One of the most recent student trends nowadays is backpacking and traveling to different countries to experience more of the world. Asia is one of the most popular destinations due to the climate, the nature and the costs of daily life. Some prefer to travel within Europe, because it has its own beauty and it might be perceived as safer than other continents. However there are few people who travel to a country stuck in between. I am referring to Georgia (not the American state Georgia, but the country). Georgia lies South of Russia, North of Turkey and next to the Black Sea. Stuck between Asia and Europe, which is often referred to as Eurasia. Only a few people actually know about the existence of this country, and even less have ever been there. That is a shame in my opinion, because Georgia is one of the most beautiful and historical rich countries in the world where you can experience far more than the remnants of history. The price of daily life, friendly culture of the people and the beauty of the nature is right in line with the needs and expectations of backpacking students. That is why I am dedicating this week’s article to a mini travel guide for Georgia. To shed light on a rather unknown country and to provide some fine travel destinations for you to enjoy.
Sakartvelo, that is what the Georgians call it.
At this point I probably got you wondering what is so great about Georgia and why should I want to go there? Well, Georgia (or Sakartvelo as the Georgians call it) is foremostly a beautiful country filled with the wonders of nature. It is full of forests, rivers, waterfalls, springs, mountains, canyons and caves which you can visit. Each as breathtaking as the next. The nature and the wildlife are one of the biggest reasons for people to visit Georgia. Grey wolves for instance are still common there and can be sighted in forests. Be cautious though for obvious reasons.
The country has a continental climate, which means hot summers and cold winters. The summer and spring periods are ideal to hike and to enjoy the warm climate possibly at a beach, spring or lake. If you want to look up even more extreme conditions, then try going up the snowy mountains. It is winter the whole year up there, but you can see beautiful sights, visit some old monuments, climb up the mountain or go skiing at one of the resorts.
Another important reason for people to visit Georgia is, because of the rich history of the country. Up to today, there are still a lot of ancient castles, churches, monasteries and other interesting architectures standing all across Georgia. With some of those dating back to all the way to the middle ages. If that is not enough history for you then there is also the possibility to visit the Georgian National Museum , where they will show and tell you in detail about the long history of Georgia. To give you an indication, the Georgian language is already more than two thousand years old and I am not even mentioning the old Georgian language yet.
The last and maybe the most important reason for people to visit Georgia is because of the delicious food and authentic wines. You might not know, but Georgia is the oldest wine country in the world. Historians believe that Georgia is the cradle of brewing wine. The oldest wine jars found are from this area and up until today grape products such as wine is Georgia’s national export product. The way Georgians make food is quite unique, even something simple as baking bread or roasting meat is done in special ways. Bread for instance is still made in a old fashioned way with a fire in some kind of well, where the bread is pasted on the sides of the well. Roasting meat is done with grape branches as fuel to give the meat extra flavor. The inhabitants love to use lots of herbs and spices in their meals which gives it their unique flavor. The most loved and famous Georgian foods are definitely the Georgian dumplings called Khinkali and the bread stuffed with Georgian cheese called Khachapuri.
On top of all that to make it even better, it is also cheap. If you convert your money from Euros to Georgian Lari, you will easily triple your money. That is beneficial since the daily cost of living is low compared to European standards.
Some places to be and see
Now you know some of the main reasons for people in general to visit this country. So let’s continue with some concrete suggestions for some places to visit in Georgia.
Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia. If you love to submerge yourself with local culture then this is the place to be. Once you reach the city center, it gets pretty obvious that a new city center is build around the old one. It is a beautiful contrast of old and new architecture combined with maze-like cobblestone streets especially if you realize that some streets and buildings here are well ancient. Hike around in this big city or take a cab and explore sites with wonderful views such as a massive church with a real gold plated roof on a big hill. While you are there in Tbilisi don’t forget to take a funicular to the top of the mountain. Not only will it give you an good overview of the city, but it will also take you to a theme park up top where you can enjoy fun rides like a rollercoaster.
Batumi is a city located near to the black sea. In contrast to Tbilisi, this is a bit of a more modern, young and hip city. Here you will find all kinds of new buildings and other more modern architectures. This city is more for the young, wild and free among us. Here are all kinds of clubs, bars and lounges which you can enjoy during the nightlife. During the day, the shopping centers and the black sea beach will keep you entertained.
Mtskheta is one of the oldest places in Georgia. It is known as the birthplace of Christianity in Georgia and is therefore declared as the holy city by the Georgian Orthodox Church. This city used to be the capital back in the old days. The city has a lot of old churches, monasteries, buildings and structures to offer. Not to forget the taste of real core traditional cuisine can be tasted here in local restaurants.
Next to these three popular cities, which will all keep you busy for more than a fair amount of time, there are far more amazing sights to see and activities to experience as a backpacking student. Some of those include vineyard tours and wine tasting, cave exploring, rock climbing and more sightseeing than one could count. I will leave some for yourselves to discover if I peeked your interest.
General indication of your costs
Finally, bills have to be paid and money has to be mentioned. Fortunately the bright side is that the costs are low and there are lots of ways to save money while traveling to Georgia. It can be a budget backpacker destination so to call, but you can make the costs as excessive or minimal as you want. There are a lot of different options regarding accommodation varying from cheap hostels to a bit more expensive luxury hotels. Food and transport are much cheaper than you are probably used to. A long taxi ride would be a maximum of just a few Euros and public transport is just a few cents. A week worth of food can be bought for less than thirty Euros in the supermarket. If you stick to eating local cuisine while going out for dinner, then you can expect prices between the ten and twenty Euros for a mid-range establishment. Georgia has a lot of historical buildings and places to see which are mostly free of charge and there are a lot free hike trails. So activities don’t require much money and even the things you do pay for are quite lower than you are used to. I will give you a brief indication of the general costs, because we are still students after all. Please keep in mind that these are just general indications depending on your choice of lifestyle during your holiday.
|Accommodation||Food||Transport||Activities||Average daily cost|
If you are looking for some tips to save money then you might consider taking a free walking tour, camping in the wild (free on public land), drinking tap water (it is safe to drink), do some groceries and make your own food and finally try to stay with a local. Locals are very hospitable and will often invite you to stay over for dinner and they might even offer you a place to sleep. If you are not comfortable approaching people directly, then you might want to try a sharing economy site like Couchsurfing etc.
I hope you enjoyed reading this mini travel guide. I wonder, did you get dizzy from all these hard to pronounce names? Probably not, but I can totally understand if you did. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Georgia, remember this article and take that opportunity with both hands. I can ensure you that it will be worth your effort. If you would like to orientate a bit more and if you are interested in people’s experiences from all over the world regarding their trip to Georgia. Then I recommend you to check out this public Facebook group. Here you can see pictures, stories and related questions that might help you make up your mind.