How to prepare your trip to Georgia?

When we think of Georgia, we think of the Caucasus mountains. But few, including us, know how to position this country! Sandwiched between Russia and Turkey and close to Iran, it has had to endure the expansionist ambitions of its powerful neighbors on numerous occasions in its history.

Today, it is an independent state, but with two breakaway regions: South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A former republic of the USSR, it has since signed an association agreement with the European Union. A complex country that we were eager to discover!

In this article, I explain how we prepared for our trip in July 2021.

Our three-week trip to Georgia in summer 2021

We organized a three-week trip to Georgia in the summer of 2021. Following this, I wrote three articles. This one explains how we prepared for our trip.

If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to to read the first two articles on our travel impressions:

  1. The first on the Greater Caucasus Mountains which is undoubtedly the main reason to visit this beautiful country.
  2. The other on Georgia’s cities which are far from uninteresting.

Our sources of inspiration

To prepare our tour, we started by looking at a few travel blogs. The photos and articles we discovered made us want to go there even more. The mountains are splendid, the cuisine unanimously acclaimed and the Georgians seem welcoming.

But we found it hard to get our heads around the organization of a trip. Places like Svaneti, Stepansminda, or Telavi didn’t speak to us, and blogs lacked maps to help us locate them.

A second source of inspiration was to take a look at the itineraries offered by tour operators. We then had a better understanding of where the country’s main attractions were. But we were skeptical about tours generally being very short (between 5 and 13 days on the spot) or overly ambitious, with combined tours that take in two or three countries (Armenia and Azerbaijan plus Georgia) in less than two weeks! It’s the tourist syndrome, wanting to see as much as possible in as little time as possible. A different approach to travel than mine!

We also bought a travel guide: the excellent “Georgie” from the “3 in 1” collection. It includes a guidebook, an atlas, and a laminated map. It’s very complete and dense, it gave us a better idea of the country and enabled us to start planning our itinerary. Unfortunately for you it only exists in French. Therefore, I invite you to buy the Lonely Planet guidebook which is also quite good. There’s a lot on the Internet, but a guidebook is more comprehensive and often more structured.

Our Georgia tour on a map
Transparent sailboat on the Wadden Sea

Our choice of trip organization

We could plan a comfortable yet fairly comprehensive visit to the country as we had three weeks‘ availability. Georgia is a small state: about twice the size of Belgium. Of course, we made choices and didn’t try to see everything!

The question of transport soon arose. The rail network is poorly developed, and we would only be using it for one trip between Batumi and Tbilisi.

There are buses and, mainly, “marshrutka”, Georgia’s shared cabs, which get you just about anywhere. They’re cheap, but not very comfortable and often driven by rather reckless drivers.

Finally, we chose to rent a car and drove it ourselves. According to our web research, a 4×4 was a must. This had been our biggest budget item, but we didn’t regret it. We were able to go to remote parts of the country on sometimes difficult trails with a feeling of safety and comfort.

Our final circuit breaks down into 6 main stages.

  • Tbilisi
  • Omalo in Tusheti with a quick stopover in Kakhetia
  • Juta and Stepansminda in Kazbegi
  • Crossing the Lesser Caucasus via Mtskheta, Gori, Borjomi Akhaltsikhé, Sairme and Kutaisi
  • Maseri, Mestia and Ushguli in Svaneti
  • Batumi

The following map allows you to retrace our route and locate Georgia’s main tourist attractions. The numbers allow you to identify the direction of our journey and the places where we slept.

Our trip in Georgia

Our approach to travel is not to try to see everything, but to make the most of every day of our journey. We focused on discovering the Greater Caucasus and mountain walks.

We’ve tried to keep long car journeys to a minimum, interspersed with days set aside for sightseeing or hiking.

We were also careful to choose accommodations with late cancellation options, so that we could change our itinerary en route if necessary. We have done so on two occasions.

