Best Places to Go in Georgia
Georgia has countless outstanding spots, any one of which will leave viewers stunned, but I want to bring attention to just a dozen of them. I think these 12 sites are the treasures of my country. It's worth mentioning that in spite of Georgia's relatively small size, its nature is quite diverse.
In a territory of just 69,700 square kilometers, you can relax on a subtropical coast, climb up snowy mountains, go camping in evergreen and deciduous forests and even get lost in deserts or semi-deserts . . . and the time it will take you to get from one end of the country to another is no more than 9 hours by car.
Now, let's get started!
1. Gergeti Trinity Church
The Gergeti Trinity Church is one of the most beautiful churches in Georgia. It is located as high as 2200 meters above sea level. It was built in the 14th century and was the main church for the local people for centuries. The Gergeti Church has many beautiful icons; the two most famous are called sadaro and saavdro. The former literally means "for the good weather" and the latter "for the bad weather". When the weather was bad (e.g. rainy), people would take out sadaro icon. But if there was a drought, people would take out saavdro icon and bathe it in the spring.
2. Prometheus Cave Natural Monument
The Prometheus Cave is a breathtaking natural monument. It is as long as 11 kilometers and has a whopping 22 halls, but only 6 of them are open to visitors. It was studied thoroughly in the 20th century.
The name comes from the legend of Prometheus. According to the myth, he was chained to the mountains near this cave. Pedestrian paths and stairs are built in the cave, and inside the halls, there are colorful illuminations that reveal unbelievable stalagmites and stalactites.
Note: While visiting the cave, don't forget to look up; there's a good chance you will see many bats.
3. Vardzia Cave Monastery
Vardzia is an excavated monastery complex. The main part of it was established in the 12th century, during the reign of King Tamar. Tamar was a female and should have been called a Queen by rule, but she is known as a King. The name "Vardzia" is connected to Tamar; as a child, she visited Vardzia and got lost. When her name was called, Tamar replied, "I am here, uncle", which is pronounced "aq var dzia" in Georgian. Inside the monastery, there's a fresco of Tamar with a model of the church.
4. Mtatsminda Park
The park is located on Mtatsminda Mountain. The name Mtatsminda means "holy mountain". The park is the highest located park in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. There are two ways to get to the park: by car or by the ropeway, called the Tbilisi Funicular. The biggest attraction in the park is the giant Ferris wheel, though there are also many water attractions, carousels, roller coasters and cafes in the park. For me, the best part of the park is a street with funny, upside-down and leaning houses in all shapes and colors.
5. Okatse Canyon
Located in the Okatse Valley, the width of this canyon ranges between 3 and 20 meters, and the depth varies from 20 to 100 meters. There are also a few beautiful waterfalls and some natural stone bridges and caves on the river. The canyon is 2 kilometers long and has not been fully explored, but it is one of the most popular tourist spots in Georgia. The view is majestic and the whole area will give you an adventurous feeling!
6. Katskhi Pillar
The Katskhi Pillar is a limestone monolith about 40 meters high. There's a church on top, but going up is prohibited unless you have a blessing from the priest. If somehow you manage to come by this rare invitation, you will still have to make the frightening ascent up an old iron ladder. But it would surely be worth it. In addition to the view from the top of the pillar, some old Georgian inscriptions were recently found in the church.
But viewing the complex from the ground is still spectacular, especially from afar. When you look to the Katskhi Pillar from the distance, it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale!
7. Sulphur Baths in Tbilisi
The sulphur baths are located in a district of Tbilisi called Abanotubani, which literally means "the district of baths". The baths are connected to hot, mineral sulphur water. You can either enjoy the sulphur-rich hot water in a public pool or rent a private room. One can also get a relaxing massage there. You should bring your own towels and bathing supplies, but if you forget, you can buy everything on the spot at low prices.
By the way, the name of the capital is connected to hot waters. Tbilisi comes from the word tbili, which means "warm". According to legend, one Georgian king—Vakhtang Gorgasali—found a hot spring and decided to build a city on the area, later called . . . Tbilisi!
8. Dadiani Palace
Dadiani Palace is a residence in Samegrelo, a part of Georgia. It was built in the 17th century by local ruler Levan II Dadiani. Nowadays, there's a National History and Architecture Museum inside the palace. The complex includes two palaces, one church and a decorative garden. Thanks to many renovations, it still looks magnificent!
9. Sataplia Nature Reserve
Sataplia Reserve is located in Imereti, another part of western Georgia. It was founded in 1935 and is known for its karst caves. The name Sataplia means "place of honey", as bees used to live in the reserve's caves. Ninety-five percent of the reserve is covered with Colchian forest, and every Georgian kid knows that Sataplia is home to dinosaurs. Up to 200 footprints of both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs can be found in the reserve! You can see some statues of those dinosaurs in the reserve.
10. Ali and Nino (a.k.a. The Statue of Love)
YES! We have moving statues of a man and a woman that pass through each other every day! They represent the characters of the novel Ali and Nino, written by Kurban Said. It is one of the most romantic monuments in the world and a jewel of Batumi, a seaside city in Georgia. It makes a perfect view along with the Alphabetic Tower.
11. Mtirala National Park
The park is named after Mount Mtirala. Mtirala means "crying" in Georgian, and it's not hard to see why . . . . It is the wettest area in Georgia, with 4,520mm of rainfall annually. The park is covered in Colchian forest and full of endangered plants and animals.
12. Shatili Village
Shatili village is a historical settlement in the Khevsureti region (mkhare, in Georgian). The village reaches a height of 1400 meters and is full of flat-roofed Georgian houses called baniani sakhlebi ("baniani" meaning flat-roofed and "sakhlebi" meaning houses). There are also about 60 traditionally built towers and a fortress.
According to the 2014 census, the population is . . . well, quite small . . . just 22 people! During the winter, the road is closed due to snow. That's why it is called The Village of Silence. Despite its location, the village is often visited by tourists.
© 2019 Ninia Dilsiz