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Highlights of Georgia

Georgia has a lot to offer to travellers; Historical and architectural monuments, unique masterpieces of fine arts, ancient cultures and traditions still preserved in remote and inaccessible villages and mountainous provinces, majestic Caucasian Mountains, spectacular resorts and national parks, delicious Georgian cuisine and wine, friendly and hospitable people.

 

 
 
 

TBILISI

   
 

Tbilisi, capital of Georgia from the 5th century AD, has a long and fascinating history. Founded in the 4th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali on the site of its warm mineral-water springs – it developed into the main city of the Caucasus. By the 12th century Tbilisi was one of the more important political, economic and cultural centres of the Middle East. It stood as a key stop on the famous Silk Road - right on the border between Europe and Asia (west and east). Tbilisi’s Old Town, the most ancient part of the city, is renowned for its wonderful mix of cultures. The mosque, the synagogue, the Armenian church mingle harmoniously with the splendid Georgian churches and architecture. The wooden houses with open, carved balconies seem to welcome every visitor. The balmy sulfur baths have hosted poets, writers, musicians, kings down through the centuries. Looking down on the city are Mtatsminda (Holy Mountain) and the 4th century Narikala Fortress, excellent for views on the swirling river Mtkvari (Kura) and this city of so many ages and nationalities.

 
 
 
   
 

Favourite attractions of Tbilisi: Tbilisi’s unique Old Town, winding roads, alleys and wooden balconies; Metekhi Church standing proudly above the river on a cliff-top; Sioni Cathedral the beating heart of Georgian Orthodoxy, Anchiskhati Church a yet more ancient style of Georgian church with a choir to match; sulphur baths nowhere better to relax; Narikala Fortress, nowhere better than to admire the view; Mtatsmida Church with its poets and artist’s cemetery overlooking the city centre.

Main museums: Georgian State History Museum, Georgian Art Museum, The Open-Air Museum of Folk Architecture, Tbilisi History Museum. 

Main streets: Rustaveli Av., Baratashvili str., Chavchavadze Av. Leselidze str. Agmashenebeli Av.,

 

 
 
 
 
 
  Mtskheta
  Historians date this historic town back to the 2nd millennium B.C. Mtskheta subsequently became the capital of Georgian Kingdom of Iberia between 500BC - 500AD. Here Georgians adopted Christianity in the beginning of 4th century and Mtskheta still remains the Headquarters of Georgian Orthodox Church. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th c.) and Jvari Monastery (6th c.) are among the finest architectural monuments in Georgia. Mtskheta is listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
 
 
 
   
  The Georgian Military Highway & Kazbegi
  The Georgian Military Highway is the historical road leading north from Tbilisi into Russia. It passes the spectacular Ananuri fortress, then climbs the sides of the dramatic Aragvi River Valley, then over the Jvari Pass (2395m) and down into Kazbegi (1700m). Surrounded by gigantic mountains Kazbegi is a picturesque settlement overlooked by the biggest of all - Mount Kazbek (5047m) - one of the six 5000 metre peaks of the Caucasus. The Sameba Church in Gergeti is beautifully situated on the hill above the town and provides splendid views of Mt. Kazbek. The region, with its many valleys and peaks is one of the most popular walking destinations in Georgia. The nearby Chaukhi mountains provide superb rock-climbing, with numerous routes.  The Gudauri ski resort located just the other side of the Cross Pass on the southern slopes of the Caucasus offers the best skiing (and heli-skiing) in the Caucasus.
 
 
 
 
 
   
  Svaneti & The Central Caucasus
  Svaneti, the mythological western province of Georgia, land of the ‘Golden Fleece’ (where locals still sift for gold through sheepskins) lies high up in the Greater Caucasus. Several 5000 metre plus peaks thrust glaciers down into this beautiful and remote region, where amazing stone towers rise up beside homesteads, some dating back to the 12th centuries. Never far away is one of Svaneti’s numerous, richly frescoed churches, focal points for lively communities where traditions have been preserved for two thousand years.  Unique icons and manuscripts are on display in the capital, Mestia’s museum, overlooked by huge hanging peaks. Mestia is a well known climber’s launch point and the dramatic trekking trails will appeal more to the adventure traveler. The villages of Ushguli, ‘the highest permanently inhabited in Europe,’ give a stunning view of Mt. Shkhara (5201m) the highest peak in Georgia. Its ragged stone towers and the ongoing resilience of its population have led it to being declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
 
 
 
 
 
   
  Kutaisi. Gelati & Bagrati Cathedrals
  The city of Kutaisi dates back to the Argonauts’ time (13th -12th centuries B.C). Formerly capital of old Colchida, Kutaisi then ruled all of Western Georgia. The nearby Gelati Monastery was founded in the 12th century by Georgia’s most famous king, David the Builder (1073 – 1125 AD). Its walls are covered in splendid floor-to-ceiling murals of Georgia’s saints and monarchs. Gelati and Bagrati are listed as World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
 
 
   
  Kakheti Province
  Kakheti, Georgia’s famous wine district, lies due east from Tbilisi in a land dotted with fine old churches and vineyard after vineyard. Stop into any home and be offered a glass of delicious home made wine – this province has a history to match the quality and variety of its wines. Among the architectural gems are the gracious Alaverdi Cathedral (11th c), the picturesque Ikalto Academy (4th - 13th c), Shuamta Monastery (7th c), and the elegant Gremi Church (16th c) 
 
 
   
  Vardzia cave-monastery and South Georgia
  Vardzia in the Meskheti province of southern Georgia - is a thirteen story cave town built between 1186-9 by Georgia’s famous Queen Tamara. It stands as a unique example of the Georgian renaissance in an area of many medieval sites. Around the town Akhaltsikhe you can find the elegant Sapara Church and dramatic Khertvisi Fortress.
 
