While Georgia’s nature might be impressive, I must admit that Georgia, as a whole, left me underwhelmed and seriously frustrated. I had high hopes for the country, but Georgia, oh Georgia, what a disappointing experience.
When visiting Georgia, be prepared to pay the hefty price of dealing with terrible customer service, remnants of a Soviet mentality, and just mind-boggling stupidity. Lucky for Georgia, it’s like 85% uninhabited mountains.
Georgia’s landscapes are magnificent, so there’s a lot of focus on those, but there are several other amazing places that are worth a visit to Georgia. But no more than once. I just can’t deal with the locals!
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Tbilisi kept me happy for 2 days
Georgia’s capital is really the only populated place in the country that’ll knock your socks off. Yes, Georgia’s mountains are pretty, but are they worth the hassle of dealing with the lying, cheating, stuck-in-Soviet-era-mentality local population? Just barely. Tbilisi will, however, fix that sour aftertaste in a jiffy.
There's something about this city that captured my heart from the moment I arrived. Its vibrant energy, rich history, and captivating blend of old and new create an atmosphere that is truly magnetic. You could happily spend 2 days in Tbilisi, or even more if you travel slower than me.
It’s the quirky things like a crooked tower made by a puppeteer, and the fact that Narikala Fortress, Tbilisi’s highlight, is little more than a pile of rubble (with fantastic views!).
It’s the colorful houses with their carved, wooden balconies, stacked under the rocky hills that tower over the city. It’s the Old Town, where ancient churches coexist with trendy cafes and the futuristic architecture of the Bridge of Peace and Rike Concert Hall. It’s when you enter a church and hear the chilling sound of Georgian polyphonic singing.
Tbilisi's Bridge of Peace: Where funky architecture meets Soviet history in a captivating display
So, yeah, Tbilisi is a capital that needs you to be forgiving—there are a lot of places that simply lack maintenance and funding—but it does what it can to show you that it’s doing its best.
And hey, at least they feed you well! It really wasn’t that hard to find a decent restaurant in Tbilisi, something that’s a nearly impossible feat in the rest of the country.
So, yes, dealing with the occasional quirks of the Georgian population may require a bit of patience, but the enchanting allure of Tbilisi makes it all worthwhile.
On my way to Mount Kazbeg
Moving away from manmade wonders and into natural stunners, glacier-topped Mt. Kazbeg is top in its category. Pack those motion sickness pills and get ready to ascend into the majestic Caucasus Mountains!
For me, Kazbeg was the first 5,000 m+ (16k ft) mountain I’d ever seen up close, and I have to admit that it remains one of the most spectacular ones on my list to this day. We hiked Mt. Kazbek on what was my absolute favorite day hike in Georgia, but it was one of the hardest hikes in my life (and I’ve hiked in places like Chile’s Patagonia).
We embarked on a day hike covering a daunting 24 km (15 mi) round trip, with an elevation gain of about 1,800 m (5,900 ft). We pushed ourselves to reach a vantage point just above the glacier line. The reward? Spectacular views of the pristine alpine environment, leaving us in awe of nature's magnificence (and allowing us to forget for a minute how utterly horrible the customer service in Georgia is).
The downside? Kazbeg is jam-packed with people! We literally had to go off the path to pass a big crowd. And it’s not even just people getting in your way. Here's a heads-up for your nostrils: As you ascend, you'll be flanked by an army of horses carrying supplies. Their distinct eau de horse is the constant companion throughout your journey.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Make sure to also spend a bit of time at the starting point of the hike, which is at Gergeti Trinity Church. You’ve likely seen many photos of it, since it’s one of the most famous images of Georgia. From there you’ll notice the striking elevation difference of Mt. Kazbeg on one side and Stepantsminda (Kazbegi town) on the other. It’s remarkable! (See item no. 5 on this list for more on that cool little town.)
Not into hiking? No problem! You can drive almost right up to Gergeti Trinity Church, there’s a parking lot literally 2 minutes away. If you’re not a physically active type of person, you’ll be happy with just the views from the church. Then, go grab a good meal in Stepantsminda to round off the experience.
