Travel to Georgia – When, Where and Why
Millions of tourists from various walks of life travel to Georgia each year, making the country one of the popular tourist destinations in the world. In 2017 alone, 7.5 million tourists visited Georgia, making it the 4th country with the most growth behind Vietnam, Egypt, and Togo.
Whether you are planning a vacation in Georgia for the first time or making another trip to exploit destinations you missed the first time, some several exciting activities and sceneries await you. Known by many as the country of flowers and mountains, Georgia has a lot to offer in terms of history and heritage, natural scenery, cultural diversity, seas, and beaches as well as cuisine. Its mountainous villages and Black Sea beaches have made it a popular stop for anyone who loves to travel the globe.
As with most destinations, a litany of factors will influence the experience you get when you travel to Georgia. If you are planning to visit Georgia, it is essential to review the three primary considerations which are: when, where and why you should go.
WHEN TO VISIT GEORGIA
If you want to get the best of any destination, you need to pick your dates carefully. This can help you get more from your budget and enjoy your time. However, it all depends on your needs. If you love destinations with numerous other visitors, then it makes sense to plan during the peak months. Conversely, if you are more drawn to reclusive sceneries, you can pick a time when fewer tourists are visiting the country. If you are planning to travel to Georgia, here is a brief breakdown of the travel patterns and activities in the region:
Visiting Georgia in Spring
Starting in March, the months of spring are quite pleasant, especially during the evenings. The heat has not built up by this time so the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. The wintry weather often lasts into April, while May is mild and rainy so be sure to pack a raincoat when you travel to Georgia. Gorgeous wildflowers start to bloom all over the landscape at this time. The blossoms are particularly beautiful in the High Caucasus regions of Svaneti and Tusheti. As the region transitions from winter to summer, mountain trails become accessible once again.
Visiting Georgia in Summer
You can visit Georgia in June, which is an excellent time if you want to beat the summer rush and still enjoy warm temperatures. July and August are the peak Georgia holiday months when flights are at their most expensive and tourists crowd accommodation outlets. But if you make your bookings well in advance, you can enjoy some savings. This season also gets a little uncomfortable in the lowlands of Tbilisi. If you choose to travel to Georgia at this time, the mountain areas are the ideal place to visit. You can enjoy snow-free hiking in the Caucasus and temperatures are also considerably cooler.
Visiting Georgia in Autumn
In autumn, the country begins to get colder, although it is still vibrant with colorful trees and frost-covered landscapes. This is a great time of the year to head to the coast to milk the last warm days of September or participate in the vintage season by harvesting wine grapes. In October, there is low rainfall and the heat is not extreme. This is also the time when the breathtaking colors of autumn begin to form. By November, snow starts to fall in highlands, making the lower areas more comfortable to hang around than the mountains. The lowlands generally enjoy the most pleasant temperatures in October which is an ideal month to travel to Georgia for hiking or trekking in the picturesque mountains.
Visiting Georgia in Winter
Snow continues to fall and temperatures get colder as you approach the lower tourism season that stretches from November to April. Because tourists are least likely to visit during this season, those who do can enjoy savings on affordable flights and accommodation. Winter in Georgia is cold and snowy with temperatures dropping to between 2-4 degrees Celsius, and even falling well below zero in certain regions of the country. Freezing temperatures begin to set in between December and February, sometimes prevailing into March. The snow buildup attracts winter sports enthusiasts and tourists flock the ski lodges. If you travel to Georgia at this time you can also enjoy many public festivities.
The Best Time to Visit Georgia
For many travelers, the European summer period (May to early October) is the best time to travel to Georgia as most parts are accessible. Nevertheless, Georgia does not lack in travel destinations, and you can enjoy both worlds regardless of the time you choose. A Georgia travel guide can help you identify the best traveling seasons, popular activities, tours, sceneries, and destinations. You can also use a weather chart to help you prepare for the dynamic weather patterns of Georgia.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT GEORGIA
Georgia has a strong enough economy that supports tourism, and there are opportunities to visit both heritage and industrial sites. The country also has an extensive tourism infrastructure that includes electric train transits and cables. There are fun activities happening all over the country, which means you do not have to stay in the same place throughout your vacation. Georgia has three major airports in its biggest cities offering international flights that connect to the world. The country also has a wide array of hotels and vacation rentals for your accommodation.
