Travel Guide

Georgia Travel Guide

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Travel Guide

Georgia is a fantastic combination of nature and history. The country is dotted with lovely churches, quaint towns and ancient monasteries. Georgia was the first country to embrace Christianity in the middle ages. There are Christian monasteries built in deep caves in the Caucasus Mountains as well.

Georgians are laidback and hospitable, with a strong love of nature, art and architecture and food. The country has been invaded by the Persians in the middle ages and the Russians more recently and many other cultures in between. Georgia’s culture therefore is an amalgam of multiple cultures. The country is renowned for its natural beauty, its wines and its art and architecture.

Georgia is an emerging free market, having been bound to the Soviet Union’s economy for decades. Since the mid-2000s, Georgian economy is growing thanks to the reforms set in place by the peaceful Rose Revolution. Georgia is considered the least corrupt nation in the Black Sea region, as it outperforms its neighbors without resorting to corruption.

Georgia's main exports are copper ores and concentrates, ferroalloys, hazelnut, medicaments, nitrogen fertilizers, wine, crude oil, mineral waters, non-denatured ethyl alcohol and spirits. Since the country gained independence, unemployment has been a persistent, though gradually reducing problem in Georgia. About half of Georgia’s population lives in rural areas, making their livelihood through farming. Georgia’s currency is the Georgian lari, denoted by GEL; 1 lari equals 0.42 US dollars.

The nation of Georgia has been invaded and occupied by multiple cultures over time. The country was unified in the 8th to 9th century, under the reign of the Bagrationi dynasty. In 1490, Georgia was fragmented into several petty kingdoms and principalities. This is when they were invaded by the Persians, who ruled for centuries till Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire in 1801.

Georgia then became part of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic from 1922 to 1936, after which the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic was formed. This went on till the Soviet Union was dissolved, though Russia still had a hold over Georgia, till 1991, when it finally became independent. Tensions continued with Russia, but Georgia gradually grew into a streamlined, successful economy, with multiple mineral exports to different countries. Georgia is also making a healthy entry into tourism lately, and hopes to convert tourism into a major industry.

  • The Georgian language is unlike any language you’ve ever heard. It has strange sounds, and consonants pronounced gutturally from the back of the throat.
  • The Georgian alphabet has 33 letters, based onthe sort of Aramaic spoken in the time of Jesus.
  • The Georgians don’t refer to their country as Georgia – rather, they call it Sakartvelo. No one knows how the country came to called Georgia in English. Perhaps, during the holy crusades, when the Christiancrusaders swept through the region. They must have heard the people spoken ofas "Gurj" which came to be pronounced eventually as Georgia.
  • Joseph Stalin died sixty years ago but theGeorgians still worship him. You’ll find photos of Stalin of the Georgian-bornruler of the former Soviet Union everywhere. People here are proud that tinyGeorgia actually produced a leader strong enough to put down Hitler.
  • Georgia is cradled by the highest mountain range in Europe, the Caucasus Mountains, which mark a border between Georgia and Russia.

The Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea cut Georgia off from the rest of the world, resulting in a microclimate of hot and humid summers and mild winters. It’s always colder near the northern mountain peaks, but the weather is balmy by the Black Sea.

  • Spring In Georgia (March to May) is pleasant, neither too hot nor too cold. Georgia experiences frequent rainfall during late spring. The snow melts completely and the trees flower during this season.
  • Summer In Georgia (June to August) sees temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degree centigrade. It’s warm and quite humid, just perfect for mountain climbing, river rafting, swimming and caving.
  • Autumn In Georgia (September to November) sees frequent rainfall and the grounds are covered with frost. It rains frequently and the humidity reduces a little.
  • Winter In Georgia (December to February) Winter temperatures range from 2 to 6 degree centigrade, and nights go below zero at times. Snowfall is common close to the mountains.

By Plane: Many airlines fly to Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi from a number of European, North American and Asian cities. There’s Georgian Airways, Vienna with Austrian Airlines, Warsaw (LOT Airlines), Kiev (Georgian Airways), Munich (Lufthansa), Athens (Georgian Airways), Riga (airBaltic), Istanbul (Turkish Airlines), Prague (Czech Airlines). FlyDubai serves Tbilisi several times a week from Dubai as well.

By Bus or By Car: You can take direct bus services from Istanbul to Tbilisi. You can also enter Georgia by car from any European country. Note that if you’re not the owner of the car, you need to carry a Power of Attorney to use the car from the car’s owner.

By Train: You can also travel to Tbilisi via train from Baku, Azerbaijan, though there’ll be many stops before you get to your final destination.

By Boat: You can avail boat services to Batumi and Poti from Istanbul and Odessa.

