You probably don’t know it yet, but you need to travel to Georgia! However, this country is still being discovered by mass tourism and even backpackers, but it is one hell of a tourist destination with amazing food, a long history, and unique culture! Some of the best things to do in Georgia include its beautiful, historic capital, hiking in the Caucasus, visiting incredible churches and cathedrals, unbelievable caves and much, much more… If you prefer traveling to off the beaten track destinations, you need to start planning your trip to Georgia right now! Georgia will become a major tourist destination.
10 best things to do in Georgia
1. Visit Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the biggest city, the capital and the main gateway to Georgia. Tbilisi’s architecture reflects the city’s long and diverse history including an eclectic mix of Medieval, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Stalinist and Modernist structures. Any trip to Georgia wouldn’t be complete without visiting Tbilisi.
Best things to do in Tbilisi
Wander around the old town
Walking around the Tbilisi is a feast on the eyes, particularly the old town and close neighborhoods. Old Tbilisi is a place of eclectic sights, full of old-style balconies, ancient churches, winding streets, and charming shops. Freely wandering around and enjoying the day is one of the great pleasures of Georgia!
Climb up to the Narikala Fortress
The Narikala Fortress is an ancient fortress which dominates old Tbilisi’s skyline. Built in the 4th century as a Persian citadel it is probably the best lookout in Tbilisi. In our opinion, this is the top thing to do in Tbilisi. The view from it is amazing. To get there you can take the cable car from Rike Park, or you can walk up from Meidan.
The National botanic garden of Georgia, lying in the Tsavkisis-Tskali Gorge near Narikala Fortress, has a nice collection of plants, but it’s mostly a lovely park with a beautiful waterfall.
Mtatsminda park (Georgians also called it “Bombora Park”) is a landscaped park located at the top of Mount Mtatsminda overlooking the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The park has carousels, water slides, a roller-coaster, and a big Ferris Wheel at the edge of the mountain. You can see whole Tbilisi from above there. The easiest way to get there is catching the funicular in Chonkadze Street.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
The holy trinity Cathedral (aka Sameba Cathedral) was only constructed in 2002 and it’s the largest church in Georgia and one of the most grandiose orthodox churches with 101 meters high. Curiously, there is a small (but free) swimming pool in its garden, where (mostly) kids refresh themselves and have some fun.
2. Discover the spiritual capital of Georgia – Mtskheta
Mtskheta is only 20 km north of Tbilisi and its a mandatory stop if you traveling to Georgia! This small, ancient town is listed in 1994 as a world heritage site. If UNESCO states “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.” Who are we to argue? 🙂
Within the town of Mtskheta, you have to visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral which is the setting for important ceremonies of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the reason why Mtskheta is the spiritual center of Georgia. Built in the 10th century this cathedral is arguably one of the biggest and most beautiful in Georgia. A legend says King Giorgi ordered the hand of Svetitskhoveli’s architect to amputated so that he could never recreate something so beautiful ever again…
Outside Mtskheta, you can find Jvari Monastery located on a mountaintop with a great view of the entire city of Mtskheta and both rivers bathing the town. The view itself would be enough of a reason for going to Jvari, but the 5th-century monastery itself is a great example of middle ages architecture and is also included in Mtskheta’s UNESCO heritage listing.
All in all, with an alluring setting where the Aragvi and the Mtkvari Rivers meet, Mtskheta makes an easy and enjoyable day trip from Tbilisi or an obligatory stop before heading to the Georgian Military Road.
3. Drive the Georgian Military Road
Even if you don’t want to you will do this one, you will probably have to as it’s the only way to Kazbegi from Tbilisi… (and should really go to Kazbegi). Although, if you like driving, doing the Georgian Military road will be fun not a duty! Furthermore, the views of the Caucasus are unforgettable… Honestly, I would do this road even if it didn’t have any of other attractions on it…
Although, a road trip in the Georgian Military Road you can find the sulfur waters near Jvari pass, Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument in Jvari Pass, Gudauri ski resort, Ananuri Fortress Complex and Bazaleti Lake. It should take you the whole day doing it and stopping at the attractions on the road. In our opinion, it’s a perfect road trip with great views and enough stops to make it interesting for the whole day!
