Winter illuminations for Christmas and New Year are finally installed in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Tbilisi’s main Christmas Tree was officially lit up on the First Republic Square on the 22nd of December. The event was accompanied by Christmas songs and performances. The prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze and the Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze participated in the event and wished the gathered people Happy Christmas and New Year.
Festive decorations were put on Rustaveli, Tamarashvili and Cholokashvili Avenues as well as Kostava,Baratashvili and Melikishvili Streets, which has made night strolls in Tbilisi even more enjoyable.
Illuminated decorations of various shapes such as angels, deer, heart, candles, balls, and bows have made the central streets of Tbilisi brighter and created a festive atmosphere. Tbilisi City Hall allocated over 2 million GEL for the capital’s winter illuminations. Numerous cultural, sporting and children’s events are planned to take place during the holidays.
We, Georgians, are the most welcoming people in the world! And we know how confusing it can be for you to plan your winter vacation in our country that has always been famous for its sea, sun, wine and mountains. That’s why we picked these ten experiences for you, so that you would make the most out of your holidays.
1. Learning to ski (if you still couldn’t)
There are really good ski instructors and ski camps for adults and kids at our ski resorts. The biggest amount of them is in Gudauri and Bakuriani.
2. Trying heli-ski (if you tried everything possible before)
If you are experienced enough, and your seek for adrenaline, heli-ski is something you would really enjoy! Untouched snow, fabulous altitude and crazy landscapes are waiting for you in Gudauri, Kazbegi and Mestia.
3. Visiting sulfur baths in Tbilisi
Everyone has heard about them, but not everybody knows that it’s not your average touristic thing. We go there too, when we are tired and want to recover. Strong massage with immense amounts of soap and hot sulfuric water do their thing pretty well!
4. Raving in Bassiani
The most famous Georgian club is not a place where you can easily walk it, which makes it more appealing to the fans of high class electronic music. Only top DJs, only right people!
5. Treating yourself with healing waters
Book spa treatment in one of the hotels in Borjomi, Sairme or Likani, or simply jump into the natural steaming water in the Mineral Waters Park in the center of Borjomi. The pools are located in its very end.
6. Having a wine tour
Even if the harvest season (Rtveli) is over, the wineries are always happy to welcome the guests. Encounter with 8000-years-old tradition of winemaking and sample the most interesting Georgian wines, so rich on tannins, so flavourful, so unique!
7. Visiting mysterious caves
Not far from Kutaisi, there are two caves that are accessible for the travelers – Sataplia and Prometheus are the names. Both of them are very impressive! The first one preserves the fossilized footprints of the dinosaurs, the second one is a bit bigger and offers a boat trip along the underground river in the end. Be aware of the fact that both are closed on Mondays!
8. Tracing different civilizations and cultures
Georgia was always in the middle of regional events, that’s why many cultures have influenced us. Visit the cave town Uplistsikhe to see how humans made the whole town out of rock several thousands years ago. A visit to the archaeological sites Dmanisi and Samshvilde will showcase the life of ancient people, and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, David Gareji cave monastery, Nekresi Monastery hidden in the forest on the mount will show you the different aspects of early Christianity in Georgia.
9. Enjoy subtropical nature
Going to the West gives you a refreshing experience of seeing green plants in winter. For example, Batumi Botanical Garden is simply fantastic!
10. Shop Georgian!
Clothes made by the Georgian designers as well as food and spices made in Georgia are always on the shopping list of a person who wants to bring home something special. We are sure that you will find the best and most interesting accessories, clothes and jewelry for you and your friends and family!
Georgia is getting more prominence as a ski destination – first of all, due to its long season (snowfalls in the mountains in April are something normal for Gudauri and Svaneti) and affordable prices for ski passes. The other reason is that it is still quite exotic for those who used to go skiing in Alps, Tatra or Carpathians.
We want to bring our country closer to you, so here are our options for those who like to combine skiing and spa treatment.
Number one choice in this case will be Bakuriani. This resort is located in central Georgia, climate is mild, and the local waters make good impact on health. They are softly mineralized, contain potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium. The springs are located in the townlet Tsagveri and Mitarbi area, and you will also find bottled still water branded as “Bakuriani” in every Georgian shop.
The ski resort itself is the oldest one in Georgia, which means that the infrastructure has existed here for around 50 years, and recently it is getting updated and expanded. The new hotels and apartments grow there every year.
