Georgia – In 2018, one of the most popular Dutch television shows ‘WIDM’ was shot in Georgia (the country, not the state), which resulted in a rise of Dutch travelers to Georgia. Although I never watched WIDM, I can imagine it was easy to convince the Dutch audience with footage of Georgia’s majestic mountains, lush vineyards, unique cuisine, vibrant Tbilisi, and ancient cave cities. Last spring, I solo backpacked in Georgia for about two weeks. Most of my time I spent hiking the Caucasus in Georgia’s north. Here’s a mini guide to backpacking Georgia with my itinerary, highlights and tips!
Why should you go backpacking in Georgia?
- Compact and diverse. You can easily spent 5 to 6 weeks in Georgia, but it’s also perfect for a one-week holiday since you can easily do beautiful day trips from Tbilisi. The landscapes vary from desert and mountains to sea and forest.
- Affordable. I only spent 30 euro’s per day (find my detailed overview of costs of backpacking in Georgia here). Flights to Kutaisi and Tbilisi are cheap from Europe.
- Amazing scenery.
- Delicious and unique food.
- Rich culture and history as the crossroad between Europe and Asia.
- It’s the land of wine! Georgia is the oldest wine-making country in the world.
- Welcoming people.
My 2-week Georgia travel itinerary (from west to east)
- Day 1: Flight from Amsterdam – Kutaisi
- Day 2: Kutaisi and a day trip to the canyons
- Day 3: Kutaisi to Mestia
- Day 4 – Mestia to Mazeri via Guli Pass to Koruldi Lakes
- Day 5 – Hiking from Koruldi Lakes to Mestia
- Day 6 – Hiking from Zhabeshi to Adishi river
- Day 7 – Hiking from Adishi river to Ushguli
- Day 8 – From Ushguli to Mestia and a night train from Zugdidi to Tbilisi
- Day 9 – Full day Tbilisi
- Day 10 – Day trip to David Gareja from Tbilisi
- Day 11 – Bus from Tbilisi to Kazbegi
- Day 12 – Hike to Gergeti glacier in Kazbegi
- Day 13 – Kazbegi to Tbilisi
- Day 14 – Day trip to Sighnagi from Tbilisi
- Day 15 – Flight from Tbilisi to Amsterdam
Obviously, I only had a limited amount of time. These are some places I didn’t go to, but would love to visit during a next backpacking trip in Georgia: Tusheti (!), Vardzia cave city, Stalin museum in Gori, and Batumi.
- Highlights: Visiting the beautiful Bagrati cathedral up on Ukimerioni Hill, the extravagant Colchis fountain with golden ornaments and vibrant Kutaisi market. Also, I did a fun full-day tour from Kutaisi, which included a visit to Okatse canyon, Martvili canyon, Kinchka waterfall and a trip by old Sovjet style cable car to Gelati monastery. The day tour was quite touristy, but still much fun!
- Accommodation: Hostel Vagabonde
Backpacking Mestia / Svaneti
- Highlights: The cable car for a beautiful view over Mestia. A visit to the Svaneti History & Ethnography Museum, lunch at the Sunset cafe or drinks with live music at Leila’s. However, the main thing to do in Mestia is hiking. I did a five day Mazeri to Usghuli hike together with a fellow traveler (without a guide). However, there are also plenty of day hikes possible e.g. the hike to Chalaadi glacier or to the cross.
- Accommodation: Nino Ratiani Guesthouse
- Highlights: The Old Town with the meidan (bazaar), the avant-garde Peace Bridge, the Clock tower, Narikala Fortress, the cable car, and Rike park. In Georgia’s city centre, the Museum of Georgia is worth a visit. In the evening, there are plenty of good restaurants or you can go clubbing in the epic Bassiani techno club. When I was there, a friend of mine performed at the huge Tbilisi Open Air music festival, which was also fun to attend. If you’re looking for a cocktail or classy drinks, I heard Dive Bar is the place to go. From Tbilisi, it is also easy to do day trips to the cave monasteries of David Gareja (highly recommended), to the winefields in Sighnaghi or to the Stalin Museum in Gori (unfortunately, I did not have time for Gori).
- Accommodation: Marco Polo hostel
- Highlights: Hiking to Gergeti glacier, seeing famous Stephantsminda church
- Accommodation: Kuro camping
Suggested 1-week Georgia travel itinerary
If you only have one week in Georgia, I would suggest the following one-week Georgia travel itinerary. Start off with one full day in Tbilisi before taking the bus to Kazbegi. If you love hiking, stay for one or two nights and explore the majestic Caucasus mountains. If you don’t love mountains and hiking, a day trip may suffice. Then head back to Tbilisi. From Tbilisi, you can do easy day trips to David Gareja, the cave monasteries, to Stalin’s Gori and to Sighnaghi. If you love wine (and relaxing), I would advice to stay at least one night in Sighnaghi.
