Kazbegi Georgia
Georgia

Awesome Places to Visit in Georgia

Traveling in Georgia we loved the ancient historical sights; cheap accommodation, food and transport; the beautiful mountains and the amazing hospitable people. Culture vultures, adventure travelers, foodies and vino lovers I am confident you will fall in love with this spectacular little country.

The Caucasus region is a mountain range lying between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It is geographically part of Asia, but culturally part of Europe. This is great for travelers on a budget, since you can have European food at Asian street food prices! Georgians describe their country as ‘the balcony of Europe’, appropriate I think! 

Tbilisi, the Heart of Georgia. Georgia Backpackers Guide
Tbilisi, the Heart of Georgia.

Georgia is a small country and if you are based in the capital many of the main sights over the country can be done as day trips. There is a lot of amazing places to explore for culture and outdoor lovers. The Caucasian mountains are truly magnificent offering some amazing hiking and driving around the countryside the views are magical. There are many churches and religious places of interest since this was the second Christian country in the world. Add to this the interesting history of kingdoms and rulers, a brutal history of soviet rule and a fascinating food and art scene results in a great cultural landscape to explore.

Suggested Georgia Travel Itinerary

It can be seen from the map below and distances given in the article many of the sites can be visited as day trips from Tbilisi. It is a nice city to stay with good accommodation, food and sites.

Three day trips that can easily be done from Tbilisi

  • Mskheta, Ananuri, Kazbegi (this is a nice place to stay for a day or 2)
  • Gori, Upistsike, Gori
  • Vardzia
  • Kakheti

Mestia and Batumi is at least an overnight trip each, from Batumi it is a short drive to Turkey and we continued traveling to Turkey from here.

Travel map Georgia
The area in red is close to Tbilisi and easy to do in day trips from the capital.

Best season to visit Georgia

Tbilisi can be visited all year round, in summer it gets very hot in the capital, but the rest of the country has a more moderate climate this time of the year. May to September is a fantastic time to visit Georgia.

  • Winter – Georgia has a couple of ski resorts, not far from Tbilisi (2 or 3 hours drive).
  • Spring – Beautiful landscapes, March through to the end of May. Still cold for trekking in the high Caucasus. 
  • Summer –  Summer is the best time for trekking, July and August. Summers in Georgia are hot and dry, ( avg temp 20-24°C). Beach resort towns are very busy with local tourists in the summer months of June to August. May through September is a great time to visit Georgia.
  • Autumn – harvest season in September, good time for wine tasting

Tbilisi

We loved Tbilisi, a wonderfully weird and beautiful city, such an interesting mix between ancient and modern styles. The capital is located at the foothills of the Trialeti Mountains. It is a big city with most of the interesting sites being located around The Old Town, this area is a brilliant cross road between Asian-European and old-new architecture.

Most people arrive in this beautiful and interesting city when flying into Georgia. Since the country is small and any place is within driving distance this a great place to use as base to travel from.

We explored the city for hours, walking down Rustaveli Avenue. Wandering through its winding alleys looking at the traditional balconied houses and its many sights.

Balcony houses of Tbilisi. Georgia Backpackers Guide.
Balcony houses of Tbilisi.

Places to visit in Tbilisi

  • The Narikala Fortress an ancient fortress overlooking Tbilisi and the Mtkvari River. One of the city’s most popular sites, amazing views of the city
  • Churches – the Metekhi Church, the Tbilisi Mosque, the Holy Trinity cathedral (Sameba), St. Nikoloz church,
  • The Bridge of Peace is a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge of steel and glass illuminated with numerous LEDs, stretching over the Kura River connecting the old town with Rike Park. The beautiful bridge is a romantic place for a walk.
  • Cable car over the old town from Rike Park to the statue of the mother of Georgia. The ride is cheap, nice views.
  • Mtatsminda Park a landscaped park located at the top of Mount Mtatsminda overlooking the Georgian capital. The park has a big Ferris wheel at the edge of the mountain with amazing views as well as several rides and waterslides.
  • The Chronicle of Georgia is a ‘off the beaten track’ site to visit. This not so well known beautiful and very interesting monument is located near Tbilisi sea.

