The 20 best places to visit in Georgia

 

In the north west of the country in the thin strip between the Black Sea and Russia within the partially recognised state of Abkhazia is the New Athos Monastery. Founded in 1883, this large Neo Byzantine style monastery is as lavish inside as it is out. At the heart of the complex is the elaborate five domed Church of St. Panteleimon, it's interior completely covered in murals, beside it standing a 50 metre (160 ft) bell tower. The New Athos Monastery is considered a cultural heritage monument of Georgia.

20. New Athos Monastery

 

Built in 2010 in the extreme south west of the country close to where the Georgian and Turkish borders meet the Black Sea, in the city of Batumi, are two 8 metre (26 ft) tall sculptures known as Ali and Nino. The figures represent a Muslim boy and a Georgian princess from a famous Azerbaijani novel, the story ending with the lovers becoming separated after the invasion of Soviet Russia. Everyday at 7pm the statues merge before eventually moving through each other and separating again.

19. Ali And Nino

 

Built in 1840, the Dadiani Palaces History & Architectural Museum is today a national museum of Georgia. Three separate palaces make up the museum complex, all of which are considered the finest of their kind within the Caucuses, holding within them some unique and interesting exhibits.

Pictured is the Palace of Ekaterine Dadiani, Princess of Mingrelia.

18. Dadiani Palace

 

East of the capital, Tbilisi, is the 11th century Alaverdi Monastery. Situated in the oldest wine region known to exist, in tranquil surroundings the monastery stands at 55 metres (180 ft) making this impressive looking walled church the second tallest religious building in the country.

17. Alaverdi Monastery

 

Directly north of Tbilisi is the 13th century Ananuri Castle Complex, the scene of numerous battles throughout Georgian history. Built among the rolling hills overlooking the Zhinvali Reservoir the complex consists of two castles joined by a curtain wall. Though a lot of the site lies in ruin, the ancient walls, the two 17th century churches and the large tower remain well preserved.

16. Ananuri

 

In the south of the country close to the border with Turkey is the site of a 12th century cave monastery known as Vardzia. Having been excavated from the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain, the caves stretch some 50 metres and up to 19 tiers high. One of the highlights of the area is the Church Of Dormition with a series of wall paintings dating back to 1180.

15. Vardzia

 

Founded in 1106 the Gelati Monastery is a medieval monastic complex from the golden age of Georgian history. The monastery has preserved a number of murals and manuscripts dating back to the 12th century. The buildings themselves are considered a masterpiece of Georgian architecture and have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

14. Gelati Monastery

 

A short distance west of the Gelati Monastery complex is another medieval construction in the shape of the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral. Having suffered considerable damage over it's time it has been painstakingly reconstructed over the last half century to get it to it's current state. One of the regions most visited landmarks, it is considered a masterpiece of Georgian medieval architecture and just as the nearby Gelati Monastery it too has been inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

13. Bagrati Cathedral

 

In the extreme north east of the country along the southern edge of the Caucasus mountain range bordering both Russia and Azerbaijan is an area of protected land known as Lagodekhi National Park. The park protects a variety of rare local flora and fauna and an area of the Caucasus mixed forest. It is an area of waterfalls, glacial lakes and even sulphur springs, with it's highest point reaching 3,500 metres (11,480 ft) above sea level.

Pictured is the Black Cliffs Lake.

12. Lagodekhi National Park

 

At Georgia's most eastern point along the border with Azerbaijan is Vashlovani National Park, an area famed for it's arid semi-desert bad land like landscape. Home to the Alazanhi flood plains and great forests, the parks biggest draw is it's rather small mountain range of cliffs and canyons known locally as the 'sharp walls'. 

11. Vashlovani National Park

 

In the centre of the country is a 40 metre (130 ft) natural limestone column known as the Katskhi Pillar. Standing atop the column are 9th century medieval church ruins, making the site reminiscent of Meteora in Greece.

10. Katskhi Pillar

 

Situated between Europe and Asia, the Georgian capital city has always been a major trading route and important location throughout history. Today the most populated city in the country shows it's diverse history reflected in it's architectural styles, showcasing medieval, classical, Art Nouveau, middle eastern, Stalinist and modern structures. Some notable sights in Tbilisi include the countries tallest statue, the Kartlis Deda, the Abanotubani sulphuric baths, the more modern Bridge Of Peace and the Narikala Fortress which offers the best panoramic views over the city. 

