Why Everyone Must Visit Georgia, The Country Not the State!

Nearly nightfall, I head to the streets, close to our hotel. Outdoor tables and chairs set up are almost in every corner. Front of their gates - men drinking, eating and undeniably cheerful - enough so, one of them, handed me a drink in a small glass. That was my first Georgian congeniality experience. Having that tiny shot, I'm certain, was the strongest alcohol in my life. What a welcome I thought, it's so insane yet locally delightful. 

Travelling to Georgia from Dubai has now become a mainstream destination. It’s cheap, short travel, and offers visa on arrival for UAE residents.  July and August are summer months while September and October are tourist seasons, at this time water in the Black Sea is still warn and in the mountains the weather allows you to ski until first quarter of the following year. 

Free bottle of red wine for all tourist on arrival. A pleasant surprise from immigration officer after he stamped our passports

Those hanging sausage-like rolls are called Churchkhela, a traditional solidified Georgian grape juice made with almonds

Admittedly as most us, we never heard of this country until now. (Don’t judge me) On a positive note, the lesser we know about a place, we do tend to have less expectations. In spite of that, this country  blew my mind. It's an alluring region. People are welcoming, food is delicious, fresh crisp air and nature are the most scenic that you will ever see.

This is just one of bewitching appeal of labyrinth narrow streets in Tbilisi. Expect climbing-the-hill walk experience, in mostly slopes avenue 

Georgian hospitality has it's way to your heart. For all time, locals do their best to assist us in any way they can, even they don’t speak English. 

I had food coma everyday, fascinated perhaps with unfamiliar contrasting dishes. Thanks to whoever develop the new menus, pointing the pictures certainly help us in ordering food. Also managed but got caught sneaking out, just to have gelato with my daughter hiding from my wife.

Elderly Georgian vendor selling fresh berries, nuts and sweets at Fortress near the lake in Ananuri - on our way to Kazbegi mountains

On our way to mountains tour, it's easy to see that the country is blessed with natural resources and provisions. Beautiful mountains, natural flowing mineral water, fruits, vegetation, cattle, swine and birds, you name it, they've got it all.  Georgian are the force to follow on how to preserve, respect nature and practice sustainability.

"has a wealth of spectacular landscapes. One of Europe's hottest new destinations" Featured in CNN Travel

Where exactly is Georgia? Nope not the state in USA it's the country!

Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan.

Reasons to visit Georgia

1. It's a food and beer haven

What can I say, it's mostly about food when I travel, and in Georgia, everything is cheap. 10 dollars goes a long..... way!  Beers for instance are half the price compared to other countries. A requisite to try is Khachapuri. It's not just another bread, akin to a glorious pizza-like with lots of varieties to choose. It is one of the famous food where the Georgian cuisine is primed. Garlic chicken, beef and pork dishes are all sensational, they've got distinct unique traditional spice blend that is preserved, and still commonly  used to their cooking.

Khachapuri is a traditional bread filled with cheese, also in egg. While those little pao pockets are called Khinkali filled with spicy minced meat, usually beef or pork

European style dishes are also common in restaurants in Chardeni street to cater tourists

 
Average pint beer price is 2$ USD

Breakfast spread in our hotel

Chateau Mukhrani wine tour is highly recommended to all enthusiasts. Discover the Georgian Royal family and legends that includes tasting at the end of tour. 30$ USD per person

 
Pork dishes are common in Georgia
A full meal with 3 main dishes and beer is about 35$ USD

This shawarma shop sells footlong for 3$ USD


2. Tbilisi 

The city might be small but it has a lot of tourist attractions and ancient heritage to see. Taxis and metro are the easiest way to get around. If you don't mind walking, there's a free tour every day from 6pm by explore outdoor.

View from the top on the way to Mother of Georgia statue. Accessible through cable car.  Bridge of Peace, President's Palace, Sameba - Holy Trinity Church and the new Tbilisi Theatre are the dominant infrastructures, nestled with old city.


3. Mountains and nature

Georgia is a mountainous country, head out of Tbilisi and enjoy magnificent breath-taking scenic locations. Getting tickets of Kazbegi tour, we pass through turquoise lake view from Ananuri 16th century fortress, then ski resort of Gudauri. Ski is on during winter months.  Weather is equally good in summer too.

Mt. Kazbek is one of the major mountains of the Caucasus located on the border of Kazbegi District of Georgia and North Ossetia

Mountain cliff view along the military highway on the way to Kazbegi moutains

Edge of the cliff view from top of Gergeti Trinity Church overlooking the village at an elevation of 2170 meters, under Mt. Kazbegi

Waterfall of Mineral Water in Mtiuleti

 4. The People

Georgians are considered to be one of the most friendly countries. You've got to appreciate their resilience against a centuries-long occupation of Russian Empire. Lovely people, that takes huge pride about their wine and cuisine. 

Everyone respects the freedom of religion. Majority practices Eastern Orthodox Christianity, though it is not a state religion. Their religious belief does not stop them for being united as a country.


In Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the second largest church in the country, located in Mtskheta, the former capital of Georgia
In Mtskheta tour at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral built in 4th century AD where Sidonia is buried with Jesus Christ's robe is preserved


 
5. Churches

 Churches built in 4th century AD still stands and preserved. 