The epic Chronicles of Georgia—find the tiny human!
I found myself unexpectedly standing before this colossal black giant on my way from Tbilisi to Kazbegi. Not a lot of other travel blogs mentioned the Chronicles of Georgia at the time, so I didn’t take note of it when planning my trip. But when I saw it from the road my eyes popped out, I slammed the brakes, made a sharp turn and there I was, hiking up the stairs into hidden gem territory.
It was a sight to behold: huge, dark, imposing—just how I imagine war memorials look in Russia (down to the visible lack of maintenance). Despite the air of Soviet influence lingering in the atmosphere, it felt almost sacred.
The top half of the 16 mammoth pillars show the kings, queens, and heroes of Georgia’s past, while the bottom half takes you through the adventures of Jesus Christ. There's a stairway that takes you up there, and from its location on a hill right by the Tbilisi Sea, you get pretty perfect views of the capital, too.
This was no polished, cookie-cutter tourist attraction. It couldn’t care less if you visit it or not. It’s just there. Always open and free.
I spent a good couple of hours exploring the site, and it left a strong impression. Though it may not be at the top of every travel list, the Chronicles of Georgia is very close to the top of mine.
Dating back to the 12th century, Vardzia now has over 700 rooms, tunnels, and the main draw—a monastery. What is left has not been untouched by earthquakes, but just imagine it used to be able to house over 50,000 people!
Vardzia is a remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s an entire city carved right into the rugged slopes of the Erusheti Mountain. Not little mole holes at the foot of a hill, but an actual ancient cave city high up off the ground, stairways and all. I loved exploring there.
Get ready to climb the ladders and stairs through several floors of the Vardzia complex, and don't miss the pillars and frescoes in the monastery. We spent a good half day exploring Vardzia, imagining the lives of those who once called it home.
You can explore Vardzia on your own, tickets cost GEL 15 (USD 6). Audio guides are available for an extra GEL 15.
Even just the drive to this little city at the foot of Mt. Kazbeg is an epic adventure. That is, if you find joy in navigating twisting, winding mountain roads full of crazy Georgian drivers! To get to Stepantsminda (formerly Kazbegi), you’ll need to pass the Georgian Military Highway—one of the world’s best drives in my book (see item 12 on this list).
Stepantsminda’s obvious claim to fame is its location right at the foot of the stunning Mt. Kazbeg. The elevation difference between the town and the mountain is something like 4,000 m (13,000 ft), so the views are absolutely striking and it’s all you need to make this place worth a visit.
You can get your Insta photos at Gergeti Trinity Church, which is an obscenely beautiful church (because of the scenery) just outside of town and is easy to reach by car. Or, check out item 2 on this list if you think you’d consider hiking up Mt. Kazbeg from there.
The views around Stepantsminda are stunning!
And lucky for us caffeine and good food addicts, that’s still not all Stepantsminda has to offer. It’s also a Georgian gem when it comes to wining and dining! If you’re not aware, the service and often even the food in restaurants in Georgia are, you guessed it, mediocre at best. Stepantsminda and Tbilisi are the only two exceptions that have great restaurants.
Still don’t believe me about how bad the food in Georgia is? Here’s one example that foreshadowed what I was about to experience in in the entire country: The gastronomic experience aboard the national carrier, Georgian Airways. On their so-called full-service airline, dinner consisted of sausage with rice, and the veggie option was, you guessed it, just rice. This is a reflection of Georgian society as a whole, where everyone seems to be out to scam you. It's such a missed opportunity for the country that obviously cares nothing about the squandered tourism revenue.
Here’s the pale excuse for food that I got on the plane:
Doesn’t this dry, beige meal look appetizing? Welcome to Georgia!
View of the rivers, mountains and Mtskheta from Jvari Monastery
Mtskheta is right outside of Tbilisi, making it a popular place to visit as a day trip from the capital. It has been declared a Holy City by the Georgian Orthodox Church, was the capital of the Kingdom of Iberia before it got moved to Tbilisi in the 6th century, and is also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. So despite the name looking like they just threw some letters together and called it a day, it’s actually quite an important place.
