There’s a special beauty in traveling to places where tourists don’t run in droves. If you’re a fan of secret, secret, unadvertised sights – this article is for you. Everything that is described here is quite accessible to everyone as part of an ordinary vacation trip and fits into any itinerary. We do not list in this article places whose visit requires special physical training or hiking experience. Neither do those that are popular with visitors and are described in all Georgia travel guides.
Secret Georgia – the most interesting non-tourist places
The most unusual places in Georgia are more convenient to visit by car. You can plan an interesting route in Georgia by yourself or trust us – we will help with logistics and implementation. So, what interesting things to see in Georgia, if you have seen the main sights? Nature: mountain lakes, waterfalls and deep canyons with turquoise water. Architecture: unusual monasteries and fortresses, ancient megalithic buildings. Far away: the villages hidden in the mountains, to which civilization has not yet reached, where time has stopped, and people still honor the traditions of their ancestors.
If you have arrived in Tbilisi, we suggest you to make an interesting route.
All sights of Georgia you can visit in one day from Tbilisi. It is true, not all places of interest are paved asphalt, and in most cases you will need a good off-road vehicle and a guide. Write to email@example.com – we will help you organize the trip.
Abudelaure Lakes. Three colored lakes surrounded by mind-blowing nature at the foot of the crown of the Chauch Mountains. In one day to visit the lakes is quite realistic, but you can extend the trip to these places for two days and stop in the city of towers Shatili. These places are some of the most interesting in Georgia from our point of view.
Dashbash Canyon . It is a picturesque place with waterfalls, where you want to escape from the summer heat. You can hang out on the beautiful picnic glades here. Or you can combine your visit to Dashbash with Lake Paravani or the town of Samshwilde.
Samshwilde. A large medieval town, whose territory is now in ruins. Located on a plateau between two deep canyons. There are no infocenters and tourists here, but there is music of the past, local spirits and historical mysteries. The best time to visit these places is spring and autumn when the sun does not burn. But even in winter, Samshwilde is quite accessible.
Saro Fortress . A megalithic fortress on the cliff face. What a view, friends! But this place will be also interesting for fans of historical mysteries. The most attentive ones will find here a secret passage, ancient granaries and caves. The walls were made of hewn blocks of stone without any mortar 2-3 thousand years ago.
The Abuli fortress . The most mysterious, unusual, large-scale and one of the most inaccessible megalithic fortresses in Georgia. The complex was built at an altitude of 2500 m from boulders without mortar. Its approximate date is the Bronze Age. You can get here only by day and in a good off-road vehicle.
Abastumani . Everything is interesting here. And a century-old observatory in the mountains above the village. And the resort town itself with villas, palaces and sulfur baths. And in warm season you can drive to Sairme and Kutaisi from here through picturesque Zekarski pass.
The megaliths of Borjomi (Gogichaant Gele). Another megalithic complex, hidden from the eyes of mass tourists. Even non-mass too. Although it is literally 10 minutes walk from the road. Guides do not write about it, and should not. The complex is large, consists of five levels and has a rare spherical shape of buildings.
Unusual Monasteries of Georgia
David-Gareji. Cave monastery complex on the border with Azerbaijan. Be sure, just be sure not to limit your visit to David’s Lavra, and extend the route and climb to the upper caves of Tetri Udabno. The ancient frescoes, complete with the opening views, are something to behold!
Shio-Mgwim Monastery . The journey to the ancient, unusual cave monastery complex in the gorge won’t take long – it’s a 20-minute drive from Tbilisi. Be sure to go up to the upper church – there is an unforgettable view. There is also a hermit’s cave and a secret passage at the top.
Van Caves . A cave monastery complex just steps away from the famous Vardzia. The caves of Van are older and larger than its famous neighbor. But tourists are rare guests here. The monastery is active and there is a special atmosphere here. You should come here with a pure heart and an open mind.
Martkop Monastery . Monastery in a forest near Tbilisi. This is one of the first monasteries in Georgia, it was founded in the VI century. Climb up to the hermit’s tower – you will love the scenery, especially in the fall.
Rkoni . Include Rkoni in your itinerary – there are as many as three interesting sites here. A medieval fortress on top of a hill. A monastery hidden in a forest gorge. And the hermit’s tower on the mountain above the monastery. People are rarely seen here. Here will please both those who love nature and connoisseurs of antiquities.
