No quick weekend getaway list is complete without the mention of Georgia, a country that draws its vibrant and distinct cultural features from Asia and Europe because of its strategic geographic location. From snowcapped mountain for a winter sports trip to ancient cities and UNESCO-listed monasteries for those looking to soak in a bit of history and heritage, this Eurasian nation packs a punch for every type of traveller, especially those looking for a budget holiday.
Tbilisi Old Town
Your journey starts in this charming city that you fly into. The capital of Georgia offers a myriad of eclectic activities and downtime opportunities with the stunning backdrop of historical sites, and spellbinding valley and mountains.Walk down the labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with old-brick balconied houses and take in the daily bustle of Old Town. Take a city tour to explore the history of the Orthodox Church at the ancient cathedrals and pay attention to the typical Georgian architectural elements and decorations.
This gem of Georgia is officially called Stepantsminda and is situated in northeastern part of the country. This sprawling town close to the Russian border is an easy day trip from the capital, making it a popular tourist destination. See a completely different side of Georgia, adorned with winding roads, halo of mist over mountain tops. The green cover in the summer months combined with cool fresh air makes this a must-visit stop when in Georgia. Enjoy the outdoors in its full glory with hikes, kayaking, bathing in the natural springs and horseback riding in the mountains.
This medieval fortress in the central part of the quaint Akhaltsikhe town looks like a fairytale castle, and is a beautiful illustration of diverse cultural and religious influences. The military building spread over seven hectares was erected in the 13th century, but was conquered, destroyed and rebuilt several times. The castle complex has an Orthodox church juxtaposed with an Ottoman-period mosque, a synagogue, small park, historical museum and numerous shops and restaurants. There are four towers above the walls that offer spectacular views of the city.
Vardzia’s Cave Monestary
This city carved in rock will delight outdoor adventure seekers. Situated near Aspindza in southern Georgia, this underground cave monastery was built in the 12th century by Georgians for their fabled queen Tamar. Take a hike up the steep steps to explore the Church of Dormition, wineries, stables, halls and apartments in the caves, which is part of UNESCO’s tentative list to become a heritage site. Don’t forget your comfortable walking shoes!
Udziro Lake in Racha
One of the most breathtaking mountainous regions of Georgia, Racha boasts the incredible Udziro Lake. It’s name literally translates to “bottomless” and is located on the slope of Mt. Katitsvera at an altitude of 2,800m. Offering panoramic views of the Caucasus Mountains, it takes two days to reach the camping site at the lake and can only be hiked in the summer months.
This mini city and skiing resort in the Borjomi district of Georgia is the perfect getaway for winter sports enthusiasts. Located on the northern slope of the Trialeti Range at an elevation of 5,576ft above sea level, this is only a three-hour drive from Tbilisi. Bakuriani was originally developed as an Olympic training facility and has become a popular winter recreation destination.
Experts and beginners in skiing and snowboarding will be able to take advantage of the vast alpine slopes and some of the best cross-country tails in Europe. For a more relaxed vacation, travellers can opt for horseback tours and long trails through snowy forests.