Since this is Georgia, aka the country of churches and monasteries, and we’re talking about a Holy City, you’ll want to cover those knees and shoulders (and hair for the ladies), because a lot of what you’ll be visiting in Mtskheta will be religious buildings. Georgia does those well, I have to say, and it’s not just because most of the time you get fantastic views and a background of gorgeous mountains.
Case in point: Jvari Monastery. It stands on a hilltop to the east of Mtskheta, and I have to say, St. Nino chose a really nice spot to errect that big wooden cross! Here meticulous placement (and some magic, erm, I mean miracles) dictated the location of the current church. You get a fantastic view of the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers overlooking Mtskheta from Jvari Monastery.
Or, you can visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. It’s right in the middle of town and it’s the second-largest church in Georgia, right after Sameba in Tbilisi. Apparently, a piece of Jesus’ robe is buried there. I’m very skeptical about any sort of relic, but hey, believe what you want to believe.
Or, just stroll down the small cobblestone streets of Mtskheta’s tiny town center, buy yourself some souvenirs, and just breathe in the history. It’s really a pleasant place.
And if you just can’t get enough of Georgia’s monasteries, you’ll be happy to know that there is a wealth of them around Mtskheta: Samtavro Monastery, Shiomgvime Monastery, and Zedazeni Monastery are just a few that are within close driving distance.
Lots of people seem to hate on Martvili Canyon because of how touristy it is, but as I always say: if there’s nobody going there, it’s probably not worth it.
You can visit Martvili as a day trip from Kutaisi, since the trail is only 700 m (0.4 mi) long. This canyon is unique in that it stays lush and green all year long thanks to the high humidity. You could go there over Christmas and still see the turquoise waters flanked by big, moss-covered boulders. Add a couple of cute bridges and viewing platforms, and you’ve got yourself a winner!
After the majority of time in Georgia spent chasing glaciers and embarking on challenging day hikes, a little bit of easily accessible nature is just the thing you might need. You take a little walk, and then get a boat ride to the other side. I’d say don’t skip the boat no matter how stupidly touristy it sounds. It takes you to the opposite side of the canyon than the trial, and it’s the only way to see the canyon from the bottom up.
Hey, the Dadiani family used to use these parts as their royal bathing spot, so it has to be nice enough for us regular folks, right?
The price might seem steep: GEL 17 for the trail and an extra GEL 15 for the 20-minute boat ride. It is relatively expensive compared to other places, but it’s still just USD 12, which I’d hope won’t make you go broke.
Driving to Koruldi Lakes was hard, I kept not being able to keep my eyes on the road
This spot is one of the naturally most spectacular places in Georgia, but it’s also one that left a strong flavor of disappointment and regret, and it’s all down to the people again. Svaneti NP and the region around it must be the worst place in Georgia when it comes to hospitality. It’s like they want to put the tourists off visiting! It’s such a gorgeous place to visit but man oh man...
The park itself and the hikes in Svaneti NP are very, very pretty. No doubts there, it’s Mother Earth’s masterpiece. But jeez louise! First of all, I’m the only one of the people I know or talked to about my Georgia trip that didn’t get anything stolen there. And second, we got asked things like if we want a taxi... while getting into our own car!
Anyway, let’s get back to why we’re here—why Svaneti is a special place to visit. It’s gorgeous! The glacier is beautiful, and we loved the Koruldi Lakes and even the driving up there was fun. When you catch the pristine waters of Koruldi shimmer under the sunlight, reflecting the towering peaks that surround them, it’s epic. Photos just can’t do the lakes and the overall scenery justice.
Kutaisi Gelati Monastery
UNESCO loves it, I love it, and if you can ignore the annoying cats, you’ll love it, too. Gelati Monastery, with its breathtaking scenery and fantastic frescoes, is the ultimate justification to go to Kutaisi (which is much different from Tbilisi, and not in a good way).
Back in the 12th century, King David the Builder (yeah, he knew how to make things happen) founded Gelati Monastery. It quickly became a hub of enlightenment and education, attracting scholars and intellectuals from far and wide—it’s where the brainiacs of the time gathered to share knowledge and sip intellectual tea.
