Lonely Planet Pathfinder Timothy Cohen has just lately returned from a visit to Georgia – considered one of our Greatest in Journey international locations to go to in 2018 – the place he hung out trekking within the Caucasus and exploring Tbilisi, the nation’s vibrant capital…
I’ve simply been travelling via Georgia for 3 weeks, and it undoubtedly exceeded all my expectations on each doable stage! From the snow-capped mountains of the Caucasus to the vineyards and arid plains of the Kakheti area, passing via the bustling capital of Tbilisi and the fashionable port metropolis of Batumi, Georgia has a lot to supply.
All of this falls flat nonetheless, with out the guts and soul of the nation: the Georgians themselves. The kindness and hospitality of the folks is famend, and you’ll typically be invited right into a household house to drink home made wine and check out tasty meals. Now’s the right time to discover this underrated nation earlier than everybody else does!
I landed in Tbilisi, a capital of contrasts, the place centuries-old buildings combine with daring, modern structure. The outdated metropolis has managed to protect its historic attraction with its fortress, sulphur baths, historic buildings and tangles of pedestrian alleys round each nook.
Georgia and Azerbaijan’s blurred strains
Davit Gareja is considered one of Georgia’s most unbelievable historic websites, and its uniqueness is obvious in additional methods than one. Its location on the border with Azerbaijan, its scenario alongside a steep escarpment and its setting in a lunar panorama made the go to to this monastery an otherworldly expertise.
Because the border between the 2 international locations is true right here, some Azerbaijan guards patrol within the space, and I had to ensure I used to be by no means overstepping the road. Strolling alongside the ridge, the view combines the plains of each Georgia on the left, and Azerbaijan on the fitting.
Church on the hill
It’s higher than Ed Sheeran’s tune Fort on the Hill – I promise! Deep within the Kazbegi area lies what stands out as the most emblematic sight of Georgia: Tsminda Sameba Church. The town of Kazbegi is neglected by the church which, at 2200m, is surrounded from all sides by the jaw-dropping mountains of the Larger Caucasus. At twilight, the view is enhanced by the final golden rays of daylight flowing over the wind-battered stone partitions of the church.
A glimpse into South Ossetia’s previous
Whereas everybody is targeted on Kazbegi and the encompassing mountains, I made a decision to discover Truso Valley, scattered with historical South Ossetian hamlets in ruins, frozen in time, however nonetheless inhabited by a small variety of farmers. A couple of homes are nonetheless standing in some way, alongside historical buildings. The tiny hamlet of Abano lies deep within the Truso Valley, and is the final settlement earlier than the South Ossetian border, 2km additional alongside. There are solely a handful of individuals, together with just a few nuns, nonetheless residing right here.
Meet the koshi
The mountainous area of Svaneti is house to the koshi. These outdated defensive towers that have been constructed between the ninth and 13th century form Svaneti’s panorama, and have grew to become the symbol of the area. Round 175 of them can nonetheless be discovered within the completely different villages these days. Mestia is the one city within the area and it will get fairly busy in summer time. From the highest of one of many towers, the wonder and peaceable ambiance of the area nonetheless appear intact, particularly after the rain.
Europe’s highest repeatedly inhabited settlement
The village of Ushguli is distant, unbelievably stunning, and lies on the foot of the very best mountain within the nation – Mount Shkhara (5201m). It looks as if time has taken no toll on this place and its 200 or so inhabitants. Right here, there are horses operating free within the valley, used to reap the crops or as technique of transport for locals. The street from Mestia is lengthy, meandering and actually bumpy – it is best to trip it on an empty abdomen… However what a view whenever you lastly arrive in Ushguli and are confronted with the nice snow-covered Shkhara overlooking the village filled with historical Svan towers!
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