Where to?

Road trip in Georgia

Georgia was a curiosity for me for a while and together with my boyfriend we decided this to be our first road trip together. I found easy to write about it since we had an amazing time and the places that we’ve visited are absolutely great.

To be honest, we didn’t really know what to expect. None of our friends have visited Georgia before to advise us about it. All we knew from the beginning was that Georgians are driving like crazy and that their food is delicious. Now, after we’ve been there, I can totally relate to that. It’s absolutely true and you definitely shouldn’t question these two statements.

The perfect season for visiting

We did our trip in October and I am glad we have chosen this season. The beautiful autumn landscapes that we’ve seen will be forever remembered. That’s for sure! We spent 9 days in Georgia and in order to move deliberately through the country and have absolutely no time restrictions, we decided to rent a car. Many blogs are suggesting to rent a car with a driver since the roads are so chaotic but after this experience I can totally say that if you are an experienced driver you shouldn’t be worrying so much about this. To be honest, a road trip is the best!

Renting a car

We found a local car renting business in Kutaisi with no extra fees and with a wide range of cars to choose from. Knowing from the beginning the state of the roads (not that good) and the way that the locals drive we rented a 4×4 car. Just in case… you never know.

Getting to the city

Our plane landed from Budapest to Kutaisi around 6 pm. At the airport there are many buses and private cars waiting for the tourists. We didn’t wait for the bus and we took a private car. The transportation cost was the equivalent of 3.5 euros per person and we left immediately. We did though one mistake which I hope whoever reads this and plans to go to Georgia won’t do it: we haven’t bought a sim card for the phone.

At the end of the trip, with all the phone calls and internet browsing we end up paying 90 euros for our telecommunication service provider. Maybe you won’t need it; maybe your car won’t remain without water in the middle of the mountains or maybe you will have internet signal from the car in the middle of nowhere when you are lost. Who knows? But for us, all of this happened…

To sum it up, the trip was amazing indeed and the little bad luck that we had just made our trip even funnier and full of life. We are totally recommending to everyone this destination because it’s totally worth it. And in order to help you, I prepared also the route that we took with some advice about the time interval that you would need for the sites and cities.

1. Okatse Canyon

The first 2 nights were in Kutaisi. Before starting maybe I should tell you that you won’t find anything spectacular there but amazing food. It’s a small city with a very small city center. We chose to spend two nights here because of Okatse and Martvili canyons which are also on the west part of the country. Unfortunately, our second mistake was to not rent the car from the first day. We read a lot on blogs and forums about locals giving cheap rides from Kutaisi to these canyons but lately they don’t do this anymore. It was pretty hard to find taxi drivers willing to take us there and to have a decent local price.

In the end, our accommodation host found a very nice driver which accepted to take us for the equivalent of 25 euros to Okatse Canyon and to bring us back. Because we lost time looking for drivers through the city, we didn’t get to see the beautiful Martvili Canyon. Don’t worry, we really fell in love with Georgia and we would definitely visit it again. So, we can say that we have a teaser to keep us going back. For you, though, if you plan going, I strongly suggest to rent a car from the first day. It’s the most convenient considering that there are no buses and that they are still figuring out how to help tourists mobility.

2. Akhaltsikhe (Rabati Castle)

Rabati Castle is a medieval fortress built in the 9th century in the city of Akhaltsikhe in southern Georgia. Our third night of accommodation was here, so we can have the chance to visit the castle. We don’t consider this to be the main point of our road trip but since we were on our way to Vardazia, we decided to visit it as well. It’s an historical site from which we’ve learned a little about their history and culture. Ahmediye Mosque will definitely leave you speechless, especially if you visit it by the time when the sun goes down. The way the light crosses the interior on the sunset it’s absolutely stunning.

3. Vardzia

Vardzia it’s a cave monastery site in southern Georgia, excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain. It was definitely one of our favorite places! The way the dwellings and chambers are distributed in the mountain it’s so nice and playful!

4. Uplistsikhe

Our accommodation for the 4th night was in Gori. It’s a city in the eastern Georgia close to Uplistsikhe site which we visited the next morning. The views were amazing and the site itself impressive too. It’s a rock-cut town situated on the bank of Mtkvari River.

5. Stepandsminda and Gergeti Trinity Church

On the way to our next accommodation in Stepandsminda, we stopped to visit Ananuri Fortress Complex and Jinvali Water Reservoir. The views are already starting to change while the altitude is growing. The landscape is becoming more and more exciting on the way to Stepandsminda where the famous Gergeti Trinity Church is watching over the village.

In order to get to the Church we let out car as close as we could from the hiking starting point. It wasn’t a very difficult path that we chose. It was actually quite well prepared for the tourists: some little steps were made from wood and placed into the ground in order to help the hikers.
As you approach the Church, the sight is changing completely. There is an open field surrounded by Caucasus Mountains with and amazing view over the Kazbegi. In my opinion, the focus is not on the Church but on the panorama. It is absolutely breathtaking!

6. Tbilisis

The following two nights were spent in Tbilisis. It’s the capital of Georgia, so it’s a big city, full of tourists and the prices aren’t “Georgian” anymore. If so far we paid for a good meal the equivalent of 7-15 euros for the both of us, now we were paying the same price but only for one person. The city is not as you would expect from Instagram and other blogs. Unfortunately our expectations were a little high due to these social media platforms. The buildings and houses in the old part of the city have a special and characteristic style but not many of them are renovated. Of course that there is “the street” which every capital has: full of restaurants, local stores and coffee shops but if you walk outside of it for 3-5 minutes, the picture is changing. Don’t get me wrong: it is a beautiful city but we had higher expectations.

7. Mtskheta

Mtskheta is the former capital of Georgia and being one of the oldest cities.  So we wanted to pay a visit before returning from Tbilisis to Kutaisi from where our flight was leaving.  It’s a very pleasant and vibrant site which ended our trip just right.

Because our flight was leaving at 5 am from Kutaisi’s airport, our last accommodation was outside Kutaisi, closer to the airport (Samtredia). After the dinner we went to the guest house and the host was nice enough to take us to the airport from there.

Restaurants

There is one thing that all these beautiful sites and cities had in common: the absolutely delicious food and wine. To be honest, we are still talking and remembering about the food that we tried there and how tasty it was. On our way to Stepandsminda we decided to stop to eat somewhere since we were on the way for such a long time but we were on the middle of nowhere. I have to admit that we were a little skeptical about the place where we stopped to eat but it was the only one in the last kilometers and we were starving. In the end, it was an absolute thrill to eat there. The food was amazingly delicious and also very cheap (equivalent of 7 euros for the both of us). For us, wherever we stopped to eat, we had absolutely no disappointment.

The end of the last day was spent in Kutaisi at our favorite restaurant: Palaty Restaurant (that’s right: we liked it so much that we went for a second visit). If you are there, it’s a must to try!

PS: if you can, leave some space in the luggage; you might fell in love with their local carpets…

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