5 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN GEORGIA

1. Tusheti National Park

The Tusheti National Park, which cascades down the northern margins of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, is the traditional home of the eponymous Tush peoples. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful, with soaring peaks and grassy hills dominating the landscape.

There are few roads in sight, and the villages nestled among the misty mountaintops are historic, brick-built affairs like Dartlo, which can be seen protruding almost organically from the Georgian lands, surrounded by rural sheep farms (the region is especially famous for its wool and cheeses) and swaths of spruce forests.

2. Tbilisi

Tbilisi, Georgia’s magnificent up-and-coming metropolis, is the nerve core of the country’s drive towards modernity. It’s also a historic town, making it a perfect site to learn about the republic’s delicate mix of old and new. The city sprawls out along the slopes that bubble around the Mtkvari River’s banks.

The neighbourhood of Old Tbilisi serves as its centre, with its enigmatic Byzantine churches, timber balconies, and the occasional work of outstanding modern art (see Sioni Street). The huge precipices, cathedral tops, and bulwarks of Narikala stand firm above, draped over the hills, while the well-to-do Vake area bustles with public fountains and lovely parks.

3. Borjomi

While Borjomi is still best known as the source of its namesake mineral water – a salty, uber-frizzante concoction treasured by Georgia’s former Soviet masters – the city of today has much more to offer than its sulfuric, volcanic springs. For one thing, the site is spectacular, with the town nestled neatly between the slopes of the Borjomi Gorge. Then there are the exquisite faces of Russian imperial architecture, painted in bright yellows and ochres and abutting neatly up to the fountains and lush lawns of the city park.

Furthermore, the enigmatic Green Monastery hides on the outskirts of town, surrounded by primaeval woodlands and oozing with dark tales of mediaeval monkish killings.

4. Vardzia

Vardzia is without a doubt one of Georgia’s most magnificent panoramas, chiselled and sculpted painstakingly into the sandy rock sides that stand like phalanxes against the meanders of the Mtkvari River in the deep Georgian south. The numerous tiers of monolith churches, tunnels, and shrines seen here are assumed to have been inhabited from at least the middle of the 12th century, when the Bagrationi dynasty kings are thought to have commissioned the first structures on Mount Erusheti’s sheer-cut face.

5. Mtskheta

Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located just outside of Tbilisi on the low-lying banks of the Aragvi River confluence. The town draws large numbers all year because of its numerous Christian landmarks and importance as one of the nerve centres of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

They come to see the beautiful rises and magnificent frescoes of the great Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which stands as one of the finest examples of mediaeval Georgian religious architecture and a revered pilgrimage site for Georgians right across the country, or the Jvari Monastery on the hill, soaring high above Mtskheta – a curious mix of tetraconch architecture, Hellenistic, Byzantine and Georgian styles hidden between its apses.

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