Zedazeni Monastery . From the walls of the monastery opens up views of Tbilisi and Mtskheta, it is located very close to the capital. But the road to the temple is unpaved and impassable for small cars. This is a good thing. The place is strong, significant in terms of both history and religion. There is no tourist clutter, and rare travelers are always welcome here.
Dzama Gorge . It is also called gorge of monasteries – there are about forty of them. The most interesting in our subjective opinion: Ortubani at the place of the old fortress, Kozifa at the back of the gorge and modern monastery Sarkineti – a temple, hidden inside a rock. And of course you must visit Kintsvisi with its magnificent frescoes.
Timotesubani monastery . Monastery of the Golden Age of Georgia. Located in the mountains half way between Borjomi and Bakuriani. Famous for the incredible frescoes of the early XIII century. It is difficult to write about it. You should visit it and feel everything by yourself.
Green Monastery . Acting monastery near Borjomi. The temple is hidden in a forest gorge in the mountains. The road is unpaved and quite passable for transport, but we recommend to walk two kilometers from the highway to the monastery on foot. The path leads along a stream with characteristic red stones. They symbolize the blood of the monks who died during the raid of the Shah of Iran.
The most interesting tours to Georgia from Tbilisi
Duration: 1 day
Departure: from Tbilisi
Cost: from $40
Duration: 1 day
Departure: from Tbilisi
Season: all year round
Cost: from $30
Duration: 2 days
Departure: from Tbilisi
Season: May through October
Cost: from $70
Unknown sights for those who came to Batumi
Those who come to Batumi usually want to lie on the beach. If you are one of those who want to see something other than the sea – this section is for you. There are many unusual attractions in this part of Georgia. You can reach these attractions in just one day from Batumi or Kutaisi – everything is close and very beautiful. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org – we will help you with travel arrangements.
Mtirala Reserve. If you like nature, this is the place for you. Wet tropical forest, high waterfalls, an old mill and a lake with turquoise water. A separate adventure is the canopy crossing of the river. And in the guest of Hassan you can taste the delicious mountain honey and fragrant mead. This is the most interesting excursion from Batumi.
Green Lake . A picturesque lake in mountain Adjara on the Goderdzi Pass. Pristine nature and shepherd’s lodges wrapped in fog are the pictures you can catch here. The pass is hard to reach – you can get here only by jeep from Akhaltsikhe or Batumi.
Machakhela Gorge. Gorge in mountain Adjara. There are not many tourists here, but a lot of craftsmen and artisans. Wood sculptors, home cheese makers, jewelers and gunsmiths are here. And in the gorge picturesque nature, ancient arched bridges and waterfalls buried in the greenery.
What else to see if you come to Batumi?
Okatse Canyon . A deep canyon near Kutaisi. The most interesting thing here is the suspended path over the abyss. Everything is safe and cultivated – employees of the information center maintain the suspended path in perfect condition.
Kinchha Falls . The info center here is just being built, while it’s still a curious wilderness area. Two high waterfalls, a canyon with white washed out rocks and turquoise water. And most interesting are the waterfalls and lagoons upstream, where there are no tourists at all.
Chiatura, the pillar of Katsakhi and Mgvimevi monastery. A trip to this region is quite possible in one day from the city of Kutaisi. Here are three unusual sites at once: the pillar of Katshi, which is often compared to the Greek Meteora. The town of Chiatura, where there are more cable cars than shuttles. And the cave monastery Mgvimevi, about which even most locals do not know.
Nokalakevi and sulfur springs. City Nokalakevi (Archaeopolis) according to some sources at one time was the capital of ancient Colchis – it was here that the Argonauts sailed for the fleece. A few kilometers from the complex there are sulfuric springs and geysers with thermal water.
Sairme and Zekar pass . Sairme is a resort town in the picturesque mountains near Kutaisi. Healing water, delicious air, beautiful hotels – it’s a good place to relax and improve your health. Just behind civilized Sairme begins the dirt road to the Zekari Pass. There are no tourists here, the only guests are shepherds. The pass is not high, but very beautiful. Through it you can get from Kutaisi to Abastumani.
Waterfalls and canyon Balda . The village of Balda is a short drive from the popular Martviel Canyon. It is interesting here – an ancient temple, several high waterfalls in the mountains, which can only be reached on foot along forest paths. And the canyon itself with pictures very similar to Martville’s, but not spoiled by civilization.
My top 10 most interesting places in Georgia
I traveled by my own car, but most of the places described below can be reached with excursions, although it will not be very convenient. I will write about each place in more detail, but a little later.