Of course, our itinerary is arbitrary, and we’ ve left out such famous places as the David Garedja monastery on the border with Azerbaijan, Vardzia, and the Ajara region in the Batumi hinterland. We only had three weeks!

Horses frolicking at the foot of Mount Kazbek

Our day-by-day programme

In this section, I describe our final program as we realized it. We felt it was well-balanced between sightseeing, hiking, and travel. That’s why we recommend it.

We were very satisfied with all our accommodations, which offered good value for money. That’s why we mention them with a link either to the website if it exists or to if it doesn’t.

Day 1: Paris CDG – Tbilisi

We took the non-stop Air France flight. With a departure at 1:25 pm and an arrival at 8:15 pm, schedules were particularly comfortable.

In summer, there is only a two-hour time difference with France (when it’s midday in Tbilisi, it’s 10 a.m. in Paris).

Accommodation: Communal Hotel Solaki

Days 2 and 3: Tbilisi

We discovered the city on foot. For fun, we took the funicular and the cable car.

These were also two days devoted to getting our bearings in the country and finalizing the last details of our trip organization.

Day 4: Tbilisi – Telavi – Omalo

190 km – 7 h including 74 km of track in 4 h via the “100 bends” road. I tell you more in our article on Tusheti.

The car – a Nissan X Terra – was delivered directly to the hotel. It proved to be an excellent choice: powerful, comfortable, and easy to handle.

Accommodation : Guest House Shina

Days 5, 6 and 7: Omalo

We hiked in Tusheti every day. On the first day, we climbed up to the Kavlo fortress above the sublime village of Dartlo.

On the second, we reached the well-preserved villages of Shenako and Diklo.

Finally, on the third day, we took a lovely walk along a ridge that gave us magnificent views of the Touchétie National Park.

View of Omalo fortress by night

Day 8: Omalo – Babaneuri

80 km – 4 h

Accommodation: Babaneuris Marani (a hotel surrounded by vineyards with a pleasant swimming pool. Wine tastings are available, but must be booked in advance). That afternoon, we had heavy rain. We took the opportunity to visit the pretty church of Talaverdi, set in a monastery surrounded by vineyards.

Day 9: Babaneuri – Juta

180 km – 4 h 30

The road along the foothills of the Caucasus to reach Kazbegi was supposed to be beautiful, but we didn’t see much because of the rain that kept falling all day.

Accommodation: Fith Season – a real favorite! I’ll tell you more in the article on Kazbegi.

Day 10: Juta

In the morning, we were awakened by beautiful sunshine! We then set off on a long excursion on foot to the Chaukhi pass.

In the evening, we planned to spend the night in Stepantsminda. But tired from the hike, and feeling right at home, we decided to stay overnight in Juta.

Day 11: Juta – Stepantsminda

20 km – 0 h 30

A day of transition and rest. We took the cable car up to the Gudauri ski resort.

Hosting : Up

Gudauri cable car view

Day 12: Stepantsminda

We hiked to the Mount Kazbek glacier.

As this is a very long, steep climb, we started from the Gergeti Trinity church. We still had to climb 1200 m and walk for 6 hours.

Day 13: Stepantsminda – Truso – Gudauri – Mtskheta

140 km – 3 h

10 km hike in the Truso valley on the edge of South Osseti. We then continued to Guadauri, Georgia’s largest ski resort, with its wild, charmless urbanization. We had planned to sleep there but preferred to continue to a hotel near Mstskheta.

Accommodation: Villa Mosavali (a hotel near a vineyard with a nice pool to relax in after the hikes!)

Day 14: Mtskheta – Gori – Borjomi

170 km – 2 h 30

Visit and lunch in Mstkheta, then off to Borjomi via the country’s only freeway. We stopped off in Gori to visit the Stalin Museum.

Accommodation: Golden Tulip (the building – a former palace – is exceptional. It’s a pity that the decoration of the rooms is too standardized by the Golden Tulip chain).

Sister on her way to the chapel in the Truso valley
Aerial view of Mtskheta

Day 15: Borjomi

Stroll in and around Borjomi. I’ll tell you more in the article dedicated to Borjomi.

