Our last trip this year took us to Georgia in October. We had two complete weeks to discover the small country in the Southern Caucasus.
Georgia is nestled between Russia and Turkey and borders the Black Sea to the west. In the east of Georgia lies Azerbaijan, which we unfortunately could not visit in the short time we had.
But our trip already had enough stops within Georgia and we could get a good impression of the country, while we skipped the northwestern part with the high, hardly accessible mountains this time. That is a good reason to come back to Georgia later or to discover the neighbouring countries Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Our itinerary gave us a bit more time for each stopover in Georgia and we were able to experience the individual places a bit more intensively.
In the following I want to go a little bit into the individual places we visited. At the end of the article you will find a short summary with tips and recommendations.
We had our small hotel near the Kote Abkhazi street at the entrance of the old town. It was ideally located to explore the old town on foot. We had all attractions within walking distance, further distant destinations were easy to reach by metro or bus. For the Metro system you need a rechargeable card, which can be bought at every station and which can be recharged by means of the terminals that are spread all over the city. We only had one card, it was no problem to pass it backwards after the first person went through the turnstile.
Of course there is a lot to see in Tbilisi and I can’t give any general tips, which one is especially worth it, because it depends on the personal taste, but we especially liked the botanical garden and the bridge flea market. The holy mountain Mtatsminda, which can be easily reached by cable car from Tiflis, is also worthwhile, as one has a magnificent view from above over the city and the walk back down gives some insights into the residential quarters at the steep mountain. Museums, theatres and the historical oldtown offer a program for several weeks but I will be brief here. My favourite tip for exploring Tbilisi is below.
From Tbilisi you can easily reach all parts of the country by Marshrutka from Pushkin Square or Didube. The easiest way is to find out what is going where and when, but there are also online timetables. For shorter distances or when you need it especially comfortable, there are taxi services that will take you from Tbilisi almost anywhere in Georgia.
Our second stop after Tbilisi was Kutaissi. The main reason to make a stopover in Kutaissi was that it was ideally located for our further journey, easy to reach and a day trip to the old mining town of Chiatura was easily possible. So after the transfer to Kutaissi in the evening we didn’t do too much program any more and started the next day early in the morning for the 2 hours drive to Chiatura. We had our small hotel organize a driver who drove us to Chiatura and back. Alternatively the way by Marshrutka would also be possible, but one must calculate massively more time and as far as we have found out, there is only one Marshrutka for the whole distance in the morning there and one in the evening back.
A lot has been reported about Chiatura in several blogs already, so that every reader is welcome to get his own impression by Google from various sources. We found the city worthwhile, as it forms a strong contrast to Tbilisi. The people here live very modestly, the city was built in Soviet times and the various cable cars are more or less unchanged in operation. The ride with the cable cars is correspondingly adventurous and I recommend nerves that are stronger than the 70 year old wire ropes. The cable cars are definitely the highlight of Chiatura and are also mentioned in every documentation about Georgia.
The rest of the village is calm and life here takes its quiet course, away from the hectic pace of the world.
We have combined the excursion to Chiatrua with a detour to the Katskhi Column, a curious monastery that lies on a rock.
Zugdidi / Anaklia
Our next stop Zugdidi was, just like Kutaissi, the most practical place for our further route. We were also able to combine this stop with a trip to nearby Anaklia, a place that had already attracted us during the planning of the trip. Apart from that, Zugdidi does not have much to offer, but according to various travel guides it is also ideal for another trip to Swanetia, the alpine, northern region of Georgia.
Anaklia is about 30km from Zugdidi on the Black Sea coast. It borders the hard-to-reach region of Abkhazia, which has renounced Georgia. What is special is that several Georgian governments have already tried to turn Anaklia into a tourist stronghold. Investments in large construction projects have been made and abandoned because the flow of electricity to travellers has not occurred as expected. So the godforsaken town today resembles a ghost town and has a strange, post-apocalyptic atmosphere, which we found worth seeing. Unfortunately, one cannot do much more than explore the deserted holiday resorts on foot, buy a bottle of water in the kiosk and escape with the next Marshrutka – not without an oppressive feeling that this place leaves behind.
After the visit to the ghostly seaside town of Anaklia, our visit to Batumi was a pure recreation – no less ostentatiously built and planned for endless streams of tourists, but in Batumi the bill worked out. The place lives and offers for the traveller every comfort that one can wish for. From the expensive luxury hotel including casino to high-quality Georgian cuisine, beauty and massage salons (sometimes rather dubious!) and completely crazy buildings, there is everything the Toruist heart desires here.
Activities such as paragliding, boat trips, canoeing, horseback riding and camping in the nearby national parks are just as much on offer as a simple day on the beach. We have had a good rest here and lived very comfortably for a few days, even though the place sometimes seems grotesque and offers curious insights in the low season.
In order to take our picture of Georgia a little further, we planned two more days in the traditional health resort of Borjomi. In the 19th century the healing springs already attracted rich Persians and Russians, spa hotels and parks were built in the spirit of the time comparable to Karlovy Vary and Baden Baden. The old splendour is still noticeable, but in the Soviet era it was polished and after the collapse of the Soviet Union it went further downhill. Today the place presents itself cultivated and by the situation still attractively.
The nearby national parks offer the possibility for endless hikes, of which we also made two small tours. The spa park with the healing springs lies a little off the city and was quiet and lonely during our visit. Borjomi once again presented another side of Georgia and was definitely worth the visit.
Before we started our flight home, we spent a few more days in Tbilisi, because our flight would start in the middle of the night and we wanted to have the shortest possible journey to the airport.
For the last days in Tbilisi we visited some highlights as Soviet Architecture fans, as the city also offers some special highlights in terms of brutal architecture. We organised the journey to the buildings ourselves by public transport, which took a little more time than taking part in an organised tour. “Brutal Tours” offers information and organizes comfortable visits to the Soviet buildings – but we were able to explore everything on our own and discovered several exciting corners in Tbilisi and met locals who explained their neighborhood and buildings to us. The Saburtalo Housing District, the former Archaeological Museum, the central one of the “Bank of Georgia” and the “Tbilisi Stonehenge” were our favorites, which we can recommend for a visit.
- Tbilisi: Airplanes arrive at unchristian times – all are adjusted to taxi drivers etc.
- Tbilisi: if you have seen the lovely old town: “Brutal Tours” in Tbilisi show the other side of the city; you can also explore the destinations yourself, but if you want it to be compact, it’s much easier with a guided tour
- Tbilisi: Hop on/Hop off buses are touri-quack, but they help to get a quick overview of the city centre and drive to the most interesting points – therefore recommended even if the coolness factor is missing.
- Tbilisi: Subway and bus are super easy to use, you only need one rechargeable card, one is enough for several people, you just have to validate per person per trip.
- Taxis don’t have taximeters and you always have to negotiate a price – but as a foreigner you almost always pay too much. It is best to have the hotel organise a taxi for you, which fixes the price right away. Better still, one drives with a Marshrutka from A to B, the prices are clearly cheaper and we did not experience a tourist rip-off.
- Special tip: search, find and explore the famous Soviet buildings in Tbilisi on your own. Brutal Tours have a great offer if you are short on time but exploring it yourself is so much more satisfying.
More photos from the trip can be found below or here: