Simon’s Georgia Backpacking Experience

Simon's Georgia Backpacking Experience

I'm Simon and I'm currently doing a semester abroad in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Here's a little article about my absolute favorite places you shouldn't miss while backpacking Georgia!:) I am mainly interested in politics and economy in the Middle East and in my free time I explore this great country. During the winter you can find me in Gudauri, the biggest ski resort nearby.

Georgia – Where is that anyway?

High mountains, deep valleys, green forests, white beaches and vast deserts. This is Georgia – A country with an incredibly diverse nature and culture, and in an area no bigger than Bavaria.

In the north the Caucasus, with peaks of over 5000 meters, forms a natural border to the neighboring country Russia. To the south, the country borders Turkey, also separated by high mountains (the Lesser Caucasus). In the south of Georgia lies Christian Armenia and in the southeast and east the predominantly Muslim and oil-rich Azerbaijan. Only a few hundred kilometers south lies the "Middle East", with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Small Georgia lies at the center of the former superpowers; the Ottoman Empire, the Persian Empire and Russia, which tried to divide the country among themselves for centuries. So it happens that in today's Georgia you can find influences from all these distant advanced civilizations.

Tbilisi – The Capital

Tbilisi is the perfect starting point for your Georgia backpacking trip. The city, which translates as "warm springs," is home to over 1.5 Georgians, Armenians, Iranians and Russians. In addition to gorgeous semi-derelict wooden houses in the old town, modern skyscrapers and fantastic food, the city has a lot to offer. I've been here for just under two months now and these are my three absolute favorite places:

Turtle Lake

Turtle Lake is located above Vake, probably the most expensive part of Tbilisi. In Vake you can find chic cafes, elegant restaurants and Vake Park. Characteristic of the park is an oversized staircase with an artificial, but non-functioning waterfall in the middle. This staircase and a small hiking trail will take you to Turtle Lake after about 15 minutes of walking. The lake itself, however, has no turtles, as the name erroneously promises. The way is nevertheless worthwhile, because one is rewarded with an unbelievable view over the whole city. In clear weather, which is often the case in Tbilisi, you can even see the snow-covered Kazbek, about 100 km away. You shouldn't miss this insanely beautiful view while backpacking Georgia!

Hotel Stampa:

If you like good food and great architecture, you can't miss the Stamba Hotel. The hotel is a former printing house, which has been totally renovated in a cool way. With a little more money you can enjoy delicious food in the restaurant, which again is really not expensive by German standards. With a little less money you can just drink a good home-roasted espresso and play a round of table tennis. The visit is worthwhile in any case!

Cafe Gallery and Khinkali House:

If you're a techno fan, these are the places you can't miss on your Georgia backpacking trip! Maybe you have heard that Tbilisi has a thriving techno scene. As far as music is concerned, Tbilisi has taken Berlin as a great example. There are numerous, extremely cool techno clubs, my favorite of which is Cafe Gallery. The club is really just a big living room with a bar, DJ booth and a small conservatory for smoking. The entrance fee is 5€, beer costs 1€, the music is great and the people are in a good mood. You dance on a creaking ancient wooden floor on the second floor. When you have finished dancing, you can enjoy the Georgian favorite dish "Khinkhali" in the Khinkhali House, which is open 24 hours a day. Simply outstanding.

Mud volcanoes in the southeast

The southeast of Georgia is characterized by eroded hills and mountain peaks. The semi-desert is quite deserted and has no roads except for a gravel road. Perfect to add some action to your Georgia backpacking adventure! To explore this striking area, unless you're biking, walking or have an off-road motorcycle, you'll need a car with four-wheel drive. You can rent one of these for about 30€ per day in Tbilisi.

To find the mud volcanoes you have to drive from Dedoplis Tskaro to Dalis Mta Reservoir via the above mentioned dirt road. The trip takes about an hour. The landscape is breathtaking.

It is advisable to return the same way, otherwise you risk getting stranded in the Georgian-Azerbaijani border area.

Gudauri and Stepantsminda

There is a reason why you can find this tip in every guidebook. The Great Caucasus is beautiful. By car, depending on the traffic, it takes about 2-3 hours to get to Gudauri, the biggest Georgian ski resort. This gives your Georgia backpacking trip a bit of variety. If you follow the former Russian military road after Gudauri, you will drive through a picturesque landscape to the village of Stepantsminda. Stepantsminda is located at the foot of the Kazbegi, a few kilometers further comes the border to Russia.

In Stepantsminda it is of course worth visiting the Trinity Monastery. Here I let the pictures speak for themselves.

The Trinity Monastery is the destination for locals and tourists alike. Therefore it is easy to find an organized tour or a local minibus there.

Travel Info: How to get to Georgia?

Many travelers I have met have developed a certain flight shame and have traveled via the Balkans and Turkey by bus and train. This can be done without any problems on a planned Georgia backpacking trip, but it is an adventure in itself and of course takes a lot of time. I myself biked from Austria to Istanbul and then flew from Istanbul via Athens to Tbilisi.

With the already cheap flight I was lucky in bad luck, because the plane in Athens was delayed for several hours. With the website Airhelp I got a flight delay compensation and more than half of the ticket price refunded. There are two international airports in Georgia: Tbilisi and Kutaisi. In most cases it is much cheaper to fly to Kutaisi. From March 2020 Ryanair flies from Cologne directly to Tbilisi.

Are you still looking for a backpacking travel partner to accompany you on your adventure vacation in Georgia?? In the travel partner exchange of JoinMyTrip you will surely find what you are looking for!