Located at the intersection of Europe and Asia, Georgia is fast-becoming a must-visit destination due to its diverse landscapes and rich culture. If you’re looking for a unique travel experience, you can find it in abundance here. There are endless reasons to put Georgia at the top of your travel list but get there quick before the masses realise what a gem they’ve been missing out on!
One of my favourite things to do in a new country is to sample the local dishes (even if I’m not sure about them) and Georgia did not disappoint. If you only try one thing, make sure it’s Georgia’s national dish; Khachapuri Adjaruli – a cheese-filled bread with an egg cracked on top. Other favourites include Khinkali, which are delicious meaty dumplings, and Mtsvadia; hearty meat skewers. When you order food at a restaurant in Georgia, you should choose a number a dishes to share as the food is served similar to tapas. We obviously did not realise this and looked like fools ordering dishes as main plates. Don’t be like us.
Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world and specifically recognisable for its ‘amber wine’ – a wine orange in colour (not taste) and fermented from white wine. If you want to learn more about the wine-making process, there are a number of wine shops in the Capital City of Tbilisi where you can taste a variety of different wines and purchase your favourite bottle to take home. We’re trying to sound well cultured here but the truth is you can also get nicely tiddled on amber wine and you might not care too much about the fermentation process. But as long as you enjoy it, that’s all that matters right?
The old town of Tbilisi is enchanting and unique, unlike any other place we have travelled to. From the beautiful blue mosque and quirky astronomical clock, to the colourful balconies surrounding people’s homes, it has an ‘olde-worlde’ charm that is hard to forget. Every day at noon and 7pm, the ‘leaning tower of Tbilisi’ (aka clock) hosts a mini puppet show – but maybe don’t get quite as excited as we did. We turned up 1-minute late after running to get there and it had nearly finished. The top of the clock opens up and some little puppets circular round before the doors shut again soon after. Cute to see if you’re already there, but maybe don’t run across town for it.
On the flipside, just a 5-hour train ride to the Black Sea coast leads you to the futuristic city of Batumi, filled with innovative skyscrapers and a sprawling boulevard. Dubbed as the mini Las Vegas of the Black Sea, don’t forget your passport if you want to try your luck at one of the many casinos! Obviously, I did forget my passport, much to Phil’s dismay – and there’s no way of getting round this so keep it on you just in case.
As you travel from one side of Georgia to the other, you are met with slowly changing landscapes that evolve from endless green plains to majestic mountains. A must-stop on your Georgian Itinerary has to be Borjomi National Park, nestled within equal distance to Tbilisi and Batumi in the centre of the country. Borjomi is famous for its natural mineral water and many people travel here in the hopes of healing their health problems. If you’re doing the walk through the Park to reach the baths, make sure you bring a towel. We did the one-hour walk and even though nobody was at the baths, there were no clean towels available. We like to think our mistakes serve as lessons for others who may have the same bad luck/lack of preparation as us! Aside from this, Borjomi itself is a beautiful resort town which looks like it has been pulled straight from a fairy-tale, and it’s the perfect base to discover the nearby Vardzia Caves.
If you’re on a budget, you’ve come to the ideal destination. Georgia uses its own currency; Georgian Lari (GEL) and at the moment 1 GEL is the equivalent to around 28 pence. Typically, a meal in an inexpensive restaurant will set you back at around 15 GEL, whilst a local beer will cost around 3 GEL. If you decide to travel around Tbilisi or Batumi by taxi, download the Yandex Taxi app (the equivalent to Uber in the UK). As in other countries, unlicensed/individual taxis are rife and take advantage of tourists who do not know the area nor realise the correct costs of things. They might make you laugh with their fun sales banter but your wallet might not find it so funny. Regardless of taxi company though, Georgian drivers are a little reckless so keep your eyes shut and hopefully you’ll reach your destination in one piece!
We’re back safe and sound so all is well. Georgia has it all and we can’t wait to go back!