Georgia

Nestled in Transcaucasia, Georgia stands as an independent state, often classified by European geographers as part of West Asia. Despite its relatively small size, this captivating country boasts a myriad of natural wonders, historical landmarks, and unique cultural traditions that make it a must-visit destination. With warm seas, pristine beaches, snow-capped mountains, and thrilling ski slopes, Georgia offers a diverse range of experiences for every traveler. The people of Georgia, known for their openness, friendliness, and independence, eagerly welcome visitors to explore the rich tapestry of their homeland.

Georgia on the Map

Georgia on the map

Geographical Overview of Georgia

Situated in Transcaucasia, the Republic of Georgia is the sole country in the region washed by the waters of the Black Sea, belonging to the Atlantic Ocean basin. The country’s coastline extends for 308 kilometers, providing access to the mesmerizing Black Sea.

Georgia shares land borders with four countries: Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Additionally, it has boundaries with two officially unrecognized republics, namely Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The topography of Georgia is diverse and intricate. The majority of the country is blanketed by mountains of varying heights, with the Greater Caucasus in the north and the ranges of the Lesser Caucasus in the south and east. Nestled between these mountainous landscapes is the Colchis lowland, extending to the shores of the Black Sea. The highest peak in the country, Mount Shkhara, soars to an elevation of 5068 meters.

Georgia boasts an extensive network of rivers and streams, totaling more than 25 thousand, with only 16 surpassing the 100-kilometer mark. The Rioni River holds the title of the longest, stretching across 327 kilometers.

The country is adorned with numerous lakes of diverse origins, around 20 of which can be classified as medium-sized. The largest among them, Lake Paravani, covers an expansive area of 37 square kilometers.

Diverse ecosystems define Georgia’s landscape, with nearly one-third of its territory covered by broad-leaved forests. Coniferous forests grace the mountainous regions, while alpine meadows showcase a splendid variety of flowering plants at higher elevations.

Georgia’s fauna is equally diverse, with inhabitants such as bears, wolves, deer, roe deer, gazelles, and even leopards, creating a rich tapestry of wildlife throughout the country.

Safety for Tourists

In the global peace index, which assesses factors such as the overall tranquility of the environment and the attitude towards tourists, Georgia ranks 102nd, alongside Belarus and Uzbekistan. This positioning is not surprising given recent events.

The primary concern for secure holidays in Georgia revolves around the country’s unstable political situation, particularly the unresolved relations with the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Frequent protests in the capital further diminish the appeal of vacations.

Despite these challenges, Georgia remains generally safe. Serious crimes are infrequent, with pickpocketing concentrated in larger cities and crowded areas. The presence of numerous police officers in streets and parks reflects a commitment to ensuring the safety of both locals and tourists.

Road traffic adheres to international rules, with speeding being the most common violation. Georgians have a penchant for fast driving, as evidenced by the 1.3 million speeding fines issued in 2023.

Sanitary conditions are commendable, although caution and personal hygiene are still advised. Incidents of food poisoning, especially from fruits and meals sold by private vendors, occur occasionally. Group cases of shawarma-related poisoning have been documented on several occasions.

Georgia’s climate is mild, resembling the Mediterranean climate along the coast, featuring cool winters and hot summers. Dangerous encounters with wildlife are rare, with the likelihood of encountering a bear or leopard almost negligible. While poisonous snakes exist, they are more prevalent in mountainous regions than on the coast.

The Black Sea is home to the katran shark, which poses no threat to humans despite growing up to one and a half meters.

In conclusion, holidays in Georgia remain safe with the observance of basic safety guidelines. Despite its lower position in the global ranking, the country offers an enjoyable and secure experience for tourists who prioritize precautionary measures.

Celebrations in Georgia

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Georgians embody a vibrant and joyous spirit, making celebrations an integral part of their lives. The state observes a total of 15 holidays, categorized into secular and religious festivities.

Secular celebrations encompass Independence Day, Love Day, National Unity Day, International Women’s Day, and New Year’s Day. These occasions reflect the diverse cultural and societal facets cherished by the Georgian people.

On the religious front, officially recognized holidays include Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter, among others. St. George’s Day holds particular significance as it commemorates the patron saint of Georgia, observed with reverence on November 23.

