The 60km drive into the wilderness from Akhaltsikhe to the cave city of Vardzia is as dramatic as any in Georgia outside the Great Caucasus. The road follows the upper Mtkvari River, passing through narrow canyons and then veering south at Aspindza along a particularly beautiful valley cutting like a green ribbon between arid, rocky hillsides.
Thirty kilometres up a winding road through pine-clad hills southeast of Borjomi, Bakuriani is the cheaper and more family-oriented of Georgia’s two main ski resorts. It has a mountain-village atmosphere and the area is also good for mountain walks in summer, with ski lifts operating in July and August.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
The ranges of the Lesser Caucasus in southern Georgia are less well known and less high than the Great Caucasus, but they still contain some very beautiful and wild country. Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park provides the perfect chance to get out into this landscape.
Rivalling Vardzia as one of the most beautiful places in the region (and receiving just a fraction of its visitors), Sapara Monastery has a dramatic position clinging to the edge of a cliff about 12km southeast of Akhaltsikhe. It has existed from at least the 9th century, and has numbered many important Georgian church figures among its monks.