Georgia (part II)

Everything you need to know about spending two weeks in Georgia (the country)!

In September 2019 my partner and I spent two weeks in Georgia. This blog post is about part II of our trip. Our time in Georgia was divided like this:

  • Part I: Tbilisi, Borjomi, the night train to Zugdidi and then Mestia
  • Part II: Kutaisi, Kazbegi, Sighnaghi and some more Tbilisi

 

Itinerary Georgia
Itinerary Georgia

During our first week we arrived in Tbilisi and made an unexpected day trip to Borjomi. We took the night train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi and took a marshrutka up to Svaneti. Mestia became our base for the next few days from where we did a few spectacular day hikes.

Follow along with our second week and find out why you should go too!

 

Day 7: Mestia – Kutaisi

Kutaisi fountain
Kutaisi fountain

We said our goodbyes to Mestia and got onto an early bus to Kutaisi, which took about 4.5 hours. During a stop we bought some khachapuri – we’d been having them for almost 7 days straight at this point! It is such a versatile dish: for breakfast, lunch, as a snack or for dinner.

We arrived at Kutaisi bus station, still some distance from the centre. Looking for the right bus to get into town, we met two Slovenian travellers who were in the same position. Together we combed our way through the bus station and caught a local bus heading to the centre. We had booked 2 nights in Kutaisi at the Just Inn. The most basic of hotels, it provided us with a pit stop to do laundry and plan out and book the rest of our trip. We booked all our stays through Booking.com to benefit from the free cancellation period in case our plans changed.

After some time to relax we went out for a stroll. We had dinner at Palaty, quite a quirky place with personalised drawings on the wall from passing travellers. The food was nice but the portions rather small. It is a place that is really aimed at tourists and that was also reflected in the price. Nearby, we finished the evening with drinks at a nice terrace.

  • Marshrutka to Kutaisi (25 GEL)
  • Khachapuri on the way (11 GEL)
  • Just Inn Kutaisi (110 GEL)
  • Laundry (13-16 GEL, pay per kg)
  • Dinner at artsy Palaty (90 GEL)
  • drinks on nice terrace (25 GEL)

 

Day 8: Kutaisi

Bagradi cathedral
Bagradi cathedral

We started the day with breakfast at a cafe on Tsminda Nino street. We then went over to the highlight of our Kutaisi stay: the indoor market. It’s huge, and full of fruit and veggies, spices, churchkhela (the traditional candle shaped sweets stuffed with nuts or dried fruits), cheese, meat, you name it! We didn’t know where to look, but settled on buying some cheese, churchkhela, different spices and fruit. Definitely a must when you’re in Kutaisi!

After our visit to the market we checked out the Bagradi cathedral, which overlooks the city. It’s a popular place for weddings: we saw 3 different ceremonies taking place with a  traditional procession. Opposite the cathedral was a nice terrace where we went for a drink.

We then visited the botanical gardens, which completed the list of things to see in Kutaisi. The garden, frequented by families, even sports a church in a tree (true story!).

So what do you do when you think you’ve seen it all? Right, you try out yet another cable car and buy cake! We walked by La Faites and just couldn’t resist! We bought two slices of cake with one of them being medovik, a honey layered cake, which was delicious. In the evening we tried out Bagrati Brewery for dinner as it was close to our hotel but didn’t really like it. The staff weren’t very friendly and the food wasn’t that nice. So all in all we were quite ready to leave Kutaisi the next day.

  • Breakfast out (25 GEL)
  • Mushroom pie (1 GEL)
  • Market spendings (15 GEL)
  • Drinks on terrace next to Bagradi cathedral (7 GEL)
  • Botanical gardens (4 GEL)
  • Park and cable cart (2 GEL)
  • Cake (11 GEL)
  • Dinner (40 GEL)
  • Biscuits and drinks (4,5 GEL)

 

Day 9: Kutaisi – Tbilisi

In the morning we caught a bus out of the centre to the bus station. From there we took the marshrutka to Tbilisi and made our way to the MariaLuis Hotel. The hotel itself is upmarket, but we got a massive discount on Booking.com for booking last minute (one of the benefits of booking your accommodation while you travel). They allowed us to check in early and we got quite a grand room on the top floor with views overlooking the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. We appreciated this even more after hitting a bit of a low in Kutaisi.

We decided to explore other parts of Tbilisi in the afternoon after a lovely lunch at  Moulin Electrique. We picked up postcards and stamps and made an advance booking for the sulfur baths that Tbilisi is famous for. We were weighing our options on how to go to Kazbegi the next day, especially after the unpleasant experience of trying to go to Mtshketa. In the end we booked our journey with a tour operator near metro stop Avlabari. They offered a one-day tour guided return trip to Kazbegi, with several stops. Rather than returning as part of the tour we would remain in Kazbegi which the tour operator agreed to. That being settled we went for dinner at Maspindzelo and admired Tbilisi at night.

