Georgia’s jewel of a capital city, Tbilisi still manages to retain a small-town feel in many of its charming neighborhoods, despite the fact that it’s the biggest city in Georgia. When you fly into Tbilisi, you won’t know where you are in place or in time. Georgia is suspended between Europe and Asia in the incredibly diverse Caucasian region, and Tbilisi is a veritable showcase of Georgian culture, history, and architecture. Get lost wandering around the sometimes overwhelming old market; go find all the best places for khachapuri and wine in the newly-redone Old Town; hike up to the Narikala Fortress or visit the Kartlis Deda (Mother of a Georgian) statue to get a beautiful view over the city.
2) Stepantsminda (Kazbegi)
Stepantsminda (formerly Kazbegi) is a village in the north of Georgia, popular for the trekking opportunities in the visually spectacular surrounding mountains, its views of the mighty Mount Kazbek, and for the beautiful view from the town of the Holy Trinity Church outlined against Mount Kazbek itself. Kazbeghi is known for its scenic location in the Greater Caucasus mountains, and is a center for trekkers and mountain climbing.
The town is located along the banks of the Terek River, 157 kilometers (98 mi) to the north of Tbilisi at an elevation of 1,740 meters (5,710 feet) above sea level. Stepantsminda’s climate is moderately humid with relatively dry, cold winters and long and cool summers. The average annual temperature is 4.9 degrees Celsius. January is the coldest month with an average temperature of -5.2 degrees Celsius while July is the warmest month with an average temperature of 14.4 degrees Celsius. The absolute minimum recorded temperature is -34 degrees Celsius and the absolute maximum is 32 degrees Celsius. Stepantsminda’s average annual precipitation is 790 mm. (31.1 inches). The town is dominated by large mountains on all sides. The most notable mountain of the region, Mount Kazbek, lies immediately to the west of town. The second most prominent peak, Mt. Shani, rises to an elevation of 4,451 meters (14,600 feet) above sea level, 9 kilometers to the east of Stepantsminda. The town is located 10 kilometers to the south of the famous Darial Gorge.
Batumi is the second largest city of Georgia, located on the coast of the Black Sea in the country’s southwest. Situated in a subtropical zone near the foot of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, Batumi is a popular tourist destination known for its varying weather–it is a bustling seaside resort during warm seasons, but can get entirely covered in snow during winter. Much of Batumi’s economy revolves around tourism and gambling, but the city is also an important sea port and includes industries like shipbuilding, food processing and light manufacturing. Since 2010, Batumi has been transformed by the construction of modern high-rise buildings, as well as the restoration of classical 19th-century edifices lining its historic Old Town.
Batumi today is one of the main port cities of Georgia. It has the capacity for 80,000-tonne tankers to take materials such as oil that are shipped through Georgia from Central Asia. Additionally, the city exports regional agricultural products. Since 1995 the freight conversion of the port has constantly risen, with an approximate 8 million tonnes in 2001. The annual revenue from the port is estimated at between $200 million and $300 million.
4) Vardzia Cave Monastery
Vardzia is a cave monastery site in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain on the left bank of the Kura River, thirty kilometres from Aspindza. The main period of construction was the second half of the twelfth century. The caves stretch along the cliff for some five hundred metres and in up to nineteen tiers. The Church of the Dormition, dating to the 1180s during the golden age of Tamar and Rustaveli, has an important series of wall paintings. The site was largely abandoned after the Ottoman takeover in the sixteenth century. Now part of a state heritage reserve, the extended area of Vardzia-Khertvisi has been submitted for future inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
A number of documentary sources supplement the knowledge derived from the site’s physical fabric. The collection of chronicles known as the History of Georgia refers to Tamar erecting a church to house the icon of the Virgin of Vardzia after receiving divine help in her campaigns, before transferring the monastery from Upper or Zeda Vardzia. Tamar is said to have departed from Vardzia during her campaign against the Muslims, and her ensuing victory at Basian is celebrated in the Hymns in Honour of the Virgin of Vardzia by Ioane Shavteli. The History of Georgia also relates how Vardzia escaped the Mongol invaders in the 1290s. The Persian Safavid chronicler Hasan Bey Rumlu describes Vardzia as a “wonder”, “impregnable as the wall of Alexander the Great”, before recounting its sack by the Persians under Shah Tahmasp I in 1551; a near-contemporary note in the Vardzia Gospel tells of its repatriation from a Persian bazaar. After the arrival of the Ottomans in 1578, the monks departed and the site was abandoned.
Mtskheta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has been inhabited since before 1,000 BC and was once the capital of the early Kingdom of Iberia (today’s Eastern Georgia).
Just 20 km from Tbilisi, at the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, the city is located on an ancient trade route. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of Mtskheta’s status as a major trading post. Glass perfume bottles, Greek and Aramaic writings, pottery, metalwork and jewelry have all been unearthed in abundance here, and many examples are on show in the town’s museum.
The ancient geographer Strabo described Mtskheta as a highly developed city with a water supply system, markets and stone houses. Mtskheta was also the religious centre of the country, with a number of major shrines to Georgia’s pagan pantheon; these would later be replaced by churches when St. Nino converted the country to Christianity in around 337 AD.
Although the capital was moved to the more easily defended Tbilisi at the beginning of the VI century, Mtskheta continued to be the coronation and burial place of Georgian kings, and the seat of the Patriarch, who is also known as the Bishop of Mtskheta. Today, the lovely old town has a laid back, village feel, especially compared to the more hectic pace of Tbilisi.