  • Multiple entry online visas can be applied for and obtained here:
  • Citizens of all European Union countries don’t need either passport or visa to travel to Georgia. An ID card is considered sufficient to travel.
  • Citizens of the following countries also do not require a visa to visit Georgia:
    • Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Australia
    • Barbuda, Bahrain, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei
    • Canada, Costa Rica, Chile
    • Iceland, Israel, Iran (can stay for 45 days without visa, but with passport)
    • Japan
    • Kuwait
    • Liechtenstein
    • Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco
    • New Zealand
    • Norway
    • Oman
    • Other CIS nations
    • Panama
    • Qatar
    • Russia
    • Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland
    • Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey (passport not required)
    • United Arab Emirates, United States, Uruguay,
    • Vatican City

    Georgia is comprised of several cities, towns and villages. Some of these are hard to get to, as they are nestled in the Caucasus Mountains, and the journey make take several days or hours to get to them.

    Tbilisi: Capital and the biggest city of Georgia, the city is a veritable showcase of Georgian culture, history, and architecture. Hike up to the Narikala Fortress for a beautiful view over the city.

    Mestia: It is a mountain paradise, inhabited by the Svans people, who are related to the Georgians. Highlight – the old Svan towers which have been around for centuries.

    Telavi: Inhabited since the Bronze Age, is the capital of the Eastern region of Kakheti. Telavi borders the Alazani Valley, home to many of Georgia’s fine wines.

    Stepantsminda: A true mountain fairytale in the Greater Caucasus, home to the Gergeti Trinity Church, which is located high up in the mountains.

    Mtskheta: Located at the confluence of two rivers, Mtskheta is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. This city is now the center of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

    Georgian cuisine is a mix of various cuisines belonging to the various cultures that ruled this country. There is a noted use of walnuts in almost every dish in Georgia. Sauces and gravies are very popular, and almost anything can be served in a sauce containing egg and garlic. The markets are full of organically grown fruits and vegetables. There are plenty of street food stalls, cafes and small restaurants that dot every city in Georgia.

    Georgian Food Specialties
    • Batsurma: Cured meat and assorted vegetables and pickles
    • Khachapuri (cheese-stuffed bread)
    • Matsoni (sour yogurt)
    • Khinkali (beautifully twisted knobs of dough stuffed with meat and spices and steamed

    The Georgians favor herbs such as tarragon, flat parsley, dill and coriander with their food. They usually combine these herbs with walnuts and garlic in their sauces and fillings. Georgian Drinks

    • Georgian brandy is smooth and easy to drink and easily available at all nightclubs, pubs and taverns.
    • Cha cha is a harsh drink brewed at home for the most part.
    • Rachi is a hooch / moonshine that you’ll find at street taverns, especially at Svaneti.
    • Georgian wines, especially those brewed in Sighnaghi, are excellent and have won many awards.

    Georgians enjoy religious and cultural celebrations very much. This is when Georgian towns come alive, with everyone participating in the festivities.

    • New Year’s Day: New Year’s Day is a national holiday and a major event in Georgia, celebrated with food and drinking. There’ll be Georgian dances, choir performances, and flashy fireworks lighting up the midnight sky on New Year’s Day in Georgia.
    • International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day: On March 8 and March 3 every year, Georgian city streets are buried in flowers. People purchase colorful bouquets to honor their mothers, wives and grandmothers. The cities vibe with concerts, festivities, shows, charity events, and folk festivals.
    • Victory Day: March 9 marks Georgia’s Victory Day, the day that Georgia obtained freedom from fascism. Victory Day celebrations are held in parks, with dancing, brass brand performances, the laying of flowers at the feet of war memorials and remembering war veterans and heroes.
    • Love Day: Apart from St. Valentine’s Day, Georgians celebrate Love Day on April 15, when they give gifts to their loved ones, and enjoy many romantic events.
    • Tamaroba: On May 14 each year, Georgia celebrates the reign of one of their greatest kings, Queen Tamar. The festivities are mainly held in Akhaltsikhe and Tbilisi.
    • Independence Day: The actual independence is on March 31, but the locals celebrate their freedom on May 26, when Georgia was declared an independent state. A military parade is followed by a gala concert and a festival of flowers that takes place in Vardobistve, where the Bridge of the World is transformed into a colorful ark of flowers.

    There’s not much nightlife in cities other than the capital city of Tbilisi. Georgians love to party at Tbilisi’s clubs and nightlife hotspots, most of which are found in Rustaveli Avenue.

    Theater: Georgian dancers put on classy productions at the Rustaveli Georgian Drama Theatre in Tbilisi. Most evenings, culture lovers can be found at this theater, which churns out a lot of quality Shakespeare productions.

    Folk Theatre: The Georgian Folk Theater Nabadi plays host to incredible folk performances based on the country’s history, culture and traditions.

    Bars and Nightclubs: Tbilisi has several bars and nightclubs, primed for exciting tourist experiences. Many of them have amazing acoustic systems which play music all night.

