With a history stretching back thousands of years, Georgia is a land with a rich history and unique culture. Churches and monasteries peer atop the steep mountainsides of the countryside, while the streets of Georgia’s vibrant towns and cities bustle with life. Join Odyssey Traveller as we take you on a journey through this fascinating country.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. Buses and minibuses (marshrutky) run in all of Georgia’s major towns and cities, though services to rural villages may be more infrequent. Train services run through much of the country, with rail lines linking Tblisi with regional areas. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, though be sure to agree on an exact fare before your ride to avoid being ripped off.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our longstay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography environment and weather
Georgia is a mountainous country, covering an area of 69,700 square kilometres. The Caucasus Mountains and Lesser Caucasus Mountains dominate the landscape of the country, covering much of the country’s northern, central and southern areas. Many rivers criss-cross the country, the largest of which is the Kura River, which flows 1,364 kilometres from the Turkish border to the Caspian Sea.
The climate in Georgia varies from region to region, from the warm and rainy coast, to the continental and arid plains, and the cold, alpine conditions of the mountains. Depending on when and where you intend to travel, check the weather reports and dress accordingly.
World Heritage sites
There are 3 properties in Georgia listed on the World Heritage List, with a further 15 sites on the Tentative List. You can view the listed properties here: (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ge). Georgia’s listed properties include:
Gelati Monastery, an ornately decorated 12th-century monastery
Historical Monuments of Mtskheta, which stand as outstanding examples of Georgia’s medieval religious architecture
Upper Svaneti, which holds many perfectly preserved medieval-style villages and tower houses.
Festivals and events
The history, heritage and traditions of the Georgian people are celebrated through many festivals and events held across the year. The founding of nation’s capital of Tbilisi is commemorated with the Tbilisoba festival, which is held annually in October and features bustling markets, traditional foods and live musical and dance performances. Ninooba is a day of national importance in Georgia – commemorating the arrival of St Nino to Georgia and his subsquent efforts to convert the populace to Christianity, Ninooba is marked by religious services across the country. Aside from honouring their historic past and traditions, the people of Georgia also celebrate the food and agricultural produce of the region through many events, such as the Tushetian Cheese Festival and the Rtveli Wine Festival.
Edge of Empires: A History of Georgia, by Donald Rayfield
The Making of the Georgian Nation, by Ronald Grigor Suny
Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints, by David Marshall Lane
Bread And Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia, by Tony Anderson
Eating and Drinking
The food of Georgia bears a mix of influences from Eastern European, Caucasian, and Turkish culinary traditions. Like elsewhere in the Caucasus, skewered meat (mtsvadi) is considered a delicacy in Georgian cuisine, with cubed lamb or beef threded onto a skewer and cooked over an open flame. Stews feature prominently in Georgian cuisine, including kharcho (slow-cooked meat stew with tomatoes, spices and herbs) and chaqapuli (lamb or veal cooked with onions, plums, white wine, tarragon leaves, and herbs) being national favourites. Georgians are not without their sweet tooth, with many distinctive sweet dishes and desserts featuring in Georgian cuisine, including churchkhela (strands of walnuts coated in concentrated grape juice) and tklapi (sheets of pureed fruit).
Georgia is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, and wine remains a central part of Georgian culture today. Wine is often offered to guests as a gesture of hospitality, and is also served and enjoyed with meals. Many other spirits and alcoholic beverages are also produced and consumed in Georgia, including chacha (a pomace brandy) and etno (apple brandy).
Health and safety
Generally speaking, Georgia is safe to travel in – however, it is advised to avoid travelling to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions due to unexploded ordnance and uncertain security situations in these areas. Moreover, it is advised to avoid travelling to the Pankisi Gorge due to the threat of violence in this area.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. The electricity supply in Georgia runs at 220V and 50Hz. Georgia uses Type C and Type F electric plugs, so make sure you have the right travel adaptor with you.
Medieval Monastery of Gelati
Gergeti Trinity Church
Georgia has a single time zone, Georgia Standard Time (UTC+4). Daylight savings are not observed in Georgia.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services. Tipping is not customary in Georgia, though tips are appreciated.
Wifi should be available in most hotels, cafes and restaurants.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in Georgia. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Responsible travel tips for Georgia
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although some locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of lari in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.