  • Bus to Tbilisi (? GEL)
  • MariaLuis Hotel (94,5 GEL)
  • Lunch at Moulin Electrique (42 GEL)
  • Cards & stamps (18,5 GEL),
  • Sulfur baths (50 GEL)
  • Coffee & tea at Café eghvi (15 GEL)
  • Dinner at Maspindzelo (65 GEL)
  • Bus to Kazbegi with tour operator (94 GEL)

 

Day 10: Tbilisi – Kazbegi

Ananuri Fortress with tourists
Ananuri Fortress

The benefits of a swanky hotel? Continental breakfast! Earl Grey Tea and cereal with real milk (yes, it was actually hard to get)! Oh my days! We checked out and went to the tour operator, ready for our bus trip to Kazbegi. The contrast with the other busses we’d been on was quite big: this one was very luxurious, we each got a bottle of water and had a tour guide. First stop: Ananuri lake and fortress!

It is very picturesque, so expect hordes of tourists being sheppered around. The road bridge is the best place to view the fortress, with the lovely lake in the backdrop. We all got back on the bus and continued to our second stop: the Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument. It’s very impressive, set in quite a dramatic landscape, and I’m really happy I got to see it.

Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument_resized
Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument

Then on the bus again to set off for our final destination: Kazbegi/Stepansminda. Upon arrival we split from the tour group. They were going for lunch first, followed by a trek with jeeps up to the Gergeti Church and back to Tbilisi. We grabbed some lunch ourselves and went to find the guest house we booked. We found the Hill House alright, but there was no one present. No reception, no other guests, no one. So we waited, but after 20 minutes we started to worry. In the end I stopped a passing car, asked the driver in my best (which is currently also my worst) Russian if he knew who owned the guest house and if he had a means to reach them. He phoned the owner and about 10-15 minutes later she showed up.

The owner was very friendly and provided us with directions to local amenities. The room wasn’t the cosiest and the shared kitchen was a bit messy. We decided to head out again to buy some provisions for our walk the next day and have a look around the little town. We had hoped to enjoy some great homecooked dinners again at the guest house, but the owner didn’t provide this. Kazbegi doesn’t have many restaurants and so the options were limited. Shorena’s bar is small and cozy, you tend to share a table with other diners/tourists. But that’s also how we got to meet some lovely German tourists.

  • Hill House (130 GEL)
  • Shop (20 GEL)
  • Lunch at Cozy Corner (35 GEL)
  • Dinner at Shorena’s bar (70 GEL)

 

Day 11: Kazbegi

Gergeti church sun
Gergeti church in the morning sun

Another day, another hike up! This time around we would be hiking up to the Gergeti Church. Using the free maps.me app, suggested by other hikers, we set off before sunrise. We ascended to a viewpoint above Gergeti Church where we saw the sun just coming up over the valley, providing a stunning view. My boyfriend really wanted to hike further to see the Gergeti Glacier by Mount Kazbek, but to me that seemed WAY out of my comfort zone. After a brew and some biscuits my boyfriend continued on to the glacier and I walked back down to the church.

Gergeti church Mount Kazbek
Gergeti Church and Mount Kazbek

I thought about making things a bit more interesting by trying a different path to descend on. A passing hiker mentioned they saw a snake on that route, so I changed my mind and went back along the path we hiked up. By midday it was getting busier, with more hikers making the trip to the church. I made it back down safely and went into the village for some lunch at Anno’s Sweet Corner.

The weather was really nice that day so I just relaxed in the afternoon on the sunny balcony of the guest house and got sucked into my holiday read. I think I really needed that at this point during our trip. Late afternoon my boyfriend made it back. He told me that the hike up to the glacier was very challenging, so I was quite happy I didn’t join in on that one.

We went for a nice dinner at Vitamin Kazbegi, where we even ran into the same German girls from the day before.

  • Lunch at Anno’s sweet corner (7 GEL)
  • Dinner at Vitamin Kazbegi (65 GEL)

 

Day 12: Kazbegi – Tbilisi – Sighnaghi

Sighnaghi
Sighnaghi

A bus day. At 8am we took the bus to Didube bus station in Tbilisi, then a connection by metro to Samgori metro and bus station. From there you can take the bus to the Kakheti region, which was our next destination. Travelling south, you could really feel the temperature difference.

We had booked our stay at Guesthouse Pirosmani 60, a little out of the centre of Sighnaghi. In a quiet residential area, the guest house was one of the nicest ones we stayed at. We received a very warm welcome by the owners with tea, wine, fruit, biscuits and even some homemade chacha (hard alcohol made from grape residue). We went out for a wander around the little town and it felt like we were somewhere in Italy rather than Georgia. We also tried Georgian tarragon lemonade and had dinner in the grounds of Lali restaurant, conveniently located in the same street of our guest house.