The most convenient area to stay for skiers is around Didveli Ski Lift or Mitarbi Ski Lift – you will have the direct access to the skiing area, and in the evening going to the cozy center of the resort with local restaurants, bars, ski rink, park and little cinema won’t be a problem. Just get a number of taxi driver in advance or ask for it in your hotel.
Talking about on site spa facilities – Orbi Palace, Crystal Bakuriani and Hotel Mgzavrebi are those hotels who have them. Indoor swimming pool and saunas are something you will definitely need after an active day on the slopes!
If you want a leisure break during your skiing vacation, consider Borjomi at least for a day or two. This mineral resort is one of the oldest in Georgia – the spring was discovered in 1841, and with the time a beautiful park grew around.
The most relaxing option is to stay in one of four spa hotels in the town – Borjomi Palace, Crowne Plaza, Golden Tulip or Rixos Borjomi. Swimming pool and saunas are usually included in the room rate. Besides it, each hotel provides a wide range of healing and relaxing procedures, massages and cosmetology services.
The more budget-friendly option is to stay in one of the guesthouses that are many, and spend hilarious 5 lari for the chance to bath in the thermal spring in the end of the Mineral Waters Park. The spring is clean, and there are changing rooms on site too. The entrance to the park is 2 lari.
A walk toward the spring might take 30-40 minutes, and you will truly enjoy it: fresh air, sound of river Borjomi streaming towards river Mtkvari through the park, and the pleasant contrast of air and water temperature!
The biggest and the most popular among freeriders, this resort is located in only 2.5 hours drive from Tbilisi. Seven ski-lifts (3 three-chair, 2 four-chair, 1 six-chair, 1 gondola), total altitude difference of 1258 meters, pistes from blue to black, breathtaking panoramas – simply awesome for a weekend break or a longer holiday!
For the guests that want to get decent spa and relaxation time, there are several places that offer it: Marco Polo Gudauri, Hotel Club 2100, Gudauri Hut Hotel, Carpe Diem Hotel, GoodAura Hotel and Tsar Bani Resort. New Gudauri Aparthotel also has a spa part – you should request this service before booking an apartment or hotel room there!
Also, famous Rooms Hotel Kazbegi has swimming pool with great view and good choice of extra procedures. Kazbegi (Stepantsminda village) is located in 30-40 minute drive from Gudauri, so you might go for a day trip there.
The choice is yours, and we are sure that you will have a great time in Georgia!
What is it about Georgia lately? The country (not the US state) seems primed to be one of the hottest tourist destinations for 2017, as travellers are freshly obsessed with the fashion, the mountain trekking, the architecture, and the good eats. The best news for those travelling from the UK? Georgian Airways launched direct flights from Gatwick to Tbilisi over the weekend; next month, Wizz Air will start a route to Kutaisi from Luton. Want to see what all the fuss is about? Here are our top 10 tips for what to do in Tbilisi.
Browse Soviet relics
From 1921 to 1991 Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. This history is evident everywhere, but most in your face while walking through the Dry Bridge Flea Market near Dedaena Park. Locals who lived the bulk of their lives under Soviet rule spread blankets on the ground and lay out goods they’ve saved from the scrap heap. The range of items is boggling; it’s priceless antiques next to plumbing fixtures, next to tarnished military medals and handmade crafts. Be prepared to bargain, and to receive a history lesson with each purchase.
Learn the etiquette of “khinkali” dumplings
Georgian dumplings are plump, round pouches filled with minced meat, chopped onion and spices. Pinched closed, you then flip the dumpling over and gingerly bite into its skin, sucking out the hot soup inside before going in for whole bites. Don’t eat the pinched bit; it’s not always cooked through and is used for staff to later count how many were eaten. Khinkali are omnipresent on menus in Tbilisi, but head to Barbarestan on Aghmashenebeli Avenue to try them alongside other Georgian dishes, their recipes straight from Barbare Jorjadze, a 19th-century princess and renowned cook who is generally accepted to have been Georgia’s first feminist.
Strip down and suds up
The ancient district of Abanotubani in Tbilisi’s old quarter is home to several equally ancient sulphur bathhouses. Head underground through brick entrances to pay an attendant for towel and sandal rental, and your choice of communal shower (separate for male and female) or private room with soaking tubs. Add on an exfoliating scrub-down and soapy foam massage for a few pounds more, but be warned that complete nudity is the rule. At the simply named Bathhouse Number 5, exquisite mosaics decorate the domed rooms, making up for the faintly eggy smell of the sulphur water.