Accommodation in Tbilisi

On a budget? M42 Hostel, after years of travel still one of my favorites, the ladies did an awesome job to convert this massive old beautiful house, dormitories and privates available.

Looking for a beautiful boutique hotel with great location and excellent staff for a good price? Metekhi’s Galavani Hotel is a nice spot.

Mid RangeLado Asatiani Apartment A large apartment with a big living room+kitchen & 3 bedrooms. Good location. Excellent ratings

LuxuryAmbassadori Tbilisi Hotel – elegant Italian interior, fantastic ratings, great location.

All details and tips on packing for a backpacking trip you’ll find in this post. ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓

Uplitsikhe, Cave Village

The ancient cave village Uplitsikhe is the oldest ancient settlement known in Georgia. The caves are beautiful and the rock formations and holes look like human made abstract art. The name Uplistsikhe means “the fortress of the Lord”. 2000BC it was a very important cultural center for pagan worship in the Kartli (Iberia) region. This beautiful ancient village is about an hour and a half drive from Tbilisi and a great day trip. You can reach it by public transport from Tbilisi as follows

  • distance to Tbilisi 85 km, 1h 40min drive
  • marshrutka Tbilisi to Gori – leaves from Didube metro statio (1.5 hours)
  • or train Tbilisi to Gori – line 872
    • Taxi From Gori, to Uplistsikhe (around 10 km)
    • or bus from Gori for 1 Lari and 5min walk Lari to Uplistsikhe

 You can also go to Uplitsike from Tbilisi with this very popular, highly rated day tour combining the old town of Mtskheta, the Jvari monastery, and the ancient rock complex of Uplistsikhe. Popular Uplistsikhe Day Tour

  • Visit the main Cathedral of Georgia, Svetitskhoveli
  • Learn the history of the Jvari Monastery
  • Marvel at the confluence of the rivers Aragvi and Mtkvari
  • Discover Uplistsikhe cave town
  • Explore Gori and the Museum of Stalin
  • Enjoy a traditional Georgian lunch
The beautiful ancient cave village Uplitsike. Georgia Backpacking Guide
The beautiful ancient cave village Uplitsike.

Mtskheta

This is one of the oldest cities in the country and is often called the most religious city in Georgia. Before Christianity it was a important city in Pagan religions. It is located about 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers.

Getting there

  • 26 km, 40 min drive from Tbilisi
  • It can be reached by marshurtka (minibus) from Tbilisi bus station.
  • The line 12 train (4 times daily).
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Cathedral of the Living Pillar) is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral located in the historic town of Mtskheta
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (Cathedral of the Living Pillar) is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral located in the historic town of Mtskheta.

Jvari Monastery

Jvari Monastery is a sixth-century Georgian Orthodox monastery near Mtskheta. It is one of the only Early Medieval Georgian churches that survived to the present day and has not been changed It is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Gori

The city Gori is best known as the birth place of the ruthless dictator Joseph Stalin that was leader of the USSR. Today it is seen as the fashion capital of Georgia and serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli. The Uplitsikhe cave village is only 10 km away and is the top site close to Gori.

Other highlights to visit in Gori are the Gori Cathedral, the Virgin Mary Cathedral and several attractions related to Stalin; the Stalin Museum, Stalin’s birthplace and the Stalin statue.

89 km, 1 h 20 min drive from Tbilisi

Mtskheta – Jvari – Gori – Uplistsikhe Full Day Private Tour

Popular, full day tour with great reviews, check them out to the old town of Mtskheta, the Jvari monastery, and the ancient rock complex of Uplistsikhe. Get picked up at your hotel in Tbilisi

Details, Reviews, Booking – Full day tour from Tbilisi.

  • Visit the main Cathedral of Georgia, Svetitskhoveli
  • Learn the history of the Jvari Monastery
  • The confluence of the rivers Aragvi and Mtkvari
  • Discover Uplistsikhe cave town
  • Explore Gori and the Museum of Stalin
The massive castle complex, Ananuri, located on the Aragavi river. Georgia Backpackers guide.
The massive castle complex, Ananuri, located on the Aragavi river.

Vardzia

Vardzia is a cave monastery site in southern Georgia that was excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Kura River, the closest town is the village Aspindza. This amazing cave monastery was built by Queen Tamar, the first woman ruiler of Georgia. The holy city has over 400 rooms, 25 wine cellars and 13 churces. The underground Church of the Dormition (also known as the Church of Assumption), probably the most famous site of the Vardzia Cave Monastery.

Spectacular site but a long drive from Tbilisi, 8 hours of driving round trip, if you stay over there are some more churches, monasteries and a fortress to explore in the area.

270 km, 4h drive from Tbilisi

Accommodation Vardzia

SADA Guesthouse – Top location, Set in Vardzia, bar, garden, terrace, buffet breakfast available.

Tirebi Farmhouse – good location, price and ratings

From Tbilisi: Full-Day Tour of Vardzia, Rabati and Borjomi

Well rated full day tour

Vardzia cave monastery
Vardzia cave monastery

Kakheti – Georgia for wine lovers

Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, with proof of making wine 8000 years ago, 2000 years before Jesus turned water in to wine! Georgia has a rich wine making history with more than 500 grape varieties been grown here. Soviet rule focused on quantity rather than quality resulting in terrible wines being produced for years. Today Georgia is back producing a variety of quality wines. Unique to Georgia is making wine in Qvevri, an egg-shaped earthenware vessel used for making, ageing and storing the wine. Monasteries have embraced modern technologies, but it keeps making some of its renowned wine the old way.

Georgian wines carry the name of the source region, district, or village, much like French regional wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Traditional Georgian grape varieties are little known in the World. Saperavi is the most popular red cultivar. Originally from Georgia this grape is dark-skinned with pink-flesh. A lot of Saperavi wine is made in the Kakheti district. Rkatsiseli is Georgia’s most popular white variety and is also dominant in Kakheti. Rkatsiseli wine is traditionally made with long skin contact, which produces a full-bodied, honey-colored wine.

Kakheti is the largest wine region producing about 60% of the country’s wine grapes. Other well known Georgian wine regions are Kartli, Imereti, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Adjara and Abkhazia.

86 km, 1 h 25 min drive from Tbilisi

Kakheti Wine Tasting Tour From Tbilisi

Explore the wine-producing region of Georgia, Kakheti. Discover Sighnaghi, the enchanting city of love, with its wonderful Alazani Valley. Taste unique Georgian wine.

Kakheti Wine Region Full Day Small Group Tour From Tbilisi

Excellent rating, plenty of great reviews

  • Visit Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking
  • Explore the biggest wine cellar in Georgia, Winery Khareba
  • Try Georgian bread, cheese, and Chacha
  • Discover so-called ‘Love City’, Sighnaghi
  • Go to the Bodbe Monastery

Kahketi: Full-Day Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch

  • Sample some of Georgia’s best wines in several wineries and cellars
  • Learn about the Kakheti region and its history of wine making
  • Visit the ancient walled town of Sighnaghi
  • Enjoy a local lunch in an authentic Georgian setting

Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)

Stepantsminda is more commonly known as Kazbegi. This is one of the must see destinations in Georgia with amazing hiking routes and beautiful nature scenery. It is a small mountain village in the north-east Georgia, close to the Russian border. The average annual temperature is only 4.9C and it was a chilli trek up the mountain!

Gergeti Trinity Church

Kazbegi is home to the Gergeti Trinity Church and some beautiful scenery. This was our favorite place in Georgia. It is definitely one the country’s most iconic images. The church has a spectacular location in the mountains at 2200 metres above sea level, backed by one of the highest peaks in the Caucasus Mountains.

It took us about 45 minutes to walk the 500 metres ascent to the church from Kazbegi, going  of the road and taking a straight, steep path through forest. It should take about twice so long walking on the road.

