When to go to Georgia?
We strongly advise against May. During 9 days of the trip, 8 were rainy. Fortunately, it was not raining all day (except for Stepancminda), but there was so much rain that it spoiled our moods. Our friend was in March and he encountered much better weather. The summers are hot and the temperature sometimes reaches 40 degrees. In winter, many mountain roads are impassable, you have to take this into account when planning a trip.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the impression that Georgia is still undiscovered and tourists hadn’t made it there. Already in May, the most attractive places (Cminda Sameba, Tbilisi, Vardzia, David Gareja) were full of visitors, mainly Russians, but also Poles. The cheap flights from Ukraine International Airways and Wizzair are definitely contributing to the intensive growth of tourist traffic. Fortunately, when you walk away from the main attractions, you can take a break from the crowds, because it’s full of remote places or they are off the main routes. We recommend small towns, national parks and, of course, mountains. Apparently there is a route from the Tusheti National Park to Stepancminda, where you don’t pass any village for a week.
What to see?
It’s definately worth seeing:
Stepancminda (42°39’30.1″N 44°38’27.7″E)
A small village in the mountains at the foot of Kazbek. A good base for hiking in the mountains.
Mccheta (41°50’33.8″N 44°43’13.4″E)
Pleasant, small town near Tbilisi. Good for a break for half a day. Being in the area you should also go to the Jvari Monastery on the hill on the other side of the river. There is a beautiful view of the connection of two rivers of different colours – Mtkvari and Aragvi, and the monastery is one of the oldest in Georgia.
Sighnaghi (41°37’07.2″N 45°55’22.1″E)
Charming town off the beaten track. It’s the capital of Georgian wine, it’s worth coming here in September, when the wine festival is organized. We recommend accommodation in the hostel Nato & Lado, very nice and helpful owners, cheap rooms, you can order a breakfast, which is really worth its price. Right next to it is Peter’s Guesthouse – a hostel run by a couple of Poles.
David Gareja (41°26’51.0″N 45°22’36.0″E)
Monastery on the border with Azerbaijan. The surrounding rock formations look beautiful, the steppes are impressive, and the quintessential are the old frescoes in the caves.
Tbilisi (41°41’30.8″N 44°48’14.6″E)
The capital of Georgia, which captivates with its diversity. It is worth spending here 2-3 days, to discover all the nooks and crannies and to visit view points both during the day and at night. A striking contrast is that just next to modern buildings, there are those that only hold on a word of honour.
Akhaltsikhe (41°38’34.1″N 42°58’42.4″E)
The city has a beautifully restored fortress. In addition, it is a good base for nearby Vardzia.
Vardzia (41°22’50.8″N 43°17’03.9″E)
Remains of a huge rock city. Even though today only a smaller part of the complex has survived due to the earthquake that hit the region in the past, it makes a great impression. You can take a walk through the tunnels connecting the drilled rooms.
It is also worth (supposedly) to fly a Vanillasky plane (vanillasky.ge). The plane is small, so the impression from the flight is probably quite different from the normal plane, and the flight between the mountains must be breathtaking. In addition, it saves a lot of time. Provided that such a flight will take place. Tickets must be booked in advance, as they disappear very quickly.
Below is our route.
In smaller towns, a good way is just walking around and asking for accommodation where it says that locals offer accommodation. You can also check on booking.com, where most hostels have their offers. The prices we paid were between 30 and 40 GEL for a double room.
You should definately eat in Georgia. And drink wine. Food and home-made wine are cheap and delicious. Often, homemade wine in a bar is cheaper than the bottled one in a shop. I especially recommend the Khinkali House restaurant in Tbilisi, which is huge and sumptuous, but with reasonable prices. And in addition, it’s open 24 hours a day. It’s good option to buy breakfasts and dinners from the hosts. This allows you to try local dishes at a price 2 times lower than in the pub.
Hitchhiking works great. Sometimes, when the traffic is very small, you can use marshrutka or taxi, both options are quite cheap.
3 tips from Free Walking Tour:
- don’t make eye contact with dogs – they won’t ever leave you and they will be yours forever (see: dog patently petted by Michał at the airport)
- don’t make eye contact with beggars – they won’t ever leave you unless you give them money
- do make eye contact with drivers – if you want to cross the street, even at the crossing, it’s absolutely mandatory. Otherwise you will be ignored and you will stay on one side of the street forever.
Knowledge of English is poor. The basics of Russian will be very useful, it’s also worth to learn some basic phrases in Georgian:
gamarjoba – good morning
gaumarjos – cheers
madloba – thank you
nachwamdis – goodbye
In general, prices account for around 60-70% of Polish prices.
Double room: 30 – 40 GEL
Breakfast from hosts: 5 GEL / 2 persons
Lunch from hosts: 15 GEL / 2 persons
A bottle of house wine in a pub: 4 – 10 GEL
Single ticket in Tbilisi: 1 GEL
Lunch at the restaurant: 10 – 15 GEL