Additionally, Georgia embraces unofficial holidays, with Harvest Day being a notable example. Celebrated under various names across the country, the capital city, for instance, refers to it as Tbilisoba. This reflects the nation’s rich tapestry of traditions and the importance placed on communal celebrations.

Things to Do in Georgia

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Tourism in Georgia stands out as a vital and rapidly advancing sector of the economy. With a consistent surge in visitors, the country welcomed an impressive 5 million tourists in 2023. Georgia offers a diverse range of attractions for those seeking an engaging and enlightening vacation, from awe-inspiring mountain vistas to historic landmarks and unique cultural practices. Alongside these, the inviting Black Sea beckons beach enthusiasts. Here, we present 10 of the most captivating attractions that make Georgia a must-visit destination.

1. Beach Retreats: The Georgian coast along the Black Sea boasts a picturesque stretch adorned with magnificent mountains. The delightful scenery is complemented by stunning beaches, with the best ones located near Batumi. The Ureki area is particularly famous for its magnetic black sands.

2. Yachting: While the Black Sea shores may not be ideal for activities like diving or surfing, yachting provides an excellent alternative. Rent a yacht and cruise along the vibrant coast, reveling in the unique panoramas.

3. Dolphin Encounters: Friendly dolphins often grace the shores of Georgia, captivating tourists. Whether swimming with them in the open sea or visiting the renowned Batumi Dolphinarium, these intelligent creatures add an enchanting dimension to your experience.

4. Rafting Adventures: The numerous mountain rivers in Georgia are a magnet for rafters worldwide. Offering routes of varying difficulty, the Rioni, Aragvi, and Kura (known as Mtkvari here) rivers provide thrilling experiences for rafting and kayaking enthusiasts.

5. Equestrian Tourism: Equestrian tours are highly popular, allowing explorations of the diverse landscapes. Riding on horseback opens up access to locations that might be challenging on foot or by car. Options range from one-day excursions to multi-day journeys, incorporating visits to various landmarks.

6. Paragliding: The lofty mountains create an ideal setting for paragliding. Numerous clubs in the country promote this adventurous pursuit, offering opportunities to soar over scenic landscapes in locations such as Gudauri and Tbilisi.

7. Ziplining: For an equally exhilarating adventure, consider ziplining. Tbilisi boasts the longest zipline in Europe on Turtle Island, spanning 1.2 kilometers with a height difference of 260 meters. Soon, Batumi will introduce an even longer zipline at 1.7 kilometers.

8. Amusement Parks: Georgia features a host of engaging theme parks, perfect for family recreation. Notable parks include Bombora Park on Mtatsminda Mountain in Tbilisi and Tsitsinatela Park in Kobuleti, offering a plethora of entertainment options.

9. Historical Marvels: Beyond natural beauty, Georgia is home to ancient fortresses, monasteries, and architectural wonders. Narikala fortress in Tbilisi, the cave monastery Vardzia in Javakheti, and the Shio-Mgvime monastery near Mtskheta are just a glimpse into the country’s rich historical heritage.

10. Gastronomic Journeys: No visit to Georgia is complete without savoring its renowned cuisine. Georgian culinary delights, celebrated globally, can be experienced in their homeland. Additionally, the country’s vineyards offer special tours with wine tastings, showcasing the diversity of Georgian wines.

What Is Important to Know About Georgia

When considering a visit to Georgia, it’s essential to be aware of the following key aspects:

Language

The official language in Georgia is Georgian, spoken by the majority of the population (88%). Russian is also widely spoken, with nearly 30% of the population being proficient in it. Additionally, there are communities fluent in Armenian, Azeri, and various national minority languages such as Mingrelian, Svan, and Abkhazian. English holds significance in the educational context.

Population

Georgia boasts a diverse population of just over 3.7 million people, with 55% residing in urban areas. While over 86% of the population identifies as Georgian, the nation is characterized by a multitude of ethnic groups, including Kakhetians, Adjarians, Gurians, Imeretians, and Meskhetians. Notably, there are sizable Azerbaijani (6%) and Armenian (4%) communities in the country.

  • For more insights into Georgian culture, character, and local nuances, further details can be explored in the referenced article.

