The Timeless Appeal of the Republic of Georgia
MIR Vice President Annie Lucas has traveled to the Republic of Georgia countless times over the last 25 years and is MIR’s resident Georgia travel expert. Her first trip to Georgia was in the early 1990s in the dead of winter. In spite of some chilly nights spent bundled in all her clothes when the old government-run system experienced electrical shortages – commonplace back then – she was totally taken with the congenial generosity of the people, the joyous feasts, free-flowing wine, and spontaneous songs, as well as the incredible beauty of the country’s soaring mountains and sheltered valleys.
Since then she has been back many times, cementing her love for and knowledge of the rural villages and urban centers, promising restaurants and natural wine bars of gorgeous Georgia.
You might be interested in also reading Annie’s insider’s travel guide to Georgia:
What To Know Before You Go: Republic of Georgia.
A crossroads of civilizations, Georgia has everything a traveler could ask for in a destination: fabulous feasts, ebullient hosts, fervent toasts, harmonies that grab you by the heart, razor-sharp mountain peaks whose valleys are dotted with medieval watch-towers, contemporary museums filled with evidence of a succession of ancient cultures, flourishing cities where you can find glowing glass high-rises next to old stone churches, and a populace who will likely dive straight from small talk to the deep concerns of their hearts.
- Drive from snow-clad mountains to tea plantations and palm trees on the sea shore in one day?
- Sip the natural amber wines of Kakheti, fermented in ceramic vessels called qvevri, a method used for more than 8,000 years?
- Dig in to a crusty Ajaran khachapuri, shaped like a boat filled with cheese, butter and egg?
- Hear the robust, hair-raising harmonies of ancient polyphonic folk songs, included by UNESCO on its list of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage?
- Indulge in a Georgian Table feast, where the abundant dishes are piled on top of one another and the host proposes toast after toast to life and love?
- Stroll the streets of a mountain town surrounded by ancient stone towers that are straight out of the Middle Ages?
(click on photo to view larger version)
Why is now the time to travel to Georgia?
It’s not just me that’s buzzing about Georgia. Trending now in such publications as Forbes, National Geographic and The New York Times are articles reviewing the country of Georgia and some of the reasons you will want to travel there.
More and more people are becoming aware of the riches Georgia has to offer, from its deep and complex wines, the soulful harmonies of its traditional songs, and its remote mountain hideaways, to luminous contemporary architecture and lingering hours-long feasts. The time to visit is now, before the rest of the world wakes up to Georgia.
Afar Magazine even asked: Is Georgia the World’s Most Welcoming Country?
We love the spirit of Georgia, and over three decades of experience crafting tours here, we’ve gained an insider’s knowledge of the incredible experiences and sites this under-the-radar country has to share.
1. One of the world’s best wine regions
Arguably the oldest wine producing area in Europe, Georgia today is generating a contemporary wine-making scene that harks back to its 8,000-year-old roots, when organic grapes were aged in huge earthenware vessels, called qvevri, and buried in the earth until they ripened into wonderfully full-bodied wines. Bloomberg Business named Georgia “one of the world’s best wine regions.”
Read more about it:
- Why Georgia (The Country) Is The Next Great Food And Wine Destination (Part I) in Forbes
- Georgian wines: older and wiser in the Financial Times
- Wine From Prehistoric Georgia With an 8,000-Year-Old Vintage in the New York Times
- The 9 Best Wines and Spirits to Start Drinking in Forbes Life
- The World’s Next Big Wine Regions in Bloomberg Business
- Insider’s Guide to the South Caucasus: Georgia’s Wine Country
2. Delicious and bounteous feasts
Epicures agree that some of the most sumptuous food in the world is served at a Georgian feast. A “Georgian Table” experience can last several hours, with dozens of dishes and countless toasts. The table is covered with plates of delicacies balanced on top of each other – chicken in crushed walnut sauce, khachapuri (a savory cheese pie), puff pastries, little meat dumplings called khinkali, salads and marinated vegetables, just to name a few. Most of it is locally sourced, regionally-flavored, and farm/garden to table, as well.
More photos and articles about delicious Georgian cuisine:
3. Your own personal toastmaster
A large feast, or supra, will have a sort of toastmaster, called a tamada, who is charged not only with toasting and inviting others to toast, but with telling stories and jokes and sometimes leading songs.
More photos and articles about a Georgian toast:
4. Harmonic traditions
Georgia has one of the oldest and most intriguing polyphonic vocal traditions in Europe. Developing independently of Western European rules of harmony, Georgian vocal music has been passed down by ear for hundreds of years – possibly since the 5th century BC.
More info and photos and videos celebrating Georgia’s music and dance traditions:
5. Remote mountain villages
Set in the steep valleys of the towering Caucasus Mountains, the Svaneti region is one of the highest inhabited place in Europe.