Pictured is the Narikala Fortress.

9. Tbilisi

 

A short distance north of Tbilisi is the ancient city of Mtskheta, one of the oldest cities in Georgia. Home to some of the countries most important cultural monuments, two of which, the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and the 6th century Jvari Monastery are regarded as historically significant in medieval architecture from the Caucasus region. Such is their importance, the Historical Monuments of Mtskheta have been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.

8. Mtskheta

 

In the far north of the country in the Zemo Svaneti Planned National Park within the Caucasus mountain range is Mount Ushba, one of Georgia's most famed peaks. With an elevation of 4,710 metres (15,450 ft) above sea level it is not one of the highest peaks in the range, but certainly one of the most picturesque. It's spire like double summit has earned it the nickname, 'Matterhorn of the Caucasus'. Wherever Mount Ushba is visible the surroundings are guaranteed to be incredible.

7. Ushba

 

In the far northern centre of the country along the northern slopes of the main Caucasus mountain range is Kazbegi National Park. Protecting a high mountain ecosystem, the entire park lies 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) above sea level, offering visitors some of the most natural and rugged mountain scenery in the region.

6. Kazbegi National Park

 

In the extreme north west of the country, in the thin strip of land between the Black Sea and Russia within the partially recognised state of Abkhazia is Ritsa Relict National Park. Situated along the southern slopes of the greater Caucasus mountain range, the park mainly consists of high peaks and huge forests in one of the countries most verdant and most tourist friendly national parks.

5. Ritsa Relict National Park

 

In the north east of the country in the central part of the greater Caucasus mountain range is the Abano Pass, at an elevation of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level it is the highest pass in the Caucasus and considered one of the most dangerous roads on Earth. Linking the Kakheti region with the Tusheti region the road is a mere 84 kilometres (52 miles) in length with an expected driving time of 12 hours. The advice for any visitors who dare tackle this incredible road are to take an off road vehicle with 4 wheel drive and to travel between May and October. Avalanches and rock slides are frequent, as are storms that leave the road muddy, slippery and impassable, meaning adventurers should be prepared for the possibility of being trapped and losing a few days in the mountains. What awaits at the other end is Tusheti, the most pristine and remote mountain region in Georgia.

4. Abano Pass

 

In the northern centre of the country in the Svaneti region of the greater Caucasus mountain range is the Racha Lechkum Kvemo Svaneti Planned National Park, an area of protected land situated within what many consider the most naturally beautiful region of Georgia. Like most areas in or around the Caucasus mountain range, the park is a paradise for nature lovers and trekkers, with great lakes among the gorges, forests and high peaks.

Pictured is the Shaori Lake.

3. Racha Lechkhum Kvemo National Park

 

West of Kazbegi National Park in the northern centre of the country within the main Caucasus mountain range is Mount Kazbek, one of the ranges most prominent mountains. Standing at 5,047 metres (16,558 ft) above sea level, the third highest peak in Georgia is also the second highest volcanic summit and the seventh highest single peak in the Caucasus range. One of the best views of the mountain is from the road leading up to the Gergeti Trinity Church or the church itself, though wherever visitors find themselves within the Kazbek Nature Reserve is a fine location to be.

Pictured is the Gergeti Trinity Church with Mount Kazbek in the background.

2. Mount Kazbek

 

Svaneti is a region of Georgia situated in the north west of the country on the southern slopes of the central Caucasus mountains and is the highest inhabited area in the range. Dominated by mountains separated by deep gorges, the landscape of lush forests at 1,800 metres (5,904 ft) gives way to alpine meadows and grasslands which give way to eternal snow covered glaciers around 3,000 metres (9,840 ft) above sea level. Known for it's picturesque landscapes and architectural treasures, the area has been preserved by it's long isolation, today seen as an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval villages and town houses dating back to the 9th century. For this the entire area including the architectural monuments of Upper Svaneti have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the village of Chazhashi.

1. Upper Svaneti

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