Boat in River in Tbilisi

Top-10 Experiences in Georgia

Georgia To-Do List

If you’re planning a trip to Georgia and now wondering what are the top things to do in this country, then you’re in for a treat. Read the list of top-10 experiences you shouldn’t miss while exploring this South Caucasus treasure. Visit ancient cave towns, stroll along the Black Sea coast, and ride cable cars used as public transport. 

Visit Tskaltubo

Entry number 1 on your must-visit list is Tskaltubo, a town that holds a unique place in history. Once the preferred destination for Soviet VIPs and their families throughout most of the 20th century, Tskhaltubo was renowned for its ‘Waters of Immortality’ and stood as a premier relaxation spot in the USSR. However, today, the town has undergone a transformation into a semi-abandoned haven. Its once-luxurious health resorts and bathhouses now stand empty and partially destroyed, making Tskhaltubo a distinctive “dark tourism” spot in Georgia.

Situated just 20 minutes from Kutaisi, Tskaltubo is easily accessible by public transport, making it an ideal destination for a day trip. The town provides a fascinating journey into the past, offering a captivating experience for urban explorers, architecture enthusiasts, photographers, and, of course, Instagram bloggers. Laden with history and exuding a unique atmosphere, Tskhaltubo is a snapshot of a bygone era.

It’s important to note that Tskhaltubo is undergoing rapid changes, with private investors taking charge of more health resorts and embarking on reconstruction projects. This means there is a limited window to witness the town in its current semi-abandoned state. Therefore, be sure to include Tskhaltubo on your list of must-visit places in Georgia before its transformation is complete.

Explore Vardzia Cave Town

Second on the list is a visit to Vardzia Cave Town, an iconic attraction located approximately 60 km from the town of Akhaltsikhe, home to Rabati Fortress. Constructed during the 12th-13th centuries under the rule of George The Third and his daughter Tamar, Vardzia served as a defensive stronghold for the southern boundaries of Georgia. More than just a collection of carved rooms, Vardzia is a multi-story complex featuring streets, tunnels, and stairs connecting monasteries, temples, fortresses, baths, libraries, and houses. With over 600 interconnected rooms spanning almost a kilometer along the mountainside, reaching a depth of 50 meters and standing 8 levels tall, Vardzia is a remarkable architectural marvel. In times of threat, the monastery could transform into a fortress, providing refuge for up to 20,000 people. It’s a must-visit destination that offers a glimpse into Georgia’s rich history and ingenuity.

Ride a Cable Car in Chiatura

Continuing our list at number 3 is the exhilarating experience of riding one of the numerous cable cars or rope roads in the town of Chiatura. This unique transportation system serves as the backbone of public transport in this Georgian town, efficiently transporting passengers between different levels of the city.

Located approximately an hour east of Kutaisi and three hours northwest of Tbilisi, Chiatura emerged as a town in 1921 due to extensive mining activities in the region. The cable car network, established during Stalin’s era, remains operational to this day and underwent a thorough renovation in 2021, now spanning over 6 km of cable.

Beyond its distinctive transportation system, Chiatura is celebrated for its stunning landscapes. Nestled at the foot of the Greater Caucasus range, the town offers a breathtaking contrast in elevation, with the river flowing at the base and limestone cliffs towering above. A visit to Chiatura is a captivating exploration of history, engineering marvels, and the natural beauty of Georgia – truly a must-visit destination!

Try Georgian Tea

Securing the 4th spot on our list of the top 10 things to do in Georgia is an unexpected delight – savoring Georgian tea. While Georgia may not be the immediate association when it comes to the world’s finest teas, this country has a rich tea culture dating back over a century. Introduced from China in the early 19th century, the first Georgian tea plantation was established in 1847, and the climate of western Georgia proved ideal for tea cultivation.

For an authentic tea experience, venture into regions like Guria and Imereti. While you can easily find locally produced tea in any grocery store across Georgian cities, we recommend embarking on a more immersive journey. Explore these tea-growing regions extensively, and consider indulging in a tea-tasting experience with small-scale producers or even sipping on home-made tea in a village outside of Kutaisi. This not only allows you to appreciate the nuances of Georgian tea but also offers a unique travel experience that goes beyond the ordinary.

Off Road Experience in Ushguli

Embark on a journey to Ushguli village, a UNESCO-listed enclave that invites you to step back in time amidst its ancient tower houses. Nestled in the high mountains of Europe, Ushguli sits at an elevation of 2200 meters above sea level, approximately 30 km east of Mestia. Though a bit challenging to access, requiring an 8-10 hour (400 km) journey through canyons and cliffs from Tbilisi, the destination is well worth the effort.

Ushguli’s architectural heritage dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries, with most buildings standing as testament to this medieval era. Surrounded by glaciers and snow-capped peaks, the village presents a majestic landscape. Currently home to around 70 families, comprising approximately 300 people, Ushguli supports a modest infrastructure, including a school, several shops, a café, and five churches.

The defining feature of Ushguli is its medieval rock towers scattered throughout the community, with the oldest tower dating back to the 9th century. These towers, covered in stone plates, were historically designated for individual families, serving as defensive structures for the settlement. The name “Ushguli” is thought to derive from the Georgian phrase “ushishariguli” translating to “fearless heart.” Remarkably, Ushguli stands out as one of the few places in history never conquered. Prepare to be captivated by the unique history and awe-inspiring charm of this extraordinary village.

