Georgia is a historical old land of rocks, known for its medieval fortresses and monasteries, its deep caves and rocky beaches also for its stunning mountains and beautiful nature sceneries. By this description you might know by now that I am not talking about an American state, but a whole country on the other side of the world, a country in Asia.
I had the chance to visit it in summer 2018 and it was a last minute plan. I didn’t get to search much about it before getting there so I was surprised by the history and the beautiful nature of this country.
So now let’s discover more about it together!
What makes this country special?😯
Before visiting Georgia, I had no idea what awaits me there! All I knew that it’s a country in Asia that borders Armenia and turkey and that its capital is Tbilisi. So once I got there I was surprised by the feeling I got! It is actually a country of culture and history that transports you back in time while passing through its towns, nature and monasteries.
A bit of history and Geography!
Georgia, or called by the Georgian themselves Sakartvelo is a country of Transcaucasia located at the intersection of Europe and Asia. It is a former Soviet republic that’s home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. It is bounded on the north and northeast by Russia, on the east and southeast by Azerbaijan, on the south by Armenia and Turkey, and on the west by the Black Sea.
Road trip in Georgia 🚗
The perfect way to visit Georgia is by planning a road trip there! And why is that? Well because there is much more to see in this country than only the capital Tbilisi itself. Also because unlike Europe public transportation is not available. So the best way to see more than the city itself is by going on a road trip.
In this article, I will be sharing my experience in Tbilisi the Capital which I visited within the road trip I have done! My road trip contains many interesting sites to visit beautiful nature and resorts but I didn’t include the beach. Oh I know what you are thinking, I ll be telling you all about that roadtrip in a separate article! 😉
Tip: In case you plan on visiting the beach you can add 2 more days on your calendar and hit Batumi!
First and foremost, some general information and recommendations
- Rent a car!!! Spend 2 days tops in the Capital and go for that roadtrip!!!
- Hotels in Tbilisi are really affordable so you can choose to go for day trips from and back to Tbilisi. Or depending on your itinerary and taste, book a night there and the other one in either Borjomi resort area or any other nature destination of your choice.
- Try to have cash on you! Exchange banks are available in Tbilisi and the currency is Georgian Lari with 1 Lari equals around 0.31 USD
- Spoken language is Georgian and it is not like other language you are likely to hear. It belongs to its own ancient linguistic group unlike any other language spoken outside the region. But don’t worry people still understand a bit of English
Food & Drinks 🥂
Many of us visit new countries and different cultures with the main purpose of trying new tastes and traditional food. So what about the traditional food in this Asian country?
Coming from a middle east country which is close geographically to Georgia, I thought that the tastes will be not surprising and I won’t get to try any new specialties. Well news flash! I was wrong! And why is that? Because Georgian have a special cuisine for themselves which is different than the surrounding countries being Armenia and turkey.
So do I have any recommendations?
Of course I do and here are they:
- Eat Khachapuri! Lots and lots of Khachapuri! What am I talking about? Well it’s simply a dish of cheese-filled bread. The bread is crusty and leavened and typically contains cheese and eggs.
- Khinkali also known as Georgian dumplings are served boiled or steamed and typically stuffed with meat and spices.
Tip of How to eat khinkali: Eating a Khinkali without splitting on yourself can be a bit tricky! It actually never worked for me but here is some advice.
Sprinkle with black pepper, grab the dumpling by the handle and turn upside down. Also try to take small bites from the side.
- Attend a traditional supra! It’s the traditional Georgian feast, many tapas and specialties served all together awaits you. Make sure to be hungry and it’s nice to attend the Supra in a group this way you get to taste more specialties.
- Try Georgian wine
Now let’s find out about the top things to do in Tbilisi!
A capital not as classic as you might think. The city has its own vibes and charm, it left me intrigued…well I actually couldn’t compare it to any other city I have visited. Tbilisi is both a historical traditional city dipped in its culture and customs but also open to the new modern world with its unique new modern architecture.
The city’s charm!
If we go back in time and learn a bit about Tbilisi’s history, we understand the city’s stamp. Located on both sides of the Mtkvari River, the city is watched upon by both its iconic majestic Holy trinity cathedral and its Narikala fortress up on the hill.
