In the first of our new series, we take a closer look at the destinations that are fast becoming the next buzzworthy place to be. The idea is that with this inside knowledge, you can immerse yourself before it’s well and truly on the tourist trail. And there’s no better destination to start than Georgia – the country that is, not the US state!
Located on the other side of Europe and bordering Asia, Georgia has long been under-appreciated as a tourist destination. But there’s a rising interest, as anyone who caught Joanna Lumley’s Silk Road series can confirm. A Soviet republic until 1991, it’s full of beautiful architecture, untouched hiking trails, cycling routes and warm hospitable people ready to welcome guests.
If that sounds intriguing, here’s the Flexicover Team’s guide on why you should take the five-hour flight over, and what to do when you get there.
Planning your trip
Thanks to reasonable temperatures (it’s on the same latitude as Barcelona), Georgia is an all-year destination, with summer highs up to a toasty 32C and outdoor activities popular well into October. Hotels and entertainment are generally cheaper than in the UK – for example, an average three-star hotel costs just £30. While we’re on the subject, the currency is the Georgian lari, and currently around £1 will buy you GEL3. Georgian Airways fly direct from London Gatwick to the capital of Tbilisi, while low-cost WizzAir fly from London Luton direct to Kutaisi. Plus the good news is you don’t need a visa to visit.
What to do
Still relatively unaffected by globalisation, a unique slice of urban Georgian life awaits visitors in the capital of Tbilisi. Check out the historic Agmashenebeli avenue, or the artsy Fabrika, which used to be a Soviet sewing factory but now it’s the coolest hostel with artisan cafes, bars and boutiques around it. Those who like to party might also take a trip to the Black Sea beach resort of Batumi, which has a vibrant clubbing scene during the summer months. Georgia is also a nature-lover’s paradise. Ramble up the mountainous areas of its north, ski across them in winter or for a daredevil experience, try white-water rafting along the Rioni River.
What to see
There’s a host of scenes to enjoy in Georgia, from bubbling hot springs near Borjomi Park to the serene landscape of its 23 nature reserves and nine national parks. For unique architecture, take a day trip to the cave city of Uplistsikhe. The rock-cut structures include a basilica dating from the 10th century with a large hall, pagan places of sacrifice, dwellings plus functional buildings like a pharmacy and a prison. Indoors, art-lovers can check out the Centre for Contemporary Art, Georgia’s spiritual home for creative ideas, or the Soviet Occupation Exhibition Hall, which sheds light on Georgia’s recent past.
Where to stay
There’s no shortage of charm when it comes to accommodation in Georgia – there are charming countryside abodes, hip’n’happening city hotels, and everything in between. Rooms Hotel has upscale stylish properties in Tbilisi and Kazbegi, and both are hugely popular. For old world atmosphere, the four-star Ambassadori in Tbilisi is a perfect base, especially as it’s within walking distance of the capital’s main sights. Or for a wellness retreat, Tskaltubo Spa Resort is a magnificent retreat that features hot healing waters within its grounds, with the Sataplia Caves a short drive away. Rooms here are around a well-priced £40.
What to eat
Benefitting from fertile soil that grows all manner of fruits and vegetables, plus the influence of Russia, Asia and the Middle East, Georgian cuisine includes a touch of the familiar alongside new flavours. Must-try dishes include khachapuri (a flatbread filled with Imeretian or Sulguni cheese) or khinkali (a soup with stuffed dumplings). If that doesn’t satisfy your appetite, round off a meal with a nibble of churchkela, a Georgian sweet of nuts strung together and dipped in condensed grape juice. For the vinophiles among us, try the local wine. Reported as being the birthplace of the tipple, it rivals the world’s best wine-producing countries as UK visitors are only now finding out.
Wherever you plan on heading over the coming months, whether it’s to check out a new destination or to return to an old favourite, it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.