Nowadays, it’s still a working monastery and academy, and one of the most important religious sites in the country. I was sort of hoping it would be like the Hogwarts of Georgia, but without the flying broomsticks, I just couldn’t see it.
If you take a good look at the frescoes that adorn its walls, you’re getting a whole history lesson. They show the stories and legends of Georgia's past in glorious detail.
To make things even easier, there’s a road that leads right up to the monastery, and there’s a parking lot right there as well. No entrance fee.
Rabati Fortress, now here's a place that stands out! Located near the Turkish borders, it's got a whole different vibe going on compared to the rest of Georgia, and I must say, I dig it. With its unmistakable Muslim and Ottoman feel, it's like a delightful fusion of cultures... or is it the lack of Georgia-ness that I actually liked? (If you’ve read any of my Turkey series, you’ll know I’m an Ottoman admirer!)
Sure, the interior might not be worth writing home about, but who cares when you have the exterior and the stunning gardens to soak in? The view from the towers is worth every step. You'll stare over a sea of golden roofs and the charming walled city, painting a scene that will make you truly appreciate the beauty of this place. And maybe make you want to travel to Turkey asap.
There’s even a restaurant right inside the fortress and it was good! How about that, a place I have nothing bad to say about. Not a common occurrence in Georgia.
Gudauri is Georgia’s best and largest ski resort, though it felt unexpected to me, because who goes to Georgia for their skiing vacation? Not me, I don’t even like to ski. But if you do, this is the place to try it out.
The ski slopes are above the tree line, allowing for some stunning views of the mountains, and the resort is located off the Georgian Military Highway (see next item), which is one of the most incredible drives in the world! So again, pretty.
I was there outside of winter, so the driving was fine, but I’ve heard that when there’s snow, getting to Gudauri can be a bit of a slippery pickle. Salting the roads hasn’t arrived to Georgia just yet, it seems. Also, the toilet situation sounds appalling, and finding a place to eat that won’t charge you an arm and a leg for a bowl of bland soup, is an undertaking. One that I refused to undertake, so I have no tips for you there.
The Russia Georgia Friendship Momument: worth a stop for tiles and for the views
Despite the setbacks, there’s no doubt that Gudauri has a picturesque setting, perfect not just for skiing on the slopes. The area offers a range of outdoor activities, including freeriding, paragliding, snowmobiling, and hiking. And make sure to stop at the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument. It’s a large tile monument with a tile mural that overlook’s Devil’s Valley. Somehow, that seems very fitting.
The views were breathtaking...but watch out for the steep curves!
The Georgian Military Highway is an iconic 212 km (130 mi) road that connects Tbilisi with Russia’s Vladikavkaz, traditionally used by traders (and invaders!). It not only passes by a nice selection of worthwhile stops, but the driving itself is an adventure to remember!
First of all, some of the curves and turns are almost impossible, but when you see the other drivers struggle as well, it’s like you’re all sharing the same comical journey. Add the outright scandalous driving etiquette of the locals and trucks getting stuck and it’s like a Charlie Chaplin film, but driving edition.
You’ll also need to be on a lookout for cows and flocks of sheep blocking the road. Take is as a chance to relax your nerves and take a look around at the scenery. Plus, having animals on the road is not something that happens every day where I’m from, so it’s somehow charming. (If you like your road-blocking animals with a bit more adrenaline, try driving in Namibia!)
You’re going to climb over passes of up to 2,400 m (7,800 ft), which, especially at Jvari Pass, reveal the Caucasus’ glory in such a way that you’ll have trouble not causing a car accident. I can’t stress this enough—the views from the Georgian Military Highway are breathtaking!
Driving from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda, the gateway to Kazbeg Mountain, will take you at least 2.5 hours, and that’s without stopping and allowing moo-ving obstacles to clear the road. And stopping you should be! There are places like:
Get your mineral water here! Borjomi Central Park
Borjomi is a pleasant spa town with some pretty cool hiking options nearby. The only con is its Soviet legacy which you can see everywhere, and the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere, which means you’ll be driving with the stupidest and meanest drivers in the world. You could be going 90 km/h (55 mi/hr) but are stuck at half the speed thanks to all the locals passing and cutting you off dangerously. All the frustration comes back to me anytime I remember it.
