Tbilisi is one of the gateways of the Caucasus region and a city you have to visit when traveling to Georgia. The Capital of Georgia has plenty of things to do that will keep you entertained for a few days. Nonetheless, if you truly want to know a country you need to get out of the capital and travel to other destinations.
Georgia is no exception. It has so many wonderful things to see and do outside Tbilisi which include monasteries, churches, mountains, parks, castles, cave towns and waterfalls. Many of these destinations are close enough to the capital for you do day trips from Tbilisi.
In this post, we will explore the best Tbilisi day trips, describing why they are interesting, how to get there, how much time does it take and why you should visit them. Some of these attractions are perfectly doable together, others will take a full day. If you have a car you will be able to reach every destination on this list, but most of them are also possible to do on a guided tour. We have been to many of these attractions, but we have asked a few fellow bloggers to pitch in their favorite day trips from Tbilisi.
Best day trips from Tbilisi
Mtskheta is one of the oldest towns in Georgia, and it’s perfectly located to be a day trip from Tbilisi. It’s only about 20 km from the Capital and you can reach it in less than 30 minutes. Mtskheta is also located in the intersection between several main roads in Georgia which make it a perfect stop for anyone coming from Tbilisi and heading, east, west or north.
Besides being very handy Mtskheta is one of the best travel destinations in Georgia and consequently one of the most popular. Despite this, the town is rather small and you shouldn’t need more than a couple of hours to explore it. UNESCO has inscribed Mtskheta in its world heritage list, stating that “The historic churches of Mtskheta, the 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.“
The biggest attraction of Mtskheta is the wonderful Svetitskhoveli Cathedral – considered the spiritual and religious center of Georgia. It’s also one of the biggest and most beautiful cathedrals in the country. One other thing you can’t miss in Mtskheta is the Jvari Monastery located on a closeby mountaintop featuring a lookout with a great view of the city of Mtskheta and the rivers bathing the town.
Kazbegi And The Georgian Military Road
The Georgian Military Road is the name of the road that connects Kazbegi with the rest of Georgia. This is a beautiful road that could be a tourist attraction by itself because it allows you to appreciate the Caucasus mountains in all its glory. During a day trip through the Georgian Military Road, you’ll be able to visit the famous Ananuri Fortress Complex, the Gudauri Ski resort, Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument, and the Jvari Pass.
The Ananuri Fortress Complex is about 65 km from the center of Tbilisi, and it should take about an hour to get there by car. It is located at the beginning of the Georgian Military Road and most guided tours include a stop there when going to Kazbegi.
Close the end of the Georgian Military Road you’ll find Kazbegi where you can go Gergeti Trinity Church. It is the highlight of this day trip from Yerevan. You can hire a 4×4 or hike your way up. If you have time, we definitely recommend hiking, it’s a beautiful trail, with the Caucasus in the Background.
You can do this day trip driving yourself or go on an organized tour. As there are plenty of things to see and do we believe that going independently gives you more freedom and make a better experience, but if you can’t there are some good tours for you.
Gori is a town located about 90 km east to Tbilisi and should take you about one and a half to reach it by car. It’s also possible to get there using marshrutkas or on an organized tour.
The most well-known travel attraction in Gori the Stalin Museum. Josef Stalin was Georgian and was born in Gori. The city is proud of its most notable citizen and has created a Museum, where you can visit the house where he was born, the wagon he used to travel and many other things. Honestly, it’s very weird to have a Stalin museum, but if you like weird and out of the box things to do, this is probably your best option within Georgia.
Uplistsikhe cave houses
by Louise France of Wandering Welsh Girl
Located just 10km east of Gori is the rock-cut town of Uplistsikhe. This incredible fortress is one of the oldest urban settlements in Georgia, containing structures dating back to the early Iron Age. It is set in a beautiful location on the banks of the Mtkvari River. This site is very much a ruin due in part to its age, so is therefore quite different to other sites you might visit in Georgia.
Easy for you to say, Uplistsikhe, translates to “the Lord’s Fortress”. The site operates like an open-air museum so once the entrance fee is paid, you are free to explore all parts of the settlement. Whilst wandering you can see incredible rock carvings imitating wood, discover secret tunnels leading between levels and of course, being Georgian, inspect what appears to be ancient wine kvevris (Clay pots). At the top of the site is a 9th-century Christian basilica, which stands out as being very modern in comparison to its 3000-year-old surroundings.
At just 100km from Tbilisi, this site can easily be visited on a day trip from Tbilisi in combination with Gori. Many operators in Tbilisi offer private and group tours to Uplistsikhe caves and this is the easiest way to visit. It is also possible to visit from Tbilisi by taking a marshrutka. (public minibus) This is the cheapest option but does require some walking and being able to pronounce Uplistsikhe! I have visited Georgia and Uplistikhe caves several times whilst leading overland tours along the Silk Road, and as such have always used private transportation and a local guide. I would highly recommend the use of a guide in order to bring the site to life. If traveling independently, entrance costs 7 GEL. Uplistsikhe is open every day from 10 am – 7 pm.