Touring in Georgia is different. Although it is a popular destination, Georgia is unlike most places you will visit. It is not too crowded even during peak periods, so the region offers a pure travel experience. However, this might be short-lived. According to the Georgian National Tourism Association, the number of people visiting Georgia has increased tremendously over the past few years. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, the number grew from about 6.4 million to 7.9 million, registering a significant 18.8% growth within twelve months. If this trend continues, things are bound to change. This is why the best time to travel to Georgia is now. Here’s why.
Stunning Nature & Scenery
If your visit to Georgia is motivated by nature and scenic landscapes, then it is among the best places you can visit. Georgia’s crown jewel is its majestic Caucasus Mountains. It also has 860 lakes, around 330 square kilometers of Black Sea Coast and the highest settlements in Europe. Lush forests cover more than 40% of the country.
Other highlights within the borders of this tiny, yet beautiful country include mountain rivers, mineral springs, canyons, waterfalls, alpine valleys and natural reservoirs. There are plenty more breathtaking sights untouched by humans awaiting your discovery when you travel to Georgia. Moreover, the diverse climate means you could visit the sunny Black Sea coast in the morning and then go night-skiing in the evening.
Simply put, Georgia is made for Instagram. So be sure to have plenty of memory space and brace yourself because you will be taking photos for days.
Georgia boasts over 12,000 historical monuments, 150 museums, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some monuments date back to the 5th and 6th millennium B.C. The main attractions are the religious sites which include spectacular cathedrals, monasteries, and orthodox churches. Visitors can marvel at a tiny church atop a tall, narrow cliff, churches inside caves, a cross-shaped ancient church and more.
Georgia is also a country of fortresses and expansive city walls. The capital is a medley of fortified walls and ancient churches, small wooden houses with Tbilisi-style balconies, remnants of Soviet architecture and newly-built skyscrapers. These Instagram-worthy eclectic and memorable sites make for spectacular photo opportunities. For an amazing bird’s eye view of Tbilisi’s architectural heritage, head to the mountains around the city.
Fun Activities All Year-Round
Both mountainous villages and lowland cities in Georgia offer a myriad of exciting travel activities to indulge in. Georgia tours are packaged to help you enjoy your time and get the best experience. It all depends on where your preferences lie. The most common travel package is adventurous trips that include mountain biking, rafting, paragliding, scuba diving, mountain climbing, trekking, and horseback riding. Others are cultural trips (historical and archaeological tours), ecotourism (bird-watching, eco-tours and botany tours), health resort and wellness, photography and gastronomic trips as well as sports and conventions. Georgia is ranked at 3rd position for the best ski destinations in the world.
Friendly, Hospitable People
Because Georgia is fast becoming a tourist hotspot in the region, its friendly people are used to the presence of foreigners. As such, most interactions are naturally respectful, hospitable and fun. There is a saying in Georgia that goes: “A guest is a gift from God.” And this perfectly describes Georgian hospitality. When you travel to Georgia, you may find yourself in a stranger’s home, at a birthday party or even at a wedding and end up having an amazing time with the locals. As long as you respect their traditions, the people will be more than happy to host you.
Throughout the history of Georgia, the people were influenced by a mix of European and Asian cultures. Today, Georgia is a country of diversities, with fantastic polyphonic music, spectacular dances, and revolutionary art. Georgians are proud of their unique alphabet, their sports achievements, and their burgeoning fashion industry. From the ancient wine-making traditions to the delicious nutrient-rich cuisine, no other place in Europe can compare to Georgia’s towns.
Modern and conservative at once, Georgia offers a perfect mix of proud highlanders and sophisticated lowland city dwellers, as well as everything in between. The Georgian culture is simply admirable, and you can learn more about the country from a travel journal.
A Safe Country
Georgia is one of the safest tourist destinations to visit all year round. Like many other regions in Europe, there is occasional theft and muggings in a few places. However, Georgia has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. There are safety measures and frameworks to help you enjoy your Georgian vacation without any worries. Climate, infrastructure, and accommodation all harmonize together to create a perfect place for all kinds of tourists and enthusiasts.
Georgia is a rapidly developing country. It’s been built and renovated and the economy is strengthening. However, prices remain low for most travelers. Traditional food, transportation and accommodation within the cities are all cheap, even during the high season.