Flip through it, mark it, and just enjoy it! The link in the title opens a map with a point.
Suitable for lovers of civilized and relaxed vacation with children, and just connoisseurs of the East. A very large and beautiful fortress, founded in 1578, when the city of Akhaltsikhe was captured by Ottoman troops. The fortress was renovated 5 years ago under Saakashvili. Misha gave a good impetus to the development of Georgian tourism.
The fortress looks like a piece of an oriental fairy tale in the middle of an orthodox country. For me, this place is too new, polished and refined, so only 10th place. It took us an hour to walk around the fortress. All the towers can be climbed by spiral staircases, and there are souvenir shops and cafes. There are convenient and large parking lots (free). Admission is chargeable, 7 GEL.
If you haven’t been to the Georgian market, you haven’t been to Georgia. The market in Kutaisi is a very colorful place, where you can not only buy Georgian natural products, but also to enjoy your Georgian food :). At first we wanted to buy some delicious gifts for our loved ones in some hypermarket, but when we got to this market, we realized that it would be a big mistake. There is absolutely everything you need to take home: spices, Svan salt, orange Georgian lemons, wine, cheese, churchela, leafy fruit pastilles, meat products, and honey. They are reluctant to haggle, but they will discount 5-7 pairs at wholesale. Tasting is included in the mandatory program – they will push in your mouth a little bit of everything from the counter, even before you blink. Market prices, about the same for everyone. For example, the freshest stick of churchella here costs 2 lari (50 rubles).
In Kutaisi it is very convenient to stop before returning home if you have been in Upper Svaneti. The market is open from 7-8am. You can leave your car in the nearby streets.
8th place: Kakheti and the Alazani Valley
If the first word on Earth was “Georgia,” the second would be “wine.” Georgia is undoubtedly a wine country. They do not brew delicious beer here, but they know everything about winemaking. The most wine region of Georgia is Kakheti, where between two ridges stretches the famous Alazani Valley. The basis of the local economy – viticulture and tourism. Every house here has its own wine cellar with large bottles of red, white and chacha. Many houses can sell you this wine. The quality ranges from outright vinegar, to divine nectar. How do you choose a good one? Just try it and look for tourist recommendations online. The Alazan Valley “wine route” also has many large wineries that produce bottled wine of very good quality – one that is sure to please you with its flavor and color. But personally I like handmade, so we went to one of the courtyards with a sign “WINE”, where we were given a tour of the home wine cellar and a tasting. The red two-year-old wine turned out to be very good!
Unfortunately I do not remember the exact location. The house is on the road 5-10 km away from the town of Sighnaghi, if you are driving from Tbilisi. 500 meters after the house, the road goes through a pine forest and from the left side there is a fantastic view of the valley and Sighnaghi (see next photo). The owner asked 15 lari (250-300 rubles) for 2 liters of wine.
The pearl of the Alazan valley. If you go to Telavi, be sure to stop by Sighnaghi as well. Charming little town with paved mountain streets and very beautiful houses – a piece of classical Europe in the mountains of Georgia. The town has a well-preserved ancient fortress with watchtowers and a monastery. In Sighnaghi there is an urban legend about the artist Niko Pirosmani in love, who covered the square in front of his hotel with flowers, where his beloved woman – French actress Marguerite de Sèvres lived. I think you have already guessed what a very popular song of the 80’s this legend is reflected in.
7th Place: The Georgian Military Road
This is the only legal overland route from Russia to Georgia that deserves to be a separate attraction in the country. It is highly recommended to take a full day of daylight to fully enjoy the mountain air, breathtaking views, serpentines and roadside fortresses.
You have already learned about a piece of the East and a piece of Europe in Georgia. And there is also a piece of the famous Turkish Pamukkale. When you come to Georgia, you can’t miss these travertine formations, formed by water flowing down from the mountains, saturated with calcium salts. This natural landmark is located on the right side of the road, if you are driving from Stepantsminda to Tbilisi along the Georgian Military Road. Clear water from the mountains flows over these brown stones, which you can use for refreshment. No one takes money to see it
This is a monument erected in honor of the friendship between the peoples of Russia and Georgia in 1983. From its observation deck you can admire the view of the surrounding mountains. The arch is located near the Cross Pass, at an altitude of 1.8 km. The place has been visited by tourists and during the peak season the parking in front of the arch is jammed with buses and cars. But the views are here.