4. Hike to Gergeti Trinity Church
The Gergeti Trinity Church in Stepantsminda was built in the 14th century at an altitude of 2170 meters. This is one of most iconic buildings in Georgia, at least from a tourist point of view. The silhouette of the church in the edge of a cliff with the incredible snow-capped Caucasus mountains in the back makes it a photographer’s favorite and a place you will eager to visit!
The hike to the Church is very, very steep which makes it difficult if you aren’t in a good shape. However, it isn’t very long which means it should take you about 1 hour to do. Though, from Gergeti Church you get one of the best viewpoints of the Kazbek Mountain and a nice sense of accomplishment. Note: Alternatively of hiking you can rent a 4WD local taxi to take you up, but unless you really can’t hike we strongly suggest you do it the hard way!
Mount Kazbek is a dormant volcano and one of the highest mountains in the Caucasus. It’s the most prominent geographic feature of the area, with an altitude of 5047 meters. Together with the Gergeti Church, Mount Kazbek is a photographers’ wet dream and one of the most Instagrammable places in Georgia.
5. Try a new cuisine, the Georgian cuisine
If you want to indulge yourself in bread, cheese, and wine, Georgia is the place to go. In Georgian cuisine, bread and cheese have the spotlight. Georgians mastered the art of making bread, simple or filled with cheese, beans or meat. Their bread is baked in an oven called Tone, the oven looks like a well in the floor and the bread is placed on its walls.
Besides bread, Georgia has a variety of delicious salads, vegetable, and meat plates. Like Lobio (a mixture of beans, coriander, walnuts garlic and onion), Chashushuli (veal stew) and different kind of skewers.
Our favorite dish is the Kinkali, a dumpling with a filling of meat and herbs, in the traditional version. However, there are other fillings like cheese, potatoes or mushroom. Our second favorite dish is Khachapuri a cheese filled bread with an egg (simply divine).
And for dessert, churchkhela is a sweet made of grape must, nut and flower.
6. Go to Vardzia
Vardzia is a cave-city in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of the Mountains on the left bank of the Kura River. It was constructed during the second half of the twelfth century. The caves stretch along the cliff for some 500 meters. This underground fortress extended 13 levels and contained about 6000 apartments, a reception chamber, a meeting room, a bakery, a forge, a throne room and a large church with an external bell tower. Yes, during the 12th century the Georgian built an entire town inside caves! Why? Because of the Mongols! Mongols were invading Europe and destroying everything in between and Vardzia was built to try and resist them. Although it did resist the Mongols, an Earthquake destroyed a big part of the complex only 100 years after its construction.
Visiting Vardzia is quite an experience. You don’t get the opportunity to enter an 800-year old cave town every day. We can hike through the caves and tunnels connecting them. The levels are connected by winding passages and steps. Note that if you suffer from claustrophobia the narrow tunnels and confined spaces might make the visit an uncomfortable experience. For us, Vardzia looks like it was taken directly from Lord of the Rings, particularly an abandoned Minas Tirith.
7. Enjoy Natural springs in Borjomi
Borjomi is a small resort town in central Georgia famous for its volcanic salty waters and baths. These waters are the biggest export in Georgia and its spring water source lies in the Borjomi Gorge. You can buy bottles of Borjomi water everywhere in Georgia, but in Borjomi, you can fill your bottle for free.
On the other hand, because of the supposed curative powers of the area’s mineral springs, it is a frequent destination for people with health problems. Archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of stone baths in the area, proving that the mineral waters have been utilized by people for thousands of years. Even viceroy’s, Russian governors, the Romanov’s came to Borjomi looking for its healing waters and natural beauty.