Georgia does not have the staggering popularity of other European destinations, which is why prices are reasonably affordable. Of course, the cost of your trip will depend on your budget and the vacation packages you pick. However, services are still moderately priced, and you can always take advantage of low season to save even more.
Traditional Wines & Spirits
Georgia is the oldest wine region in the world, and has been making wine for over 8,000 years. In fact, Georgia’s winemaking technique has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Located a few hours’ drive from Tbilisi, Kakheti is the most famous winemaking region. Here visitors can enjoy a variety of chateaus as well as family-owned vineyards for every taste and budget. Apart from the famous orange wine, you should also sample chacha – a traditional grape spirit with a 40% alcohol concentration. Craft beer from the mountainous regions of Georgia is also worth a try.
Georgians like to eat – and they eat well. Therefore carnivores will feel truly at home here. Be sure to try khinkali – a dumpling filled with seasoned minced beef. Mtsvadi is a choice of juicy meat chunks roasted on skewers, topped with onion and pomegranate. Cheese lovers must try khachapuri – a boat-shaped bread filled with delicious cheese and butter.
Herbivores are not left out either, as a large part of the Georgian population fasts throughout the year. Animal products are completely excluded from these fasts, which means that Georgians have a great selection of vegan dishes as well such as eggplants with nuts.
But be warned: you will gain weight when you travel to Georgia! It is utterly impossible to resist bread freshly baked inside a clay oven, melting cheese bread and juicy dumplings. Don’t stress yourself trying to remember the names of the dishes. They are many and all are delicious.
Besides the exquisite cuisine, the fresh fruit and vegetables available at local markets are mouthwatering as well. Tourists leaving Georgia have been known to carry peaches, strawberries and tomatoes instead of souvenirs!
Georgians love to party so you won’t have a shortage of things to do in the evenings. You can join a supra – the traditional feast with plentiful toasts and amazing local stories. Or partake in the nightlife at one of the many nightclubs that offer an amazing electronic music scene.
Clubbing and bar crawling is a favorite sport among Georgian youth and Tbilisi is the next Berlin in this regard. The Georgian capital embraces a hipster vibe and spirit of freedom. Large festivals are normally held in late spring and during summer. There are also regular events organized at all the major clubs throughout the year.
THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN GEORGIA
Boasting fantastic natural scenery and breathtaking historical monuments, there is no shortage of attractions to explore and destinations to visit in Georgia. The country has 12 regions, each offering amazing vacation spots in Georgia for all preferences and budgets. Whether you wish to marvel at spectacular medieval churches or seek the tranquility of scenic mountainous villages, you will never run out of things to see and do in Georgia. Here’s a look at the various regions and the attractions they have to offer that you can enjoy when you travel to Georgia.
Tbilisi – Best for Lowland and Urban Experiences
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city in Georgia. Its rise as a popular tourist destination is recent, but the region has been a jewel for many visitors. Tbilisi was founded several centuries ago and is home to some of the most famous antique markets in the world. It has a population of over 1.5 million people spread across its ten districts. The range of attractions in Tbilisi comprise of lakes, stadiums, museums, cathedrals, parks, fortresses, sulfur baths, springs, souvenir shops, restaurants and markets, among others. In addition to offering the best attractions in the country, there are several things to do in Tbilisi.
The most popular destinations in Tbilisi include Chugureti on the left of the river Mtkvari, which was built by German expats and which still has artifacts from the Soviet era. Mtatsminda (Sololaki) is a central district with traditional buildings, and Krtsanisi is the oldest district upon which the city was founded. Dating back to the 4th century, Narikala Fortress was built by the Persians and offers unparalleled views of Old Tbilisi, as well as the glittering Mtkvari River. Other popular attractions in Tbilisi include Kashveti Church, Anchiskhati Basilica, Betania Monastery, Isani, Vake and Didube.
Imereti – Best for Heritage Sites and Monuments
The capital of the Imereti region, Kutaisi is another famous destination for anyone who wishes to travel to Georgia. It is the second-largest city after Tbilisi and offers a stretch of elegant 19th-century housing as well as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can walk down the breathtaking streets to take in the view and witness some of the magnificent architectural pieces of the town.
