I really didn't know what to think about going to Georgia in the beginning but honestly this country absolutely blew my mind. It was literally something that I was waiting to discover. You have this dream about going somewhere and you just think "Yes that's the perfect place to be" ... It's like the perfect match and everything you do just amazes you even more. "What's so magical about it?" you're probably asking right now. It's a mix of everything I reckon. The warm-hearted people, the stunning countryside, Tbilisi's nightlife, maybe something else... It's hard to describe but I guess it's the mix of everything.
Technically Georgia is located in Eurasia, but its own people describe it in a very lovely way, it's the balcony of Europe. Yes I think that is true. Balconies are usually my favorite part of an apartment and I fully agree. I arrived with very little expectation but Georgia took me on a journey, taught me how to appreciate nature and showed me what influence people can have on your soul.
A journey into humanity and kindness. A gem between Europe and Asia and a place you will not regret visiting. This is all based on my personal experience and to date if someone asks me this very, very difficult question about the best country I have ever visited, well.... my answer hasn't changed in years and I still say it is Georgia, the country that has left a massive impact on my life as a traveller.
Get ready for a virtual tour of amazing Georgia...
...one of the most stunning places the world has to offer!
no.1 - The nature of Georgia... no words can describe it...
...and I can't do it either you have to find out by yourself!
I have to say that I was pretty amazed when I saw the Caucasian Mountains for the first time. It was an early morning on a bus between Batumi and Tblisi... I woke up and wiped my eyes because I couldn't really believe what I was just seeing there at the horizon. It was a beautiful Friday morning, no clouds, no noise. Just the sun, myself and the mountains.
It doesn't matter where you go but Georgia's nature will keep you speechless. One specific region I will not forget is the Tusheti National Park, a northern slope of the Caucasian Mountains and it kinda reminded me of Scotland, just more beautiful and amazing. It's hard to believe that such a magical place like this is nearly untouched and with no tourists. I think I want to keep it that way and won't tell you more about it, look at the photos and tell me what you think...
Also the highest peak of Europe can be found here, the Mount Elbrus which rises to a height of 5,642 metres. To sum it up there are more than seven five-thousanders in the greater Caucasian Mountain range. Once in Georgia you should really consider a trip into the mountains. They can be easily reached from Tbilisi and are usually just a few hours drive away. It is a once in a life time experience, don't miss out on it!
Do you like what you see? It's even better in real life!
no.2 - The people of Georgia will conquer your heart...
...within seconds and they will treat you like family!
What I experienced in Tbilisi will always remain as one of the greatest human interactions I have ever experienced. It was warm hearted and so touching that I couldn't believe that strangers who I'd just met can give so much to each other. Mankind can create such respect and love for each other and the bond between people can change the world.
My Couchsurfing host Ninchoo, her friend and my German friend Michael went out for a few beers at a pub in Tbilisi. In the corner were a few guys from the National Choir of Georgia. The boys had already had a few beers and started to sing very loudly, it seemed to be normal because they didn't catch my attention. They stopped and everyone applauded. I took the oppurturnity with my friend Michael and we started to sing a German song, I can't remember what it was but everyone suddenly became silent. Everyone was fixated on us but we kept singing...
After we finished everyone in the pub started to shout and to cheer, suddenly everyone started to sing, from the Beatles, to our national anthem and some Georgian folklore songs. It was magical and the boys started to dedicate songs to us and we to them. We hugged, we respected and enjoyed each other presence. It didn't matter what a horrible singer I was, but I guess it was the gesture that mattered. Music is just not a language but also a way of life...
He might look a bit grumpy but he was a super nice fella!
no.3 - The little local markets...
...with yummy, yummy vegetables and fruits!
You'll find them everywhere. Colourful vegetables, fruits, meat, bread... anything and everything you could wish for. Very traditional and even if you don't wanna buy anything you have to visit the markets. It's a place with no price tags and you always have to negotiate the price with very interesting and sometimes very grumpy old ladies who obviously don't speak a single word of English.
It's fun to stroll around these markets and to check out all the things you'll never find from your local Walmart, Tesco or Woolworths. You can't really find such cool individual markets anymore and this is what I loved so much about Tbilisi, it's just unique and very special. All the vegetables are of course Georgian grown and super fresh...
Should I admit that I don't eat much vegetables?! Better not...
no.4 - Tbilisi is one of the most unique capitals I know...
...and I have been to more than 60!
Why is that? Probably because Georgia is surrounded by so many different cultures and therefore got all the good qualities from each neighbor. Russia in the north, Turkey in the West, Armenia and Iran in the South and Azerbaijan in the East. It's a great mix and you can see a lot of those attributes everywhere around Tbilisi.
But I guess it was once again the people I enjoyed the most. I was always treated very nicely and people would always try to help me. You won't find many western chains such McDonalds or Burger King and the whole city is kept in a very traditional way. Little markets here and there, a few Soviet leftovers and a touch of modern architecture. Tbilisi is changing and is trying to find its very own style.
The nightlife is great, and you will see a lot of young people everywhere. The country itself is very religious and there is a huge respect for the church but it doesn't affect the everyday life of the people like other countries such as Iran for example. There is a new generation taking over, the ones who hadn't experienced the time of Soviet "occupation". It is a new modern city that is slowly opening itself up to the world.
The TV tower features a cool light show during the night!
no.5 - The little streets of Tbilisi...
...makes you forget about Paris or Venice!