But what is also more fascinating, is the fact that Tbilisi was found in the 5th century but was rebuilt 29 times since then.
And where can you witness the old Tbilisi? Well fortunately the old town of Tbilisi is still largely intact! By going there, you definitely travel back in time and witness the historical narrow alleys with the big traditional houses that used to be built around small courtyards.
Now let’s discover together what are the main things to do in Georgia’s capital!
I didn’t have the best of luck. Once I stepped foot in Tbilisi it started raining heavily knowing that we were in July! Which made me realize that the weather there can be so unpredictable and you should be prepared. But the rain didn’t stop us from going ahead with our schedule knowing that it was a full one and we had less than 48hrs in the city.
1- Tbilisi bridge of peace
The new modern landmark of Tbilisi and since its inauguration in 2010 it became one of the icon of the city. I was fascinated by that bridge! Both its particular bow shape and length along with it composition of steel and glass made of it an exceptional modern structure in the middle of a historical city.
It is a pedestrian bridge! So make sure to walk through it and have a glimpse of the Kura river from top!
I PROMISE That you will catch some of the most fascinating views of the city by crossing that bridge. Oh and don’t forget to prepare your cameras for some beautiful pictures.
Tip: In case you are lucky to be there in a good weather, take one of those cruises and enjoy the sceneries while relaxing in the waters. Boats awaits you on the end of the bridge all u need to do is show up there!
The old town walk
Like all ancient cities, Tbilisi has her own secret passageways and narrowed street that can literally take you anywhere. Chose to wander and get lost in those streets and stroll down the old down of the Capital to allow yourself to be fascinated by its hidden secrets.
What awaits you there?
Well actually the old town known for its cobblestone streets is full of traditional Georgian houses, souvenir shops vendors’ pubs restaurants and even churches and mosques. The walk itself is amazing and flies you back in time!
What is the perfect time to take this walk?
Well there is no such thing as the perfect time! It depends on what you are looking for in your walk. I chose to go for it late afternoon, so I got to see the streets in daylight and also enjoyed the early evening ambiance by that I mean early drinks followed by a traditional dinner!
Tip: If you are fan of mesmerizing overlooking views, Head up the hill from Abanotubani, towards Tabor Monastery, and allow yourself to be amazed by the breathtaking views of both Tbilisi Old Town and Narikala Fortress from the Top!
2- Narikala Fortress
Overlooking the capital up on the hill between the sulfur baths and the botanical gardens of Tbilisi, It the iconic ancient fortress of Narikala. In case you are a history lover or no, make sure to visit the fortress for its location offers the best magnificent scenery of the Capital.
How to get there?
Walking there is always an option! So depending on your mood and the time you have you can choose to walk there and wander in the streets of the Capital to reach destination. you can walk up from Meidan or via the Betlemi St Stairs, which lead off Lado Asatiani qucha in Sololaki.
But What I would recommend is to make the combination of both: take the cable car ride up to the fortress and go back strolling down towards the Sioni Cathedral passing by the Royal Baths.
Cable car ride!
The ride starts from Rike Park up to reach the Fortress. It was a pleasant ride and a quick one. You don’t get the time to be afraid from heights but you get to enjoy the superb views from top.
Cable car ride cost:💰
On single cable car ride in Tbilisi costs about 7 Lari, although if you get a city card, the ride will cost you 2 Lari. So in case you are planning on taking many cable cars rides around the city, I suggest to pay for the city card and enjoy cheaper rides.
- In case you want to visit the Fortress consider to book in advance to secure your spot. Visit trip advisor for your booking options.
- Chose the option to go to the Fortress by cable car for your way up. This way you get to enjoy the view from top and also not put much of physical effort. However, for your way down I would recommend you to have a walk down the Botanikuri street and towards the Royal Baths.
- Visit the National Botanical garden right next to the fortress and make sure to reach the Mother of Georgia statue. The view of the city is one of a kind from that point.
3- Abanotubani Sulfur Baths
What came to my surprise is that the City of Tbilisi was actually named after those sulfur baths, which made me more curious to visit them. Yes, you heard me right Tbilisi actually means “warm place” and got its name because of the natural hot springs that runs through its area.
A brief history!
