From its sublimely perched old churches and watchtowers dotting fantastic mountain scenery to its green valleys spread with vineyards, Georgia (Saqartvelo, საქართველო) is one of the most beautiful countries on earth and a marvellous canvas for walkers, horse riders, skiers, rafters and paragliders. Equally special are its proud, high-spirited, cultured people: Georgia claims to be the birthplace of wine, and this is a place where guests are considered blessings and hospitality is the very stuff of life.
A deeply complicated history has given Georgia a wonderful heritage of architecture and art, from cave cities to the inimitable canvases of Pirosmani. Tbilisi, the capital, is still redolent of an age-old Eurasian crossroads. But this is also a country striving for a place in the 21st-century Western world, with eye-catching new buildings, a minimal crime rate and a heap of new facilities for the tourists who are a big part of its future.