Party at Fabrika
An old sewing factory turned hostel sounds like a stereotypical hipster hangout, and that’s totally true in Tbilisi. Fabrika offers communal, hostel-style rooms from as low as £10 per person, and private ensuite rooms for two are from £38 per night, but guests should be warned that the party in the public areas often lasts well into the night. The lobby bar Cocktails and Dreams, the courtyard strung with fairy lights, and the co-working spaces and artisan shops that make up the complex draw locals as well as visitors; you’ll make friends fast here.
Take in some culture
Tbilisi is no backwater destination; the spectacular Zurab Tsereteli Museum of Modern Art plays host to a biannual Fashion Week, the stunning architecture of the modern Peace Bridge lights up the riverfront at night, and the oddity of the 2011-constructed “Leaning Tower of Tbilisi” (aka the Gabriadze Clock) provides plenty of opportunities for Instagramming.
Eat a cheese-stuffed bread boat
Better known as “Acharuli Khachapuri”, this traditional Georgian comfort food is a gluten-free traveller’s nightmare, but heaven to most. The boat-shaped flatbread arrives fresh from the wood oven to the table, its centre bubbling with melted cheese, a runny egg, and a generous pat of butter. Even a small order is enough for two people, especially with a side of khinkali.
Yes, Georgian wine is fabulous. Red or white, dry or sweet, it’s all extraordinarily drinkable thanks to the fertile environment of the lower Caucasus, one of the most ancient viticulture regions in the world. But branch out beyond the wine for chacha (ჭაჭა), which is no dance in Georgia. Chacha technically refers to any fruit-based liquor, but it’s come to be most synonymous with grape brandy, produced from the leftovers during winemaking. It’s clear and strong, and most similar to Italian grappa. Stop into the parlour-style Books Cafe on Tsinamdzghvrishvili Street (yes, Georgian street names are epic) for a thimble full of chacha, a game of backgammon, and a browse of their used books for sale.
For something a little less strong, hit up a Georgian soda fountain for “Lagidze waters,” cool and sparkling concoctions of flavoured syrup mixed with mineral water. Invented by pharmacist apprentice Mitrofan Lagidze in the late 1800s, the drinks are cheap, fast, and refreshing. The most popular varieties of lemon, grape, cherry, and even chocolate, are poured and mixed from traditional dispensers at places like Acharulebi Lagidzeze and the aptly named Lagidze Water at Sameba Cathedral. Point to the bright green syrup to try Tarkhun, or tarragon soda, a flavour embraced by the Soviets and now produced and available bottled in supermarkets as “Тархун.”
Tbilisi sits in a valley, cut through by the Mtkvari River and backed by small mountains. Heading up Mount Mtatsminda to reach a small amusement park and the best view over the city is easy via modern funicular. There’s also the option to visit the Narikala Fortress via cable car from Rike Park, which comes with the bonus of gliding right over the twisting streets of Tbilisi’s old quarter before arriving to the medieval ramparts of the fort.
Make a salad
According to Megan Starr, a travel blogger who regularly visits countries of the former USSR, Tbilisi is the perfect destination for salad lovers. If there’s one dish ideal for summer, it’s the simple and filling Georgian Salad. Quarters of ripe, juicy tomatoes fill a bowl with slices of onion, cucumber and green pepper. It’s finished with a palmful of walnuts, a dusting of pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Get it at Linville, a cosy and antique-filled first-floor cafe near Freedom Square, where the salad is terrifically refreshing on a humid day, and even better with a glass of crisp white Georgian wine.
Get out of town
Technically this list is what to do in Tbilisi and can be rushed into a long weekend. If you have more time, use the trip as a two-for-one, adding exploration of Kutaisi, Kazbegi or Batumi to your plans. Kutaisi is a pedestrian-friendly city of streets lined with gardens, theatres, and several medieval church and monastery UNESCO World Heritage sites. The frontier mountain town of Kazbegi, also called Stepantsminda, is for hikers and, in the winter, for skiers. The Georgia-based luxe hotel group Rooms Hotels recently opened a “retro-Soviet meets industrial chic” property in the town.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi commonly known as Sameba is the main cathedral of the Georgian orthodox church, located in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Constructed between 1995 and 2004, it is the third tallest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and one of the largest religious building in the world by total area. Sameba is a synthesis of traditional styles dominating the Georgian church architecture at various stages in history and has some Byzantine undertones.
