9 Best Places to Visit in Georgia

Where Europe and Asia collide, magical Georgia lies on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, whose snow-capped peaks stretch from the Black Sea to the Caspian.

Although relatively small in terms of land area, Georgia offers a wide variety of scenery and activities, and its mountainous landscape and limited transportation infrastructure combine to make travel take longer than you might imagine. While you don’t need to limit yourself to just one region, it’s best to decide what type of trip you want to take and then choose a few regions of the country to focus on.

To help you achieve this, here are some of the best places to consider including in any itinerary.

Admire Tbilisi’s colorful traditional houses with their carved wooden balconies in the Old Town © Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Tbilisi

Best place for urban activities

Quickly captivating all who visit it, the Georgian capital offers a fascinating old town, a wealth of avant-garde Soviet architecture, traditional sulfur baths and an extraordinary array of medieval churches. Stretching along the narrow valley of the Mtkvari River, Tbilisi is the kind of place you have to get up high to really appreciate. Try taking the cable car up to Sololaki Ridge where you’ll find Narikala Fortress and the iconic Mother Georgia (aka Kartlis Deda). You can also take the funicular to the town’s highest point, Mtatsminda, where, as well as stunning views of the town, you’ll also have access to a campy fairground and a huge Ferris wheel.

Tbilisi is also Georgia’s best place to eat out, drink wine and party, with dozens of innovative menus available at establishments such as Barbarestan, Azarphesha, Alubali and Keto & Kote. It’s also one of the best places in the country to taste a range of Georgia’s famous wines and take part in its vibrant nightlife. Tbilisi offers plenty to keep you entertained for days, but can also serve as a base for day trips to various other parts of central Georgia.

Planning tip: Book at least a week in advance to experience the best restaurants in Tbilisi during the summer months.

Batumi attracts vacationers from all over Georgia during the summer months © David_Bokuchava / Getty Images

2. Batumi

Best city on the Black Sea

Batumi, Georgia’s second city, is the subtropical yin to Tbilisi’s yang, with its seaside location, charming old town, seemingly endless seaside esplanade and ever-increasing number of glitzy skyscrapers – the Georgian answer in Dubai, the locals will tell you with a smile.

The city is built for fun and functions as Georgia’s unofficial temporary capital at the height of summer, when most Tbilisi residents decamp en masse to the Black Sea beaches to enjoy the sun, cocktails and party on the seafront. Georgia’s best beaches are to the south of the city, between Batumi and the Turkish border. Inland, the Adjaran Autonomous Region offers great rafting and hiking, as well as the famous rickety Khulo cable car.

Kutaisi makes a great base for exploring outdoor attractions, including the Martvili Canyon © OlyaSolodenko/Getty Images

3. Kutaisi

Best base for exploring nature

Sleepy Kutaisi has found itself relegated to Georgia’s third-largest city in recent years while coastal Batumi booms. But this ancient city, which may once have been home to the Golden Fleece of Greek legend, has nevertheless managed to establish itself as the center of Georgia’s thriving tourism industry.

Nearby David the Builder Airport brings dozens of low-cost flights to Kutaisi from all over Europe each week, and there are dozens of hostels and a competitive short-term apartment rental market. Not only is Kutaisi located in the center of the country (making it a more obvious base than Tbilisi or Batumi), but it is also surrounded by a wealth of tourist sites, natural wonders and various attractions, including the Martvili Canyon , the Okatse canyon, the Gelati glacier. Monastery and two amazing relics of communism, the towns of Tskaltubo and Chiatura.

Georgia’s Tsminda Sameba Church offers an incredible view © Alexey Krasilov/500px

4. Stepantsminda

Ideal for easy access to the Upper Caucasus

The extraordinary Georgian Military Road takes you to the town of Stepantsminda (still commonly referred to by its Soviet-era name, Kazbegi), on the border with neighboring Russia to the north. Although the epic journey here has lost some of its charm in recent years (it has become a busy truck route for imports to Russia), there’s no denying the city’s incredible setting, including the iconic skyline of the perched church of Tsminda Sameba against the glacier of Mount Kazbek. It truly is a spectacle that never ceases to amaze, despite its reproduction on a million postcards.

