Georgia, situated at the border between the greatest civilizations canboast rich, although turbulent history since the ancient times.
Because of its location it has always been a target for theneighboring empires: Persian, Ottoman and Russian. Unresolvedconflicts are present in some parts of the country (Abkhazia and SouthOssetia) even to this day and these are the places that should beavoided by tourists. All the rest of the country, however, is verysafe, people are warm and welcoming, the nature and landscapes arebreathtaking and the architecture of the cities (both old and modern)is astounding. While traveling in Georgia you will be truly surprisedhow diverse this little country (the size of Ireland) is. Within the350 km (217 miles) drive you will pass through three different climatezones: from semi-arid with spectacular canyons, gorges and sandstonerock formations, continental, where you can feel like in the middle ofEurope with snowy mountain peaks and ski resorts, to finally reach thesub-tropical Black Sea region with beautiful beaches and ubiquitouspalm and banana trees.
Georgia has been famous for its wine since the antiquity. There aremany vineyards around the country and it's a must to have some localwine while traveling there. What's interesting, you, as a touristmight have a chance to try it for the first time while entering thecountry at Tbilisi Airport. The staff at passport control desks, alongwith a stamp in your passport will also give you a bottle of Georgianwine as a gift. That's what you call a warm welcome!What places to see in GeorgiaThe capital, TbilisiThe capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi is one of the most charmingcities I have ever seen. Although a bit neglected due to the recentconflicts, the restoration works are in full swing. The new, verymodern architecture is stunning. You can't miss the illuminated Bridgeof Piece on the Kura river, the new Theater building in the shape oftubes, the glittering TV tower and the crazily shaped Public ServiceHall. The Holy Trinity Cathedral (Sameba) with the perfect,symmetrical design is also worth seeing. When it comes to the oldarchitecture, first thing you will probably notice is the 4th centuryfortress Narikala built on the hill overlooking the city. Whilewalking up to the fortress through the old town, it's difficult not tonotice the distinctive wooden balconies of the houses situated righton the edge of the cliffs. Also, in the main city square there areremains of ancient fortresses that were preserved and literally stickout of the ground creating a unique mix of old and new style. To getan unbelievably amazing view of the city (especially at night whenliterally every building is illuminated) take the newly constructedcable car to the top of the hill. On one side you will admire thepanorama of Tbilisi, on the other the city's botanic gardens. And,finally, after all day of walking around when you will rightly deserveto have some rest, take a relaxing Turkish bath in the sulfur bathsright below the Narikala fortress.
Batumi and the Black Sea coastWhen you get tired of the dry, desert-like landscape, within a fewhour drive you can reach the lush green sub-tropical Black sea coast.
Batumi, the Black Sea resort city, is lovely, colorful andarchitecturally diverse not less than Tbilisi. There are many weirdlyshaped buildings along the beach, including old-style soviet blocks,very modern hotels, completely abstract constructions or restaurantslooking like ships or towers. This mix is a bit chaotic but charminganyway. After dark, you might feel as if you were in a fairy tale.
Every building, every fountain and every palm tree shine with variouscolors. You can't miss the moving statue of love – two figures of aman and a women literally go through themselves, move away from eachother, then turn back and the spectacle starts again.
Uplistsikhe and Vardzia Ancient Cave CitiesThose interested in ancient history must visit cave cities in Georgia.
The most popular are Uplistsikhe and Vardzia. Uplistsikhe, near thecity of Gori, dates back to the second millenium BC. It was animportant cultural center for the kingdom of Iberia located there atthat time. You can still see the ruins of the city as well as thechambers and smaller holes carved out of the sandstone rocks. They allform astonishing abstract shapes looking like, for example, a face ora head. On the top of the hill, there's a 9th century Basilica stillopen to this day.
Vardzia is a larger than Uplistsikhe complex of caves and tunnels inSouthern Georgia on the Mtkvari River. The construction of this CaveMonastery began in the 12th century. There are many corridors thatconnect the chambers inside the cliff wall and it's still possible topass through a few of them, from one level to another. There are stillmonks living in some of their cave homes. You can't miss thebeautifully painted and decorated 12th century church of the Dolmition(of course, also carved from the rock) with three magnificent bells.
The views, both from the Cave Monastery and along the way there arestunning, you can admire Georgian villages squeezed in between thecanyons, picturesque valleys with little streams and also castles andfortresses, like the Khertvisi Fortress from the 10th century.
MtskhetaMtskheta, on the Kura and Aragvi Rivers is one of the oldest town inGeorgia. Just 20 km (12 miles) from Tbilisi, is very easily accessibleand perfect for a one day trip. You can take a marshrutka (mini-van)from Tbilisi for only around 1-2 USD! The old town is beautifullyrenovated with great restaurants where you can eat delicious food anddrink wonderful wine. In the town, visit the 11th centurySvetitskhoveli Cathedral, a great example of Georgian Christianarchitecture. On top of the nearby hill, there's the 6th century JvariMonastery overlooking the town. The views, like almost everywhere inGeorgia are spectacular.
Gori – Stalin's birthplaceGori is usually a stop for visitors coming from Tbilisi to UplistsikheCave Town, only a few miles away from the cave city. This town isdifferent than other places in Georgia, you can feel the Soviet eraatmosphere here to the maximum. Damaged apartment blocks (althoughbeing renovated) remind of the painful past and recent tensions withRussia. One thing you should definitely see in Gori is the Museum ofStalin, the leader of the Soviet Union who was born in the town. Theexhibition includes Stalin's home (and the bed in which he was born),Stalin's railway carriage and even the toilet that Stalin supposedlyused. Gori is an off the beaten path place which has a surreal climateand you'll feel there as if you've entered a different era in adifferent world.
Georgia is such a rich land in history, culture and natural beautythat it's difficult to fit everything about it in a short article. Ifyou wish to discover a completely new, undiscovered place, not seen bymany, don't hesitate to begin the adventure through the crossroadsbetween Europe, Asia and the Middle East!
More info about Georgia.