Gergeti Trinity Church
Gergeti Trinity Church, location, location, location…

Getting to Kazbegi

You can go to Kazbegi in a marshurtka, Didube Station in Tbilisi to the main square in Kazbegi, returns every hour. It costs around 4 USD.

Accommodation in Kazbegi

Uptown Boutique Kazbegi Rooms are neat, clean and warm. Excellent location, friendly and helpful management. Double Rooms for $22 triple rooms for $35

On a budget Nino’s Guest House, clean, friendly owners, good location $16 for a double room.

Looking for something different? Oishe Boutique Hotel Beautiful new boutique hotel with unreal location and stunning views. Rooms about $70

Kazbegi - ever seen a church with a better view? Georgia Backpacking Guide
Kazbegi – ever seen a church with a better view?

For more info on traveling to Kazbegi and beautiful photos this is a very nice article.

Ananuri castle fortress

This huge castle complex is located on the foreland by the Aragvi River , not far from Zhinvali water reservoir and in about 70km from Tbilisi.  The entrance is free of charge.

Getting there

  • It can be reached by marshurtka (minibus) from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda (formerly Kazbegi), arrange to get of at Ananuri.
  • We went to Ananuri on our way to Kazbegi

Kazbegi, Gergeti, Ananuri Full-Day Tour

A Full day-tour to Kazbegi in which you will explore various attractions of this beautiful region. Together with your guide, you will discover Ananuri, Gudauri and Stepantsminda among may other locations. Very well priced, many reviews, well rated.

Details, Reviews, Booking – Full day tour from Tbilisi.

  • Explore the Caucasus Mountains
  • Visit the Ananuri Medieval castle
  • Taste the coldest spring water in Gudauri
  • Visit the most beautiful place in Georgia, Gergeti Holy Trinity Church

Mestia

Mestia is the central town of the Svaneti region in North West Georgia. Located 1,500 metres (4,921 feet) above sea level it is the starting point for many hiking trips exploring the Caucasus Mountains. Unfortunately we did not get around to visiting the Svaneti region, but have heard stories about spectacular hiking from mountain town to mountain town with the highlight being the legendary villages of Ushguli that can only be reached by 4×4 or on foot.

Svaneti Towers Private Tour to Mestia, Hatsvali, Ushguli

Discover the incredible Svaneti on a 4-Day tour to West Georgia. See the ancient towers of Usghuli and Mestia, take a boat ride through Martvili canyon and watch out for bats as you walk through the Prometheus cave.

Batumi

A few fancy hotels, a nice beach walk, many colourful lights and some dancing fountains. Batumi is the second-largest city of Georgia. It is located on the coast of the Black Sea and is surrounded by mountains. It is the region’s touristic and gambling capital.

The city has a nice beach walk, The Boulevard, a 1.5km walk lined by palm trees, passing many beach bars. The beach is not great, made up of big  pebbles not sand. There are enormous empty buildings, some with very interesting and unusual architecture. Apparently discontinued projects from a previous regime. Don’t miss the dancing fountains water and light show after sunset, it is spectacular.

Accommodation in Batumi

Batumi Orient Lux Beautiful apartment,  2 minutes walk from the beach, balcony with nice view. Bargain at $24

Want to stay in 4 star luxury in the city centre  – The Admiral Hotel not bad for $60!

Are you on a budget? My Warm Guest House, good location, neat, near the sea, bargain at $12

Food in Georgia – The Adjarian Khachapuri

If you are ever in the area don’t miss the Adjarian khachapuri, this local dish is legendary in Batumi! Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread. It is prepared differently in various regions. The Khachapuri from the Adjarian region around Batumi is king! The Adjarian khachapuri is a massive almond-shaped bread dish. The bread is filled with a lot of delicious hot melting cheese, a big block of butter and a egg floats in the cheese. You break the bread from outside dipping and mixing the inside cheese-egg mix.

Eatingy the legendary, monster Adjarian Katchapuri in Batumi. Georgia Backpacking Guide
Eating the legendary, monster Adjarian Khachapuri in Batumi.

For a top Adjarian khachapuri try the Laguna Restaurant in Batumi, close to the Art Museum, 13 Gorgiladze Street.