Kutaisi is the 3rd city of Georgia, and it’s much further east than Gori, at about 230 Km from Tbilisi, which could take between 2h30 and 3hours to do. It’s a quite long ride and you are probably better off making a 2 or even 3 days trip from Tbilisi – both because it’s far and it has many things to do and see.
Nevertheless, if you don’t have other options you can do a long day trip from Tbilisi to Kutaisi. Some of the best things to do and see in Kutaisi include Gelati Monastery, Bagrati Cathedral, Prometheus Cave, and Okatse Canyon. Though, if you want to know more about these and other things to do in Kutaisi please this.
The small city of Borjomi is a famous resort town in central Georgia, located about 150 Km from Tbilisi. You can reach Borjomi in roughly 2 hours, making this quite a long trip (though you can a stop in Mtskheta or Gori along the way).
Borjomi became famous due to its mineral, volcanic salty waters, and baths. For centuries people come to Borjomi looking for the healing power of its waters and the natural beauty of the region.
The mineral water park is probably the most important attraction in Borjomi, and its where you can try the famous healing waters… tip: they are not good… 🙂 But, it’s an experience, maybe you’ll like it, and if you do you can freely fill your bottles. This park also works as an amusement park with several rides.
The other thing we recommend you to do is a hike through the forest to the Sulphur water baths, where you can bath on natural hot springs. These have recently been renovated, but they exist for a long time. We really loved this, but then again, gives hot water and we are happy…
Rabati Castle in Akhaltsikhe
The Rabati Castle was completely renovated in 2012 and it’s becoming a big tourist attraction in Georgia. Despite looking very recent, Rabati castle actually goes back to the 9th century, when it was known as the Lomisa Castle. It was later rebuilt by the ottomans. The older remaining buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of its main features is the mixture of religions and cultures, becoming also a symbol of tolerance. For example, inside the fortress, you can find an orthodox church and a mosque.
Akhaltsikhe is found about 200 Km from Tbilisi which takes about 3 hours to complete. You can easily add the Rabati Castle to a day trip to the region, where you can also visit, Borjomi and Vardzia. It’s a long but very filled day.
Vardzia and Khertvisi Fortress
Both Vardzia and the Khertvisi fortress are even further away. It’s more than 250 km from Tbilisi and it should take about 4 hours to reach them. They are the longest Tbilisi day trip on this list. We usually don’t recommend day trips longer than this, because there’s no fun in being 8 hours in the car/bus/train… So, what’s so special about Vardzia?
Vardzia is a cave monastery/town, on the left bank of the Kura River. And it’s impressive, really impressive! The caves were mainly built during the 12th century and stretch along the cliff for roughly five hundred meters and up to nineteen tiers. You can roam through the caves almost freely, exploring and discovering each one by yourself. It’s really cool! For those of you who have seen the Lord of the Rings, it reminds us of Minas Tirith!
Relatively close to Vardzia you can find the Khertvisi fortress, which is a nice added bonus to a Vardzia tour. It’s regarded as one of the oldest in Georgia, but the year of its construction is unknown. Due to its strategical importance, Khertvisi was rebuilt several times. This fortress located high a hilltop is really majestic and perfect for pictures. Not many tours stop at this fortress, making this one quite special trip and much easier to do traveling independently.
Kakheti wine region
by Rohan of Travels of a Bookpacker
If you’re planning to take a day trip from Tbilisi you can’t go past the incredible region of Kakheti to the east of Tbilisi. Known as Georgia’s wine region this is thought to be one of (if not the) oldest winemaking regions in the world. Rows upon rows of grapevines line the hills and valleys of this regions and almost every household makes their own wine.
A tour through this region will not only give you plenty of opportunities to visit vineyards but you’ll also be able to experience some of the best Georgian hospitality in the guest houses, admire ancient monasteries and wander the cobbled streets of some of Georgia’s oldest towns.
The best way to see it all in a day (or two if you stay overnight) is to hire a car and make stops in Telavi, Sighnaghi and several smaller places in between. If you prefer not to drive you can book in for a day tour, get a driver or even take public transport between the towns for as little as 10GEL. From Tbilisi, it takes around 2 hours to get to either Telavi or Sighnaghi where you can sample great wine and food and learn about some of the history of winemaking in Georgia. The best time to visit the Kakheti wine region is during the harvest season in September when there are all kinds of festivities.
by Maggie Turansky of The World Was Here First
If you’re looking for the perfect easy day trip from Tbilisi, you cannot go wrong with visiting the beautiful town of Sighnaghi. Located in Kakheti, in the heart of Georgia’s wine country, Sighnaghi may well be the prettiest town in Georgia and is often referred to as the “City of Love” due to the number of people who go there to get married – there is even a 24-hour wedding chapel in the town.
Located atop a hill overlooking the Alazani River Valley, Sighnaghi is a beautiful walled town that is the ideal place to visit if you want to sample some of the best wine in Georgia while taking in a beautiful setting. Some of the top things to do in Sighnaghi include visiting the nearby Bodbe Monastery (which holds the remains of St Nino, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Georgia), walking along the city walls, sipping wine in a local cellar, and dining in some of the best restaurants in the country.
