Georgian Resort Areas and Sights
"Argonauts" is one of the most important and well-known myths of ancient times – the story of a Greek named Jason, who tried to obtain the Golden Fleece. Most of the parts of the story took place in the Kolkheti Kingdom – Western Georgia of today.
About 1000 years ago B.C., the Argonauts became the first European "tourists" to arrive in Georgia while seeking the legendary Golden Fleece. They thought that it was possible to mine for gold with the help of the Golden Fleece (a sheep skin). It is unknown whether Medea (the daughter of the King of Kolkheti according to the legend) was an actual person. However, it is well known that, a long time ago, metal mining and wine production were very much developed in Georgia and the country was very famous for textile and medical plants, is well known.
Despite the fact that Georgia occupies a small territory on the world map, it is distinguished by the diversity of its landscape as well as by its resort areas. Georgia is rich with subtropical coasts, forests, deserts and alpine mountains. The uniqueness of Georgia is emphasized, through the fact that, during one summer day it is possible to swim and sunbathe at the sea as well as snow ski in the mountains.
The air of the Alps converges with the air of the Black Sea in Georgia, creating an ideal climate. Georgia is also rich with a variety of different types of water. There are more than 2,000 types of mineral and thermal waters. The country is famous for its extraordinary landscape and biodiversity as well as unique breeds of plants in the national parks and reserves.
There are more than 12,000 historical and cultural monuments, 103 resorts and 182 interesting resort destinations in the country.
No other country offers guests such a variety of sights simultaneously, which is why tourism is quickly developing in Georgia.
Cities and Regional Centers
The city acquired its name "Tpilisi" – later "Tbilisi" because of the warm sulphur springs located in the center of the city. Georgian's have a very interesting legend about the founding of Tbilisi. According to legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali was hunting along with his company around the present-day Tbilisi area, a forest back then. The King's falcon chased down a pheasant; both birds fell into hot spring water. The King's escort found both of the birds boiled in the spring water. Because of the advantageous location and the curing qualities of the hot springs the King decided to build a city on this spot. The name "Tbilisi" is related to the warm springs that still flow from the ground. Because of the strategic location Vakhtang Gorgasali moved the Capital of the Kingdom of Kartli from Mtskheta to Tbilisi. The "Tpilisi Bath Houses", famous throughout the region, are still functional today.
The Mtkvari is the main river of Tbilisi, dividing the city into two parts. The mother fortress of Tbilisi - Narikala (4th century) still remains as the main symbol of the city. Tbilisi survived 40 deadly wars which altered its architecture over time. The most brutal of these wars was the invasion of Aga Makhmad Khan (1795) as a result of which, the city was completely leveled. After this war, the city was restored with wooden houses and unique balconies which created the face of the city that is seen today.
The bronze statue near the fortress of Narikala is called the Mother of Georgia. The statue holds a sword in her right hand and a bowl of wine in the left, symbolizes the Georgian characteristics of expecting guests with wine and enemies with a sword.
The thirteenth century Church of the Sleeping of Saint Mary is located on the Metekhi Plateau. It is an extraordinary example of Georgian architecture. The statue of the founder of Tbilisi – Vakhtang Gorgasali stands in front of the church.
Tbilisi is very well-known for its Sulphur Bath Houses which have become famous over centuries. The Sulphur Bath Houses have always attracted tourists from all over the world including many famous public figures (Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Alexandre Dumas and others).
A large part of the text "Traveling in Persia and the other Countries of the East" is about Georgia, where Jean Chardin visited during 1672-1673. He described in detail the Georgian way of living in Tbilisi. He travelled in Western and Eastern Georgia and wrote about many facts and occurrences that he found in the writings of previous European travelers and missioners, and added his own impressions. One of the most beautiful streets of old Tbilisi was named after the 17th century French traveler – Jean Chardin.
The Tbilisi Botanical Garden was opened in 1809 but it was originally a Royal Garden. It offers hundreds of endemic and rare breeds of plants, which can be found in very few places throughout the world. There are also beautiful waterfalls of different sizes in the Botanical Garden.
The name of the Sioni Cathedral comes from "Zion" meaning "Mount" in Israel. The Cathedral was built in the 4th – 6th centuries. The Sioni Cathedral was destroyed many times as a result of enemy invasions. The present day church was built in the 13th century and reconstructed in the 17th -19th centuries. The interior of Sioni was burned during one of the invasions and was reconstructed and repainted in the 20th century. Another interesting fact is that the bell tower, located outside of the church, constructed in 1812, represents one example of Russian classicism in Georgia.
The Anchiskhati Basillica is the oldest church in Tbilisi (6th century). It was damaged many times during Mongol invasions and by earthquakes, but for the most part it remains unchanged. The Icon (believed not to have been made by human hands) of Jesus Christ, was relocated from Anchi, the previous location of the icon, to Tbilisi resulting in the church being named Anchiskhati.
Leselidze Street is one of the oldest streets of Tbilisi, once considered the main commercial street of the city. There is an old Synagogue, a Mosque where Shiites and Sunnis pray together, as well as Orthodox, Catholic and Gregorian churches. There is also an ancient pagan fire-temple "Ateshga" in Old Tbilisi. The fact that there are buildings of six different religions buildings in one area demonstrates the benevolence, multi-ethnicity and democracy in Georgia, where people of all religions live together.
The Holy Trinity Cathedral was built in 2004 on the 1500th anniversary of the independence of the Georgian church and the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ. The idea of constructing a new Cathedral originated in the Soviet Republic of Georgia in 1989, when the National Movement was becoming stronger. The Sameba Cathedral can be seen from all sides of the city. It is 101 meters high and 70 meters long and consists of 12 smaller temples. The Sameba Cachedral is the highest church in the entire Caucasus region and one of the highest among Orthodox Cathedrals in the world.
Cities carved out in rocks
Uplistsikhe is the oldest city, carved out of rock, in the Caucasus region and is first mentioned in the historical scriptures of the 7th century. The main part of he Uplistsikhe architectural complex, was built in ancient times (6th -9th centuries B.C).
"Uplistsickhe" is the ancient name of the place used as the residence of the local rulers which is evident by its name which id translated into "Residence of the Ruler" ("Upali" in Georgian)
Uplistsikhe is located on the left bank of the river Mtkvari, 10 kilometers to the east of Gori.
Vardzia (12th century) is a city carved into the rock – a monastery – a Royal Palace which was elevated by 100 meters and consisted of thirteen floors. Originally Vardzia had 3,000 rooms and a capacity for more than 3,000 people (365 of the rooms belonged to King Tamar). There were more than 600 storage rooms, kitchens, libraries, cells, and auxiliary storages in addition to 25 wine-cellars with 185 pitchers, and more. Several floors of the complex are connected to each other by a labyrinth of tunnels.
The Vardzia complex has 15 churches. The most significant is the Saint Mary Cathedral, where wall paintings of biblical fragments are preserved along with the frescoes of King Tamar and her father - George III.
Over time, invasions and earthquakes destroyed a large part of the Vardzia Complex. Despite this fact, the complex still astonishes visitors with its subtlety and importance.
The Vardzia cave collection is located 290 kilometers away from Tbilisi, in the Samtskh-Javakheti region.
The Davitgareji cave monastery complex is spread out over 25 kilometers of the Gareji semi-desert and it consists of 14 monasteries.
In the 6th century, 13 Assyrian monks established the monastic life in Georgia and one of them, St. David from Gareji founded the Gareji Lavra.
Davitgareji monasteries were multifunctional. Along with strengthening the Christian faith, they played an important role in the educational, cultural and artistic development of the country. Chroniclers served in these monasteries, theological literature was written, books were translated and collections were created.
The Davitgareji desert is the place where Shah Abbas killed 6,000 monks on an Easter night in 1616.
A Soviet military base and firing range was constructed near the Davitgareji Monastery. Due to intensive military training, the unique frescos of the monastery were destroyed. However, the monastery still makes a huge impression on visitors.
Signaghi is one of the most beautiful and unique towns in Georgia, and is attractive because of the natural location and the architectural character established over time. The city has a magnificent view of the Alazani River and the Caucasus Mountains.
In 1770 King Erekle II put the pre-existing small settlement surrounded by a similarly small fence, on the list of towns. It grew to 5 km in length and 40 hectares of space with a continuous fence consisting of 23 towers and 8 doors – a town that had the capacity to host the entire Kizikhi population. It is one of the largest towns and the only one among historical monuments that still has its original appearance.
The city of Sighnaghi is often called the City-Museum and the City of Love. Couples are the most frequent visitors of the town.
Kazbegi is the third highest peak in Georgia at 5,047 meters above sea level and it is the best place for recreational alpinists and mountain climbers.
According to a Greek myth, because Prometheus gave fire to mankind, he was tied to the Caucasus Mountain forever. Based on Georgian sources, this place was the Kazbegi peak. At the altitude of 4000 meters there is a cave in which Prometheus was allegedly tied down. In Georgian mythology Prometheus is known as Amirani.
