Last Updated September, 2021
Georgia is a unique country that not everyone can understand and fall in love with right away. To be able to get a feel of it, you need to go outside Tbilisi and travel throughout the country.
There are tons of places to visit and things to do. After spending a year in Georgia, Mark and I covered a lot but still didn’t get to experience everything we planned.
We are now back to venture into less-known parts of the country and I am excited to produce more content for my Georgia travel blog. Before we set off on another adventure though, I would like to provide this list of the best things to do in Georgia for first-time visitors.
We took many tours, drove the country in multiple directions and visited many famous landmarks and hidden gems. This list is based on our own experiences and I genuinely believe these are truly the best vacation spots in Georgia. Before I get to them, here is a quick guide on what is the best time to visit Georgia.
Best Time to Visit Georgia
Winter in Georgia
Visiting Georgia in winter is great if you love traveling in a low tourist season and if you prefer a combination of sightseeing and skiing.
Bakuriani and Gudauri have lots of snow and are perfect destinations for lovers of skiing and snowboarding.
Considering the fact that besides the mountainous regions the rest of Georgia has pretty mild winters, visiting cities, monasteries and doing sightseeing around the country brings so much pleasure. Tbilisi can be pretty gloomy but it almost never gets too cold.
Travel in Georgia in winter is cheap, very pleasant, and in some cases easier than in summer (except for the snowy destinations.)
Also, visiting Georgia for New Year’s is a really cool idea too. The whole country is beautifully decorated, has interesting celebrations, and explodes with hundreds of thousands of fireworks.
A few things to know about winter in Georgia…
– At the end of winter or beginning of spring, there is the likelihood of strong gusty winds, which usually last 2-3 days. Walking or driving during those days is not that enjoyable.
– A lot of apartments, guest houses, and hotels in Georgia do not have very good heating. When choosing accommodation, double-check on that, so you wouldn’t be cold.
– Because of the snowfalls, part of the Georgian Military Road (around Gudauri) can be closed. There were cases when tourists who went to Stepantsminda to see a legendary mount Kazbek were stuck in that village because of the road closure.
– In Georgia, there are a couple of excellent ski resorts with good slopes and spaces for free rides. Those are: Gudauri (great for beginners and advanced) and Bakuriani (with more difficult tracks.)
Visiting Georgia in Spring
What we learned about Georgia during the time we lived in Tbilisi was that many parts of this country do not really have a distinct spring. Usually, winter lasts well into April and then in May summer comes unexpectedly. There are not too many days to experience spring in its full bloom.
When it comes to this season, the best time to visit Georgia would be in May. This is a good period for those who do not like heat. The temperatures are not high and tourists haven’t arrived yet.
Tbilisi at this time is quite comfortable. It rains from time to time but is already quite sunny. Local vegetables and fruits appear on the shelves of the stores.
What to do in Georgia in Summer
Tbilisi in summer becomes half empty. Locals are trying to leave, and even more so, to take the children either to the beach or mountains.
Generally, Georgians follow a practically indestructible tradition – they bring their kids during the summer to 3 or at least 2 different resorts believing it’s going to strengthen their immune system. So, in the period from late May to early July, the locals usually go to the mountains or to coniferous forests. Pine trees bloom what makes the air beneficial to everyone.
July and August in Georgian cities get really hot. I personally cannot stay there during this time. The best option is to travel only to the mountains or beach.
If you are planning to visit during this time, do not stay in cities. All the beauty Georgia is famous for lay far outside them.
Late Fall in Georgia
Some people may think that time from October to December in Georgia is gray, uninteresting, cold, and there is nothing to do.
In fact, fall is one of the best seasons to visit Georgia. October is still quite warm, it is a pleasure to go on excursions, and the counters are full of gifts from the Georgian land: grapes, persimmon, figs are just a few examples.
November is the season for the famous Georgian mandarins. Also, this is the time for harvesting grapes (it’s a special event called “rtveli”) and making wines along with churchkhela.
Kakheti, Svaneti and Kazbegi regions see amazingly beautiful foliage season.
See my post about fall travel in Georgia to understand what to expect.
