Tourism in Georgia is thriving due in large part to its diversity of landscapes, culture, and an unrivalled reputation for hospitality to foreigners. The assortment of holiday opportunities and recreational activities in any region of Georgia makes it easy for every tourist to find their own unique encounter. From sun and sea to alpine skiing or just roaming free, Georgian tourism infrastructure affords access to both urban and rural destinations to accommodate tourists of all affinities and niches.
Georgia has historically been a hotspot for the influx of travelers as facilitated by the Silk Road. Today, tourism in Georgia is a reflection of the many cultures that passed through. In turn, the modern Georgian tourism experience is defined by its seemingly limitless scope of heritage, adventure, nature, gastronomy and enotourism options.
Culture and Heritage Tourism in Georgia
The history of Georgia is apparent upon arrival. Architecture and historic sites from every era can be found within Georgia’s mountain wreathed borders. Multiple UNESCO designations are a favorite among history enthusiasts. The ancient capital of Mestia is a hub of Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries. The range of architecture in Tbilisi spans from medieval to post modern. Narikala Fortress sits on top of what was once a Zoroastrian place of worship. Archaeological excavations in Dmanisi have unearthed what are thought to be the oldest remains of human existence outside Africa.
Georgian culture is a dominant feature of any type of tourism in Georgia. It cannot be overstated the amount of hospitality with which all guests are treated. This spills over into every facet of tourism from accommodation to recreational activities. The best way to experience authentic Georgian culture is to attend the traditional Georgian feast known as supra. Supra is a semi-formal banquet wherein lengthy toasts to Georgia’s cultural heritage and lifestyle are overseen by a toastmaster known as tamada. Any visitor is encouraged to participate in the ceremonial affair to get a glimpse into the collective Georgian psyche in order to fully appreciate their warmth and conviviality.
Georgia’s relatively small land area is home to many distinct ethnic groups and several distinct languages and dialects, all of which can be seen and heard in a day’s excursion from the major cities of Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi. A visit to any village in Samergrelo and Svaneti regions is highly recommended for those interested in experiencing the ethnic diversity with which Georgia is endowed.
Adventure Tourism in Georgia
Any holiday in Georgia is an adventure. The Greater Caucasus Mountains are home to some of the highest peaks in Europe. Skiing in Georgia’s resort towns of Mestia, Gudauri and Bakuriani (in the Lesser Caucasus) is reputed to induce a sense of rare excitement and freedom not experienced in the more developed areas of Europe. Off piste skiing, heli-skiing, snowboarding and mountain climbing are musts for any thrill seeker.
For the extreme winter sportsman, snow kiting, glacier climbing and even ice diving in pristine mountain lakes are excursions easily taken from anywhere in Georgia.
Adventure tourism on Georgia’s Black Sea Coast offers any and every summer sensation imaginable. SCUBA dive the transparent waters of Sarpi and Gonio just south of Batumi. Parasailing, windsurfing, and waterskiing are among the many sun and sea activities to be enjoyed on Georgia’s historic west coast, known to be the destination of the mythical Argonauts. For the sport fisherman, deep sea fishing off the coasts of Batumi, Poti and Anaklia is some of the most intense on the Black Sea. Sunbathe on a chartered yacht or take a Black Sea cruise out of the port of Batumi with unforgettable coastal views of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.
Georgia had 12 major rivers with countless tributaries which attract kayaking and rafting enthusiasts in the warmer months. Levels of difficulty vary from whitewater rapids to paddling through serene canyon pools.
Adventure tourism is vibrant in the cities of Batumi and Tbilisi. From June until September, the streets of Batumi are abuzz with tourists and locals which make for a sizzling nightlife and dance scene. Tbilisi has become a must see destination for its abundant nightlife year round and is rumored to be the home of several of Eastern Europe’s highest rated dance clubs such as Bastiani (Dynamo Stadium), Gallery (Rustaveli Blvd), Mtkvarze and Khidi (river front).
Ecotourism in Georgia
Nature tourism in Georgia attracts campers and trekkers from around the world. More than a third of Georgia’s land area is forest covered mountains. Admirers of natural beauty, flora and fauna can find bliss in every direction across all regions of Georgia. The mountains of Svaneti – Shkhara and Ushba, and Mtsketa Mtianeti – Kazbegi and St, Stephen, are world famous ecological wonders. The Black Sea Coast is well known for its semitropical beauty, Batumi Botanical Gardens in particular. The Gurian village of Gomi’s Mta sits above the clouds and is a favorite among Georgian nature lovers. The protected semi desert area of Vashlovani National Park in southeastern Kahketi is one of Georgia’s most unique and biodiverse regions. Makhuntseti Waterfall is a must see at over 300 meters tall. The resort towns of Bakhmaro, Bakuriani and Gudauri attract ecotourists in the summer months due to their myriad nature activities.
Gastronomy and Enotourism
Georgian food and wine tourism is one of the country’s major draws. Georgian cuisine features a distinctive blend of influences from both east and west found in signature dishes including khinkhali meat dumplings and katchapuricheese pastry. Georgian red, white and amber wines, particularly those of the eastern region of Kakheti, are considered by some to be among Europe’s finest. The Saperavi varietal is one of the more popular dry red selections. Wine making culture may have in fact first developed in Georgia as archaeologists have discovered evidence of wine production dating back to 6000 BCE.
Pilgrimage Tourism in Georgia
Georgian pilgrimage tourism is source of pride for Georgians who consider themselves to be the first nation to convert to Christianity. Christianity is said to have been introduced to Georgia by Saint Nino in the 4th century CE. The city of Mestia is a pilgrimage site for Georgian Orthodox Christians and features some of the most impressive chapels, churches and cathedrals in the Caucasus.