Sighnaghi is really the ideal place to visit for food and wine lovers and there are some truly fantastic local eateries worth trying. Some top recommendations include The Terrace Restaurant, which has incredible views overlooking the town, Okro’s Wines, where you can have a fantastic Georgian meal and a wine degustation all in one go, and Pancho Villa, a surprisingly good Mexican-style restaurant located in the center of town.
As it’s only located about an hour and a half away, it is also really easy to get from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi. Numerous marshrutkas leave per day from the Samgori bus station in Tbilisi and the journey only costs 6 GEL. It is also possible to reach Sighnaghi by taxi, however, this is a far more expensive option. You will also be able to find numerous day tours to Sighnaghi and the Kakheti region if you’re not interested in doing the day trip independently.
by Alex Reynolds of Lost with Purpose
Telavi is a small town about 100 km east of Tbilisi. The town itself is nothing fancy, but if you’re interested in Georgian wine, Telavi is a must-visit. Aside from its multiple top-class wineries, several interesting monasteries are scattered about the greater Telavi region, making Telavi a great cultural AND wine-filled day trip from Tbilisi.
Telavi can be reached by marshrutka from the Ortachala bus station in Tbilisi. A ticket to Telavi from Tbilisi should cost 10-15 GEL per person, and the drive takes about two hours. Since the most interesting things are not actually inside the town of Telavi, you should try to leave early to make the best of your day, or count on hiring a driver.
Once you’re in Telavi, any basic itinerary should include the Shumi Winery, the Ikalto Monastery, and the Alaverdi Monastery.
Shumi offers free wine tours, and you can tickle your tastebuds with a bottle of Georgian wine for about 15 GEL. Ikalto is a serene monastery surrounded by centuries-old winemaking artifacts. Alaverdi houses some beautiful, if faded, frescos.
To get to the above-mentioned sites, it’s best to approach a taxi in Telavi. They might not speak English, but all drivers know these places. The price should start around 30 GEL but can increase depending on your bargaining skills and the time of year. You can also book a trip with driver from Tbilisi, but expect to pay around 100 GEL for that, especially if the driver speaks English.
by Emily Lush of Wander-Lush
If you’re looking for an off-beat day trip from Tbilisi, Pankisi Gorge is a wonderful choice.
Pankisi is located in Georgia’s eastern Kakheti province, roughly 2.5 hours’ drive from Tbilisi via the Gombori Pass or just an hour from Telavi. Akhmeta is the biggest town in the area, but it’s the smaller villages that stretch out through the gorge – including Duisi, Birkiani, and Omalo – that are a real delight to explore.
Pankisi is home to members of Georgia’s Kist community, who have their roots in Chechnya, just over the border. In the village of Jokolo, a community-based tourism project is working to introduce visitors to Kist language, customs, and culture.
From Jokolo, you can hike into the hills via one of the newly marked trails to visit an old lookout tower or a stone amphitheater built during Soviet times. In town, you can visit a small Ethnology Museum, two mosques, and the homes of local craftspeople who practice traditional Chechen felting.
The Pankisi Valley Tourism and Development Association can help you organize a local guide and plan your visit. Of course, it’s preferable to stay one or two nights in Pankisi Gorge if you can. There are a couple of homestays in Jokolo. Or you can use the area as a jumping-off point for treks and horse riding in Tusheti Nature Reserve.
Davit Gareji Monastery
by Coni of Experiencing the Globe
Where Georgia meets Azerbaijan, in the mountain range that serves as the border, you’ll find Davit Gareji, a stunning monastery complex founded in the 6th century. It’s located 70 km from Tbilisi in the Kakheti region.
The site is in the middle of the mountains, so it’s hard to reach on your own. The easiest way is to take a guided tour (usually this option includes a stop in Sighnaghi). If you’re looking for a cheaper, independent option, there’s a shuttle bus that will take you to the monastery, give you about 3 hours to explore, and take you back to Tbilisi. The bus leaves daily from Pushkin Square and it costs 30 lari (about 9€).
This site is one of the most important landmarks of Georgia. At the beginning of the 6th century, Davit –one of the 13 Assyrian fathers – created this carved-into-the-rock temple. In Medieval times it was seen as a royal monastery (patronized by the king), that’s why some of the murals contain portraits of the Georgian monarchy. In the 13th century, with the Mongol invasion, life at the monastery stopped. Only by the 18th century, some monks returned. Nowadays you can see them wandering around, and you can even buy their wine at the gift shop by the end of the walk.
The first stop of the visit is Lavra. There you can see the carvings right in the crest of the hill. It’s quite a sight! If you want to hike a bit and have proper shoes, you can continue up to Udabno caves. The caverns have lovely murals, and you can go inside, so it’s easier to imagine how life would have been there. But the best part is that you’re in the ridge of the mountain that divides Georgia and Azerbaijan, and you get to see the green plains on the neighbor country and to hike with one foot on each side of the border. You don’t need to worry as the path loops back to the parking lot.
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