Ananuri fortress is located on the Georgian Military Road, 70 km from Tbilisi, on the bank of the Aragvi. Near the 16th-century fortress there is a large parking lot with a mini-market of souvenirs and sweets. The fortress itself is small, but very interesting. There is a functioning church on the grounds, and the towers can be climbed by narrow spiral staircases. The condition is excellent and admission is free.
Each country has an official and cultural capital. These cities are not always the same. For example, in Russia it is Peter and Moscow, in Switzerland – Bern and Lucerne. But the cultural and spiritual center of Georgia is Mtskheta, which in addition is considered its most ancient city (5th century BC). Cultural monuments of the city are protected by UNESCO and belong to the world heritage.
But if you are short of time and you have a packed table in Tbilisi, you can arrange an express view of the city from the bird’s eye view. Just turn off the highway at this point and drive to the end of the winding asphalt road, right up to Dzhvari monastery. From there you will have a wonderful view of the ancient city by the river. The monastery itself is very beautiful. Especially, inside.
Tbilisi turned out to be a very beautiful and compact city, for which it is not a pity to allocate even a week. The main attractions are the Narikala Fortress (I marked the point of this photo on the map at the link in the title), the old town, the sulfur baths, and much more, which you can find in travel guides. The surest way to enjoy Tbilisi is to get lost in it without a map or navigator. If you find your home by nightfall, you’re in luck. But you don’t have to worry – you won’t die of hunger: there are khinkaloos (17 p/piece) and khachapuri shops at every step, and cold “Borjomi” is not as expensive as in Russia (only 35 p/pkg). One of the best khinkals in Tbilisi with a wonderful name “Maspindzelo” is located here. Right near the sulfur baths. Accommodation booked through booking, there are many interesting and inexpensive options. I recommend to stay in an apartment in an old Tbilisi well house with a patio covered with the neighbors’ laundry.
The only drawback: Tbilisi is a city for cars, and pedestrians are not honored here. Even on the “zebra” do not allow pedestrians to pass – be careful.
You can’t miss the sea, because it’s the sea! No matter how dirty its beach turns out to be in the suburbs of Poti. But if you are not afraid of garbage on the beach, then feel free to go to the little-known village of Grigoleti, where a series of mini-hotels and guest houses are lined up along the sea. The beach is almost deserted, wide and surrounded by beautiful pine trees with long needles and huge cones! You can drive up here with your car directly to the water and throw your tent – no one will say a word. For example, right next door to us are Georgian policemen in a patrol SUV. They only charged us 50 lari (1,300 rubles) for the entire floor of the cottage. But it was just the beginning of the season: construction works in the yard, the bathroom was not properly functioning, and it was dirty. Exactly not for lovers of Turkish “olinclusives”. The owner assured that in the season here will be clean and beautiful (although it was already in June). In general, if you’re not looking for dirt in everything, then you should come here. At least for a couple of days. The beach is sandy and pebble. Sand, so-called, magnetic – black color. They say that something useful, but it’s not for sure.
This is one of the oldest and best preserved fortresses of the Georgian feudal period. It is in a convenient location for those traveling by car – on the way to the popular Vardzia cave monastery. I would recommend staying overnight at the fortress – there’s a cozy and clean gesthaus with a nice hostess (the director of the local school) and a cafe, where she cooks with her daughter or daughter-in-law. It’s the only one there, so you can’t go wrong. Food and lodging prices are ridiculously low and the food is delicious. Be sure to ask him to bake you some pirozhki for the trip. And don’t forget to drink Georgian lemon lemonade – the most delicious in the world Nearby is the bubbling Kura river, over which there is a suspension bridge – a nice place for evening walks. The place is quiet and not spoiled by tourists – buses with them pass to the monastery without stopping. One of those places, where you want to return again. Visiting the fortress is free – except for the horses, there’s no one inside
A place of power. Once you’ve been here, you’re sure to become a little different. And even better, if you stay here for the night, alone with the mountains and stars. And hear the night whispers of the elder Kazbek. This church in the mountains, at an altitude of 2,170 meters, is a kind of calling card of Georgia, after the towers of Svan. And the first attraction after entering Georgia. You can get to Gergeti from the village of Stepantsminda by paying local Delica taxi drivers or by risking to drive up in your own car. In the latter case you should soberly assess your skills of climbing steep hills and the ground clearance of your car. We drove our Outlander 1 up here with a rusty wire through a wheel. But we saw a family with children driving a Sandero. In Stepantsminda you are sure to be attacked by an army of Delica drivers and if you tell them that you are going to drive your own car, be prepared for a long and heated argument. One Georgian offered to bet his car against mine that I wouldn’t drive in. Too bad I underestimated my strength and didn’t agree – I would have come home in two cars. The church is active, there are often services at night, where no one but the priest is present. At night this tourist spot has a very different atmosphere – believe it and check it out.