The Gergeti Trinity Church – the Georgian architectural complex surrounded by a fence is located nearby, at the altitude of 2200 meters. The complex includes the domed Holy Trinity Cathedral (middle 14th century), the bell tower (late 14th century) and living quarters (15th century). The church sets atop the mountain and overlooks the entire Kazbegi area.
Resorts of Georgia
Mountain and Ski resorts
Gudauri is located 120 km away from Tbilisi (altitude - 2196 meters above sea level). This is a popular place for professional and recreational skiers alike.
The five ropeways can accommodate 4,000 skiers at a time. The total length of the 12 ski routes is 25 km. The highest peak of the ski route is the "Sadzele" Mountain – at 3,300 m.
Gudauri's long runs are enjoyed by every kind of skier both on and off-piste. Gudauri is one of the best places for amateurs of such extreme sports as "Heliskiing" and "Free riding"
Bakuriani is one of the most beautiful winter ski resorts of Georgia 1,700 m. and is surrounded by mountain forests and the coniferous trees contribute to the crystal clean air. This town is the origin of world famous Borjomi mineral springs. Because of the unique climate conditions, Bakuriani attracts tourists all year round. In winter it is the gathering place for winter sports enthusiasts – the ski season lasts from November until mid April.
Khulo is one of the highest mountain regions in the Autonomous Republic of Adjara with an altitude range of 600 to 3,000 meters above sea level and has a continental climate.
Along with the development of tourism a newly-opened ski area is operating in Khulo.
The Khulo region is also rich with mineral resources. There are approximately 25 mineral and medicinal waters found locally.
Mestia is the administrative center of the Municipality of Mestia, located at 1,700 meters above sea level.
There are many national, religious and defense buildings in Mestia, the "Machubi" House-Fortresses being one of the most distinguished.
There are 3 ski slopes in Svaneti, which are used not only for amateur skiing but sports competitions as well.
There is also a Historical-Ethnographic Museum in Mestia, which is often referred to as storage of Georgian treasures.
Borjomi is located at the merging point of the rivers Mtkvari, Borjomula and Gujetistskali, at an altitude of 800-900 meters above sea level. To the east it borders Borjomi - Kharagauli National Park, which is one of the largest national parks in Europe.
Borjomi is a balneological-climate resort and it is famous for its mineral springs, which have medicinal properties.
Sairme is a balneological-climate resort at the altitude of 950 meters above sea level.
Sairme's mineral water "Sairme" is famous for its medical properties. There are many well-accommodated hotels and guest houses in the town.
Abastumani is distinguished by its climate and is considered as a place for treating Tuberculosis.
The astrophysical observatory in Abastumani has a unique location for observing the cosmos and is popular among scientists as well as tourists.
Bakhmaro is a highland resort in Guria, located at 1,926-2,050 meters above sea level. The Bakhmaro area is characterized by a uniform cave by evergreen forests.
Pleasant climate conditions caused by a combination of sea and mountain air masses make Bakhmaro unique.
Tskaltubo is a town on the bank of the river Tskaltubo, at 120 meters above sea level. It is a multi-purpose resort, popular for its thermal- radon mineral water baths.
Tskaltubo mineral water is distinguished by containing curing qualities for various diseases. It is especially good for the heart, blood vessels, skin, metabolism disorders, endocrine system, rheumatisms and many other ailments. The microclimate of the karst caves is used as a natural treatment for bronchial asthma, stenocardia hypertension, neurosis, and chronic pneumonia.
Batumi is one of the most important cities in Georgia from a tourism perspective. It is located about 30 kilometers away from the Turkish-Georgian border. The infrastructure of the city is arranged very comfortably for tourists. It has many world class hotels, a one hundred year old boulevard, the longest in Europe that is equipped with bicycle paths, as well as a Botanical Garden rich with flora, the Nobel Brothers Museum, the Dolphinarium, examples of ancient and modern architecture, and a laser fountain with moving sculpture - designed by the famous Georgian sculptor Tamar Kvesitadze. There is the famous, ancient Gonio-Apsaros Castle (1st century) near Batumi. Aside from tourism, Batumi also has economic importance because it has the deepest and the most convenient seaport (depth 58m) in the Black Sea area after Sevastophole. The Batumi coast has an amazing underwater world for diving enthusiasts.
Tsikhisdziri is another sea resort near Batumi; A place where the remnants of the historic Castle-City are preserved.
The borough of Ureki is located in Guria, on the Black Sea coast.
Ureki is distinguished by the magnetic qualities of its coastal sand, which is advantageous for heart vessel diseases, peripheral organs and supporting motor function organs.
