they offer a full range of services from arranging the wedding ceremonies in any place you desire to providing you with all the trimmings – including bouquets, wedding cakes, Georgian national wedding dresses, and a chokha for the groom – which is a woolen coat with a high neck that is part of the traditional male dress here. They can even organize dance lessons of the national Georgian wedding dances and provide you with a wedding photographer and videographer. And for your guests they will find the perfect accommodations and organize group or individual excursions. And remember – getting married here is amazingly easy – all you need are your passports!
Gastronomy: The gastronomy is diverse so if you are a foodie who loves trying lots of different cuisines then Georgia won’t disappoint! And – even though it tends to be heavy on the meat and pastry there’s also a large variety of vegetarian dishes as well. And for those of you who do have dietary restrictions there are many opportunities to work with you and ensure you will be able to enjoy their amazing food. They offer gastronomic tours as well that typically include some food masterclasses so you can learn even more about the local delicacies. You will find some of the most popular dishes below:
- Khinkali: Georgian dumplings.
- Mtsvadi: Georgian barbecue.
- Sulguni: Georgian cheese -can be smoked or fresh.
- Khachapuri: Classic Georgian bread with a texture that varies from region to region.
- Pkhali: What Lauma described as Georgian tapas – a cold vegetarian appetizer featuring herbs, vinegar and vegetables.
Georgian National Dances and Music: We cannot talk about Georgia without talking about the Georgian folk dances. Each region has their own dances that weave both history and art. One of the most popular is the Acharuli dance – which is a bright cheerful dance that originates from the region of Adjara and features a playful flirtation between men and women.
Miscellaneous: Below are a few things Lauma wanted to make sure we are aware of prior to visiting this fascinating land.
- Travel within the County: Here you are on Georgian time – which means traveling between the different regions can often take longer than it seems, so you need to take into account that the distances from one region to the other are quite far and be prepared for longer drives. But Lauma assures us that they put in stops along the way for eating and such!
- The Church Culture: Lauma also made it a point to note that you do need to be prepared that there are numerous churches that are included within the tours as Georgia is a religious country that follows the Orthodox Christianity. That being said – you certainly don’t have to frequent them on the stops – as most are in gorgeous spots with amazing views that you can take in from the outside.
- Those Local Pups: The local dogs will follow you anywhere you go so be prepared to have a furry friend eagerly leading the way as they love accompanying guests. But nothing to fear – they are friendly like the Georgians themselves – and they have all their vaccinations so are of no danger to visitors.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing the CDC recommends travelers avoid all nonessential international travel to Georgia.
I am so excited that we had an opportunity to have Lauma here to showcase Georgia because again it’s not a destination that is on everyone’s radar and it really should be! So, all my nature and adventure lovers, let’s have this conversation for travel in 2021! What a great remote, off the beaten path experience when we need it most!
For more details on things to see and do in Georgia, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!