    Other Nightlife Options: The Kafe Literaturuli café is frequented by book lovers and avid readers. The Paliashvili Opera & Ballet Theatre puts on performances that offer a unique insight into Georgia’s performing arts. Other cultural nightspots the Georgia National Music Center, Marjanishvili Theatre and Jazz Club Non Stop for magical cultural evenings.

    Though there are shopping malls in Georgia, the best shopping is to be had at flea markets and open markets. Here are a few shopping avenues:

    • Flea Market Dry Bridge (Tbilisi): Handmade handicrafts and jewelry
    • Tbilisi Shopping Mall (Tbilisi): A shopping mall offering various apparel and household items.
    • Estia - Handmade Arts Boutique (Tbilisi): Handmade craft items such as book ends, book covers, and bags and so on.
    • Fotografia (Tbilisi): A series of well-executed photos of the natural scenery around Tbilisi.
    • Tsangala's Wine Shop & Bar (Tbilisi): A good place to pick up some prime Georgian wines.
    • Caucasian Carpets Gallery (Tbilisi): Hand-knotted carpets in many colors, depicting Georgian cultural concepts.
    • David Kakabadze Fine Art Gallery (Kutaisi): A chance to pick up some fine art from European artists.
    • Caucasus Nature Jewels (Tbilisi): A jewelry shop selling European jewelry.
    • Telavi’s Historical Monuments: Inhabited since the early Bronze Age years, Telavi has many well preserved historical monuments from different ages such as churches, buildings and pillars.
    • Mtskheta’s Architecture: The Georgian Orthodox Church is a prime example of the old Georgian architecture, as is the Svetitskoveli Church. The Armazi Fortress and St Nino Monastery, dedicated to Georgia’s beloved Orthodox saint St. Nino are must-see.
    • Wine Tasting In Sighnaghi: This region makes the best wine in all of Georgia.
    • Beaches Of Batumi: Batumi is considered the beach holiday destination of Georgia. The famous Black Sea’s Stoney beaches are lined with a number of ancient lovely sculptures that are a must-see.
    • Napoleon’s Death Mask: Visit Zugdidi to checkout one of Napoleon’s 3 death masks, inlaid with gold and precious gems, stored in the old Dadiani Palace. Also check out Niko’s Palace, Queen’s Palace, the Mantskhvar-kari and Blachernae St. Virgin churches in Zugdidi.
    • Borjomi’s Mineral Water: This region is famous for its healing mineral water spa.
    • The Narikala Fortress: This mud and stone fort was built in the 4th century by the ancient Persians.
    • Cave City Of Uplistsikhe: This is an extraordinary cave city comprising natural caves systems, where ancient humans lived.
    • Gergeti Trinity Church: The Gergeti Trinity Church is perched dramatically on a hilltop just below Mount Kazbek, one of the highest mountains in the Caucasus Mountains.

    Rayna Tours organizes several tours and excursions into Georgia’s cities and towns, for sightseeing and cultural experiences. Tours are available to check out the best vantage points that offer the most majestic of views of the surrounding regions. Here are some of the tours and excursions that you might find interesting:

    Georgia - Ride The Caucasus, a trek across the mountainous regions by horse, guided by professionals. This tour will involve several participants, and all food and drink amenities will be taken care of.

    Custom-tailored Journey through Georgia: This tour is tailored according to the participants’ needs and involves a visit to the top sights of Georgia, including scenic sightseeing.

    Treasures of The Caucasus: This is a tour of the Caucuses Mountains, to explore natural cave systems and monasteries built in the mountains.

    Wine-tasting Tour: This tour takes participants to the vineyards of Sighnaghi for a unique Georgian wine-tasting experience. Many great Georgian wines will be on discounted sales for our tour participants to purchase.

    May, June and September are the three best months to visit Georgia. During these months, the weather is mild – it’s neither too hot nor humid or too cold. Midsummer is hot and humid in the lowlands, though the mountain ranges will be cooler and drier. Be sure to pack a sturdy pair of boots if you plan on trekking into the mountains. May, June and September are the perfect months for outdoor activities in Georgia.

    The month of spring is mild, full of growing things with the snow melting away. Both the days and evenings are quite pleasant during this season. Georgia experiences frequent rainfall during spring, so you might want to prepare for this eventuality. Spring is probably the most scenic time in Georgia, for this is when nature sparkles with freshness.

    Best Selling Georgia Tours

    • Tbilisi City Tour
    • Kakheti Wine Tour
    • Mtskheta Tour from Tbilisi
    • Kazbegi Day Tour from Tbilisi
    • Borjomi and Akhaltsikhe Day Tour
    • Full Day Gori Uplistsikhe Tour
    • Borjomi Vardzia Day Tour
    • Tbilisi and Mtskheta City Tour

    Georgia Travelogue

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