Small group 1 & 2 day trips in Georgia
Why do tourists love to come to Georgia? Not only did Georgia invent wine
the word derives from the Georgian word gvino it has the most
stunning landscape in Europe. Add to this a fabulous and completely unique
cuisine, legendary Georgian hospitality; and you may have a perfect
destination. People around the world have already been tantalized by the
drama of Georgian dance, but this is just the tip of the cultural iceberg.
The country is filled with ancient churches, beautiful frescoes, and has a
proud and completely unique polyphonic tradition of song. But where did
all this come from? Here you must look to the highest mountains in Europe,
the Greater Caucasus. To walk in Georgia is to discover one of Europes
great undiscovered secrets. Treks and ski-runs alike always face
spectacular views. But with Tbilisi, Georgias historic capital, crammed
with ancient churches and fortresses, just one and a half hours from the
ski-slopes, winter sports holidays can become cultural as well. Georgia
combines the qualities of many countries into one. So
Tbilisi, capital of Georgia from the 5th century AD, has a long and fascinating history. Founded in the 4th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali on the site of its warm mineral-water springs it developed into the main city of the Caucasus. By the 12th century Tbilisi was one of the more important political, economic and cultural centres of the Middle East. It stood as a key stop on the famous Silk Road - right on the border between Europe and Asia (west and east). Tbilisis Old Town, the most ancient part of the city, is renowned for its wonderful mix of cultures. The mosque, the synagogue, the Armenian church mingle harmoniously with the splendid Georgian churches and architecture. The wooden houses with open, carved balconies seem to welcome every visitor. The balmy sulfur baths have hosted poets, writers, musicians, kings down through the centuries. The multi-ethnic markets with large variety of produce and languages, gives the city an eastern, cosmopolitan feel. Looking down on the city are Mtatsminda (Holy Mountain) and the 4th century Narikala Fortress, excellent for views on the swirling river Mtkvari (Kura) and this city of so many ages and nationalities.
Favourite attractions of Tbilisi: Tbilisis unique Old Town, winding roads, alleys and wooden balconies; Metekhi Church standing proudly above the river on a cliff-top; Sioni Cathedral the beating heart of Georgian Orthodoxy, Anchiskhati Church a yet more ancient style of Georgian church with a choir to match; sulphur baths nowhere better to relax; Narikala Fortress, nowhere better than to admire the view; Mtatsmida Church with its poets and artists cemetery overlooking the city centre.
Main museums: Georgian State History Museum, Georgian Art Museum, The Open-Air Museum of Folk Architecture, Tbilisi History Museum.
Main streets: Rustaveli Av., Baratashvili str., Chavchavadze Av. Leselidze str. Agmashenebeli Av.,
Historians date this historic town back to the 2nd millennium B.C. Mtskheta subsequently became the capital of Georgian Kingdom of Iberia between 500BC - 500AD. Here Georgians adopted Christianity in the beginning of 4th century and Mtskheta still remains the Headquarters of Georgian Orthodox Church. Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th c.) and Jvari Monastery (6th c.) are among the finest architectural monuments in Georgia. Mtskheta is listed as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Georgian Military Highway & Kazbegi
The Georgian Military Highway is the historical road leading north from Tbilisi into Russia. It passes the spectacular Ananuri fortress, then climbs the sides of the dramatic Aragvi River Valley, then over the Jvari Pass (2395m) and down into Kazbegi (1700m). Surrounded by gigantic mountains Kazbegi is a picturesque settlement overlooked by the biggest of all - Mount Kazbek (5047m) - one of the six 5000 metre peaks of the Caucasus. The Sameba Church in Gergeti is beautifully situated on the hill above the town and provides splendid views of Mt. Kazbek. The region, with its many valleys and peaks is one of the most popular walking destinations in Georgia. The nearby Chaukhi mountains provide superb rock-climbing, with numerous routes. The Gudauri ski resort located just the other side of the Cross Pass on the southern slopes of the Caucasus offers the best skiing (and heli-skiing) in the Caucasus.