This is not the kind of spa where you'll be pampered with fluffy robes and cucumber slices on your eyes. In Borjomi, it’s all about the weird-tasting mineral water rumored to have magical healing properties. Get it at Borjomi Central Park and wander around with all the other tourists.
Tip: Borjomi UnderWood is a superb boutique hotel that’s set set among the trees of the valley right by the river next to Central Park. The owner (and incredible breakfast!) single-handedly puts the rest of Georgia and their non-hospitality to shame.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Right outside of the city you can venture out into Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park for some hiking in the Lesser Caucasus. There are 12 official hiking trails, most of which span more than one day, but you can choose some shorter, single-day hikes as well. Some to consider are the Likani Valley Trail or Cross Mountain. I’ll give you the details about day hikes in Georgia in another article.
Once upon a time, you could hike up to the upper part of David Gareja cave monastery complex and peek into Azerbaijan, like a curious neighbor peering over the fence. But due to some not-so-great neighborly relations, Udabno Monastery is currently off-limits for tourists.
Now, even if you don't get to spy on Azerbaijan, don't despair. You can still explore the lower Lavra Monastery. It's like a religious wonderland carved into the rock, complete with prayer rooms and even living quarters. The outer area is surprisingly well-maintained (big shout-out to the monks who keep it in top shape!). They've built walkways and stairways made of stone, and added flowers to make it all look more homey than you’d expect given it’s a cave house.
But wait, I've got a secret tip for you! Just 10 km (6 mi) away from David Gareja, there's the similarly cave-y Natlismtsemeli Monastery. It's not as crowded because the road to get there is a bit rough (you’ll need a 4x4), and you have to ask the (only) monk that lives there to show you around, but that just makes it worth the adventure.
Colorful hills around David Gareja Monastery
Oh, and let's not forget about the colorful hills around David Gareja. While I wouldn't go as far as calling them rainbow-colored (Instagram exaggerations, you know), they sure do dazzle the senses. If you're up for a hike in these vibrant landscapes, just keep in mind that there are no official trails, and Azerbaijan is just a stone's throw away. So, to avoid unintentionally visiting Azerbaijan, don’t venture out too far or get a guide.
Katskhi Column. See the little church on top?
Katskhi Column is a church on a big pillar near Chiatura. Yeah, you heard me right, a church perched atop a 40 m (130 ft) limestone column. But hey, it's still a church on a pillar!
Then again, you can’t actually visit the church, so don't get your expectations soaring too high.
Imagine stumbling upon this peculiar sight in the Georgian countryside. There you are, minding your own business, and suddenly, you spot this towering limestone column, reaching towards the heavens. And what's that? Oh, just a tiny church, casually chilling on top of it. Talk about an unusual architectural choice.
I'll be honest with you, the Katskhi Column isn't going to blow your mind with its size or grandeur. It's not exactly the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower. But there's something strangely captivating about its simplicity and the sheer audacity of building a church like this.
Men (and men only) used to be able to climb up the ladder and turn Katskhi into a limestone column with a church and a human on top, but that is no longer possible. There used to be a monk that lived there for over 20 years, and now the monks from the church at the base of the column come up to the church from time to time to hang out with God. But the public is not invited over for tea.
So, embrace the quirkiness, snap a selfie, and revel in the fact that you've witnessed this unique place in Georgia.
Zugdidi is an amazing place in Georgia that doesn’t get visited that often, aside maybe from its number one tourist attraction—Dadiani Palace. I’m not saying you need to spend 3 nights there (please don’t), but it’s worth a few extra hours to explore the unique culture and cuisine of the local population.