The idea to build a new cathedral to commemorate 1,500 years of autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church and 2,000 years from the birth of Jesus merged as early as 1989, a crucial year for the national awakening of the then Soviet republic of Georgia. In May 1989, the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate and the authorities of Tbilisi announced an international contest for the “Holy Trinity Cathedral” project. No winner was chosen at the first round of the contest when more than a hundred projects were submitted. Finally the design by architect Archil Mindiashvili won. The subsequent turbulent years of civil unrest in Georgia deferred this grandiose plan for six years, and it was not until November 23, 1995, that the foundation of the new cathedral was laid.
The construction of the church was proclaimed as a “symbol of the Georgian national and spiritual revival” and was sponsored mostly by anonymous donations from several businessmen and common citizens. On November 23, 2004, on St. George’s Day, the cathedral was consecrated by Catholicos Patriarch of Georgia Ilia || and high-ranking representatives of fellow Orthodox Churches of the world. The ceremony was also attended by leaders of other religious and confessional communities in Georgia as well as by political leaders.
The Sameba Cathedral is erected on the Elia Hill, which rises above the left bank of the Mtkvari river in the historic neighborhood of Avlabari in Old Tbilisi.
There are many must see places in Tbilisi, but now we want to speak about David Agmashenebeli Avenue
It’s one of the main avenues in the historical part of Tbilisi, known for its 19th-century classical architecture. The avenue is located on the left bank of the Mtkvari river, and runs from Saarcbruken, Square to Giorgi Tsabadze street. Currently named after David |V of Georgia, it was originally called Mikheil Street in 1851, and Plekhanov Street after the Russian revolutionary George Plekhanov, from 1918 to 1988.
Since 2010, the avenue has seen major rehabilitation works, which includes the renovation of seventy buildings, as well as the road, sidewalks and street lighting.
Agmashenebeli is easily accessible by metro at Marjanishvili metro, which is a single stop away from the city’s second historical artery – Rustaveli avenue.
Narikala fortess- also called the Mother Fortress of Tbilisi, Narikala is an ancient symbol of Tbilisi’s defence. The fortress was established in the 4th century, around the period when the city itself was founded. It was then known as Shuris-tsikhe (Invidious Fort). The name Narikala is said to derive from a Persian word for citadel, but another theory says was the name that Mongols used, meaning “little fortress”. It was expanded considerably by the Arabs during the 7th and 8th centuries. The Arabs built the Emir’s palace within its walls. King David further extended the Builder the fortress in th 11th century. Most of the existing fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1827 it was damaged by an earthquake and was not resorted. St. Nikolos church, inside the fortress walls, dates from the 12th century. It was renovated in 1996. Narikala offers you some of the best panoramas of the city.
We’d also advise you to take a walk along the Narikala Tourist route, a 1500 metre trail that runs from the top of the ridge near the Mother Georgia statue, around the fortress and down into Old Town to near the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. It offers stunning views at every turn and is a particular delight at night when the city lights shine below.
Located in Tbilisi’s historic old town, 20 minutes walk from Freedom Square, Dry Market is the place, where you can buy literally every souvenir you ever dreamed of.
Even more, alongside traditional, typical tourist trinkets you can encounter old military medals from WWII, old enamel, Soviet kitsch, handmade jewelry (sometimes very eye-catching and exquisite pieces), vintage cameras and many other stuff without much fuss.
Here You can find original eastern European, Soviet, Georgian and even Armenian or Azerbaijani souvenirs.
Many pins and badges are waiting for you to choose and take home.
There are many oil paintings and watercolors, usually full of amazing, bright colors and cheerful spirit.
You may spend several hours just wandering and exploring from one to another, because you will never know, what another surprise is waiting for you at the next one.
You can see old Samovars, cameras, books, family photos, postcards, eyeglasses, playing cards and many other.
Also, there are sometimes absolutely unexpected things.
So, next time in Tbilisi, you know where to go for shopping
Going to Georgia, travelers usually prepare themselves to enjoy khachapuri, lobio, khinkali and, of course, a variety of meat barbecues, which are called “mtsvadi” in Georgian. Advanced experts in Georgian cuisine leave some free space in the stomach for pkhali, eggplants in walnut sauce, chakhokhbili and kharcho. However, our compact country has such a rich variety of regional dishes, that even if you decide to try one new for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you will need more than several weeks to explore the whole treasury.
Let’s take a little journey through the regions of Georgia and see what they can offer!