6) Rabati Castle
The old stone Rabati fortress, the main sight of the Akhaltsikhe town, is standing on the small hill on the very shores of the Potskhovi river. Its name comes from Arabic meaning “fortified place”. It is located on the western suburbs and can be seen practically from anywhere in the city. This military building erected in the 13th century had witnessed a lot over the centuries. The fortress had been destroyed several times, was often in a siege, as a result of which had absorbed tracks of different cultures and religions. In 2012 there was held a large reconstruction after which Rabati fortress in Akhaltsikhe turned into a town within the town. It has become not only a historical monument, but a real cultural city centre. There are church, mosque, synagogue, small park, History Museum, various shops, hotels and even civil registry office inside the fortress walls.
The history of Rabati fortress goes back into the centuries and no one can definitely say when the first fortification appeared. It is known that in the 12th century Djakeli prince’s family had built here the first real fortress and it had turned into their residence for 300 years. What is interesting is that when they had erected the fortress, it had a name of “Akhaltsikhe” that is translated as “new fortress”. So the city that stretched at its walls has preserved this name up to our days.
Mestia is a highland townlet in northwest Georgia, at an elevation of 1,500 metres (4,921 feet) in the Caucasus Mountains.
According to the current administrative subdivision of Georgia, Mestia is located in the Svaneti region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti province (mkhare), some 128 kilometres (80 miles) northeast of the regional capital of Zugdidi. Mestia and the adjoining 132 villages form Mestia District (raioni). Its area is 30,444 square kilometres (11,754 sq mi) and its population is 14,248 (2,600 in the town itself), according to the 2002 Georgia census. It was granted the status of a townlet (Georgian: daba) in 1968.
Historically and ethnographically, Mestia has always been regarded a chief community of Zemo, or Upper Svaneti province. It was formerly known as Seti. The population is mostly Svans, a cultural and linguistic subgroup of the Georgians. Despite its small size, the townlet was an important centre of Georgian culture for centuries and contains a number of medieval monuments, such as churches and forts, included in a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Mestia is served by the Queen Tamar Airport, which is operated by the state-owned company United Airports Georgia, since 2010.
“A city of Love” is in Georgia’s eastern region of Kakheti and the administrative center of the Signagi Municipality. Although it is one of Georgia’s smallest towns, Signagi serves as a popular tourist destination due to its location at the heart of Georgia’s wine-growing regions, as well as its picturesque landscapes, pastel houses and narrow, cobblestone streets. Located on a steep hill, Signagi overlooks the vast Alazani Valley, with the Caucasus Mountains visible at a distance. Signagi is located in the Kakheti region of Georgia, settled since the Paleolithic period. Signagi as a settlement is first recorded in the early 18th century. In 1762, King Heraclius II of Georgia sponsored the construction of the town and erected a fortress to defend the area from marauding attacks by Dagestan tribesmen. As of the 1770 census, Signagi was settled by 100 families, chiefly craftsmen and merchants. When Georgia was annexed by Imperial Russia in 1801, Signagi (Signakh) was officially granted town status and became a centre of Signakh uyezd within Tiflis Governorate in 1802. In 1812, Signak joined the rebellion with the rest of Kakheti against the Russian rule. During the Caucasian War, the town “was considered an important point on account of its proximity to” Dagestan. The town quickly rose in its size and population and became an agricultural center under the Soviet Union. The severe economic crisis in post-Soviet Georgia heavily affected the town, but a major reconstruction project recently launched by the Government of Georgia and co-funded by several international organizations intends to address an increasing tourist interest and modernize infrastructure.
Kutaisi is the legislative capital of Georgia, and its third largest city. Situated 221 kilometres (137 miles) west of Tbilisi, it is the capital of the western region of Imereti. Kutaisi is located along both banks of the Rioni River. The city lies at an elevation of 125–300 metres (410–984 feet) above sea level. Kutaisi is surrounded by deciduous forests to the northeast and the northwest. The low-lying outskirts of the city have a largely agricultural landscape. It was the capital of Georgia before Tbilisi. In 2011 Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, signed a constitutional amendment relocating the parliament to Kutaisi.
Kutaisi Central Park- Kutaisi Central Park is located in the heart of the city. There you can see nice fountains and feel pleasant breath coming down from the hills. The park is meeting place for youth coming from the university and for older people, gathered to share some old stories. Here you can feel the pulse of the city.
10) The ancient caves of Uplistsikhe
Located in Eastern Georgia, Uplistsikhe (literally “Lord’s Fortress“) is an abandoned rock-hewn town, which once have played an important role in Georgian history. The place was founded in the late Bronze Age, around 1000 BC, and continued to be inhabited until 13th century AD. Between the 6th century BC and the 11st century AD, Uplistsikhe was one of the most important political and religious centers of pre-Christian Kartli – one of the predecessors of the Georgian state.
Archaeologists have unearthed numerous temples and findings relating to a sun goddess, worshipped prior to the arrival of Christianity. When Christianity arrived in Georgia, the city lost importance in favor of the new centers of Christian culture, most notably Mtskheta and Tbilisi. Nevertheless, life continued in Uplistsikhe, Christian structures have been built, and for a short time, Christianity and the old faith coexisted in the city.