Places to Visit and Things to Do in Georgia on Your First Trip
Definitely Visit Tbilisi
Honestly, I am not a big fan of Tbilisi. Yet, I highly recommend starting your visit with this city. Since it’s a capital, it has a lot of interesting history and fascinating sights.
Tbilisi is ancient, picturesque, and has so many contrasts, especially the Old Town district. At times, it can be overwhelming though. And Tbilisi nightlife is something a lot of travelers come for.
Here, you need to walk, explore hidden courtyards, drink wine and eat traditional Georgian dishes.
I highly recommend beginning your acquaintance with Tbilisi on a sightseeing tour of the city. Every building you’ll see has some interesting facts behind its walls. And the guide will help you get a better understanding of what Tbilisi is all about.
We spent two months in Tbilisi before deciding to go on a tour. It felt like there was not much new to learn. But after 3 hours of a tour, we actually realized how much we still didn’t know.
See Mtskheta City and Jvari Monastery
Mtskheta is the first capital of Georgia. It is a historic rather small town just 20 km from Tbilisi. Surprisingly, it is very cozy and beautiful and not that touristy as you may think.
The main attraction here is the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which holds a huge number of relics. The front street is usually very touristy and crowded. But if you walk away from it and turn to one of the adjacent streets, you’ll see how quiet it actually gets.
Stop for a cup of Turkish coffee or homemade goodies at Ornament Express cafe or Cafe Tatin. They have big menus, very interesting decor, and an extremely pleasant vibe. Walk along the river towards Antioch basilica and observe how people live.
Jvari monastery on the mountain over Mtskheta offers a famous view of the confluence of two rivers, the first capital, and the surrounding area. Here, from May to September, it becomes very crowded. So the best time to visit is early in the morning or later in the day for the sunset.
TIP: Do not go by cab, better hire a driver or rent a car and visit Mtskheta when traveling to one of the wineries or Military Road. Even though it seems that the monastery and city are located not far from each other, in reality, there is no straight road connecting these two places. Because of a lot of detours, you will spend more money on a cab. The driver will not tell you any history or stop along the way.
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Try Wine in One of The Best Wineries in Georgia
Georgia is known for its winemaking traditions. In this country, you can taste wine made from different types of grapes and not spend a lot of money. In fact, you don’t really need to go to a wine factory to understand what real Georgian wines taste like.
Even small wineries located in ordinary village houses make wines on a regular basis. Most of the large factories and smaller family-owned wineries can be visited. Taste wines or other beverages as well as get acquainted with the process of their production.
One of my favorite wineries around Tbilisi is Iago’s Winery (Marani.) The cellar of a man Iago Bitarashvili is a private winery located in the village of Chardakhi in the vicinity of the city of Mtskheta. It is an ordinary country house with vineyards in the backyard. There are two types of wine here: red dry Saperavi and white dry Chinuri. Reservations here are required.
In the village Mukhrani, there is another winery Chateau-Mukhrani winery, which operates right inside the 19th-century palace. It is located 25 kilometers from Tbilisi and you can get to it by any bus going from the Didube bus station in the direction of Gori.
However, from the bus stop, you’ll need to walk a bit through the village. Chateau Mukhrani produces 13 varieties of wine and chacha, some of them are quite rare. Tasting four varieties will cost around 40 GEL ($15) per person. Just keep in mind that you must sign up for a wine tour and tasting in advance.
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No matter how much time you have in the country, definitely add a trip from Tbilisi to Kazbegi as a must-do activity in Georgia, especially for your first visit. This destination is ideal for exploring the Georgian mountains for the first time.
Many travelers look at the 208-kilometer Georgian military road as a special attraction. Usually the trip here takes one full day, but in my opinion, it is not enough. If you want to fully enjoy the local beauty, breathe the clean mountain air then spend at least one night in one of the hotels of Stepantsimida or Gudauri.
If you have more time, spend 2 nights and go to Juta and Truso Valley to see some truly magical and hidden places.
