The idiosyncratic southwestern corner of Georgia, Adjara (აჭარა) has taken on the mantle of Georgia’s holiday coast since the loss of Abkhazia. Batumi, Adjara’s newly transformed capital, is the destination of choice for most Georgians – and many others – in search of summer fun, with a real party atmosphere in August.
A trip into the Great Caucasus along Georgia’s northern border is a must for anyone who wants to experience the best of the country. Spectacular mountain scenery, wonderful walks and picturesque old villages with strange, tall defensive towers are all part of a trip to the Great Caucasus.
Famous as the destination of Jason and the Argonauts in their search for the golden fleece, western Georgia is home to Georgia’s second-largest city, Kutaisi, and is full of historical, architectural and natural riches. The region has always acted as a conduit for influences from the west, from the Ancient Greeks to St Nino to the Ottoman Turks.
The tongue-twisting southern flank of Georgia is a highly scenic region whose biggest attractions are the spectacular cave city of Vardzia and beautiful Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, which offers good mountain hiking. Landscapes are very varied, from the alpine forests and meadows around Borjomi and Bakuriani to the bare volcanic canyons of the Vardzia area.
A cradle of Georgian culture, the region west and south of the capital is known as Kartli, after the mythical father of the Georgian people, Kartlos, whose progeny made their home at Mtskheta. Nobody can understand Georgian spirituality without visiting Mtskheta, where St Nino converted the Iverian kingdom to Christianity in the 4th century.
Capital of several historical kingdoms within Georgia, Kutaisi is today being revitalised after years of post-Soviet decline. Georgia’s parliament was transferred from Tbilisi to brand-new quarters here in 2012, and Kutaisi's airport has become a destination for international budget airlines.
Beautiful, wild and mysterious, Svaneti is an ancient land locked in the Caucasus, so remote that it was never tamed by any ruler. Uniquely picturesque villages and snow-covered, 4000m-plus peaks rising above flower-strewn alpine meadows provide a superb backdrop to the many walking trails.
The 'capital' of Upper Svaneti, Mestia is a conglomeration of at least 10 hamlets, dotted with picturesque Svan towers. The oldest of the hamlets, with most of the towers, are above the river on the northern side of town: Lekhtagi in the northwest, and Lanchvali and Lagami to the northeast.
The valleys west of Becho, and the Svaneti Range above the south side of the Enguri valley, are full of off-the-beaten-track hiking possibilities. Even in these relatively remote communities you'll find a number of guesthouses, good to be used as bases for local walks or as stops on longer treks.
Georgian Military Highway
This ancient passage across the Caucasus towards Vladikavkaz in Russia provides the quickest access from Tbilisi to the high Caucasus, leading to the spectacular Kazbegi area – a highlight of any trip to Georgia. A track through the challenging mountain terrain was first properly engineered as a road in the 19th century with the Russian occupation of the Caucasus.
Abkhazia’s capital (Sukhumi or Sukhum in Russian, Sokhumi in Georgian, Akwa in Abkhaz) has a gorgeous setting on a bay backed by hills thick with luxuriant semitropical vegetation. In 1989 it had a multiethnic population of 120,000, but it was badly damaged during the war in 1992–93, when its large Georgian population was driven out.