The Republic of Georgia is a country found in the Caucasus region, at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Asia. A former Soviet republic, it became independent in 1991 but its history goes back much further. Georgian terrain is mostly mountainous and there are beaches along its Black Sea coast. Georgia boasts remarkable achievements in eco-tourism, catering to various interests such as hiking to mountaintop monasteries and watchtowers, as well as engaging in exhilarating activities like skiing and rafting. While the country’s breathtaking scenery initially attracts tourists, it is its vibrant culture and delectable cuisine that captivate and entice them to return.

For us, Georgia was a recent discovery. In 2021, during the pandemic, we were searching for somewhere that Americans were able to visit, as many countries were restricting US citizens. Georgia made the list and boy are we glad, because it turned out to be absolutely amazing.

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How We Planned Our One Week in Georgia (country)

We booked our trip with JayWay Travel, a tour organizer whom we used previously in Romania and really liked. With only one week in Georgia, we were happy to leave the itinerary to the experts. JayWay focuses primarily on eastern Europe so they were a natural choice, and they really delivered. When we were planning our trip, we told them we were into food and wine, and they did not disappoint, not only introducing us to many foods, but also to the same foods, but from different regions. We stayed in both Tbilisi and Kutaisi, then took day trips to a variety of towns, sights, wine regions, and natural formations.

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Getting to Georgia

In order to get to Tbilisi, we had to take several flights. We started in Austin, TX with a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, then from there we flew to Istanbul, then took an Aegean Airlines flight to Tbilisi. Our tour operator picked us up from the airport and took us to our hotel at the lovely Shota Rustaveli Boutique Hotel, located in the heart of Tbilisi, on Liberty Square, just a few steps away from Old Town, a perfect location. ​ The main thoroughfare of modern Tbilisi is Shota Rustaveli Avenue, which is home to prominent attractions such as the Museum of Tbilisi, the National Gallery, the opera house, and the Modern Art Museum. It was a great location in this very walkable city.

Introduction to Georgian Food

Georgian cuisine has a prestigious place throughout Eastern Europe, with its savory meat dumplings (kinkhali), cheese-filled flatbread (kachapuri), and a surprising amount of vegan food, taking advantage of the country’s abundance of walnuts, pomegranates, beans, and eggplant. It has many unique delicacies hard to find elsewhere, such as glossy churchkela, strings of nuts suspended in thickened grape juice, forming a candy that resembles a sausage.

Georgia was once the world’s fourth-largest grower of tea. It was mass-produced and reduced to a commodity during the Soviet years, then the industry collapsed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since that time, tea makers have been struggling to revive the industry and develop high-quality organic teas.

Georgian Wine

The birthplace of wine, Georgia has been making wine for over 8,000 years. Naturally, we did some wine tastings, visited several vineyards in three different wine regions, and even met a master winemaker whose presentation was responsible for UNESCO’s recognition of the ancient Georgian traditional qvevri winemaking method.

Day 1: Tbilisi

We started with a walking tour of the capital city of Tbilisi. Since the Soviet era, which ended in 2003, Tbilisi has undergone significant changes. While the city’s enduring charms, such as its breathtaking location in the deep valley of the swift Mtkvari River, picturesque architecture, vibrant arts and cultural scene, and the warm Georgian lifestyle, remain intact, they have now been complemented by a new dimension of 21st-century offerings.

Tbilisi Georgia

Tbilisi now boasts an array of inviting cafes and restaurants that serve increasingly delectable food, as well as trendy bars and clubs. The city has also revitalized its museums, galleries, parks, plazas, and entire streets, giving them a modernized facelift.

Tbilisi Bridge of Peace
The Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi opened in 2010

Enhanced transportation systems and eye-catching contemporary architecture further contribute to the city’s transformation. As a result, Tbilisi has become a much more accessible and enjoyable city to visit and reside in, compared to less than a decade ago.

Bank of Georgia Building in Tbilisi
Bank of Georgia Building

Despite these modern developments, the essence of Old Tbilisi continues to thrive. The Old Town, situated in the narrowest part of the valley and overlooked by the ancient Narikala Fortress, exudes the atmosphere of an ancient Eurasian crossroads. Its winding alleys, balconied houses, leafy squares, and splendid churches harken back to centuries past. Neighborhoods in close proximity to the city center retain a quaint village-like ambiance, with their narrow streets, small shops, and strong community spirit. Around the metro stations, one can still find street vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and nuts sourced directly from the countryside.

Tbilisi street vendor

Food and Wine in Tbilisi

We stopped along the way for a wine tasting at an organic wine bar with local meats and cheeses. The wines we sampled were amber and orange wines produced in traditional qvevris, large clay pots that are buried underground.

In the evening, we took a cooking class in the private home of a Georgian woman. This was a highlight of the trip. We arrived to find her watching Grey’s Anatomy in Georgian, which made us smile. She quickly put us to work stretching out dough and filling it with handfuls of cheese, chopping, rolling, and mixing. When we were done, we had created an impressive array of dishes for our dinner, which was paired with Georgian wine. It was the first of many amazing meals we would enjoy.

Georgian dinner with wine

Day 2: Tbilisi – Day Trip to Kazbegi

About driving in Georgia… In some countries JayWay recommends self-driving. In Georgia they actively discourage it: “Georgian standards of driving leave much to be desired. Tailgating, overtaking on the wrong side and using a phone while driving are all normal behaviors. Roads are also not in the best shape and Google Maps is often incorrect.” So we had a driver for the duration of our stay in Georgia.