Planning tip: Head to Tsminda Sameba Church early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is better and – most importantly – when you won’t have to share this magical place with crowds.

You can reach the remote village of Ushguli on a four-day trek from Mestia © bortnikau/Getty Images

5. Svaneti

The most beautiful mountain landscapes

The mountains of Georgia are extraordinary and breathtaking wherever you encounter them. But if you want to see the most beautiful landscapes in the country, no place can compete with the ancient and mysterious Svaneti region. In addition to Georgia’s highest peak, Shkhara (5,068 m; 16,627 ft), which dominates the beautiful high-altitude village of Ushguli, the hiking potential here is almost limitless, including the now famous four-day hike of Mestia to Ushguli, which allows you to sleep in a different village every night.

Planning tip: You can avoid the grueling eight-hour drive to Svaneti from Tbilisi and get there in less than an hour by taking one of the affordable daily flights to Mestia with Vanilla Sky.

Vardzia is a magnificent complex of cave monasteries carved into the cliff face © Aleksandra Tokarz / Getty Images

6. Vardzia

Best monastery

In a country full of stunning monasteries and churches located in dangerously remote locations, Vardzia is undoubtedly the most magnificent of the lot. Its 13 floors are dug into the side of the cliff and include no less than 13 churches among more than 400 rooms. The monastery’s breathtaking setting, in a spectacular river valley, makes it a real spectacle, and the hilly drive to get there from Akhaltsikhe is a wonderful treat to boot.

Sighnaghi is located in Georgia’s premier wine region © Kadagan / Shutterstock

7. Signaghi

The best place to taste Georgian wine

There’s magic in the air in Sighnaghi, and it’s not just its high altitude and the dizzying views it offers of the vast valley below. This hilltop delight has more than a hint of Tuscany, with its terracotta roofs, cobbled streets and enviable pace of life.

Walk along the incredibly well-preserved city walls and visit the city museum, which has one of the finest collections of paintings by the most famous Georgian artist, Niko Pirosmani. Then settle into one of Sighnaghi’s many wine bars to taste the results of the harvest in the country’s premier wine-growing region.

Planning tip: Call ahead to enjoy a delicious organic lunch at the Lost Ridge Inn, a few miles from Sighnaghi.

Djvari Church has deep religious significance for Georgians © Dmitrii Sakharov / Shutterstock

8. Mtskheta

Best place for a spiritual experience

So close to Tbilisi that the capital’s sprawling suburbs threaten to engulf it, Mtskheta enjoys a magical setting at the picturesque confluence of two rivers. It was also the location of one of Georgia’s most important historical events: its conversion to Christianity by Saint Nino in the 4th century. This vital event, which still forms an important part of Georgian national identity, is commemorated in the Church of Jvari, Georgia’s holy of holies, which offers stunning views of the city from its hilltop location . Meanwhile, within the city itself is the magnificent 11th-century Svetiskhoveli Cathedral, an architectural gem from Georgia’s early golden age.

Planning tip: You only need a few hours to see Mtskheta, and its location just northwest of Tbilisi makes it an obvious stop on any trip up to Stepantsminda or west toward Kutaisi.

Surrounded by forests, Borjomi is a spa town famous for its mineral water © Travel Faery / Getty Images

9. Borjomi

Best spa town

There’s more than a little touch of the Russian Empire in this glorious 19th-century spa town nestled among the densely forested hills of the Lesser Caucasus. Borjomi’s salty-sour mineral water is Georgia’s most famous export and is instantly familiar to almost everyone in the former Soviet Union. However, the elegant resort that produces it is worth a visit even if you’ve never heard of its namesake sulfurous water.

In addition to visiting Borjomi’s sprawling central park ⁠ (once you get past the cheesy rides and children’s amusements, it opens up into a beautiful riverside promenade that takes you to a trio of charming thermal pools), you can use the city as an excellent base. for hiking in the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park and taking the low-gauge railway line to the nearby Alpine resort of Bakuriani.

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