That was something I noticed when I walked through Tbilisi for the first time. Cute little alleys and streets all over the city. It definitely has its charm and you could almost say Tbilisi is the Paris of Eurasia. It's probably not written in any Lonely Planet and I doubt there is even one for Georgia but this is something you must do. Take your time and go for a little stroll. You will love it. Make sure you take your camera with you for a few snaps!
no.6 - The beer is good and cheap, so is the food...
...and you won't stop drinking or eating, I promise!
If there is something that makes me love or not love a country, it is of course the price of the beer. If it's cheap, I stay. If it's cheap and good I will probably settle there...hehe. In a normal trendy downtown bar you will get a pint for just two dollars and you'll love it. Georgian beer is as pure as it can be and it is really delicious. Just imagine you can get drunk for just 10 dollars. "Gaumajus" - that's how you say cheers in Georgia!
The cuisine in Georgia is very unique, with both European and Middle Eastern influences. The national dish is called Khinkali, and it pretty much reminded me of Chinese dumplings. This mouth watering dish is really something you can't get around here. It's usually filled with spiced meat such as pork, beef or sometimes lamb. Now the interesting part, with your first bite you also have to suck the juice out of it, in order to prevent the dumpling from bursting. That's how you do it! Enjoy your meal!
Does that make you super hungry as well?! I know it does
no.7 - You will find little churches everywhere...
...and they will blow your mind!
You are probably asking yourself what is so special about it. I mean in every village in Europe you have at least two churches... I'm going to tell you why. You find them at the most bizzare places where you won't find anything but sheep and mountains.
There was one church in particular that caught my attention, the Gergeti Trinity Church. It's a very famous landmark in Georgia. It's located next to Mount Kazbegi at 2170 meters above sea level. I couldn't have thought of a better location for a church...
It is very difficult to reach the church though, either you have to go for a very steep hike, which will take you about three hours or you can get a Jeep and drive along the mountain trail, what is probably the better option if you are not into hiking that much...
This is like Scotland but a 100 times more amazing...isn't it?!
no.8 - Batumi and the stunning Black Sea Coast...
...are probably something you were looking for!
I must admit that I have seen nicer beaches and I do prefer sand instead of stones but Batumi and the Black Sea Coast has its charm. I guess it's the combination of the mountains and the sea just so close to each other. You can go skiing and two hours later you can lay at the beach and work on your tan. Perhaps I should learn how to ski then but I guess that's a different issue hehe...
Batumi has a subtropical climate and the weather is really nice, also in the winter. The city itself has a few architectural highlights. An upside down White House for example or the lighthouse of Alexandria, doesn't that sound fun? It's the new Cote D'Azur of Europe. A few fancy hotels, a nice beach walk and many colourful lights all over the city. A lot of young people come here to spend some nice times at the sea. The most come to relax or just to socialise. There are also a lot of good parties at the beach, don't miss out on them...
What to see in Georgia?
...a few recommendations I strongly suggest!
It is the oldest city in Georgia and part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is located 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi and definitely worth a visit.
The former capital of Georgia, its second largest city and the home of the goverment.
A region in north-west Georgia known for its architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes. It's also part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Great Caucasus
The highest mountain range in Europe stretching 1200 km from the Black to the Caspian Sea. Also Europe's highest peak the Mount Elbrus is located in the Caucasian Mountains.
A tiny village located on 2200 meters above sea level and therefore the highest village in Europe. It's also known for its typical Svanetian protection towers.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
One of the largest and probably most stunning national parks in Europe.
Yes another highlight on the UNESCO World Heritage list and a masterpiece in the history of modern and medieval Georgian architecture. It is located in the city of Kutaisi.
The monastery for a long time was one of the main cultural and intellectual centers in Georgia and to date one of the most visited sights in the country.
If you have a few minutes then watch this video...
...if I haven't convinced you yet then this Video will for sure!
Things to do in Tbilisi?
...a few things you shouldn't miss out on, especially the beer!
Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi
Commonly known as Sameba you can see the church from almost everywhere in the city. It's a brand new church, only completed in 2004 and the third tallest Eastern Orthodox church in the world.
A big fortress overlooking Tbilisi and the Kura river. It's a great place to visit where you can also enjoy a great view. It kinda reminded me of the castle in Budapest.
One of the oldest neighbourhoods of the town. It's located on a elevated cliff with a little chapel on top. Another great spot, especially in the evening when the sun is about to set or if you wanna kiss your girlfriend for the first time...
Grab a mate, a few cold beers and hire a paddleboat on a sunny afternoon. The lake is nicely located and you get to enjoy a chilled relaxed atmosphere there. If you find a turtle I'll buy you a beer!
Mtatsminda Amusement Park
The park is located just next to the TV tower and you'll love it. It's super cheap and full of great rides. You won't get bored, I promise! Honestly, it's one of the better parks.
The Old City
Of course you should take a stroll through the city and visit the major places such the Georgian State Museum, the Presidential Palace, Freedom Square and simply walk and explore the local markets. If you are a Rugby Union or football fan check out the Dinamo Arena for a match.
Nightlife in Tbilisi
This is a great guide for clubs and bars in Georgia's capital. I really loved the Irish pub, it's called Dublin I guess but it was really awesome and I met awesome people there.
The perfect food guide for Tbilisi
This is a list of great restaurants and bars featured by the Lonely Planet, go through it and perhaps you find something that will suit you.
...get your backpack ready and visit Georgia!
Have you ever been to Georgia or are you planning to go there one day? Please let me know and leave a comment in the section below. I'd love to hear about experiences you've made in this amazing place, thank you so much for reading!