Latticed balconies and cobbled streets
Idyllic scenaries and breathtaking landscapes
and quite a bit of nightlife (for those who likes it), Georgia, holds in store something for every kind of traveller.
This blog post will take you through a 5 day itinerary of this lesser known beautiful Eurasian province. Since we are a family travelling with a toddler, things were kept easy and flexible throughout. We based ourselves at Tbilisi and took day trips to some of the popular as well as lesser known destinations in and around.
For those holding a residence visa of any of the GCC countries, the visa is granted upon arrival and is free of charge and the only document required is a return ticket and travel insurance.
– If you’re not a resident of the GCC countries and are required to pre-apply for a visa as per your nationality.
– In case none of the above requirements are fulfilled, it is easy to apply for an e-visa online which takes about 5 days to be processed.
Georgian Lari (GEL)
✓Best time of visit
•Most visitors will find it most pleasant between April and November (which is of course also the best time to visit the rest of Europe).
•For those looking for skiing, winter months ofcourse are a better option.
✓ Getting around
•There are several taxi (private) operators that offer car along with a driver/guide on a daily rate basis (for up to 10 hours). We had a wonderful experience with Day Trip from Tbilisi in a private 3-day tour at USD 330.
• Minibuses (marshrutka) connecting all major cities in Georgia, as well as connecting Georgian cities to its neighbors are a good option especially for backpackers.
Georgians speak Georgian, which is its own unique language and has its own alphabet. Most locals also speak Russian. English is only prevalent in touristy areas of Tbilisi and some of the mountain ski regions.
WiFi is rampant; available at most guesthouses and cafes. Also central Tbilisi has a free WiFi network, TbilisiLovesYou.
Getting down to business
Day 1 – Exploring the Old town
The first day was spent exploring the lovely old capital city, Tbilisi. Ancient churches, cobble stoned streets coming alive with street art, music,al fresco cafes, bars and friendly people. A strong Asian influence comes in cahoots with European culture, creating a vibe that is unique, fun and full of energy.
Walking is the best way to explore this area and many historical structures will be found at a stone’s throw from each other.
Day 2: Mksheta, Gori & Uplistsikhe
About a 20-minute drive from Tbilisi city, Mksheta is the old capital of Georgia. Said to be the the birthplace of Christianity in Georgia, it is home to the Svetitskhoveli cathedral. Christ’s robe is said to be buried under this place of worship which is also the burial place of many monarchs. Keep about 1.5 – 2 hours to explore the cathedral and the neighborhood street market and shops.
From here, head to Jvari Monastery. This hilltop church is not only a marvel in its architecture and design, the views from its terrace are breathtaking too.
After this, a 40-minute drive from here, is the ancient cave city of Uplistsikhe. It is known to be one of the oldest settlements in Georgia, dating back to the 2nd century BC and many temples have been unearthed here which are from before the arrival of Christianity in the region. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes as climbing these rocks is not an easy task and the area is quite large to be explored.
Also make sure to carry water with you as you go up, the cafes are only at the bottom. Keep about 1-1.5 hours to explore this place. The sunset is a spectacle from here.
Day 4: Annanuri, Gadauri & Kazbegi
The most eventful and perhaps the best day of the trip.
As you drive through the winding mountain roads, known as the Georgian Military Highway, you will come to a gorgeous blue lake. Jinvali Lake or reservoir , that continues along the driving road until you arrive at the Ananuri complex, featuring a fortress, churches, and towers from the 13-16th centuries. Set in the backdrop of the Caucasus mountains, the architecture is enchanting and walk inside the fortress is a must!
After Ananuri, head to Gadauri, where the landscapes get even lovelier. This is where the ski resort is located, however, during the summer, it is hard to find any snow at all. A viewing platform decorated with mosaics, located on the edge of the hill is a popular place for tourists.
From here head to Kazbegi, specifically to a town called Stepantsminda, from where the trek/ off-road tours to Gergeti Trinity Church begin. If you choose to hike to the church, keep about 1.5 – 2 hours for it else you can take a tour (in a 4-wheel drive) from the village below. Be prepared for an extremely bumpy ride! The views from the top, however, are worth it.
Day 4 – City tour Tbilisi
Can be mostly covered walking and/or taxi. The aerial tram ride to Mother Georgia statue is much recommended.
✓Leaning clock of Tblisi – puppet show at every hour.
✓Mother Georgia statue & Narikala fortress
✓Abantubani district and the sulphur baths
✓Dry bridge flea market (Saturday flea market)
Day 5: Bodbe monastery & Winery visit Sighnaghi
A drive of about 2 to 2.5 hours, the Bodbe monastery with its beautiful complex is about 2 km from Sighnaghi town.
Just walk around or rent a buggy or ATV to explore the quaint little town of Sighnaghi in an adventurous way. Red brick houses, the cobbled stone streets lined with lamp posts, vintage cars, and old city walls form the perfect little postcard.
Do visit a winery while you’re here. One of the most popular ones is the Pheasant’s Tears Winery. If you plan to have a meal with your wine, you might need to make reservations in advance as the place usually gets very crowded. The selection of wine is brilliant and the service is great.
This itinerary was not pre-booked or done through travle agency. We had done the flight reservations beforehand and rented the car on reaching Tbilisi. Our car owner cum driver was a extremely warm and helpful person who apart from taking us around all these beautiful places shared anecdotes and laughters over coffee along the way.
Hope this will be helpful if and when you visit this beautiful little country.