Dadiani Palace is an obvious stop, especially if you’re into history, like me. The entire complex actually consists of two palaces, a monastery, and the Botanical Gardens. You can explore the interior of the main, neo-Gothic castle, which is one of the oldest and most important museums in the Caucasus. Prince David established it in 1839, and it now holds around 45,000 items that show the natural cultural heritage of Georgia. See, I told you, a must-see!
Mingrelian khachapuri is like a cheesy pizzawithout the sauce
Outside of the palace, take a little bit of time to immerse yourself in Mingrelian culture, known for its distinctive music, dance, and cuisine. And embroidery and pottery—can you spot the souvenir shopping hint? If you visit Zugdidi on a weekend, you can try to see what your grandma would like at the Handicraft Market by the Botanical Garden.
If you love spicy, aromatic food with tons of cheese, you’re in for a treat! Try Diaroni Restaurant.
Tip: If you have some extra time and an extra bit of interest in Mingrelian culture, book yourself into the Folk House. It’s basically a living museum and restaurant in one. You go into the private home of a former chef for the Mingrelian-French royal family, a Mingrelian himself, and cook, eat, listen to the chef play piano and sing (he’s good!), and feel like you’re in another dimension. It’s an experience to say the least.
One of the cities you’ll probably visit in Georgia is Kutaisi. While I think it deserves a spot on this list, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the city itself. I found the surrounding sights far more interesting than Kutaisi, which can be described as nothing more than a humble provincial town. Specifically, the restaurants were shit. And you know how I get when my culinary needs aren’t met.
So, my advice would be to use Kutaisi as a base for your adventures, rather than expecting it to be the highlight of your trip. Make your stay nicer by booking a traditional Georgian house turned boutique hotel (like the blue and velvety Newport Hotel Kutaisi) and just get out of the city as much as possible.
I’ve already talked about Gelati Monastery, the single most important reason to visit Kutaisi with amazing views and frescoes.
Bagrati Cathedral. The one that lost its UNESCO status
And then there’s Bagrati Cathedral, which is one of Georgia’s most important religious sites. But get this—while the main architect on the recent reconstruction got the Georgian gold medal for his work, UNESCO removed Bagrati from its World Heritage List because of how they destroyed the historic value of the cathedral. You know you want to visit just for this fact alone—it’s unprecedented! And it also showcases Georgia’s mentality nicely. Inconsiderate and disrespectful come to mind.
Other places to visit from Kutaisi: Katskhi Column and Chiatura are just an hour away, and we used Kutaisi as a base for Okatse Canyon and Martvili Canyon, too.
Overall, Kutaisi may not have won me over with its restaurants and city charm, but its proximity to remarkable destinations makes it worth a visit.
Kakheti wine region (Sighnaghi town)
The entire easternmost region of Georgia is just wine and monasteries and views. The wine-making tradition in Georgia is thousands of years old, and the majority of its wine is made in the Kakheti region. So obviously, we visited. And get this, you can stay at a ranch that makes its own beer, too! It’s like a land that keeps giving, you know?
The two main centers of the Kakheti wine region are Sighnaghi and Telavi.
Sighnaghi is the more picturesque of the two, with pretty views of the winemaking scenery, pastel houses, and Bodbe Monastery. It was built in the 9th century on the where St. Nino had died. She’s the one that brought Christianity to Georgia, so it was a huge deal.
Telavi is the main city of the region that has less charm than Sighnaghi, but it has Alaverdi Monastery and, a little further away, the harder to reach Nekresi Monastery. Both will give you exceptional views (and Alaverdi even has its own vineyard).
Wine cellar in Nekresi Monastery
If you prefer to drink your wine in higher style, you’ll be pleased to know that on the way from Sighnaghi to Telavi, you’ll pass by several of the best wine estates of the Kakheti region, like Vazisubani Estate and Tsinandali Estate. They both double as 5-star hotels, so you can do all your wine tasting with a side of free-standing bathtubs, infinity pools and cute picnics on the manicured estate grounds.
Chiatura: The perfect spot to film The Walking Dead!
I’m glad I named this article the most amazing places in Georgia, and not the most beautiful. Because Chiatura isn’t exactly a beauty queen. She’s more... unique. You will only enjoy Chiatura if you’re an urban explorer or if you’re stuck in Kutaisi and need one more day trip to fill your time there.
