Georgia had been on my radar for a while.
I didn’t know too much about it’s history, the geography, the culture; and that just made me want to visit even more. I was excited to discover just what this country had to offer and what gems it had in store. And it did not disappoint. To be honest, Georgia has become one of my favourite countries, on par with New Zealand…and that’s a big statement coming from me.
We set up camp at an Airbnb in the capital, Tbilisi. The city itself has enough going on that you could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring every back street and meeting the local people. But we took the opportunity to do a couple of day-trips out into the countryside to the wine regions of the country as well as a historical tour.
So, without further ado, here are my top things of what to do when you visit Georgia…
- Narikala Fortress & Mother of Georgia
Built in the 4th Century, Narikala Fortress is situated at the top of the mountains surrounding Tbilisi. If you don’t fancy the hike to the top, you can take a cable car from the city centre (we chose to ride the cable car up and hike back down). With 360 views of the city, and ancient buildings and artefacts, it’s worth a visit. You can easily make a day of it too and take a picnic whilst you take in those breath-taking views. The Mother of Georgia statue is a stones throw from the Fortress, built in 1958 – the same year Tblisi celebrate it’s 1500th anniversary. The statue has a glass of Georgian wine in one hand (to welcome friends), and a sword in the other (to defend the city against it’s foes). If you’re feeling brave, you can take a zipline from the statue down to the surrounding Botanical Gardens!
- Botanical Gardens
Tbilisi’s Botanical Gardens are so impressive. The spot where the zipline ends is one of the most scenic spots in the Garden, and you can witness the impressive views of the Mother of Georgia Statue. Beside the multitude of flora and fauna found in the Garden, there is also a beautiful river and waterfall where you can relax and paddle in the fresh water! In the summer heat of Georgia, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours and cool down!
- Free Walking Tours
For me, free walking tours are a must do when visiting any city. They’re a great way to get yourself acclimatised to the area, discover hidden secrets, and find some hotspots that are popular with the locals. There are two walking tours I’d highly recommend!
- Hidden Tbilisi Tour – this tour takes you through the hidden and unseen streets of Tbilisi. You can discover local facts and legends which have been passed down through the locals, see 18th and 19th Century buildings, and discover the city of Tbilisi from a personal perspective.
- Main Free Tour – want to take in the key sites of Tbilisi? Then this is a perfect tour for you. Take in the beauty of Old Tbilisi, visiting Freedom Square, the Peace Bridge, the Clock Tower and Sulphur Baths. Your guide will be a local, offering you a personal insight into the rich history of the city.
- Soviet Tour of Tbilisi *PAID Tour* – although I always try to stick to free tours (got to keep to that budget…), this tour was one that we just had to do. As one of the 15 republics under the reign of the USSR, Georgia has experienced decades of Soviet ruling,. The Soviet tour also tells the story of the boy who would grow up to become the leader of the Soviet Union – Stalin.
Want more info on what tours you can do in Tbulisi? Check out Tbilisi Free Walking Tours to discover a whole host of exciting tours you can take part in.
- Mt Mtatsminda
Mt Mtatsminda is the location of the city’s 210m TV Tower, and is home to an amusement park and some incredible restaurants. I’d highly recommend using the modern funicular to ascend the mountain (you can purchase a card at the ticket office to use the funicular). We headed up at sunset and were lucky enough to witness some breath-taking views. The amusement park is full of great activities, and with over 100 years of history, it’s a great place to relax and enjoy your time in the city.
- Bridge of Peace, Freedom Square and the Dry Bridge Market
Throughout the city, there are tonnes of historical sites, and local hotspots. The Bridge of Peace is a glass and steel footbridge crossing the Mtkvari River which runs through the city, and is so impressive. Installed in 2010, the bridge is worth a walk across – however, it can be a popular place for pickpockets, so be sure to keep your valuables close to you.
Freedom Square is at the centre of the original city, and has had a colourful history. It has been home to street markets, the headquarters of the Caucasian Army, and the centre of the Rose Revolution – Georgia’s battle for independence.
Dry Bridge Market is the largest flea market in the city and is full of antiques and local art. It’s definitely worth a visit if you have some spare time!
- Wine Tours
Georgia has created some of the world’s most delicious wines, and is slowly making it’s way to the forefront of the wine industry. If you head to one of the many travel agents in Tbilisi, you can choose from a variety of tours to take in the vineyards of the country. Our wine tour took us to Sighnaghi, to the East of Tbilisi. There are a variety of wines to taste, and we were shown the wine making process from grape to bottle. Chacha is produced from the grape residue which remains after the wine making process. It is incredibly strong, but it’s worth a taste if you get the opportunity!
- Uplistsikhe Caves
10km east of Gori (the birth place of Stalin), are the Uplistsike Caves – honestly one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. The towns history traces as far back as the 8th and 9th centuries, with living quarters and communal areas situated within the caves, connected by tunnels and walkways.
- Sulphur Baths
Georgia is another country built on the planet’s thermal springs. The King of Georgia discovered the springs while he was out hunting with his eagle, and decided to build a city surrounding them. The springs were popular with royals and have now become a tourist hotspot. With multiple bath houses across the city, there’s no reason to miss out on relaxation and a massage!
- Food, Food and more Food
Oh my days. Georgian food. Where do I start? I honestly think it must be one of the world’s most under-rated cuisines, with Mediterranean, Turkish and Persian influences to name a few.
Khinkali (Georgian Dumplings) are steamed dough dumplings filled with meat and a variety of herbs and spices (be warned, they’re also full of steaming hot broth which surrounds the meat). To eat, grab the dumpling by it’s doughy handle and hold it upside down while you bite into the dough and suck out the broth, before eating the rest of the dumpling. Discard the doughy end!
Khachapuri is a Georgian Cheese Bread. The dough is filled with cheese and some types also pop an egg on top for good measure. I’m honestly drooling just thinking about it!
Churchkela is a sweet treat in Georgia, walnut halves dipped in grape juice and attached to a string before being left to dry out. They’re a staple across Georgia, but don’t eat the string!
If that hasn’t peaked your interest in Georgia, then I don’t know what else will. From the people, to it’s heart-breaking yet inspiring history, to the glorious food, Georgia is an incredible country which is destined to become a tourist hotspot in the years to come.