We recently published a travel article on the Caucasus nation of Armenia, touting its attributes as a hidden travel gem. Well, there’s another country in the Caucasus that meets the criteria for a hidden travel gem and that is the Republic of Georgia.
Sandwiched between Armenia, Russia and the Black Sea, Georgia is slightly larger than Armenia in both size and population. It has dramatic landscapes from the snow-capped mountains in the north, the beach resorts in the west, to the cobbled lanes of its capital city, Tbilisi.
The historic city of Tbilisi dates back to the 5th century and many of its historical attractions remain intact. The city’s well-preserved old town is situated on cliffs next to the Kura River and is a charming mix of tiled lanes, historic residences, sidewalk cafes, art galleries and small restaurants. It has the feel of an Eastern European city, except less developed and with far less tourists. Hike up from the old town to the Narikala Castle for a great view of the city and the entire valley. Stay until the sun sets for an absolutely stunning view.
For an amazing day trip from Tbilisi think about traveling to the Gergeti Trinity Church in the far north of the country. Hiring a guide and an SUV shouldn’t cost more than $100 for the entire, 8-hour return trip. The drive north from Tbilisi travels through some of the most picturesque mountain scenery in the country before reaching the town of Stepantsminda near the border with Russia. Here lunch is served at a small restaurant. Besides various meats and cheeses the staple foods of Georgia are lobiani (baked bean bread) and khachapuri (cheesy bread), both of which are absolutely delicious.
From this town travelers can either hike or drive up to the church, which dates back to the 14th century. The mountain views are absolutely spectacular from the church’s cliffside location. Though the church is at an elevation of 6,500 feet, nearby Mt Kazbegi towers over the surroundings.
Another city in Georgia that is popular with travelers is the coastal city of Batumi. An overnight train departs from Tbilisi each night at 10 p.m. and arrives in Batumi at 7 a.m. the next day. While the beaches are more pebbly than sandy, the water is still warm and the beach scene is a lot of fun in the summer. The city’s nightlife is another reason to visit, as Batumi is the region’s unofficial party capital.