The glorious Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery are a great place to start. Kutaisi has several attractions to offer including Motsameta monastery, Kutaisi State Historical Museum, Sataplia Strict Nature Reserve which houses the Sataplia Cave, Prometheus Cave, Vani Archeological Museum, Historical District, Katashki Pillar and Okatse Canyon, among others.
Shida Kartli – Best for Religious and Cultural Experiences
Shida Kartli is a popular destination with historic fortresses, museums, mountain villages and vast green landscapes. It dates back to the 1st century B.C and has been invaded and conquered several times because of its strategic location. It has also been rebuilt each time.
Gori is the capital of the Shida Kartli region, and boasts popular destinations including Gori Fortress, Virgin Mary Cathedral, Uplistsikhe, Historical Ethnographic Museum, State Museum of Joseph Stalin, Ateni Gorge and Village Gardateni among others.
Some monuments such as the Ruisi Cathedral of Transfiguration that dates back to the 7th century feature an authentic architectural style from that period. Gori is a perfect destination if you want to learn about the religious and cultural backgrounds of Georgia. Other attractions in the Shida Kartli region include Ateni Sioni Church and Kintsvisi Monastery.
Adjara – Best for Urban Tourism and Beach Resorts
Batumi is the capital of the Adjara region. Affectionately known as the pearl of the Black Sea, the city offers unique scenery, picturesque sites and a harmonized mix of traditional and modern European architecture. Some of the famous destinations to visit in Batumi include the beaches of Adjara, Old Batumi City and Batumi Boulevard.
Towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, European architects took over various construction projects explaining the modern look of the city from afar. Batumi still offers incredible natural experiences such as the Botanical Garden with the world’s most extensive variety of flora. You can also enjoy the famous dolphin show at Dolphinarium in May Park. Other destinations are Piazza Batumi, Makhuntseti Waterfall, Argo Entertainment Center, Batumi Cable Car, Gonio Apsaros Fortress and Shkalta Monastery.
When you travel to Georgia, you can enjoy other attractions in the Adjara region including Mtsvane Kontskhi, Kobuleti Sea Resort, Gonio Sea Resort, Kvariati Sea Resort and Goderdzi Ski Resort.
Mtskheta-Mtianeti – Best for World Heritage Sites
The capital of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, Mtskheta is one of the oldest towns in Georgia that was inhabited long before 1000 B.C. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and boasts a rich cultural and architectural heritage. Some of the best places to visit in Mtskheta include Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta State Archaeological Museum-Reserve, Bebristsikhe, Jvari Monastery, Armaztsikhe, and Armazi Fortress.
Mtskheta has several other historical monuments worth mentioning. These include: Khevi, a district home to the popular Gudauri Ski Resort, and Kazbegi, the site of the iconic Gergeti Trinity Church. Other attractions include Shatili in Khevsureti, Mtiuleti, Ananuri and Bazaleti Lake.
Mtskheta is located close to other popular destinations like Tbilisi and offers a perfect getaway with numerous attractions. If you are visiting Tbilisi, you can easily reach Mtskheta and avoid the crowded town in the lowland region.
Kakheti – Best for Wine Tourism
Kakheti is a region in the eastern part of Georgia, famous its traditional winemaking, beautiful cities and breathtaking landscapes that include snow-covered mountains and serpentine passes. One of the oldest cities in Georgia, Telavi is the capital of the Kakheti region. It has a variety of attractions suitable for a daytrip including Batonistsikhe, the residence of Kakhetian kings during the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of the smallest Georgian towns, Sighnaghi is also one of the most charming, complete with stunning landscapes, cobblestone streets and pastel-colored houses. Visitors can explore the Sighnaghi Museum, look over the picturesque Alazani Valley, walk the city’s ancient defense wall or try some local wines at the different wineries scattered across the area.
Kakheti boasts a number of beautiful churches and monasteries that you can see when you travel to Georgia. These include the David Gareja Monastery, Ikalto Monastery, Gremi Church, Alaverdi Monastery and Bodbe Monastery. Other attractions in Kakheti include: Kvareli, Lagodekhi and Omalo in Tusheti.
Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti – Best for Stunning Heritage Sites
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Zemo Svaneti is a high mountainous region in the northwest of Georgia. It is a unique and surreal landscape of towers, rocky terrain and snow-covered peaks of the Greater Caucasus. Ushguli is a settlement in Svaneti that is famous for its ancient tower-houses.