Borjomi cable car

Day 16: Borjomi – Akhaltsikhé – Sairme – Kutaïsi

170 km – 5 h

The road to Akhaltsikhé is easy. After visiting Rabati Castle, we headed north on a track that crossed the Lesser Caucasus before reaching the small spa town of Sairme. We continued on a good road to Kutaisi.

We regretfully decided not to visit the troglodyte site of Vardzia, but this would have lengthened our journey by 120 km. We felt it would be too much.

Accommodation : Hotel Veneto

Day 17: Kutaisi – Mazeri

220 km – 4 h

A road along the foothills of the Caucasus took us to Svaneti.

We could have visited the Martvili Gorge, but it’s overrun by tourists and developed with no regard for the site. Instead, we stopped further on to see the impressive Patara Enguiri River dam.

Accommodation : Guesthouse Shuan

Day 18: Mazeri

We took a lovely hike to a waterfall at the foot of the Mont Ouchba glacier.

Waterfall at the foot of the Tchalaadi glacier

Day 19: Mazeri – Ushguli

70 km – 2 h

The road to Ushguli is now largely rebuilt. The last 15 km were still under construction, making access even more complicated. When we arrived, it was the “wahoo” effect, and we sat at the top of the village just enjoying the show!

Accommodation: Old Tower (very basic, with a shared bathroom, but there’s nothing better).

Day 20: Ushguli

Up bright and early, we were ready for a great hike…

But after a two-hour climb up a ridge, we had to turn back because of a heavy thunderstorm. Soaked to the bone, we went to the movies!

General view of the Ouchgouli valley
Entrance to the cinema in Ouchgouli

Day 21: Ushguli – Mestia

45 km – 1 h 30

Accommodation: Guesthouse Mountain View (the best value of our trip)

Day 22: Mestia

Another gloomy day.

We took a short hike to the Tchaladi glacier from the valley floor.

Day 23: Mestia – Batumi

270 km – 6 h

Accommodation: Gonio Inn (room overlooking the Black Sea) in Gonio, a small seaside resort near Batoumi.

Day 24: Batumi

City tour.

I’ll tell you more in the article dedicated to Batumi.

General view of Gonio beach
View of the Alphabet Tower and the beach at Batumi

Day 25: Batumi – Tbilisi

We returned the rental car to Batumi station. The train departed at 3 pm and arrived at 8:35 pm. The train is brand new, and air-conditioned, but laid out like a commuter train!

For a modest extra charge, we took the slightly more comfortable First Class.

Accommodation: Ibis Style (very well located next to the Freedom Plaza). The high rooms have superb views over the city)

Day 26: Tbilisi – Paris CDG

Return by direct Air France flight departing at 9 a.m. and arriving at 12.05 p.m.

Georgian cuisine: a must-try!

A trip to Georgia is also an opportunity to discover its excellent cuisine. It is influenced by the Middle East and Russia. The local vegetables are varied and the meats are excellent. And cooks know how to embellish their dishes with herbs, nuts, onions, or garlic. Georgia is also very proud of its vineyards. The wine will surprise you because it has nothing in common with what we know. The Saperavi, a dry red wine, seemed best suited to our French palates!

The khachapuri, filled with cheese or meat, will delight you. The bread, with its bizarre shape, is a real delight. You can eat well anywhere in Georgia, but the best restaurants are to be found in the capital.

Georgian restaurant
Typical Georgian bread
Litera restaurant patio
Georgian dishes

Our assessment on returning from the trip

We liked this country. Georgians are welcoming. We felt very safe and respected as tourists.

The program we had concocted turned out to be a good choice. Diversified and minimizing long car journeys.

We were surprised by the weather, which we hadn’t expected to be so wet in this part of the world, so we were glad to have planned to stay in the same area for several days each time. This increased our chances of seeing the sites of interest in good conditions, while still allowing for moments of rest.