Currency

The official currency is the Georgian lari, divided into 100 tetri. Banknotes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 lari, as well as coins in 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 tetri, 1, and 2 GEL, are currently in circulation. Tourists are advised to carry cash in US dollars or euros, or use international payment system cards. While payments within the country are made exclusively in local currency, major cities and shopping centers accept international cards. However, in remote mountain villages, cash transactions are preferred. Currency exchange centers, prevalent throughout the country, offer more favorable rates than banks or airports, which may charge commissions. The approximate exchange rate is 1 US dollar to 2.7 GEL.

Religion

Although Georgia is a secular state, the majority of its population (87%) adheres to Christianity. Of this Christian majority, around 83% follow Orthodoxy, marking Georgia as the second country globally to adopt Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century. Islam constitutes the most influential minority religion, accounting for 10% of the population.

Climate

Georgia features a diverse climate, with a significant portion falling within the subtropical zone, transitioning to a temperate climate in the eastern regions. The influence of the towering Caucasus Mountains plays a pivotal role in shaping the climate. Persistent snow covers many mountain peaks year-round, with temperatures ranging from -1 degrees Celsius in summer to -20 degrees in winter. In contrast, lowland areas experience milder conditions, reaching up to +28 degrees in summer and +9 degrees in winter.

The majority of the country experiences a moderate level of humidity, with precipitation evenly distributed across seasons, peaking slightly in autumn and winter. The precipitation varies, with Adjara receiving up to 2000 millimetres and mountainous Kakheti up to 600 millimetres. Winter typically brings snowfall to the mountains.

The ideal time to visit Georgia depends on the purpose of the visit. The ski season, running from December to April, caters to winter sports enthusiasts. For beach holidays and excursions, the optimal period is summer through early autumn, from May to October.

Water Temperature in the Black Sea

The Black Sea’s water temperature undergoes annual fluctuations, making it predominantly cold for most of the year. Swimming is not viable in winter, as the sea only warms up sufficiently by late May, extending the beach season from June to October.

Water temperatures exhibit seasonal variations:

  • Winter (December-January): +13 degrees in December to +9 degrees in February.
  • Spring (March-May): +10 to +17 degrees Celsius.
  • Summer (June-August): +23 to +27 degrees.
  • Autumn (September-November): +25 degrees in early autumn to +17 degrees in November.

Natural Disasters

Georgia faces a slightly elevated risk of natural disasters compared to its neighbors, primarily due to tectonic activity in the young Caucasus Mountains.

Earthquakes: The region experiences periodic, robust earthquakes. A devastating quake in Racha in 1991, with a magnitude of 7.0, resulted in the destruction of ancient buildings and displacement of around 100 thousand people.

Floods: Georgia contends with frequent floods, exacerbated by the sinking Black Sea coast. Heavy rains trigger overflowing mountain rivers, impacting central low-lying regions. The floods in June 2015 in Tbilisi claimed nineteen lives.

Landslides: The mountainous terrain poses a risk of landslides, affecting roads and settlements. In August 2023, a landslide in Shovi claimed 32 lives.

Forest Fires: The warm climate increases the likelihood of forest fires, with the potential to pose threats to tourists. In August 2022, the Borjomi forest, a popular tourist spot, experienced a several-day-long blaze.

  • For a comprehensive overview of Georgia’s historical disasters, refer to this article.

Political Structure

Georgia operates under a parliamentary republic system, where the President serves as the head of the executive branch, elected to a 5-year term. The executive government, led by the Prime Minister, is appointed by the Parliament.

The legislative authority is vested in a unicameral parliament, reflecting the democratic governance of the country.

Administratively, Georgia is organized into 9 territories, 1 city under republican subordination, and 1 autonomous republic known as Adjara.

Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, serves as the political and administrative center of the nation.

The Largest Cities and Resorts in Georgia

Tbilisi, founded in the 5th century, stands as the largest and most populous city in Georgia, boasting a current population of over 1.2 million residents. Steeped in history, the city is adorned with ancient monuments such as Narikala Fortress, Zion Cathedral, and Anchiskhati Church. Additionally, Tbilisi offers modern attractions like entertainment parks and complexes, including the park atop the Holy Mountain Mtatsminda.

Batumi, the capital of Adjara and the largest beach resort in the country, traces its origins back to the 4th century AD. Home to 180 thousand people, Batumi is renowned for its stunning beaches, exquisite hotels, a dolphinarium, a botanical garden, and ancient architectural marvels.