  • Guest house Pirosmani (120 GEL)
  • Bus (20 + 12 GEL)
  • Dinner at Lali (? GEL)

 

Day 13: Sighnaghi

You cannot go and visit the wine region without some wine tasting! Through the guest house host, a driver was made available for us for the day. He took us on a drive to various points of interest. First stop: the Bodbe monastry!

The monastry was flocked with tourists, many I’m guessing on day trips from Tbilisi. We managed to navigate around them and visit the monastry at our own pace. It’s a nunnery and a lot of time and effort has gone into restoring the buildings. The gardens were very well-kept and offered great views over the neighbourings plains.

Off to our next stop: the Numisi wine museum. We were guided through the museum and shown how wine is traditionally made in an artisan way using pits in the ground. Then it was time to taste a few wines and discuss the traditions with our guide. He did a good job because we ended up buying a bottle to take back.

Then our driver took us over to the Kindzmarauli Corporation Wine House, a bigger and more commercially oriented winery. We joined a group of visitors for the tour of the facilities, which ended with (of course) more wine tasting! this led us to buy two bottles.

On the way back we passed an interesting sight: truck after truck loaded with grapes, parked on the side of the road as they were queueing to enter a winery. It was quite an impressive sight. I asked the driver to make a quick stop at one point so I could take pictures of the vineyards on the side of the road. Whilst admiring the view, he had wandered over to the nearest truck and taken some super fresh and sweet grapes for us to snack on in the car!

Back in Sighnaghi we went to The Traveller for dinner, which was nice but we did get eaten alive by mosquitoes on the terrace.

  • Driver (90 GEL)
  • Numesi wine museum (tasting 20 GEL+ bought a bottle)
  • Kindzmanauli (tour + tasting / bought 2 bottles of wine 53 GEL)
  • Dinner at the Traveller (50 GEL)

 

Day 14: Sighnaghi – Tbilisi

We had breakfast for the second time on the lovely balcony of the guest house, surrounded by grapevines. There were two other couples staying there at the same time as us,  who we shared impressions about Georgia with. It was interesting to hear their travel stories; the English couple who travelled through Asia for a year, and a Ukrainian-Austrian couple, working as scientists in Germany.

Our host insisted on taking us by car to the town square from where we’d catch our marshrutka. But upon enquiry we found out that the one we wanted to take had already been fully booked. So a bit miffed we waited around for the next one due an hour later. However, after about 15 minutes they managed to dig up another marshrutka – already packed with locals – onto which we clambered.

Sulfur baths Tbilisi
Sulfur baths Tbilisi

Arriving in Tbilisi, we made our way to the Graphica hotel, which had only opened about a month earlier and proved to be the loveliest of hotels! Our room wasn’t ready yet when we arrived, but they offered us some tea while we waited in the lobby and afterwards helped us carry our bags upstairs. The room was very nice and cosy, so we relaxed  before heading out to the sulfur baths.

Our visit to the Chreli-Abano sulfur baths was an interesting experience, though less exciting than a hammam visit I did in Istanbul a few years ago. We had about an hour in our own private ‘room’ which included changing facilities, toilet and bath. We had to dip in and out because neither of us managed to stay in the hot water for too long. I had also booked a massage, which was okay but the lady only came around the time we had to get ready to leave, so I didn’t really get to enjoy the full experience.

We went for dinner at the Bread House for some more soup and dumplings (we’d had quite our share of khachapuri at this point) and went back to the hotel for a short night kip, due to our early flight back in the morning.

  • Marshrutka (? GEL)
  • Graphica (93,75 GEL)
  • Dinner at Bread House (? GEL)

 

Day 15: Tbilisi

Tbilisi Narikala
Tbilisi Narikala

With our flight at 7.30am to Brussels we had an early start. The hotel arranged a taxi  and packed breakfast for us. The airport is quite new and check-in went very smoothly. I know airports are overpriced, but what was weird was how all shop prices were in euro (food services you could pay for in Lari).

Overall, Georgia is a beautiful country, full of mountains, vineyards and cable cars. The  people were incredibly hospitable and welcoming. If you love potatoes, cheese or wine you should definitely check it out. Also a relatively cheap destination, and a great place for hikers. In total we spent just over 1000 EUR per person for two weeks.

Have you been? Or any plans to go? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!

Want more holiday inspiration? Check out my blog posts about Cracow, Malta or Morocco!

8 thoughts on “Georgia (part II)

Add yours

  1. Wow! I have never considered visiting Georgia but it is beautiful! Your post has inspired me and now I will need to look into breaks in the country! The Gergeti Church looks beautiful and sounds like the perfect way to spend the day.

    Liked by 1 person

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