Mestia is the capital of the Zemo Svaneti region and is the starting point for many adventures in the region. Visitors can hike up stunning glaciers, try delicious local cuisine and learn about the fascinating Svan culture at the museum. Mestia is also home to two Georgia ski resorts: Tetnuldi Ski Resort and Hatsvali Ski Resort.
Samegrelo is a historical province in western Georgia, inhabited by Megrelians, a subgroup of Georgians who have their own dialect. Martvili is a small town in Samegrelo whose monastery was the clerical center of the region during the Middle Ages.
Samtskhe-Javakheti – Best for Historical Landmarks and Diverse Activities
Samtskhe-Javakheti was formed in 1995 in response to the Abkhazia secession by merging two areas: Samtskhe and Javakheti. The region is today famous for its array of historical landmarks to explore as well as diverse activities. Samtskhe-Javakheti is home to the iconic Bakuriani Ski Resort, and it’s neighboring Mitarbi Ski Resort. Close by is the popular resort town of Borjomi which is linked to Bakuriani via the historic Kukushka train. Other attractions in the region include the cave city of Vardzia, a monastery that dates back to the latter 12th century. Rabati Castle is located in Akhaltsikhe, the capital of the region, and is also worth a visit when you travel to Georgia.
Kvemo Kartli – Best for Diverse Cultural Experiences
Kvemo Kartli means Lower Kartli and is part of the greater Kartli region that includes Shida Kartli. This region is located to the south of Tbilisi and is distinct for its diverse ethnic population. Dmanisi is a medieval town with a fortress and several religious structures. The site is of archaeological interest as it is notable for hosting numerous remains of early humans and animals. These excavations have led scientists to believe that Dmanisi may be the first settlement for Europeans.
Birtvisi Fortress is another notable landmark to visit while in Kvemo Kartli. Considered impregnable during its time, the ruined medieval fortress is a unique place that is famous for having unusually shaped rocks and fascinating nature.
Guria – Best for Seaside and Mountain Resorts
In terms of territory, Guria is the smallest region in Georgia. It is located in the western part of the country and bordered by a 22km stretch of Black Sea coastline. Despite its size, the region offers a broad spectrum of things to see and do when you travel to Georgia.
Bakhmaro is a mountain resort surrounded by pine and fir forest. In summer, the resort attracts lots of tourists who come to enjoy the fresh air and stunning views. One of the must-do things to do in Bakhmaro is to hike up a mountain just before dawn to witness the spectacular sunrise.
Guria is also rich in coastal cities with the jewels being the Ureki Sea Resort and the Shekvetili Sea Resort. All of them have magnetic sands packed with iron particles which are beneficial for cardiovascular and respiratory health. Once you’ve had your fill of sunbathing you can head over to the Tsitsinatela theme park and enjoy over 40 attractions.
Racha-Lechkhumi & Kvemo Svaneti – Best for Highland Experiences
Dubbed the “Georgian Switzerland”, Racha-Lechkhumi is a wonderful highland region in western Georgia that is surrounded by the Greater Caucasus. It’s a special place, high in the mountains that is completely unspoiled. It boasts rushing rivers teeming with trout that attracts anglers, kayakers, rafters and mountain bikers.
One of the region’s main attractions is Nikortsminda Cathedral, a splendid monument of Georgian architecture. The church is renowned for its wealth of frescoes and bas-reliefs which include compositions of the Transfiguration and Second Advent. Depictions of Georgian saints and figures of animals, both realistic and fantastical, have been preserved inside the church. Its facades are inlaid with light-colored brick and adorned with sculptural decorations.
If you are wondering why there is so much buzz about tourism in Georgia, the reasons are quite obvious. Georgia’s perfect location and unparalleled climatic conditions make it ideal for all kinds of tourist activities. It boasts spectacular natural scenery, an amazing architectural heritage, incredible cultural diversity, sophisticated cities and deeply-rooted hospitality. And to top it all off: it has amazing wine and fantastic cuisine! It’s no wonder then that visitors who travel to Georgia, keep coming back time and again.
With some proper planning, you’ll be all set for the vacation of a lifetime in Georgia. Our tour packages give you the opportunity to visit the best destinations in Georgia. You can even create your own custom vacation package that includes the specific attractions you want to see when you travel to Georgia. So what are you waiting for? Order your custom tour for the best Georgia vacation today!