Astonishing history

Offering the very best of both east and west, with thrilling history stretching back thousands of years, Georgia is a welcoming and lively cultural wonderland ready to be explored.

Sitting at the point where east meets west, on the most easterly point of the Black Sea, Georgia has been a vibrant cultural hub for thousands of years. And what made it great in the past continues to make it a must-visit destination right now.

Georgia’s rich history means it has a fascinating blend of influences, with an intriguing mix of European, Persian, Arabian and Far Eastern cultures (among others), that have left a mark on everything from architecture to food and style. You’ll quickly understand why the local people are incredibly proud of their beautiful homeland and so eager to share it with visitors.

Georgia is home to unique architecture, ranging from ancient churches to medieval cave towns, and historic sites in stunning locations – including three UNESCO world heritage sites – that need to be seen to be believed.
 

Georgia is an extraordinarily hospitable and friendly country, and the locals will be more than happy to help you decide where to go and what to see. These insider tips will help you find the best bars, restaurants and sightseeing locations.

A excellent place to start is in the heart of the capital city, Tbilisi. Perched on a picturesque hillside that’s accessible by cable car, the scenic Old Town is the perfect place to spend a day walking and exploring as you get a feel for Georgia. Filled with ancient churches, monuments and buildings, it’s the ideal introduction to the country’s captivating history.

Just 30 minutes’ drive from Tbilisi you will be welcomed at Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia. This city is home to UNESCO world heritage listed historic monuments that are outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus, and is another essential stop on your cultural tour of the country. While you’re here, take some time to visit the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the second largest church in the country, and climb up to the Jvari Monastery on the hilltop overlooking the town for a fantastic view.

One of the most popular destinations in Georgia – and for an excellent reason – is the lovely small town of Stepantsminda, at the foot of Mount Kazbegi. The star attraction is the hilltop Gergeti Trinity Church. Set against the breathtaking mountain backdrop, it’s easy to see why so many visitors have called it one of the most beautiful churches in the world.

Also take some time to visit the nearby Kakheti wine region. Georgians have been proudly making and drinking wine for more than 8000 years, making this the oldest and most interesting wine-making culture in the world. The ancient method of using kvevris (large earthenware pots lined with beeswax) was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2013, although winemakers in Georgia today use more modern methods of production. The result is excellent quality wine that has become highly sought-after by connoisseurs across the globe, and must be sampled for a true taste of Georgian culture.

The second biggest city in Georgia is Kutaisi, which is an essential stop on any itinerary, as it’s home to the visually and spiritually awe-inspiring Gelati Monastery. This UNESCO world heritage site was founded in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia and still has incredible decorative Byzantine interiors. It’s worth budgeting some extra time to wander the cobbled streets up to the Bagrati Cathedral and experience its beautiful blend of ancient ruins and modern restoration. Then visit Sataplia cave, where you can get a chance to walk with dinosaurs (or at least with their perfectly preserved fossilized footprints).

To experience a fairy tale landscape that was built as a sanctuary for a legendary mountain queen, visit Vardzia; a spectacular 13th-century monastery stretched across 13 levels. You’ll soon find out why it’s nicknamed Georgia’s ‘hidden city’, as you explore 6,000 apartments, plus the Queen Tamar’s throne room and a large church with an external bell tower. If you have time, it’s worth adding in a side-trip to Dmanisi, one of the earliest archeological hominid site outside of Africa, dating back 1.8 million years.

 

The dream-like Svaneti province in the Caucasus Mountains in the north of the country is easily accessed thanks to a newly created flight-path from Tbilisi. This hidden gem is worth the effort, and you’ll be greeted enthusiastically when you arrive. Dotted with koshki, the medieval watchtowers traditionally used for defense, this area is virtually untouched by tourism, and possibly one of the most spectacular landscapes you’ll ever encounter.

Finally, head to the town of Mestia and its captivating ethnography museum, and then stop by Ushguli; the highest settlement in Europe and now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Georgia is a country that welcomes you warmly with open arms and offers culture and history that is not just extraordinarily beautiful, but also offers visitors a rare and unforgettable glimpse into the past.

Mestia

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