Hiking in Georgia
Georgia is a paradise for those who love hiking and mountaineering. You could do one-day hikes from Kazbegi, climb Mt. Kazbeg or do a multiple day trekking from Mestia. Please read all about my trekking from Mestia to Ushguli via the Kuraldi lakes here.
How to prepare for backpacking Georgia?
Backpacking in Georgia is easy and safe, but you may want to pack and check some things before you go.
Specific things to pack for Georgia
- If you go hiking and trekking: bring good hiking shoes, trekking poles, a rain cover, a rain jacket and a poncho.
- If you also plan to go camping: bring a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, a water filter, thermal clothing, a cap, sunnies, and a power bank.
- Please find my full packing list for backpacking trips here.
Specific things to do before going to Georgia
- “კეთილი იყოს თქვენი” = ‘Welcome”! Try to learn some Georgian. Obviously, you will learn some Georgian on the road, but you may consider learning some basics while you’re still at home. Speaking Georgian is actually quite easy, but reading requires obviously a bit more practice ;)
- Check the latest Georgia travel advice from your government. (Personally, in most cases I won’t let this affect my travels)
- Download the maps.me application. The Georgia map has useful information.
- If you go hiking or trekking: download the excellent MapOut app and download routes from CaucasusTrekking.com
- You may want to get travel insurance and some immunizations (check with your local healthcare clinic)
What is the best time to travel?
The best to visit Georgia is between June and September. This is also the best time for trekking. The winter months are great for ski trips.
Backpacking Georgia budget and costs
Like always, I kept track of my expenses on paper. In Georgia, I spent roughly 27 euro or 31,5 USD’s per day. I mostly slept in dormitories in hostels or in my tent and ate at small local places, which kept my Georgia backpacking costs low.
Most dormitories in Tbilisi are about 8-9 euro per night. A single budget room outside of the capital city is about 10-11 euro per night. These prices often include a simple breakfast. Food is between 4-8 euro per meal.
Is it safe to travel to Georgia?
Traveling in Georgia is generally considered safe. The political situation is quite stable, although protests may occur. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against travel to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Check out the UK Department of Foreign Affairs for the latest information.
Solo female travel in Georgia
As a ‘solo female traveler’ in Georgia, I haven’t felt unsafe while backpacking in Georgia (although I was only there for a brief time). I also haven’t heard any stories about sexual harassment from other female travelers. Find some of my must-read tips about safety for (solo) travelers here!
Solo backpacking Georgia
Tbilisi has many fun hostels, which are a great place to meet other solo travelers. Tours are also a good way to meet fellow travelers, such as the David Gareja tour. In places like Kazbegi and Mestia, I only encountered a few other solo travelers.
Communication in Georgia
The main language is Georgian, but I found some people also speak English (especially in the tourist areas)! In Svaneti, the Svan language is spoken.
Internet / telephone connection in Georgia
I usually buy a sim card directly upon arrival. In Georgia, I used Beeline Telecom. I had decent 3G almost everywhere.
Accommodation in Georgia
With exception of Tbilisi, you won’t find many ‘typical’ hostels in Georgia. However, there are many cosy guesthouses and cool camping places. In the mountains, you can go wild camping. Here is a list of the places I stayed.
- Kutaisi – Hostel Vagabonde. Lovely hostel with friendly staff and a terrace overlooking the river. It’s a good place to meet other travelers.
- Mestia – Nino Ratiani Guesthouse. A highly popular guesthouse ran by the lovely and hospitable Nino. The type of traveler differs from young backpackers to couples and families.
- Ushguli – Nato Guesthouse. A cute and clean family-run guesthouse, which served delicious food and had a hot shower
- Tbilisi – Marco Polo hostel. A great hostel right in the middle of Tbilisi. Because it small and homely, it’s a great place to meet other travelers.
- Kazbegi – Kuro camping and hostel. I camped at Kuro and had a beautiful view of Stephantsminda. It’s a funky place with hammocks and bonfires.
What to eat and drink in Georgia?
- Khinkali – Georgian dumplings
- Khachapuri – Cheese-stuffed bread
- Kubdari – Bread stuffed with meat, spices and onions
- Svaneti salt – A mix of salt, garlic, spices and herbs (also great to take back home as a souvenir)
- Churchkhela – Rubbery walnut snack (perfect to bring on hiking trips)
- Georgian wine
Tbilisi restaurant tips
My friend Tyler lived in Tbilisi and knows it very well. These are some of his restaurant recommendations.
- Racha: Heavy food, their ojakhuri is especially nice. Gets busy, because so many foreigners learned about it, but otherwise it is a classic haunt.
- Taglauri: For excellent khinkali, they make Tusheti style khinkali too.
- Retro Cafe: For khachapuri. It’s really good and you can order the deadly deadly Titanic khachapuri. It’s huge.
- Gvimra: For something a little “fancier”. Chef is really creative, friends opened it together. Modern take on Georgian food with ingredients you rarely see anywhere else.
- Amra: Pretty far out of the city center, but they make great Abkhazian and Mingrelian food.
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