What serves today as a cure for our skin and a moment of peace for our minds, used to be a Gorge where locals headed to wash and do their laundry. It was the Persians who changed the area by erecting the stylish baths all over the area.
All bath houses have private rooms you can chose from and has a variety of treatments options. You can opt for the Sulfur bath, the Exfoliation (kisi) and a massage.
What would I recommend?
In case you don’t have much time and you’re choosing only one treatment go for the traditional Exfoliation (kisi)! It is something like a Turkish Hamman that involves a special scrub for the skin in order to get rid of the dead skin, followed by a foamy ‘pillowcase’ wash.
Cost: The Kisi treatment lasts about 20min and costs around 20 Lari.
- You have the option to choose between a public and a private bath. So there is room for all tastes!
- Book in advance online or in person as most bathhouses accept pre-bookings and it get busy especially during high season.
4- Holy trinity cathedral
The trinity Cathedral is one of the tallest Easter Orthodox cathedrals in the world. Also known as “Sameba”, this monument is the main Cathedral in Georgia and overlooks the whole city with its location.
You can see it from all over the city and if you’d like to visit it, you can reach it by either public transport or by walking. The walk from downtown is a pleasant one and takes about 25 min.
- I would recommend you walk from downtown Tbilisi through the Baratashvili Bridge bronze statues. This way you would get to see this one of a kind bridge full of bronze statues and have a look over the city and the Bridge of peace from a different angle.
- The Cathedral is Marvelous once its illuminated! So I suggest that you would start walking by sunset and reach the cathedral once its filled with lights. The view is simply stunning!
5- Traditional Georgian food & Candies
Isn’t it always about food? Well at least for me it is!
As you noticed in the beginning of the article I have already mentioned my recommendations about the traditional food. And while in the capital it is actually the best opportunity for you to try any of those.
My experience of the local cuisine!
My first food experience in Tbilisi was by attending the traditional Supra! We went for lunch and attended the Georgian feast. We had a local friend who ordered many tapas and all the specialties. And he kept telling us:” There will be more food on the way to get full”. I remember eating so much to the point that I couldn’t breathe!
How was it? Different, New, tasty very good experience! 😍
As we all know most of the food in Georgia like in all other old Soviet countries are heavily meat-based. It was a tasty different experience, the flavors were so new to me and I liked the fact that there are many choices. But it was a bit fatty! So some of the dishes were a bit heavy for me but still I chose to have a bite of everything!
Special surprise for vegetarians!
The best surprise is that the best dish is actually a non-meat one. The national best common dish is called Khachapuri, a “fluffy” bread with the center of it filled with cheese in the middle and with an egg on top of the cheese again. The crust is a proper bread that you use to dip in the cheese.
I think I had my dose for a year! But well it was soo yummiiiii a bit fattyyy but yummiiii
Tip: You can choose to eat it without the egg it is delicious both ways.
- Schuchmann Wine Bar & Restaurant: One of the best and most prestigious wine bar restaurant in the city. You will enjoy the Georgian interior design and observe the construction art and tradition in this building. Moreover, you will get to taste the finest Georgian wine and delicious food for affordable very good prices. Visit the website for any more information: http://www.schuchmann-wines.com/
Now enough with food! But wait what about sugar? 🧁
Well just like any other country, Georgia actually has its own homemade traditional dessert. What is this dessert consisting in? Actually it is mostly candies!!! Don’t hesitate and try them out! It will be different from any other type of dessert you are used to but it will be worth the try.
Where to find them?
You will find two types of candies and trust me not like any other candies you have seen or you are used to! Both of them being Georgia’s specialty you will find them anywhere you go while strolling down the streets of the Capital. Either in old Babushkas on street corners or in bigger shops in the main streets of the capital, Churchkhela and Taklpi both are offered and displayed with a variety and big range of flavors.
Churchkhela & Taklpi
Now that we know their names, remains to know what are they made of! The first one being the Churchkhela is a candy sausage-shaped candy stick. It is stuffed with walnuts and dipped in hot grape juice.
The second one which is the Taklpi is simply a fruit roll. You will find many flavors displayed all together all you have to choose is your favorite one. Those flavors being: pear, apple, kiwi, plums etc…