The national dish of Georgia is called Khinkali, it is very similar to dumplings. It’s usually filled with spiced meat; beef, pork or lamb delicious.

There are many cheap eats in Georgia. Shaslik is grilled meat kebabs that can be bought everywhere. We ate a lot of Doner kebabs (schwarma) filled with beef, this is actually originally a Turkish dish, but is so cheap (from $1.50) delicious and is very popular all over Georgia. We bought a lot of fruit, mainly cherries, peaches and watermelons from vendors. Georgian bread, baked in round wood fired ovens is very cheap and maybe the tastiest bread I have ever had;

The Georgian People

We made some great friends couchsurfing, hitchhiking and just having a jol all over Georgia. People were so friendly, making us feel welcome and went out of their way to help us.

Georgia travel guide
Some amazing friends we made traveling in Georgia, Thanks Guys!

Transport

Marshurtka (minibus) is a cheap and easy way to get around in Georgia. We went to Mskheta, Uplitsikhe and Ananuri from the bus station in Tbilisi by marshurtka. The bus station can be reached by metro from the city center from a metro station in Rustaveli Avenue.

Hitchhiking around Georgia was very easy and no one charged us anything. Getting a ride was usually so quick that after being dropped off by one car we did not have time to take photos before the next stopped. Everybody does not understand English, but since Alya is Russian we had no problems.Writing down where you want to go and some necessary instructions in Georgian or Russian language is a good idea.

Google translate and Google Maps on a smart phone can be very helpful.

Georgia Packing Tips

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10 Comments

  1. Hi!! Love your article. I am planning on visiting this upcoming month and want to know if there is a specific area or city I should stay in if I want to hike a lot. Thanks!

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello Isa, thanks for reading, There are three main hiking regions in Georgia; Kasbegi, Svaneti and the Tusheti region. Kasbegi (Stepantsminda) is the main town in Kasbegi region there are some awesome hikes in the area and they are fairly easy to reach; the Trinity Church, the Gveleti waterfalls are well known. Mestia is the main town in the Svaneti region and Omalo in the Tusheti region.

  2. Hi! Thank you so much for such an informative post!
    I’m planning to visit Georgia in February for eight days and was wondering if I could still do some hiking in Kazbegi or visit Batumi? Or should I just stick to Tbilisi?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Thanks for reading, I think there might be a bit much snow around Kazbegi for hiking. Batumi and Tbilisi will still be chilly but there are a lot of things to do around the cities.

  3. Hi! I’ll be travelling in this beautiful place this coming July 31. I wanna ask where did you buy your travel insurance? Does it gets chilly at that time too?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi Kris, we loved Georgia, July is a hot month in Georgia, with temperatures over 30C in certain areas, Kazbegi was one of the highlights, here it is chilly all year round with an average temperature of about 5C so just be prepared if you are going there. World Nomads is a good insurance option for travelers. You can take out, renew and even claim while traveling, they cover lots of activities like high altitude hiking and diving. https://stingynomads.com/backpackers-travel-insurance/

  4. Joan Torres

    Like in most European countries, in Georgia, I’ve only visited the capital. Shame on me! And every day I am hearing from many travelers that Georgia has plenty of awesome sites both cultural and mountains! Thank you for this quick write up about the country. We’ll definitely consider it in a nearby future 🙂

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Joan! Thank you for the comment! We absolutely loved Georgia! Amazing country, very nice people, great food and beautiful mountains. Thinking about going back soon to do more hikes in Kazbegi region since we’re travelling Russia now and heading this direction.
      Cheers!

  5. kachapuri…it has to be my favorite dish! The first time i ever got in contact with Georgian cuisine was in St. Petersburg in 2009 and I still remember it like it was today. I just love all the food, especially authentic adjika (though its more Abkhaz… :P)

    Thx for this article 🙂

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Norman! Thank you for the comment! We loved Georgian cuisine! We’re currently in St.Petersburg and quite often go to our favorite Georgian restaurant. Home-made adjika is the best goes with anything!
      Cheers!

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