The Eastern European country of Georgia has so far been spared from the plague of mass tourism, and group tours have yet to discover the beauty and diversity of the Caucasian nation nestled in between Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. Yet, there are many places to visit in Georgia Europe (or “Euraisa”) that you might not know about.
Aerial view of Tbilisi
Places to Visit in Georgia Europe
It is instead, a perfect destination for more intrepid travelers wanting to explore mountainous regions and lush lowland vineyards. Hiring a 4×4 vehicle is the best way to get around and visit all the best places, such as remote villages and hidden valleys. Here are some some our favorite places to visit in Georgia Europe (not USA)!
Although we are not normally fans of large cities, spending a few days in Georgia’s quirky capital is a must. Unlike other capital cities, it is rather compact and the best sights can be visited easily on foot. Tbilisi is home to the cutest crooked clock tower we’ve ever seen! Don’t you agree?
Crooked clock tower in Tbilisi
One of our favourite experiences in the country of Georgia was bathing in the Sulphur baths located in the Abanotubani area of the capital. You can read all about it here.
The ancient cave town of Uplistsike, built up on a hillside, is a lot of fun to explore, making it a unique destination which should not be missed. Some of the caves have brilliantly carved interiors, whilst others are more simple.
The cave town of Uplistsike
The town was used as a rest stop for merchants on the Silk Road and there’s even an escape tunnel hacked in the rock which enabled the inhabitants to leave in case of attack.
It is not far from Tbilisi and can easily be incorporated as part of an interesting day trip from the capital including Uplistsikhe, Mtskheta and Gori.
Some of the caves have carved interiors, whilst others are more simple
The draw here is Jvari Monastery which provides great views all over town. The town itself just below the monastery is also very pretty and you can easily walk all around it stopping for some pomegranate juice and khinkali at one of the many stalls.
View of Mtskheta from Jvari Monastery
Home to the fierce Svan people, the region is best known for its tall defence towers scattered around the region, which in ancient times, used to provide an important lookout in case of attack by other tribes.
We did not find the people in Mestia (the main town in the region) fierce at all – on the contrary they did their utmost to help us repair our 4×4 after it broke down on a Sunday, even going so far as to wake up the local mechanic at 7am!
Ushguli, a fairytale village in Svaneti
The area is home to Ushguli, a small community bearing the title of the highest inhabited village in Europe. The route from Mestia to Ushguli is dangerous and should only be undertaken by very experienced drivers in a 4×4 who are capable of keeping their cool when faced with the steep muddy cliffside trails leading to the village – Nikki did a great job here, although our vehicle broke down right after we got back!
The almost-unreal scenery around Ushguli is spectacular giving a fairytale aura to the village. It is probably the prettiest and most underrated village that we have ever traveled to!
The surreal landscape of the Ushguli region
5. Katskhi Pillar
Why is a church dramatically perched atop a 40-metre tall narrow karst column you may ask? No one is certain as to why it was built there in the first place, but if like us, you enjoy visiting bizarre-looking and mysterious destinations, you are almost certainly going to want to drive all the way to the town of Chiatura to look for the pillar.
The church at the top is actually a complex also housing three hermit cells and a wine cellar and has been home to a monk for the past 20 years. Unfortunately, women are not allowed to climb to the top.
The church built atop the Katskhi Pillar
6. Stepandsminda (Kazbegi)
We spent most of our time in this mountain village warming ourselves up with coffee (and wine) and eating cheesy Khachapuri in the shadow the giant Kazbek mountain.
Stepandsminda is home to the Gergeti Trinity Church, perhaps the most iconic landmark in Georgia, so be sure to make your way up the rough mountain trail to experience the mountain views from this point.
The Gergeti Trinity Church in the shadow of Mount Kazbegi
The backdrop to the church is truly spectacular, and we spent ages walking around the church in circles trying to take the best picture possible from different spots! The area is home to some great mountain trekking opportunities too!
On our way to Stepandsminda from Tbilisi, we stopped at the beautiful Ananuri Fortress and climbed up to the top of the tower to take in the wonderful views over the Aragvi River.
The beautiful Ananuri Fortress
Did you know that Georgia is considered to be the birthplace of wine? More so, the Kakheti region is where the tradition originated, some 8,000 or so years ago.
Kakheti is still considered to be Georgia’s best wine region, growing almost 75% of the country’s wine grapes – an alluring part of the country in which hundreds of vineyards surround the cute, rural villages which dot the valleys and hills. Most individual villages here are known for a particular type of wine they produce and almost every household makes its own.
Kakheti is still considered to be Georgia’s best wine region
It was not surprising that we were greeted with a huge jug of wine and a platter of fruit as soon as we arrived to the guesthouse we were staying at in the fortified medieval village of Sighnaghi.
The fortified walls in the medieval village of Sighnaghi
Sighnaghi proved to be a great base for our travels in the area. We drove around the lush hills, stopping at wineries to sample the country’s best vino by day. By night, we walked the cobblestoned roads of the hillside town in search of some Shkmeruli, a dish of meat cooked in a milky garlic sauce, probably our favourite food discovery in the country of Georgia (also a perfect complement to the wine of course).
If you’re searching for an off-the-beaten path destination with some adventure, be sure to put the country of Georgia on your list, you won’t be disappointed!
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Love it! Thank you for a great round up of what to do in Georgia – I didn’t know Tblisi was so quirky! And some of those landscapes are beautiful! Must add it to my list :)
What a wonderful post you have written…
How far are all these places from each other? Which is the cheap destination to fly from seattle?
Wonderfull review of the highlights of Georgia. All those places are must to visit and would love to add just one more impressive destination: Vardzia cave town, built in 12th Century, stretching for nearly one kilometer and reaching the height of 13 floors.