Chiatura is a former manganese mining town known for its network of Soviet-era cable cars (set up to help the miners commute) that crisscross the city. All the old cable cars are now discontinued, and will probably spend the rest of time rotting. They are supposed to be restored, since they are classified as a heritage site, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Too bad most of the old, rusty cars have been removed from the lines. Chiatura looked much more zombie apocalypse with them.
The good news is that 4 new cable car lines were opened in 2021, allowing more than just those seeking photo ops of derelict buildings and sad-looking stations a chance to enjoy the place. To ride on one (or all) of the lines, head to the imaginatively named Central Cable Car Station.
Apart from the cable cars, it seems the majority of Chiatura enthusiasts love walking around finding old, abandoned buildings. Not my cup of tea, but if this is something you enjoy, you’ll have a blast in Chiatura.
This is a kind of strange city for me. Yes, there are beaches, but they are full of fat Russians baking themselves to death (seriously, that was the reality when I was there, and it wasn’t pretty). So for a beach vacation, it’s a big NO on my list.
On the other hand, I liked strolling around in the city, and the restaurants weren’t half bad, either.
Batumi is a strange city with an identity crisis. There are peculiar high-rise buildings (like Batumi Tower with a built-in Ferris wheel!), cool sculptures and palm trees along Batumi Boulevard, but then the mix of old and new on busy Europe Square. Some of the buildings there had me scratching my head... is it old and renovated? Or is it a modern-day attempt at a nod to traditional architecture? I’m still not sure. You’ll see street art next to Soviet mosaics, street vendors of all sorts and laundry hanging high up above the sidewalks.
So sure, give Batumi a chance. If you somehow magically happened to be in the area (how would that even happen?) and could pretend you aren’t there because you thought you’d have a jolly seaside vacay, Batumi could be one of the cities you visit in Georgia. I don’t need to see it again, but you do you. Just make sure to ignore the cheap-looking Thai massage salons that very obviously have a wider off-menu selection of services.
Check out Best Beaches and Resorts in Georgia if you want to know where to find some nice stretches of sand (or pebbles).
This was the nicest group of people I met in Mestia
Oh Mestia, who are you and what did you do with the romantic paradise that every blogger but me seems to have seen?! It was an absolute shithole.
I absolutely hated Mestia. I try to be forgiving, but this place won’t be ready for any meaningful tourism for at least another 30 years. They are trying to take advantage of you everywhere. The Soviet mentality lurks in Mestia like the stench of death I couldn’t wash out of my clothes after visiting Namibia’s Cape Cross.
I saw with my own eyes a young man trying (and failing) to steal somebody’s camera, witnessed incredibly arrogant taxi drivers, and tried to eat at the worst restaurants in all of Georgia.
Mestia is also the infamous place where I left a hotel before even staying the first night. The incompetent staff refused not only to change our bedsheets which still smelled of the perfume of a previous guests, but they didn’t even understand why that bothered me and demanded I pay for my stay anyway. Zero will to rectify the situation or show any type of customer service.
I’m allergic to dogs and this is me trying to eat my food in Mestia... this is them right after getting into a huge fight, and me trying to mind my own business
There were even some 80-year-old ladies trying to pull off scams on unsuspecting Western tourists. I encountered one while shopping, but her attempt was so poorly executed that I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief. It's a shame that some individuals resort to such tactics, even for a measly 0.5 USD. The reputation they give to their own country speaks volumes.
I wanted to tell you about the pretty hikes around Mestia, but instead, these were the memories that surfaced. What a joke. See my Top Day Hikes in Georgia for a better overview of the sparse goodness that Mestia offers. I don’t even care enough to try to redeem it right now.
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Are you wondering how to plan a trip to Georgia, the country that baffled me in both good ways and bad (and very bad)? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Here's my 7 to 10 day itinerary for Georgia.
Georgia is a challenging destination, but the mountains are 100% worth seeing. I’m not an overnight camping kinda guy, so I satiate my love for hiking in one-day bursts.