Anaklia is a seaside resort, which is located near the administrative border of Abkhazia, the merging point of the Enguri River and the Black Sea.
Anaklia has recently become one of the most popular destinations for tourists and it is often called the "Black Sea Pearl". Several hotels were built in the town as well as a new boulevard. There are also ruins of a castle that was built in 1703. The Anaklia - Garmukhuli 360 meter long bridge called "The Bridge of Peace" is a recent addition.
The Camp of Patriots, designed with LEGO construction, was built in Anaklia in 2010 and accommodates 400 children. The camp has an international importance and often hosts children from foreign countries.
Georgian Cultural Heritage on the list of UNESCO:
Among all of the historic monuments of Georgia, the ancient capital of Georgia - Mtskheta with its historic places (Svetitskhoveli, The Monastery of Holy Cross and the Principality), the Bagrati and Gelati Monastery complexes near Kutaisi, and the Ushguli Tribe - the highest point of upper Svaneti are all on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Historical Monuments of Mtskheta
The Monastery of the Holy Cross
The Monastery of the Holy Cross is located at the convergence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi, on the top of a rocky mountain, with a view of the magnificent sights of Mtskheta. The church completely blends with the mountain silhouette and resembles the mountain top.
King Mirian and Saint Nino erected a large wooden cross there signifying the idols of the mid-4th century and that is how the Monastery received its' name.
The existing church of Svetitskhoveli was built at the end of the 6th century but its history began in the 4th century. It was the first Christian church in Georgia, in the base of which is buried the great holiness – the vesture of Jesus Christ.
The Svetitskhoveli church was the largest church of Georgia during the Middle Ages. It is one of the most important religious structures, sophisticated in every way. The Svetitskhoveli Complex includes the church, a fence, a gate, a tower, the palace and the rooms of the monks.
Kings were blessed in Svetitskhoveli for centuries. The crypt of the Georgian Royal Dynasty is also located in the church.
The church of the Principality is another excellent example of Georgian architectural heritage. It was constructed in the first half of the 11th century. The most interesting detail of its unique exterior is its ornamentation with each window of the church having a different shape. The graves of the first Christian King of Georgia Mirian and Queen Nana are also located there.
Bagrat Cathedral and Gelati Monastery
The temple of the Sleeping of Saint Mary is located on Ukimeroni Hill near Kutaisi, which is the symbol of a united Georgia and is named after the first King of Unified Georgia - Bagrat III. The construction of the church was completed in 1,003 but its dome completely collapsed during the Turkish invasion of 1692.
The Cathedral of Bagrat holds a special place in the medieval architecture of Georgia with its historical and cultural importance.
The Gelati Monastery, which was founded in 1106 by King David the Builder, is located near Kutaisi. There is also an Academy nearby that was an educational center during the Middle Ages.
King David the Builder was buried at the main entrance of the monastery according to his wishes. Another part of the complex, the Cathedral of St. Mary is distinguished by its paintings, including the distinctive mosaic fresco of the Virgin Mary.
The Ushguli community is well-known for its unique towers and churches. The Church of Virgin Mary, also known as the "Lamaria" church, is located in a much more visible area compared to other local churches.
Ushguli is one of the highest inhabited villages at an elevation of 2,200 meters above sea level.
Ushguli has an excellent environment for walking, mountain climbing, alpinism, horseback riding and mountain cycling tours. The highest peak of Georgia - Shkhara (5,068 m) is also located nearby.
Georgia is a rich country in terms of cultural heritage. Most of its cultural examples are represented in various museums.
The National Museum of Georgia – historical-ethnographical and cultural heritage samples are represented here.
The Museum includes:
- The Museum of Georgia named after Simon Janashia
- The Art Museum named after Shalva Amiranashvili
- The Open Air Ethnography Museum named after Giorgi Chitaia
- The Tbilisi History Museum (Karvasla) named after Ioseb Grishashvili
- The Archaeology Museum-Reserve named after Otar Lortkipanidze
- The Samtskhe-Javakheti History Museum
- The Svaneti History Museum named after Ivane Javakhishvili
- The Museum-Reserve of Dmanisi
- The Museum of Signaghi
- The Museum of Soviet Occupation
For additional information please visit www.museum.ge
The establishment of protected territories has a long history in Georgia. The first protected area - Lagodekhi National Reserve, was established as early as 1912. Currently, the total area of protected territories of Georgia is 511,123 hectares, which is about 7 percent of the country's total territory. Approximately 75 percent of the protected areas are covered by forests.