Today we drove to the Kazbegi region north of Tbilisi. It is very close to the Russian border as well as to Russian-occupied South Ossetia. This drive was a highlight of the trip, as the terrain here is mountainous, green and very beautiful. Our first stop was the Zhinvali Reservoir, a hydroelectric dam built by the Soviets. The Ananuri Fortress, situated on the Aragvi River, dates back to the 13th century. Our last stop was at the Russia-Georgia “Friendship” Monument, built in 1983 to commemorate a friendship some say never existed. Regardless, it is a gorgeous mural in a stunning setting overlooking Devil’s Valley and the Caucasus Mountains.

Stepantsminda sits below massive Mt. Kazbegi. It is the capital of this region, and home to the Gergeti Trinity Church, built in the 14th century. We stopped at a hotel terrace to enjoy a cup of coffee and take in the spectacular view.


Day 3: Tbilisi – Day Trip to Kakheti

Today we had a day trip to the Kakheti wine region. It was a beautiful drive through the Gombori Mountain Pass, which is known for its picturesque scenery.  In order to learn more about the traditional winemaking method that uses qvevris, we stopped at a winery to meet a man who still makes these clay vessels by hand. We sampled his wines as well as chacha, a very strong brandy. Afterwards, we visited the Ikalto Monastery near the town of Telavi, then enjoyed a nice lunch and more wine at the Chateau Mosmieri.

Chateau Mosmieri in Telavi

Day 4: Tbilisi to Kutaisi

Today we transferred west to Kutaisi, which led straight through the Imereti wine region. Our first stop was another highlight of the trip: Baia’s Wine in Baghdati. This winery is run by Baia and Gvantsa, two young sisters. They discussed their operations as we strolled the property, admiring the lush vineyards and playing with their golden retriever. Rather than just offering tastings of their wines, their mother prepared and served us an enormous and absolutely sumptuous Georgian meal, complete with khachapuri, lobio (bean stew) in a clay pot, salads and more. These dishes were paired with some of their wines.

Afterwards, it was on to another vineyard, Marani Otia’s Ezo in Tsqaltubo. This place belonged to a famous Georgian writer and his wife continues to run it.

As we arrived in Kutaisi, we stopped at the Bagrati Cathedral, built in the 11th century. UNESCO removed Bagrati Cathedral from its World Heritage sites in 2017, considering its major Soviet-era reconstruction detrimental to its integrity and authenticity. Even so, it is still beautiful with its green towers and roofs. It is considered one of the four Great Cathedrals of the Georgian Orthodox world.

Bagrati Cathedral Georgia
Bagrati Cathedral

Day 5: Kutaisi – Day Trip to Martvili Canyon

Today was another fantastic day, sunny and warm and filled with natural wonders. We went to Martvili Canyon, a mossy green gorge with waterfalls and hiking. We took a nice boat ride on the river, then hiked to the Okatse Waterfall.

Martvili Canyon Georgia

Probably the best part was the Okatse Canyon canopy tour, a metal walkway suspended high above the treetops that afforded amazing views.

Okatse Canyon Canopy Georgia

We also explored Prometheus Cave, which was fun. On the ride back, we stopped to see the Gelati Monastery. Founded in 1106, the monastery is a masterpiece of the Golden Age of medieval Georgia. One of the first monasteries in Georgia, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Day 6: Kutaisi to Tbilisi

Today we transferred back to Tbilisi, stopping in Gori, which happens to be the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. We visited the Eristavi Gori State Drama Theater, then took a break for a delicious fish lunch. We continued on to Chiatura, where we visited Soviet-era cable cars built for the mining of manganese in the steep gorges. These cars, often referred to as industrial ‘death traps’ or ‘metal coffins,’ still ran until a few years ago. 

Chiatura Georgia cable cars

One of the coolest things we saw in Georgia was the Katskhi Pillar, a limestone monolith about 130 ft high – with visible church ruins from the 9th century perched on the top. An orthodox monk has lived atop the pillar for the last 20 years. It was once accessible to male visitors via a metal ladder that runs up the pillar, but has since been closed to the public.

Katskhi Pillar near Chiatura in Georgia

Day 7: Tbilisi

Our last day in Georgia was a free day (which we spent by getting our Covid tests in advance of our flights back to the US). The highlight was a lunch with the Tbilisi City Host for JayWay Travel, who took us to a nice restaurant at the Stamba Hotel. It was one of the best meals of the entire trip.

Best Time to Visit Georgia

We were in Georgia in June, which was lovely. The ideal time to visit most of the country is from mid-May to early July, and early September to mid-October, when it’s generally warm and sunny. July and August can be uncomfortably humid in the lowlands, with temperatures reaching 104°F. But this is an excellent time to be in the mountains, and it’s high season on the Black Sea. Early autumn brings the festive wine harvest in Kakheti, from about September 20 to October 20. The eastern half of Georgia often has below-freezing temperatures between December and February.

Conclusion: One Week in Georgia (country)

Our one week in Georgia (country) was an amazing experience. There is so much to see and do there but it feels as if we barely scratched the surface. The history and culture are rich, and the scenery is so beautiful. We really loved the food and wine. I am looking forward to going back again someday to see even more.