Constructed between 1995 to 2004, the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi also known as Sameba is the main Cathedral of Georgian Orthodox in the country


6. The vineyards

Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Chateau Mukhrani is just one of the vineyards, with lots of dry wines varieties to choose, there's a Georgian wine that pairs well with every palate. We came right in time to see the grapes before the harvest next month. (September)

Grapes ready for harvest in Chateau Mukhrani vineyards

Chateau Mukhrani was founded 1878 by the Prince of Mukhrani, heir of the royal family of Georgia. Abandoned during former Soviet Union and completely renewed by Marussia Beverages and Georgian shareholders in 2003.  Aside from wines, they also produce Chacha, it's a pomace brandy also famously known as the Georgian grape vodka. It is clear and super strong up to 60% alcohol content. Clearly, I can't keep up with the locals in the streets. It's not for a faint of liver...

7. Taxi drivers

My hope to find honest taxi driver came true in Tbilisi! In my whole travel experience, they are probably the nicest - so far. We were not charged more than 1$ USD within the city, taxis does not have a meter.



8. Restaurants and nightlife

In Tbilisi, you can find restaurants, bars and clubs for people with completely different lifestyle. Organique Josper Bar is just one of them. As you guess, yes they are serving local organic beef and fresh produce choices on their menu. 

This way leads to Chardeni restaurants and bars. Fully alive during night time
Gorgasali Square also known as Meidan Square view at night with Narikala Fortress on top of the hill


Where to Stay in Tbilisi or Other places in Georgia

We stayed at Mirobelle Hotel, across the magnificent Sameba, Holy Trinity Church and a block walk to the President's Palace.  It's about 15 to 20 minutes leisure walk going down to the city proper, but we love it here.  Rooms are clean, descent amenities, excellent service and delicious all fresh local breakfast. Lika made it even more special, she took care of our reservation, arranged our airport pick-up, checked us in smoothly, fix our gadget chargers and give us recommendation on how to navigate the city. She did all hotel departments work, we should clone this gal and deploy to all hotels!

There's a lot of accommodation to choose from - CHECK HERE.  I recommend Mirobelle too or choose properties that are close to freedom square, make sure you check the map.  For solo travelers, backpackers hostel or lodge are all over the city, there's a lot of medium scale for family and groups as well. Five star hotels are quite not situated in the city center except for Mercure which is along sulfur bath district area.  Airbnb rooms and apartments are also good option.


What to Do in Tbilisi

Don't be just a tourist and don't limit yourself to basic things to do in Tbilisi - Sulfur baths -Chardeni Street - Narikala Fortress - Rustaveli Avenue - Freedom Square - Museums. Explore small streets of the old Tbilisi, chill in one of cafes near Turtle Lake, enjoy a walk in Mtatsminda park going through Funicular train. You can also check out what's on the exhibition center and talk to locals.



What to See in Georgia

We bought tickets in a local sightseeing tour when we arrive, rates are in local currency and much lower than have it arranged by a travel agency in your country of origin. Red Line sightseeing tour in Chardeni Street got it all covered.  Don't book a package tour, it's more expensive.  Just buy return flights and head to any local tour company in Tbilisi upon arrival. 

Here are major attractions that you need to see..

Mtskheta

One of the oldest cities in Georgia and it also one the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Being the birthplace of Christianity, it is the holy city of the country.

Sighnaghi

This small town of 2,146 population is popular for their wine production, traditional carpets and Georgian traditional food Mcvadi.

Bodbe

The Bodbe Monastery is nested among tall Cypress trees on a steep hillside overlooking the Alazani Valley, where it commands views of the Greater Caucasus mountains.

Tsinandali

This village in Kakheti, Georgia is noted for the estate and its historic winery which once belonged to the 19th-century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze (1786-1846). It is situated in the district of Telavi, 79 km east of Tbilisi.

Ananuri

Was a castle and seat of the eristavis (Dukes) of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty which ruled the area from the 13th century. The castle was the scene of numerous battles.

Kazbegi/Stepantsminda

A small town in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of northern-eartern Georgia. It is known for its scenic location in the Greater Caucasus mountains, and is a center for trekkers and mountain climbing.  Local attractions include the Kazbegi Museum and Ethnographic Museum in town, and the Gergeti Trinity Church outside of town, as well as Mount Kazbegi itself and the alpine meadows and forests of the surrounding Kazbegi Nature Reserve.

Gori

This place was an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages and maintains a strategic importance due to its location on the Principal highway connecting eastern and western parts of Georgia. Gori is also known as the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, ballistic missile designer Alexander Nadiradze and philosopher Merab Mamardashvili.

Uplistokhe

Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures from Anatolia and Iran, as well as the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture.

David Gareji

Is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of the country. It includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.

Vardzia

This is a place of cave monastery site  in southern part of the country, excavated from the slopes od the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Mtkvari River. The caves stretch along the cliff for some five hundred metres and in up to nineteen tiers.

Rabati

Rabati Castle is a medieval castle complex in Akhaltsikhe, Georgia.  Built in the 13th century, initially was called the Lomisa Castle until it was conquered by Ottomans.

Borjomi

This is the resort town of Georgia famous for its mineral water industry, the Romanov summer palace in Likanim and the Wolrd Wide Fund for Nature-site Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

Kutaisi

This is the second largest city and is the legislative capital of Georgia.  The low-lying outskirts have a largely agricultural landscape.  The city centre has many gardens, its streets are lined with high leafy trees. In the springtime, when the snow starts to melt in the nearby mountains, the storming Rioni River in the middle of the city is heard far beyond its banks.

Batumi

Known as the seaside city on the Black Sea coast and capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic in southwest Georgia.  Since 2010, the face of the city has been transformed by the construction of new high-rise landmark buildings and the renovation of the old town.

Our short visit to Georgia was unexpectedly good.  As the place starts to become - one of the popular destination in the region, I hope everyone ( locals and tourist ) will safeguard it's undisputed natural beauty.

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