Georgia is located in the northwest region of the South Caucasus, with Russia bordering its Caucasus Mountains to the north, and Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the south. It’s a small country, but you’ll find the country is very diverse, with some of the highest mountains in Europe, a subtropical coastline, grassy steppes and even a desert. With the architecturally eclectic Tbilisi, the Black Sea playground of Batumi, as well as medieval mountain villages and cave monasteries, you could spend months in Georgia and not get bored.
The Caucasus might appear slightly off track from the main route of the Silk Road, however archaeologists have found many sites attesting to its role in the Silk Road, with goods found originating as far as India and remnants of Chinese silk from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Tbilisi was still a hub on the Silk Road as late as the 17th century.
Tbilisi offers an eclectic array of architecture, with conical roofed churches dotting the city, dilapidated and restored galleried houses that wouldn’t look out of place in New Orleans, flaking art nouveau buildings, and even post-modern steel and crystal structures. Its sulfur baths echo Samarkand’s Registan and its Caravansarai, which was rebuilt many times, nod to its connection to the Silk Road.
Kutaisi is located halfway between Tbilisi and the Black Sea, and according to mythology, sits in the heart of Ancient Colchis, the land of the Golden Fleece. Kutaisi contains two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Bagrati Cathedral and the Gelati Monastery, located 9km outside of Kutaisi.
Batumi is a former 19th century holiday resort that has reclaimed its former grandeur. Filled with art nouveau buildings, a tree-lined promenade over looking the Black Sea, and open plazas, Batumi is an attractive destination in the summer.
Eat & drink
Georgian wine: Archaeologists have concluded that Georgia is the birthplace of wine, with vini- and viticulture dating back to 6000BC. Here, the crushed grapes are placed in amphora type jars called qvevri, and are then buried for six months to make a young wine. There are over 500 varietals that are indigenous to Georgia, but only 38 are used in commercial wine making.
Khachapuri is a typical Georgian bread dish that is filled with white, tangy, creamy cheese and sometimes topped with an egg and slivers of butter. Each region has its own brand of the dish.
Khinkali are small boiled dumplings that are usually filled with a spicy meat filling, although they’re also available with mushroom, cheese, and potato filling.
Lobio is a fragrant stew made from red kidney beans, flavored with fresh cilantro, fenugreek, and sometimes even plum.
The Caucasus Mountains are rich with rugged peaks, green forests, white water rivers, and medieval fortresses. These border the north of the country, straddling the Russian states of the North Caucasus. The main mountain regions are Svaneti, known for its defensive towers, Kazbegi, with its view of Mount Kazbek and the Gergeti Church, Khevsureti is a remote region that has hardly changed since medieval times on the Chechen border and Tusheti, a mountain community, is accessible by terrible mountain roads.
The Cave Cities. Georgia is the home to some of the most interesting cave cities, each with something different to offer. Vardzia is a complex network that goes 13 stories high and was built in the medieval times, Uplistsikhe was the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Iberia, where the smooth white rocks were worn down over the centuries, and Davit Gareji on the Azeri border on a desert ridge houses some spectacular frescoes from the 10th-13th centuries.
Mtskheta is one of the world’s oldest cities and on the Georgian branch of the Silk Road. Located just outside Tbilisi, it’s easy to visit Mtskheta as a daytrip from the capital. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the town: the Svetitskhovloba Cathedral and the Jvari Monastery, with views over the city and the Mtkvari River.