When choosing how to travel to Kazbegi, give preference to independent travel. After all, there are so many unique places and beautiful landscapes near the road that you want to stop and enjoy them. Tour companies usually hop from one touristy spot to another not allowing you to see all less visited but gorgeous places.
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See Sighnaghi Town and Kakheti Region
The town of Sighnaghi and the Bodbe Monastery near it are the most famous sights of Kakheti. Although they are not the only ones.
Kakheti region, in general, is famous for its winemaking, so I do recommend coming here at least for two days. And, I would recommend better devoting most of your time to the Northern part of the region since all major wineries, cool hotels and diverse scenery is located there.
But if you are short on time and don’t have the opportunity to rent a car and explore on your own, hop on a bus or hire a driver and go to Sighnaghi.
In the middle of the way from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi, there is a small town Badiauri. If you can make a stop there, do so. This town is famous for cheese making and bread baking. You can taste cheeses in multiple shops and see in various bakeries how bread is made.
Before you get to the city, stop at Club Kanudosi restaurant for a drink or snack. It has such a lovely veranda with an absolutely mind-blowing view. We stopped there by accident, just looking for a shot of espresso for Mark. Instead, we got so captivated by the view and pleasant breeze that we didn’t want to leave.
It seems everyone who is visiting Georgia, knows about the town in the East with red roofs on the background of snowy caps. A lot of people call it “a city of love” and say that Sighnaghi reminds them of Italy or Spain. I think it has some similarities indeed.
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Go all the Way to Vardzia and Rabat
Both of these places are among the most interesting places to visit in Georgia but not many people get to see them. Probably because they are located far from Tbilisi. And the best way to see them would be when visiting Borjomi.
Vardzia is a huge and very interesting cave complex, hidden in a picturesque gorge. Even though it is not the only ancient cave city, it’s probably the most spectacular and impressive one. It consists of 8 floors and about 600 caves. An incredible place where people have lived for centuries, hiding from numerous enemies.
Rabat castle in Meskheti between Borjomi and Vardzia is a beautifully restored citadel of the same era. Today, it has a territory of 7 hectares and modern infrastructure.
I recommend going to Vardzia at first and on the way back stop at Rabat castle for an hour or so. The best way to cover both places would be for one day on at least a two-day trip. It is recommendable to stay overnight either in Borjomi or right near Vardzia and visit other attractions during the next day.
Batumi is the second-largest city of Georgia, a major seaport, and the capital of the Adjara region. It is located in the south of the country on the east coast of the Black Sea.
Batumi is a great vacation spot in Georgia, the resort capital of the country with a vibrant nightlife. The city has an eclectic mix of architecture, ranging from charming classical buildings of the 19th century to ultramodern skyscrapers. Walking through it introduces you to different epochs.
Locals call Batumi “Las Vegas of Georgia” and go there for the beach, food, festivals, and history. By the way, Batumi is home to the best Georgian egg and cheese bread dish which is called Khachapuri. And it is a gateway to some fancy Black Sea resorts.
But there are other reasons to visit this city during the 2 or 3 days trip from Tbilisi.
If you don’t have a lot of time in Georgia (let’s say you have only a week), I do not really recommend going to Batumi. Better spend it on visiting Kakheti and Kazbegi (which I mentioned above.) In case, you are coming for longer, go to Batumi and make a few stops along the way.
Try Mineral Water in a Resort Town Borjomi
Borjomi is a balneological resort city in Georgia at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level. It is famous for its mild climate, mountains, pine forests, fresh air, sanatoriums, and mineral water.
A lot of people from former USSR countries come to Borjomi for two, three weeks just to drink the water, breathe some of the freshest air in the region, and spend time in the nearby mountains.
We personally didn’t feel like spending weeks there but being in and around Borjomi for two days was great. There is a big beautiful park right in the city center with many hiking trails and a cool hot spring for swimming. If you take it slowly, you can spend the entire day just in that park.
Borjomi has more than 200 sunny days a year. Coming at any season guarantees you will have a good time. The architecture, nature, and food are different than the rest of the country. Visiting this area will show you a different side of Georgia.
Have you traveled to Georgia country before? Is there anything you would add to this list?