Georgia is well known for the beautiful mountains, their old wine making tradition, cave towns and monasteries. We wanted to cover all of these and visit Georgia’s finest places.
After two surprisingly amazing days in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital (see our story here), we packed our bags for a several-day trip through the country. We rented a Toyota Yaris for a very good price, if you are researching for a car rental company in Georgia and you need recommendations, you can drop us a message.
Kakheti, aka wine region
Kakheti is the Easternmost part of Georgia and is well known for their wine making industry, one of the oldest in the world. While crossing the villages by car one thing was common in the majority of the courtyards: the grapes.
They even have a special wine making method: with Kvevri clay jars used for the fermentation, storage and aging of traditional Georgian wine.
Sighnaghi, located on a steep hill, is the most picturesque town around, with an Italian countryside vibe.
I see a huge touristic potential there, but it’s badly or not at all capitalized. It’s a challenge to relax on these narrow, old streets or on the old city wall ramparts thanks to some annoying rentable ATVs passing by.
Telavi is the capital town of the region and a perfect place from where to plan your winery visits.
Do you see the European Union flag in the right? Georgia started the process of joining UE and things are happening already: the Georgian citizens can travel to Europe without any visa starting from March 2017.
First night we had a room in Tsinandali village, in a local “wine-tasting and guest house” where we had the chance to taste the traditional Kvevri clay wine. Next day we stopped by the Shumi Winery, one of the most visited ones.
You can walk alongside many different grape varieties, visit the factory (ask before your visit) and, of course, taste their wines for reasonable price.
What’s funny but gets tiring after a time is…well, watching a Georgian and an Armenian arguing about who made wine for the first time 🙂
Vardzia is the biggest cave town of Georgia and one of the most remarkable in the whole world.
“The cave dwellings were constructed during the reign of Queen Tamar as protection from the Mongols. They consisted of over 600 apartments in a 13 story complex. The city included a church, a throne room, and a complex irrigation system watering terraced farmlands. The only access to the complex was through some well hidden tunnels near the Mtkvari river. Today Vardzia is maintained by a small group of monks and can be visited for a small fee.” – touropia.com
In the morning:
The inhabitants needed a constant access to water so they had to gather it in these holes carved in front of their house.
These holes are for wine vessels I presume 🙂
As the cave town was mostly lived by monks, the central point and the biggest carved space is the monastery.
Rabati Castle – Akhaltsikhe
Planned just as “maybe a stop-over destination”, slightly in north from Vardzia, Akhaltsikhe’s Rabati Castle was a pleasant surprise for us. Renovated in 2012, the castle is in an excellent condition, maybe better then it ever was.
The architecture of the buildings inside is a mix of Caucasian and Ottoman style, which is a sign that the castle was an important strategic point and was overtaken several times by different powers.
Part of Svaneti region, is one of the most important mountain destinations in Georgia. Mestia is one of the main starting points for trekking the Caucasus, and depending on your time, condition and gear you can get several hiking options from the tourist point in the center of the village.
Just after a quick hike from Mestia up to the cross on the ridge-top you are in the middle of the mountains with amazing views.
Multi-day treks are popular, many hikers take their tents and camp by the trail – we did the same.
Plan your trip accordingly, so the bad weather won’t interfere with your hiking plans. These pictures were taken in a weather window between two rain showers and fog. It’s nice for pictures, pretty bad for the hiking itself.
On the way to Koruldi lakes.
Bonus: buying home made milk and cheese from two woman from the mountain and watching the cows chilling, the pigs itching around in the evening – and all of these above the clouds.
Thanks for reading. Kazbek experience (the highest peak in Georgia) comes next.
Iulia and Bancsi
Of course, with a backpack.