Tbilisi, the “place of warmth” and the “balcony of Europe” knows how to combine Asian and European influences in an exciting way. Moreover, Tbilisi is the ideal starting point for fantastic trips in Georgia. From hiking in the mountains, enjoying a natural wine tasting to discovering cultural treasures.
1. Gergetier Trinity Church
It is the ultimate postcard motif of Georgia. Perched high in the mountains, with the imposing Kasbek as a backdrop, is the Gergetier Trinity Church. The Georgian Orthodox church complex is about 160 kilometres away from Tbilisi. The village of Stepantsminda is recommended as a starting point for hiking tours.
After an overnight stay in Stepantsminda, you can venture up to the church the next morning freshly rested. If you want to earn the view from the church into the valley, lace up your hiking boots. If you don’t want to make the trip, you can take a marshrutka (a minibus that takes you from A to B like a shared taxi).
Trip to Juta
The tour to Stepantsminda and the hike to the Gergetier Trinity Church can be ideally combined with a side trip to Juta. The drive to the village, about an hour’s drive from Stepantsminda, is more than adventurous, however, and only recommended for very experienced drivers with off-road vehicles. If you are not confident enough to make the trip yourself, but do not want to miss out on the excursion, you can book a tour*.
When we arrive in Juta, a hiking trail leads to the Zeta campsite* and the Fifth Season guesthouse*, and the first few metres in particular are a steep climb. The view of the mountains makes the effort worthwhile and there are even hammocks at the guesthouse for resting.
Where to stay
Those who want to treat themselves to a luxurious stay in Stepantsminda will reside in the legendary Rooms Hotel Kazbegi* at the foot of Mount Kazbek. The hotel pool invites you to relax after the hike – including a spectacular view of the Georgian mountains.
Much more modest – and cheaper – but wonderfully authentic is the Homestay Lela and Mari*. By the way, I enjoyed great Georgian delicacies here and was even able to look over the cook’s shoulder while she prepared them.
2. David Gareja monastery complex
A piece of history in the middle of the Georgian savannah. In the 6th century, the missionary Dawit was drawn from Syria to the Caucasus, where he founded a monastery. The fascinating frescoes hidden on cave walls can still be admired today on a hike around the monastery complex, accompanied by a magnificent view of Georgia’s neighbour, Azerbaijan. A little caution is advised, however, as it is not uncommon to encounter snakes in this region. A stick on the trail won’t do any harm, nor will hiking boots that reach above the ankles.
Where to stay
A visit to the cave monastery is also suitable as a day trip. You set off from Tbilisi, around 80 kilometres away, in the morning and return in the early afternoon. If you head straight back to Tbilisi after the hike, you will miss the fantastic Oasis Club in Udabno*. The Oasis Club is a wonderful place of well-being and offers you cosy cottages in the Georgian savannah just a few kilometres from the cave monastery. Early booking is recommended.
Mtskheta, the old Georgian capital is one of the most popular destinations around Tbilisi and therefore quite crowded, especially in high season. Souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels are spread around the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.
But I did have my moment away from tourism in Mtskheta. In the evening, together with my travel buddies, I walked through a park on the outskirts of the city on my way to the ruins of Bebrisziche Castle. A group of Georgians sat here for a cosy chat and waved us over. The day ended with a barbecue and one of the best memories of my trip.
Where to stay
I associate great evenings at the Tamarindi Guest House*, which offers simple and inexpensive rooms in the centre, with memories of fun evenings on the roof terrace. I’ve also heard good things about the Hotel Gino Wellness Mtskheta*.
4. Natural Wine Tasting in Khashmi
Wine belongs to Georgia like beer to the Oktoberfest. Moreover, Georgia is considered the cradle of wine. It has been produced here since ancient times. Natural wine has a special tradition, i.e. wine that requires few technical aids and does not contain additives such as fining agents and stabilisers.
Winemaker George Wolski is a natural winemaker. About 40 kilometres from Tbilisi, you can look behind the scenes of Chateau Khashmi and enjoy his amber-coloured wines.
5. Café Gardenia Shevardnadze
Finally, I have an idea for a great mini-getaway in Tbilisi for you. If you just want to escape the bustling city for a moment, you’ll find a true oasis of calm at the delightful Gardenia Shevardnadze. A beautifully landscaped garden with greenhouses and a charming café await you. The menu is small but nice – the cake divine! The 2 lari (€ 0.70) entrance fee is well worth it.
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