 
   
  Tusheti Province
  Situated in the heart of the Greater Caucasus, Tusheti is a remarkable place, famous for its tall, black-slate medieval towers and hill-top villages. The high forested mountainsides and snow-capped peaks are a haven for Gerogia’s many kinds of eagle and vulture that soar between deep valleys.  Tourists are fascinated by the villages of Dartlo, Parsma and Dano with their stone shrines or ‘khati;’ - evidence of a people still with strong links to ancient mountain traditions.
 
 
 
   
  Ajara Region: Batumi and the Black Sea Coast
  Set in the southwestern corner of Georgia, against the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Ajara spans a wide variety of landscape, from high forested mountains to lush sub-tropical hills – all set beside the balmy Black Sea coast.  Batumi, the capital, is a major sea port and offers a beautiful Botanical Garden beside the Black Sea, surrounded by tea and citrus plantations. Down toward the Turkish border lies the ancient town of Gonio. Built in the 2nd century BC the town played a vital role as crossroads between the west and the Caucasus. Archeological excavations still take place in Gonio – and have already unearthed a wealth of gold and other artifacts.
 
 
 
 
   
  The Monasteries of David Gareji
  David Gareji is situated deep in semi-desert about 75 km south-east of Tbilisi.  Founded in the 6th century by the Christian Father St. David, the monasteries of Lavra, Udabno, Dodo and Bertubani are remarkable for their original cave frescos that date from the 8th to 13th centuries. But the setting is no less impressive and expect to see the fabulous white Egyptian Vulture soaring in the sky above.
 
 
   
  Uplistsikhe cave-town
  Uplistsikhe (‘the Lord's citadel’) is a cave town hewn into the living rock, 8kms south-east of Gori. The citadel dates back to the 7th century BC.  It served as a strategic point on the ancient Silk Road from ancient times untill the 15th century AD. It contains a large central hall for pagan rituals, living rooms and a 9th century church.  The picturesque Ateni Church (7th century) also near Gori is yet another classic architectural representation of the Georgian church, as are its impressive interior murals.
 
 
   
  Shatili and the Khevsureti Province
  Deep and narrow river gorges, severe snow-capped peaks, virgin nature, mountainsides carpeted with flowers, traditional stone villages, make Khevsureti an unforgettable experience. Shatili, it’s main village-citadel, is a unique cluster of houses built-in together to form a defensive citadel. It still stands proudly above the Arguni river – as it has from the 9th century – as a symbol of Georgia’s independence and resilience.
 
 
   
  The Lesser Caucasus, Bakuriani, and the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
  The Lesser Caucasus rise up on the southern side of Georgia and contain several animal species endemic to Georgia. Set in their heart are the resort towns of Borjomi and Bakuriani - established by the Tsar in the 19th century, as a spa town and game reserve. He also built a narrow gage railway to connect the two towns – still running today. Since then Bakuriani has developed into Georgia’s second ski resort in the winter and a walker’s paradise in summer. The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park has recently been developed into a superb nature reserve, with educational trails for children and magnificent, several-day hikes through virgin forest and canyons, for adults. The rich flora and fauna range from the sub alpine to the sub-trpoical. Beyond the Park are the Meskheti and Javakheti provinces – dominated by their high plateaus at over 2000 metres. The area is rich with history, churches and fortresses. They also contain Georgia’s largest lakes on the high volcanic plateau.
 
 
 
 
 
   
  Imereti, Guria & Samegrelo Provinces
  These western regions of Georgia attracted the Greeks and Romans many centuries ago who established settlements. Today the landscape is equally appealing to the tourist. It ranges from bird-rich wetlands now being developed for visitors close to the Black Sea coast, to subtropical low-lands and forested mountains. Many medieval churches and monuments adorn these provinces, but the focal points are the larger, historical towns of Kutaisi (Georgia’s second city), Poti and Zugdidi. In the village of Vani (that dates back to the 8th - 3rd centuries BC) a fascinating excavation is still underway, each year unearthing more treasures from ancient Colchis – now being transported to the main museums in Tbilisi.
 
 
 
 
   
  Racha Province
  Racha is a richly mountained province, neighboring Svaneti. A place of marvelous, virgin forests and snow-capped peaks – all that surround villages with impressive medieval churches (such as Nikortsminda). It is also home to one of Georgia’s favourite semi-sweet wines, Khvanchkara.
 
   
   

 

GEORGICA TRAVEL LTD ® 2010