Kutaisi, founded in the 5th century BC, holds the status of one of the oldest cities in Georgia. Serving as the capital of the Imeretia region, it is home to a population of 150 thousand people. Tourists are drawn to Kutaisi for its ancient temple of Bagrat and the monastery complexes of Gelat and Motsameta.

Gudauri stands out as the largest ski resort in Georgia, situated at an impressive altitude of 2100 meters. Boasting a ski season lasting from November to April, Gudauri transforms into a popular destination for paragliding during the summer months.

Kobuleti, a sought-after resort in Adjara located just 20 kilometers from Batumi, captures the attention of tourists with its splendid beaches and therapeutic thermal springs.

Symbols of Georgia

Borjgali: An ancient symbol denoting the Sun, Borjgali is a representation of a swastika adorned with seven rays.

Kartuli: This term refers to the Georgian version of lezginka, a dynamic and lively paired folk dance.

Borjomi: Renowned globally, Borjomi is Georgia’s most famous mineral water. Exported to numerous countries, it has secured a significant presence worldwide.

Mtsvadi: Recognized as the quintessential Georgian kebab, Mtsvadi boasts a multitude of recipes and is crafted from either lamb or beef.

Chokha: A traditional national costume, the Chokha is a fitted ensemble extending below the knee. Elaborately adorned with decorative inserts, it stands as a symbol of Georgian cultural richness.

How to Get to Georgia

For European or American tourists, the primary mode of reaching Georgia is by air travel. The country is accessible through three international airports: Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi. Among them, Tbilisi Shota Rustaveli Airport stands as the main international gateway, catering to over 3 million passengers annually. This airport facilitates regular flights from major European capitals such as Amsterdam, London, Berlin, and Paris, as well as from cities like Doha, Istanbul, Dubai, and Tel Aviv.

Residents of neighboring countries have alternative transportation options. Intercity buses provide a convenient means for those in nearby nations to reach Georgia. Additionally, railway connections link Georgia with Azerbaijan and Armenia. For those traveling from Turkey or Bulgaria, access to Georgia is possible through the Batumi port, using sea ferries.

To sum up, whether arriving by air, bus, train, or sea, Georgia offers diverse transportation options for visitors from various parts of the world and neighboring regions.

Cost of Holidays in Georgia

The cost of a holiday in Georgia is subject to various factors, with the choice of independent travel or the utilization of travel services and reliable guides playing a pivotal role.

Situated at the crossroads of Asia and Europe in Transcaucasia, approximately 5% of Georgia’s territory is considered part of Eastern Europe by some geographers. Travelers from the EU will find affordable airfare, such as a round-trip ticket from Paris to Tbilisi starting at 200 euros in the lowest price segment.

For those seeking budget-friendly options, entry-level tours to Georgia begin at 800 to 1000 dollars for a 7-day package, including flights. Within the country, travelers can expect the following costs:

Food: Prices for meals in Georgia are notably lower than in Europe. An inexpensive restaurant lunch for two costs between 20-30 dollars (excluding alcohol), while fast food snacks range from 5-7 dollars. A cup of cappuccino is priced at 1-2 dollars, and a cheeseburger at 1.5 dollars.

Accommodation: Double rooms in three-star hotels average $20-30, with hostel options starting as low as $10. For those seeking luxury, five-star hotels offer rooms starting at $150.

Sightseeing: While many historical sites and temples are free to visit, museums and amusement parks may have entrance fees. Excursion prices vary widely; for instance, a 3-day rafting adventure on the Rion costs $300 for two people, a day of trekking in the Adjara river canyon is $80, a zipline descent is $20, and a 20-minute paragliding flight is $90.

Souvenirs: Georgia offers a variety of souvenirs, including local crafts, national clothes, leather goods, and traditional food items. Prices for souvenirs are individual and can vary considerably.

Transport: Moving around cities is affordable, with options including public transport like buses and minibuses, as well as taxis. Popular taxi aggregators and transport cards offer cost-effective alternatives. Bus tickets cost 10-15 cents, while taxi fares start at $1.2, with an average additional cost of $0.4 per kilometer.

Considering unforeseen expenses, a week-long holiday for two in Georgia, including flights, ranges from $1000 to $2000. However, it’s essential to note that the total cost of the holiday can vary depending on individual preferences and choices.

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