There are 14 state reserves and 9 national parks in Georgia:
- Tusheti State Reserve
- Batsara-Babaneuri State Reserve
- Vashlovani State Reserve
- Lagodekhi State Reserve
- Algeti State Reserve
- Saguramo State Reserve
- Kazbegi State Reserve
- Borjomi State Reserve
li>Ajameti State Reserve
- Kintrishi State Reserve
- Sataplia State Reserve
- Mariamjvari State Reserve
- Kobuleti State Reserve
- Algeti National Park
- Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
- Tbilisi National Park
- Kolkheti National Park
- Mtirala National Park
- Kazbegi National Park
- Tusheti National Park
- Vashlovani National Park
- Javakheti National Park
The Borjom-Kharagauli National Park is the largest and the most diverse among Georgia's national reserves. It became a member of the Protected Areas Network - PAN of Europe in 2007. The membership of this international organization is a guarantee of the highest level of protection and sustainable development of tourism.
Georgia's national reserves and national parks are distinguished by their unique samples of Caucasus flora and fauna. Georgian forest-parks keep hundreds of breeds of animals and plants, which on the "Red List".
The following species are the most common in Georgia: forest marten, rock marten, Caucasus squirrel, Caucasus deer, lynx, brown bear, mole, rabbit, fox, badger, and forest cat.
According to scientists and photos made by photo traps, it's clear that Auroch – an Asian leopard is an inhabitant of the Tusheti Mountains.
Sea mammalians are represented by 3 types of dolphins: afalina, whiteside dolphin and sea pig.
The following tourism categories are allowed in protected territories: pedestrian, horseback riding and car-adventure tours.
The Cave of Prometheus
The members of a Speleological expedition of the Science Academy Institute of Geography named after Vakhushti Bagrationi, discovered a new cave at the altitude of 100 meters above sea level on July 15, 1984. It is decorated in chalk limestone. A lake hinders the main entrance of the cave at the 60th meter. The architectural halls are incredible because of their varying capacities. 16 halls have been found, each one different from the other by scale as well as the extraordinary shape of the cave drops.
The cave reaches 25 kilometers in depth but only a 1,400 meter long path is used for tourism purposes. The cave has a constant temperature of 13-14 degrees Celsius.
The boats, walking paths, artificial lights, laser shows and unique views interest tourists as well. It is important to note that the conditions for speleotherapy are created naturally.
Compared to the Cave of Prometheus, the Sataplia Cave is smaller in size, but it is distinguished by its historical value and the significance of the caves' interior. A dinosaur footprint, dated at 200 million years ago, has been discovered near the cave. The area was intricately restored and paints the full original picture for the tourists.
The temperature in the cave is a constant 13-14 degrees Celsius. Many chemical formations are found in the cave including stalactites and stalagmites, columns, blocks, remains of avalanches and thick clay layers.
The Kvareli Lake Resort is located in the middle of Kakheti, on the east side of the town of Kvareli. It is surrounded by an exceptional forest. The lake is stretched out over 44 hectares of territory and has the depth of 20 meters. The complex includes a recreational area and a hotel with a wide terrace where a breathtaking panorama comes into view.
Guests can use boats and water bikes on the Kvareli Lake. Bike tours can also be arranged. The Kvareli Lake Resort is a great place for a healthy holiday.
The resort complex of Lopota is built at the Lopota Gorge, in the Telavi region of Kakheti. It is an ideal place for people who like to spend their holidays in the mountains. Comfort and peace are main qualities of Lopota because of the calm lake and amazing nature.
It is possible to go boating, fishing and ride horses around the hotel and the Caucasus Mountains. The protected territory covers several kilometers, making the stay at Lopota even more peaceful and enjoyable.
Lake Paliastomi, which is a part of the Kolkheti National Park, is located near the seaport city - Poti. It was part of the Black Sea once, but after the sea level declined, Paliastomi was left as a separate lake on the Kolkheti Lowland. The maximum depth of the lake is 3.2m with a volume of 52 million cubic meters. Paliastomi Lake is often called the "mirror". There are unique and beautiful forests where the "Pichori" Rivers merges with the lake. The Kolkheti Park Administration offers boat routes to the tourists in order to familiarize them with the lake.
Fishing is popular at Lake Paliastomi, because the lake is filled with fish. The two most common fish caught are Farga and Kefali. The Paliastomi Lake is considered one of the main reservoirs for breeding Farga. Kefali is a sea fish that ended up in the Paliastomi Lake accidentally through a channel connecting the lake with the Black Sea. It quickly adapted to the environment and conditions of the Paliastomi Lake.