By the way, don’t forget to buy a “Magti” SIM card in Stepantsminda – it has the best coverage throughout Georgia, including remote villages in the mountains. And don’t believe anyone about the local Beeline – it only works along asphalt roads. You can only buy a “Magti” SIM card from an uncle in a white Niva. Ask any delica-taxi driver in the central plaza-parking, where to find it. After buying you should put money in it at once and buy a 2 GB mobile Internet package for 7 GEL – enough for two weeks. To do this beforehand install “Magti” application on your smartphone.
As I have already written, the first trademark of Georgia, of course, are the towers of Svaneti. Svans live in Svaneti. Svaneti is Upper and Lower Svaneti. Upper Svaneti is exactly the place you must visit. Upper Svaneti is upper because it is high in the mountains, right on the southern slope of the main Caucasus range, at 2000 m above sea level. But this does not mean that you can get there only by helicopter. In the center of Upper Svaneti, the town of Mestia, you can get by any “posotorok” on a good asphalt road. And, actually, in Mestia you can see towers of Svaneti (and even climb on one of them – the one in the local cemetery, but tsk-tsk, this is a secret), and enjoy the bitter mountain air. But to drive further into the mountains, to one of the four Ushguli villages, which are considered some of the highest permanent settlements in Europe, is no longer possible by any car. It’s only 42 km from Mestia to Ushguli. But what kilometers! You can drive 19 of them in 20 minutes – an excellent road, which has been recently built. And for the remaining 23, you can book a couple of hours. The average speed on stony serpentines is no more than 10 kilometers per hour. And again, soberly estimate the possibilities and height clearance of your car. As a minimum, it must be a crossover, and it is VERY desirable – with all-wheel drive. But if you have reached Mestia with a “tubby” car, you can hire the same Delica cab driver for a fee. They charge per trip, so the more people in the Delica, the cheaper it is for you.
Ushguli is a Svan community of four villages: Zhibiani, Chvibiani, Chazhashi and Murkmeli. About 70 Svan families (up to 200 people) live in Ushguli and have their own clan towers. These towers are about 10 centuries old. Svans are very distinctive, hospitable and sociable. Svans do not cook khinkali, but they make very delicious meat pie “kubdari”. Meat is pork and beef, but they do not keep sheep. In Ushguli, there are many inexpensive gesthouses at GEL 20 per bed – you can safely plan an overnight stay. And if the weather is good, you can walk to the glacier Shkhara – 16 kilometers in both directions on dirt road.
1 place: Cave Monastery
I don’t want to point on the map or write the name of the monastery. For now, conventionally call it Vardzia, because the latter is the same cave monastery, but more visited and museum (with a paid entrance and work schedule). This monastery is inhabited and does not need the flow of tourists at all. They come here for the sense of the sacred, in search of peace and for self-discovery. Unfortunately, some people also come here to write on the ancient walls of a small church (on the title photo) “There was Wassja here”. So I will not make unnecessary advertising to the monastery – he who wants, he will always find
Surprisingly, there are still hermit monks living in these caves since the 13th century. They do not want to communicate with anyone, so it is desirable to know in advance where you can go, and where you can’t, as there are a lot of caves. In the monastery sometimes live laborers, who are more verbose and can tell a little more than you already know from the network. The monastery is a little equipped with fall protection, but still, it is very easy to get up from a height of fifty meters, even for an adult. There is nothing to do in the caves with small children – except to stand at the bottom and look at this grandeur. There are no easy paths and ladders – prepare to be a bit of climbers and speleologists.
The main rules of visiting this place: walk quietly, talk little, think a lot.
Georgia – an amazing and unique country, the richness of impressions comparable to Montenegro (if we talk about Europe). A whole ball of delight from the beauty and purity of nature, the abundance of ancient architecture, the bright flavors of food and drink, the legendary Georgian mentality and hospitality. Definitely, this country is not for one trip.
Follow our publications – there will be more detailed story and beautiful photos of each of these places (and not only)!
Have you been to any of these places? What do you remember most of all in Georgia, and where is it worth to go next time?
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