Mineral Water Park
The Mineral Water Park dates back to the 19th century and is a destination throughout the year. This is where you have the chance to taste the famous Borjomi mineral waters right from their source and relax in a beautiful environment. This is a love-it-or-hate-it mineral water, particularly if drank directly from the spring. We really liked the bottled version of Borjomi, but the couldn’t drink it from the spring. It was too salty and… smelly! Sorry, Borjomi 🙂
The first part of the park contains amusements and cafes, and the rear part of the park is a great place for a walk and enjoy Borjomi’s striking nature. You may even ride the cable car up to the Ferris wheel at the top of the park. At the entrance, there’s the interesting blue palace with a very different look from anything else in Borjomi.
Tzar’s Sulphur Baths
If you continue past the mineral water park for another 2.5 km you will reach the hot springs, where you can find two pools with hot sulfur water. The outstanding beauty of the nature around the springs would make it worth the hike, however, the real attraction is the pools where you can dive in naturally warm (and supposedly healing) waters. If you love water, you can’t miss the Tzar’s Sulphur Baths. Furthermore, it’ll be as if you were tzar royalty, these are the (renovated) baths of the Romanovs 🙂
8. Discover Martvili and Oktase canyons
Martvili and Oktase Canyons are both close to the city of Kutaisi. They are relatively close to each other so you could and should visit on the same road trip or tour.
Martvili canyon (aka Gachedili Canyon) is the ultimate natural wonderland in Georgia! It’s a small canyon that surprises through its natural beauty, not its size. Within the canyon, there are several waterfalls, an amazing deep turquoise water river, 2 bridges and an endless list of incredible views. The Martvili Canyon is probably the most fairytale-like place in Georgia. Besides seeing the wonderful waterfalls, hiking and breathing the pure air of the mountains, you can enjoy a small boat ride through the canyon.
Okatse Canyon is considered the biggest in Georgia with a depth ranging between 20 and 100 meters. In other words, it’s very different from Martvili canyon. The exciting 700-meter walkway on the edge of the canyon and the final viewing platform create the perfect way to enjoy the breathtaking views while still getting that adventure feeling. It’s a great place to hike, relax and finally have a small adrenaline rush. The walkway and the final viewpoint are the highlights of this hike which will leave you feeling pleasantly thrilled as you take in its beauty. Unless you have vertigo…
9. Prometheus Caves
Also, very close to Kutasi you can find the Prometheus caves, which in our opinion are one of the most impressive travel attractions in Georgia. The caves are hidden away in the dense vegetation of the Georgian mountains and an incredible variety of features. In only 1.4 km one can see stalagmites, stalactites, cave pearls, curtains, petrified waterfalls and even underwater lakes and rivers! It is even possible to take a short boat trip inside the caves! Though it is only possible to do it when water levels are at a good level…
We had a really excellent time in the caves, enjoying the amazing rock formations, the lakes and the light effects created by the colorful lighting. If you like exploring caves, these are the ones you need to visit in Georgia.
10. Visit the bizarre Stalin Museum in Gori
Have you ever been to a museum dedicated to a dictator arguably responsible for the death of millions of people…? Well, this is your chance! We know it made us curious enough to check it out! Gori is the hometown of Josef Stalin and apparently, it’s still proud of it. In downtown Gori, you can find the unique Josef Stalin Museum. In the museum, you can find several objects and documents related to Stalin, its house, and even its personal train wagon. Stalin didn’t like flying so he used a train to travel around.
You can visit the museum on your own or with a guided tour. Unless you speak Georgian or Russian, we strongly suggest you do it with a tour because barely anything is written in English. The guide will briefly explain what the documents are, the pictures and the items. Without the guide, you’ll just be looking at them without understanding anything. Our favorite part was definitely having the opportunity to enter and visit Stalin’s train wagon. Overall and as expected we found the experience to be weird… you get to see everything about Stalin’s life except the elephant in the room!
Our Recommended Travel Guide Books For Georgia
Georgia (Bradt Travel Guide) – if you are only traveling to Georgia!
Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan (Travel Guide) – in case you are planning to travel to the Caucasus
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Jorge is an economist who loves to travel. He has worked in Portugal and in Angola as the Head Financial Controller of an international transports and logistics company. He is always planning new trips and discovering new places he wants to go. He explores his ability in finance and planning to help you plan your trips, take the most of your dollars and travel more, smarter and better.