The Tusheti region, even more remote, is an untamed corner of formidable alpine slopes that shepherds and their sheep reach by a three-day climb up a precipitous switchback road, spending the summer in the high elevations.
Both of these regions’ formerly inaccessible solitude has helped them preserve their mountain heritage intact.
More photos and articles about life in the mountains of Georgia:
- Hauling the Internet to an Ex-Soviet Outpost High in the Caucasus Mountains in The New York Times
- Svaneti: Medieval Mountain Hideaway in National Geographic
- Take the High Road in The Economist’s 1843 magazine
- 5 Reasons to Explore the Mountains of Georgia (The Country, Not the State) in Vogue
- Europe’s fierce, fabled villages in BBC Travel’s blog
- 6 Reasons to Visit Svaneti – Georgia’s Undiscovered and Unrivaled Mountain Region (video)
- Untamed Tusheti: Georgia’s Remote and Thrilling Mountain Region
6. Bold architecture and landscapes
Tucked in the shadows of the Caucasus Mountains, Georgia’s surprisingly diverse landscapes have been called some of the most beautiful on earth. Steep, arid mountains and rolling hillsides are dotted with ancient stone watchtowers and fortress-like churches, evidence of the harsh battles and the daily difficulties of early Georgian tribesmen, while fertile green valleys in the lowlands are spread with charming vineyards and lush farmland.
As a country caught at a strategic crossroads between East and West, Georgia has a deep and complex history, influenced by the various empires that struggled for sovereignty over its hills and valleys. It’s given the country a spectacular array of architecture, from cave monasteries and ancient cathedrals precariously perched on mountaintops, to Tbilisi’s unusual blend of art nouveau apartments, Soviet-era tower blocks, and contemporary modern structures.
More photos and articles about life in the mountains of Georgia:
- High in the Mountains and Monasteries of Georgia in The New York Times
- Wandering Through Georgia, the Eden of the Caucasus In Smithsonian
- 25 Reasons You Should Visit The Country Of Georgia Right Now in BuzzFeed News
- Georgia’s Dartlo Village to become a heritage marvel, with World Bank support in The World Bank
- Over Georgia, Last Drone Photos Before Regulation in The Atlantic
- Bird’s-Eye View of Breathtaking Georgia
- Explore 3 Ancient Cave Towns in Georgia
- A Monastery Hike at Georgia’s David Gareja
- Georgian Military Highway: A Road For All Time
7. The Intensity of Tbilisi
Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, has its own flavor, its own flair. Street life is vigorous yet laid back, if that can be, sporting khachapuri by the slice, corner kiosks selling churchkela, the Georgian sweet made of grape-juice-dipped strings of walnuts, hidden gardens, artists’ studios, medieval sulfur baths, and business people dodging the madcap traffic as they hurry to appointments.
Beyond the hubbub, you can find little jazz joints, underground natural wine bars, an array of restaurants with a uniquely Georgian twist on farm-to-table, hidden courtyards with crumbling art nouveau balconies, and five star hotels where you can rest up from the kinetic pace and the ever-ready night life. A tantalizing city, it’s been known to hold on to travelers far longer than they had intended to stay. You must try it to appreciate its many moods.
Some more photos and info about Tbilisi, Georgia’s captivating capital:
- Why Tbilisi’s One of My Favorite Cities in the World in National Geographic Traveler
- Photo Essay: 10 Reasons To Love Tbilisi, Georgia
8. Open-handed hospitality
A proud independent spirit, a long tradition of lavish hospitality and an abundance of Nature’s gifts combine to make the Georgian people fabulous hosts, imaginative chefs, creative artists and open-hearted friends.
More articles about ways to be amazed by Georgia:
- Is Georgia the World’s Most Welcoming Country? in Afar Magazine
- Georgia’s movie industry stages a comeback in The Guardian
- Independent Nation With Films to Match: A Survey Celebrates Georgia’s Rich Film Tradition in The New York Times
- The Pasternak Pilgrimage: Sasha Slater goes in search of her great-uncle Boris Pasternak on a trip to Georgia in Harper’s Bazaar
- An Unexpected Delight – Phoka Nunnery and Village, Georgia
- La Maison Bleue Craft Studio in Tbilisi, Georgia
Travel to Georgia with MIR
Fall in love with this part of the world on MIR’s small group tours to Georgia:
- A Taste of Georgia: Wine, Cuisine & Culture – recognized by National Geographic Traveler!
- Treasures of the South Caucasus (watch a tour video)
- Village Traditions of the South Caucasus
You can also opt to travel on your dates and at your pace on one of MIR’s private independent trips or on a private journey of Georgia, customized to your desired dates and style.
(Top photo: The old and the new: Narikala Fortress and Tbilisi’s peace Bridge. Photo: Jeremy Woodhouse)
PUBLISHED: April 10, 2018