Three weeks was a good length of time to discover the country. A two-week stay is possible by deleting one or two regions from our program. Less than ten days on site is, in our opinion, too short.

Farmer working at the foot of Mount Ushba

The 4×4 was very useful for getting to Omalo and on the track between Akhaltsikhé and Sairmé. However, it’s best to be a seasoned driver.

Otherwise, the road network is quite good and, if we’re careful, we soon get used to the local way of driving! In my life, I’ve never crossed so many solid lines to overtake vehicles! Last but not least: the cows. They graze along roadsides, indifferent to the cars they nonchalantly let pass.

The hikes we did were easy to find, thanks to GR-type signposting. The “3 in 1” guide provided useful descriptions.

The Georgian cuisine was a pleasant surprise. A bit repetitive in the mountains, but we discovered some very nice restaurants in town.

We remain frustrated when it comes to wine. We had high expectations, as all the guidebooks mention Georgia as the oldest wine-producing country in the world. But vinification with amphorae produces a wine that tastes very different from what we know. We would have liked to meet an expert to guide us in our choices, which were often disappointing.

What we spent on our trip to Georgia

The cost of living is still very moderate compared to here.

Here are a few references (2021) to help you build your budget:

  • Overnight stay in a comfortable 3-star hotel in town: EUR 80 to EUR 100 including breakfast
  • Overnight in a mountain guesthouse: EUR 30 to EUR 40 including breakfast
  • Meals in a guesthouse or simple restaurant: EUR 3 to EUR 10 per person
  • Meal in a good restaurant in town: 15 EUR to 40 EUR per person with wine
  • 4X4 car rental: EUR 50 to EUR 80 per day depending on duration and model
  • Petrol: about EUR 1 per liter. Warning: a 4×4 consumes a lot of fuel: around 15 l / 100 km.
  • Airfare Paris Tbilisi: between 250 EUR and 500 EUR depending on the airline, the period, and whether or not you are flying non stop.
  • 1st class Tbilisi Batumi train ticket: 17 EUR
Author contemplating Ouchgouli glacier

Our conclusion!

The French are starting to get to know Georgia. After the Poles and the Emiratis, this was the largest group of tourists we met.

The Covid dried up group tourism, which was rather good news. So go ahead for your next vacation! You won’t be disappointed.


Practical tips for your trip to Georgia

We recommend renting a car. The local “Parent” agency we used offers exceptional customer service, far superior to that of the major international rental companies. In return, you get a slightly older vehicle, but at a very competitive price. We warmly recommend it.

Trains run between Batumi and Tbilisi and Zugdidi and Tbilisi. The best place to buy tickets is TKT.

If you’d like to try the Tblissi Mestia flight, you can book your seat on Vanilla Sky. We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

Vanilla Sky

Reliable weather is hard to come by. Days of heavy rain turned out to be beautiful, and vice versa. Surprisingly, many Internet users recommend the Norwegian weather site for Georgia!

We used two “paper” guides.

The excellent “3 in 1” for its many maps and hiking directions but it exists only in French.

The Lonely Planet “Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan for restaurant recommendations and tips.

Links to the accommodations we used, and which we liked, can be found in the section devoted to our day-by-day program here.

To organize your treks, there’s an essential blog created by a Slovenian: Jozef. It’s a real bible! I suggest you also join his Facebook group for the latest information.

Among travel blogs, I’ve selected 3 that have real content and will bring you a vision of travel that complements our own.

Emily is an Australian living in Tbilisi. Her blog is a mine of practical information. It’s in English.

Laurent is the author of the “onechai” blog. His blog is full of humor, and above all, he seeks contact with the local population. I love his enthusiasm and reading his articles made me want to go to Georgia. Laurent sailed from Ukraine to Georgia! It’s in French.

This couple of millennials spent 7 weeks in Georgia. Their feedback is interesting and their blog is one of the ones that made me want to go there. They visited Kakhetia and hiked in Borjomi National Park. It’s in French.

კარგი მოგზაურობა!

Bon voyage!


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