The Best of Georgia in a Week

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The Best of Georgia in a Week

Georgia sits where east meets west. It looks towards the west after spending most of the last century as part of the USSR. It is a mountainous country with low lying regions in its west and a coastline on the Black Sea. Its rich history and culture allied to the beautiful landscape make it a lovely country to visit with the only limit on what to see and do being the time available.

Independent now for around three decades, Georgia is becoming a popular tourist destination with many overseas visitors entering the Country by air into the Capital, Tbilisi. With that in mind, here is an idea of how to spend a week in Georgia starting in Tbilisi with ideas on how to move between the places suggested.

The countryside between the different places suggested is lovely but some sacrifices have to be made in order to fit everything in. Along the way, you will obviously enjoy the fine wines and Georgian cuisine. In this itinerary suggestion, it is an overnight train between Tbilisi and Svaneti because the daytime journey takes 5 hours of precious time. You will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the landscape as you travel by day otherwise.

Day 1: Tbilisi

Tbilisi is a convenient base before that overnight train journey to Svaneti. The City itself has much to enjoy and then it is off heading east to close to the border with Azerbaijan for a day.

There are a number of attractions close together and the best way to start your day is to visit Mtatsminda Park on top of the mountain of the same name to get a view of the city from on high, well above 2,000 feet. It is an amusement park with several attractions but with limited time, it is on to Leselidze Street where you can enjoy the beauty of the old town with shops and eateries to explore.

The Botanical Garden of Tbilisi with over 4,500 different species is close by before you head to the historic part of the City, Abanotubani, bath district in English and you may fancy a sulphuric bath while there. Make sure you see the Legvtakhevi Waterfall before heading on the Rike Park.

Time may now be short, otherwise head to the aerial tramway to see the Narikala Fortress. In the evening, Shardeni Street is full of restaurants or you may decide to visit the theater.

Day 2: Kakheti

After a good night’s sleep, it is an early start to travel the 55 miles towards the Azerbaijan border to Kakheti, the region that is regarded as the home of Georgian winemaking.

Bodbe Convent, the resting place of St. Nino who is said to have begun the country’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th Century is the first stop while David Gareji Monastery Complex near the border is the highlight of the day; founded by Assyrians in the 6th Century, the frescoes are wonderful. Nearby is Sighnaghi, originally on the Silk Road. Its architecture is dated in the 18th and 19th Century with houses made from timber and red roofs a feature of the Town. The views of the Alazani Valley with the Caucasus in the background will have you reaching for your camera.

Tsinandali is home to the wine cellar of the 19th Century Prince Chavchavadze while Telavi old town is rich in history, but you may by now have run out of time to do much exploring before your return journey to Tbilisi.

Day 3: Mtskheta

A former capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mtskheta is just a short drive from Tbilisi and the main reason to spend a day there is to see the lovely 11th Century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which is an excellent example of Early Middle Ages architecture.

Human habitation existed there in 1000 BC and the first landmark Georgia tourists will see today is the Jvan Monastery built in the 6th Century. Jan means ‘’cross’ as came about because of the large wooden cross that stood there to signify the adoption of Christianity. The views of the confluence of Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers with the town and its cathedral behind is your first photo opportunity of the day.

Bebristsikhe Castle just beyond the town sits on a hilltop and offers similarly impressive views. The castle is largely ruins but is nevertheless worth a little of your time. A second castle, Armazi Tsikhe requires you to do some walking but if you enjoy hiking the ruins which date back to as early as the 2nd Century are interesting.

The 19th Century writer Ilia Chavchavadze is seen as the father of modern Georgia. He was a politician and lawyer as well and the State Museum in Saguramo was his home with vineyards and outhouses. There are valuable photos, manuscripts and memorabilia from his time for you to see before you return to Tbilisi.

Day 4/5: Svaneti

The Caucasus Mountain Range is the most prominent natural feature of Georgia and after an overnight train journey from Tbilisi, Georgian tourists can enjoy time in Svaneti with its highest peaks matching anything in the Alps. The Range with its stunning gorges, fast flowing rivers and pristine forests retains an untouched feel with human interference limited.

Winding roads mean you need to hold your nerve. Small villages and their mediaeval towers are found throughout the region, almost giving the feeling that you are going back in time. UNESCO has recognized its value with Upper Svaneti a World Heritage site.

In the main town of Svaneti, visit the Museum of History & Ethnography to learn more about the history and culture of Svans. Many exhibits of relics and icons have been excavated in the Region and are there on display.

Stay overnight in Mestia but get up early for the lovely journey up to Ushguli, the highest year-round settlement in Europe at almost 8,000 feet. Many of its visitors are mountaineers because Georgia’s highest mountain is nearby, Shkhara at over 17,000 feet. A photo of the 12th Century Lamaria church with the mountain behind is arguably the highlight of your whole week.

In the afternoon, you head for Kutaisi, a 5-hour road trip of 125 miles yet just 50 miles away in a straight line. The journey may be slow, but you will enjoy every minute.

Day 6: Kutaisi

Another former capital of Georgia which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kutaisi has several attractions including the Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery. Recent renovations have made just walking its streets a pleasure while those more interested in the natural environment should head for the  Sataplia Nature Reserve and Prometheus Cave. The problem is with limited time, you probably only have time to do one thing or another. What a good reason for paying a second visit to this part of Western Georgia!

If your preference is the environment, then head out from Kutaisi to Martvili Canyon where you can enjoy walking or a boat trip with the waterfall offering great photo opportunities. Okatse Canyon, with the Kinchkha Waterfall, is your next destination before moving on to the Prometheus Cave which was only discovered in the 80s. There are six separate ‘’halls’’ and a multitude of stalactites and stalagmites. The pictures they leave in your mind are likely to be better than your photographs because it is difficult to do justice to the Cave with your camera.

The 11th Century Bagrati Cathedral is located on a hill overlooking the City. It was built during the reign of the first king of united Georgia, Bagrat III. It was badly damaged by the Ottomans at the end of the 17th Century but it has still been worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status and recent renovations

Gelati Monastery is just outside the City and dates back to the beginning of the 12th Century. It is of obvious religious significance, but it also played a very important educational role in the region. The murals and mosaic ceiling are wonderful, and the Monastery is the final resting place of David IV.

Day 7: Batumi

There is another early morning for you to head for the Black Sea resort of Batumi 100 miles away. Batumi is establishing itself as a vibrant resort for Georgians and international visitors alike. Strolling along the promenade is relaxing as it a walk in the Botanical Garden. Miracle Park and the Boulevard Fountains are two of the features you will see as you enjoy the coastline.

Many of Batumi’s landmarks are within walking distance of each other. The modern sculptures of Ali and Nino, Alphabet Tower, Theater and Europe Square the latter with the statue of Medea and the Astronomical Clock are important landmarks in Batumi. The City Synagogue, the Central Mosque, St. Nicolas Church and the Holy Mother Virgin Nativity Cathedral are evidence of the importance of religion to us.

If you have time, take the Cable Car up to the summit of Anuria Mountain to get an aerial view of the City.

A great experience! Just a week in Georgia but you will surely have the appetite to return to see even more of my Country?

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