Have you ever visited Georgia? This country on the fringes of Europe boasts incredible scenery, a charming capital city and a friendly welcome. Here are four places you should add to your itinerary if Georgia is on your mind.
Tbilisi’s Old Town
Leafy squares and a well-established café culture make Tbilisi a treat at the beginning or end of your Georgian journey. The Old Town is especially characterful, crammed with historic churches and ramshackle mansions with wooden balconies. Littered throughout are the thermal baths that lend the capital city its name – in Georgian, tbili means warm. As you stroll through the Abanotubani district, the giveaways are the brick domes which signify a bathhouse. These structures allow light to flood into the baths and sulphurous steam to escape. Climb uphill through the labyrinthine streets to reach Narikala Fortress, or take the easy route and hop on the cable car. Round off your day in the bars and restaurants of Chardeni.
The Georgian Military Highway snakes north into the mountains of Kazbegi. This northern region is a visitor favourite for its scenery but also for historic castles and monasteries. Break the journey from Tbilisi at Ananuri Castle. This attractive fortress complex has witnessed many bloody battles but today feels tranquil thanks to its waterside setting. It is comprised of three churches and two castles, so there’s plenty to explore. Further along, high on a hill above Stepantsminda, you’ll find Gergeti Trinity Church. This iconic place of worship boasts a separate belltower and is as beautiful as the countryside that surrounds it. Keen walkers can reach it on foot via a steep path and continue the trail to Ortsveri glacier.
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Georgia has an 8000 year history of wine-growing. It grows around 500 grape varieties, the most popular being the Rkatsiteli. This grape ripens late, typically in late September, but it’s worth the wait as the light table wine that results is a joy to drink. Once produced, the wine is stored in beeswax-lined clay pots called kvevris which are buried underground. There are numerous wineries across the Kakheti region that host regular tastings. Find them in places like Tsinandali, Napareuli or Kisiskhevi. The town of Signagi is another viticulture hub, and pretty enough to make this a stop even if you’re not a wine-drinker. The views across the valley from its centuries-old walls are worthy of a toast.
Wild and remote, Svaneti was once off-limits to travellers but things are changing fast. This mountainous region of Georgia is one of the most beautiful in the country. In summer, snow-capped peaks rise above flower-strewn pastures, making this a hikers’ paradise. In winter, strap on some skis and head up the lifts to ski or snowboard instead. Down below, quaint Mestia makes a convenient base. But to fully appreciate the ancient towers that characterise this part of the country, catch a ride to Ushguli, a community of five villages recognised by UNESCO. Chazhashi in particular is dominated by these stone koshki, which in the past provided a safe refuge against invaders for the people and their livestock.
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