Stay in Local Guesthouse

Now, let’s explore Number 6 on our list – immersing yourself in authentic Georgian hospitality within a charming village. In Georgia, accommodation options abound, but a particularly reliable and enriching choice is the family-run guesthouse. I strongly recommend this option, especially when venturing into villages. These guesthouses offer a budget-friendly alternative, making your travel experience not only straightforward and convenient but, most importantly, authentically immersive. What sets them apart is the genuine warmth and extensive local knowledge of the hosts, who play a pivotal role in enhancing your journey. Opting for a village guesthouse provides an unparalleled experience that surpasses what traditional hotels can offer. One of our tours, Green Georgia tour, is built exactly around such type of accommodations and experiences.

Swim in the Black Sea

At Number 7 on our list, venture into the unique experience of exploring the black sand beach along the Georgian Black Sea coast! Head to Shekvetili, the heart of Adjara region, a charming village just a 40-minute drive from Batumi, for a seaside adventure like no other. Stretching three kilometers in length and about 30 meters in width, this beach boasts distinctive black magnetic sand.

Enhanced by the humid subtropical air, surrounding pine groves, and the sea’s embrace, Shekvetili offers a natural and therapeutic environment. Ever wondered about the origin of the black sand? According to Google, these beaches result from the gradual erosion of lava and volcanic materials, typically black or dark in color. The result is a visually striking and astonishing landscape.

Shekvetili beach stands out as an ideal vacation spot, especially for families with children. The shallow water and pristine shore make it perfect for family outings. Along the coastline, you’ll discover seasonal family hotels equipped with comfortable rooms, verdant yards, ample parking spaces, and even inviting swimming pools. This beach destination promises both an unusual and delightful getaway.

Drink Wine in Kakheti

At the 8th spot on our list: Indulge in the rich tradition of Georgian wine-making in Kakheti, the renowned wine region of Georgia. Boasting a history that spans a remarkable 8000 years, Georgia is celebrated for its wines, which have gained global appreciation. The secret lies in the utilization of special local grapes, often referred to as endemic varieties, and the preservation of traditional winemaking techniques passed down through generations.

Each region in Georgia nurtures its unique grape varieties, resulting in wines with distinct flavors. Kakheti Region, recognized as the winemaking capital, stands out for its production of red wines such as Saperavi, as well as white wines crafted from Rkatsiteli and Khikhvi grapes. The winemaking culture in Georgia transcends mere commercial activity; it is a cherished family tradition, particularly in Kakheti. Many Georgian families produce their own wines, rivaling the quality of well-known local brands. The use of large clay jugs known as qvevri, buried for fermentation, is a distinctive aspect of Georgia’s winemaking, particularly for the famous qvevri wine.

Unveiling and savoring the wine become significant family celebrations filled with joy. In Georgia, attending such gatherings is a must, and fortunately, it’s much easier to arrange than it may initially sound. Cheers to embracing the unique and culturally rich world of Georgian winemaking!

Hike the Gergeti Trinity Church

Moving on to #9 on our list: Embark on a hike to the Gergeti Trinity Church, a historic Georgian church nestled beneath Mount Kazbek, standing proudly almost 2200 meters above the town of Stepantsminda, also known as Kazbegi. Erected in the 14th century, the church presents an imposing sight from below, seemingly challenging to reach, but the ascent is surprisingly manageable.

The journey involves a one-hour walk along a winding road through a thorny forest. Alternatively, for those who prefer not to walk, you have the option to rent a car with a driver, reaching the top in just 10 minutes. The reward for reaching the summit is nothing short of spectacular – a breathtaking panoramic view of the valley below and the majestic Caucasus mountains.

We highly recommend not missing this opportunity when you find yourself in Georgia. The Gergeti Trinity Church offers not only a glimpse into Georgia’s rich history but also an awe-inspiring vista that is sure to leave an indelible mark on your travel experience.

Cleanse in Tbilisi Sulphur Baths

And finally, at Number 10 on our list: Immerse yourself in the unique experience of visiting the sulphur baths in Tbilisi, the vibrant capital of Georgia. While Tbilisi offers a plethora of attractions typical of any capital city, we encourage you to delve into something truly distinctive to this remarkable place: the Sulphur bath houses.

In essence, indulging in Tbilisi’s sulfur baths promises to be one of the most unforgettable experiences during your stay. Unlike similar facilities in cities like Istanbul, the history of Tbilisi’s baths is intricately intertwined with the city’s own narrative. Tbilisi was strategically situated atop hot springs, which not only led to its selection as a settlement but also lent it the name “Tbilisi,” meaning ‘warm place.’ Most of these sulfur baths are concentrated in the Abanotubani district, near the river, distinguished by their brick domes that punctuate the skyline, allowing natural light to filter into the bath chambers while sulfuric steam escapes.

The water in these baths naturally maintains a warm temperature, hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, owing to the thermal springs that feed them, believed to possess therapeutic properties. Yet, today, visitors are drawn not only for potential health benefits but also for the unique experience and ambiance they offer. It’s important to note that these bathhouses are primarily focused on cleanliness rather than luxury, although some have evolved to offer a more tourist-friendly and spa-like environment. Nevertheless, they retain an authentic charm that sets them apart from spas elsewhere.

In essence, a visit to Tbilisi’s sulfur baths promises an authentic and culturally enriching experience that shouldn’t be overlooked during your time in Georgia’s capital.