When you think of "Georgia," you probabably think of Atlanta, peach trees and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the hub of Delta Air Lines. Georgia is also home to ancient citadels, ornate Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals, a budding wine culture and some of the tallest mountains in the world. The other Georgia, anyway.
With all due respect to the home of the Brave(s), the country of Georgia (known in the Georgian language as "Sakartvelo") offers a richness of experience for travelers with which the state just can't participate. The country of Georgia may be much farther away than the state, but it's well worth a visit. Here are the top 10 places to visit in Georgia.
Tbilisi's Narikala Fortress isn't technically ancient, even though it occupies a very old site. The 13th century church that originally sat perched above Tbilisi's Old City burned down, and most of what currently exists was built in the late 1990s. Still, this is a must-see when you come to Georgia, if only because of the panorama it offers of Tbilisi's city center and the Kura River, which snakes through town. If you don't feel like hiking up to the fortress, which takes about 15-20 minutes, ride the cable car inside.
One of the most conspicuous Tbilisi attractions you can see from Narikala is the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi, known colloquially as Sameba. Whether you see it from afar or close up, it's most beautiful at night, when it lights up in a bright golden color that beautiful contrasts it from the more dim tones of the surrounding neighborhood. Sameba is the world's third-largest Eastern Orthodox church as of 2018, and is one of the largest religious structure on the planet in general.
Stepantsminda and Mount Kazbeg
Georgia is a treasure trove of Orthodox architecture, it so happens, with another beautiful example being the hilltop 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church, located in the Caucasus Mountains a few hours north of Tbilisi. From the town of Stepantsminda, the nearest settlement to the church, it's about 90-minutes on foot at a brisk pace on a relatively steep incline. On a clear day, you can spot Mount Kazbeg (one of the highest peaks in the Caucasus Mountains) towering above the church from many points in the town, including the Rooms Hotel.
Davit Gareja Cliff Monastery
Want to see an amazing religious site in Georgia, but can't devote an entire day and night to visiting Kazbegi? Another option would be to take a day trip from Tbilisi to Davit Gareja, a massive monastery complex a couple of hours from the city that's literally carved into a mountainside. Tour buses to Davit Gareja, which dates back to the 6th century, leave from Tbilisi's Freedom Square every morning.
Batumi's Black Sea Coast
Not in a religious mood and aren't a mountain person? Not to worry. Though relatively short in length, Georgia's Black Sea coast is idyllic, and the city of Batumi has some lovely beaches to visit. One of the things many visitors to Georgia love about the city beach in Batumi is the fact that it's made of rocks, not sand. This means not only that the water is clearer, but that you won't get sand everywhere when you sunbathe!
Among the many reasons Georgia is rising to mainstream prominence? The country's long-secret wine scene (the Caucasus region is arguably where the modern wine tradition was born) is gaining more and more positive press, from the honey-sweet white wine Tvishi to fruity Aguna rosé. Popular wineries in the Kakheti region southeast of Tbilisi include Pheasant's Tears and Shumi Winery Khaketi.
Like Narikala in Tbilisi, much of the town of Sighnaghi (which, like the wineries listed above, is also located in the Kakheti region of Georgia) is significantly re-built. However, if you can overlook this fact, this is sure to be one of your favorite Georgia destinations. Notable Sighnaghi attractions include the Bobde Monastery, which sits just outside the town center, and eighth-century Kvelatsminda Church. A day or two in Sighnaghi town pairs perfectly (pun very much intended) with a trip to one or more of the Georgia wineries listed above.
Although Joseph Stalin and his mythology are mostly associated with Russia, he actually hails from Georgia (which was, to be fair, a Soviet Republic, albeit a reluctant one). Apart from the massive Stalin Statue and extensive Stalin Museum that sits in the center of Gori Town, you can visit the ancient Gori Fortress or Uplistsikhe, an architectural site that dates back to the Iron Age. Keep in mind that while locals here are proud of the fact that Stalin hails from here, it's probably not a good idea to confuse them as being Russian, or to refer to them as such.
Affordable Ski Resorts: Bakuriana and Pasanauri
Thrifty European skiers have long known Georgia as an affordable alternative to the slopes of France and Switzerland, and a beautiful one as well. The country's Caucasus mountains are every bit as beautiful as the Alps, and their comparative lack of development makes them arguably more charming. While some would-be Georgia skiers might feel doubtful about their decision after video footage of a recent mishap circulated online, resorts like Bakuriani and Pasanauri are generally very safe, and are always an incredible value.
Tbilisi's Rustaveli Avenue
Tbilisi is not only where Georgia begins for most travelers, but also where it tends to end, being the location of the country's main international airport. Presuming you follow the advice on this list and devote the first part of your Georgia trip to seeing Tbilisi's ancient sites, spend your last day or two in the country walking up and down cosmopolitan Rustaveli Avenue. Whether you enjoy high-end shopping, having a coffee or cocktail in trendy cafés that evoke Western Europe or simply watching the sunset over Freedom Square, you're sure to have a lovely time in Tbilisi.