Starting with the West Coast… Well, Ajarian cuisine can really be described as “cheese rolling in butter”. Locals prepare very tasty and high-calorie meals. One of them is sinori, gentle rolls made of thin dough baked with matsoni/yoghurt and butter. Sinori can be eaten for breakfast – especially if you days is promising to be busy – or for a heavy family dinner.
Another calorie bomb from Ajara is called borano. It is made of Adjarian cheese melted in butter. Be prepared: it will be difficult to leave the table after you are finished!
Samegrelo, another Western Black Sea region of Georgia, is famous for the fact that its inhabitants prefer very spicy food. Megrelian adjika sauce is so sharp that Chuck Norris himself would probably cry, having tried it. If we talk about dishes, the most significant for the region are gebzhalia and elarji. Elarji is polenta brewed from corn flour with suluguni cheese inside. This heavy delicious dish should served hot!
Gebzhalia is a starter, delicate rolls with fresh cheese and mint in matsoni/yogurt sauce. It just melts inside your mouth, and is contrasting to those extremely spicy dishes and sauces that are served after.
From Samegrelo it is logical to climb higher into the mountains – to Upper Svaneti. This fabulously beautiful region with harsh living conditions is famous first of all for its special seasoning – Svan salt. Common salt is mixed with local spices in a special wooden mortar, and thus turns into slightly moist flavorful spice that can be used with salads, as well as with meat and fish.
Typical Svanetian pastry is kubdari, a tortilla stuffed with meat. In such difficult living conditions as there, meat filling is an excellent source of calories, and tortilla format is a convenient option for takeaway eating. The shepherds take kubdari as they travel to pastures, and eat them during a long time there.
Another traditional Svan pastry is chishdvari (down the mountains, in the rest of Georgia it is called “chvishtari”). It is made from corn flour, and keeps a piece of suluguni cheese inside. Chishdvari is especially tasty, as it’s taken just from a pan, and you eat it looking at the highest peaks of Georgia – let’s say, Shkhara – and breathe fresh air at an altitude of over 2,000 meters.
The first part of our culinary journey through the regions of Georgia is about to end now. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of interesting stuff for you! Stay tuned with Georgia and Travel!
Cave Towns Among the few notable cave towns in the world, the Georgian ones are of very special interest. Uplistsikhe, David Gareji monastery, and the world-famous cave town of Vardzia are nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage list. Uplistsikhe, ‘the fortress of the Lord’, can be dated back to the early Iron Age, and is located on a high rocky escarpment overlooking the bank of the Mtkvari River. Cut from natural sandy stone, the 8 hectares of cave-town have survived millions of people, erosion, aging and even earthquakes, but it still remains a good example of the mixture of pagan & Christian architecture. David Gareji monastery was founded in the 6th century on the slopes of the Gareji hills by one of the thirteen Syrian Fathers, Father David (Garejeli). Those fathers were missionaries from Mesopotamia promoting and spreading Christianity, the respected founders of many monasteries and holy places around Georgia. The frescoes here are superb. Some of them date as far back as the 9th and 10th centuries. The Golden Age of Georgia is directly reflected in the incredible 11th – 13th century frescoes. The incredible cave town of Vardzia dates back to Queen Tamar’s reign, nearly a thousand years ago. Her father, King George III started the foundation of the complex, while Queen Tamar continued its construction. Many frescoes date back to the beginning of the XII century. The complex itself consists of small chapels, bell towers, secret tunnels, monks’ caves as well as a fully functioning monastery to this day. Set in the most serene and stunning countryside, its beautiful location captures your imagination and brings you back to the era of Queen Tamar’s reign. Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery(UNESCO WEB) The construction of Bagrati Cathedral, named after Bagrat III, the first king of united Georgia, started at the end of the 10th century and was completed in the early years of the 11th century. Although partly destroyed by the Turks in 1691, its ruins still lie in the centre of Kutaisi. The Gelati Monastery, whose main buildings were erected between the 12th and 17th centuries, is a well-preserved complex, with wonderful mosaics and wall paintings. The cathedral and monastery represent the flowering of medieval architecture in Georgia. Historical Monuments of Mtskheta(UNESCO WEB) The historic churches of Mtskheta, former capital of Georgia, are outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus. They show the high artistic and cultural level attained by this ancient kingdom. Upper Svaneti(UNESCO WEB) Preserved by its long isolation, the Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses. The village of Chazhashi still has more than 200 of these very unusual houses, which were used both as dwellings and as defence posts against the invaders who plagued the region.