Gelati & Bagrati Cathedrals
The city of Kutaisi dates back to the Argonauts time (13th -12th centuries B.C). Formerly capital of old Colchida, Kutaisi then ruled all of Western Georgia. The nearby Gelati Monastery was founded in the 12th century by Georgias most famous king, David the Builder (1073 1125 AD). Its walls are covered in splendid floor-to-ceiling murals of Georgias saints and monarchs. Gelati and Bagrati are listed as World Cultural Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Vardzia cave-town, and South Georgia
Vardzia in the Meskheti province of southern Georgia - is a thirteen story cave town built between 1186-9 by Georgias famous Queen Tamara. It stands as a unique example of the Georgian renaissance in an area of many medieval sites. Around the town Akhaltsikhe you can find the elegant Sapara Church and dramatic Khertvisi Fortress.
Situated right up against the Daghestan border, in the heart of the Greater Caucasus, Tusheti is a remarkable place, famous for its tall, black-slate medieval towers and hill-top villages. The high forested mountainsides and snow-capped peaks are a haven for Gerogias many kinds of eagle and vulture that soar between deep valleys. Tourists are fascinated by the villages of Dartlo, Parsma and Dano with their stone shrines or khati; - evidence of a people still with strong links to ancient mountain traditions.
Uplistsikhe cave-town & Ateni Church
Uplistsikhe (the Lord's citadel) is a cave town hewn into the living rock, 8kms south-east of Gori. The citadel dates back to the 7th century BC. It served as a strategic point on the ancient Silk Road from ancient times untill the 15th century AD. It contains a large central hall for pagan rituals, living rooms and a 9th century church. The picturesque Ateni Church (7th century) also near Gori is yet another classic architectural representation of the Georgian church, as are its impressive interior murals.
Svaneti Province & the Central Caucasus
Svaneti, the mythological western province of Georgia, land of the Golden Fleece (where locals still sift for gold through sheepskins) lies high up in the Greater Caucasus. Several 5000 metre plus peaks thrust glaciers down into this beautiful and remote region, where amazing stone towers rise up beside homesteads, some dating back to the 12th centuries. Never far away is one of Svanetis numerous, richly frescoed churches, focal points for lively communities where traditions have been preserved for two thousand years. Unique icons and manuscripts are on display in the capital, Mestias museum, overlooked by huge hanging peaks. Mestia is a well known climbers launch point and the dramatic trekking trails will appeal more to the adventure traveler. The villages of Ushguli, the highest permanently inhabited in Europe, give a stunning view of Mt. Shkhara (5201m) the highest peak in Georgia. Its ragged stone towers and the ongoing resilience of its population have led it to being declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Kakheti, Georgias famous wine district, lies due east from Tbilisi in a land dotted with fine old churches and vineyard after vineyard. Stop into any home and be offered a glass of delicious home made wine this province has a history to match the quality and variety of its wines. Among the architectural gems are the gracious Alaverdi Cathedral (11th c), the picturesque Ikalto Academy (4th - 13th c), Shuamta Monastery (7th c), and the elegant Gremi Church (16th c) see our cover photograph.
Shatili and the Khevsureti Province
Deep and narrow river gorges, severe snow-capped peaks, virgin nature, mountainsides carpeted with flowers, traditional stone villages, make Khevsureti an unforgettable experience. Shatili, its main village-citadel, is a unique cluster of houses built-in together to form a defensive citadel. It still stands proudly above the Arguni river as it has from the 9th century as a symbol of Georgias independence and resilience.
The Monasteries of David Gareji
David Gareji is situated deep in semi-desert about 75 km south-east of Tbilisi. Founded in the 6th century by the Christian Father St. David, the monasteries of Lavra, Udabno, Dodo and Bertubani are remarkable for their original cave frescos that date from the 8th to 13th centuries. But the setting is no less impressive and expect to see the fabulous white Egyptian Vulture soaring in the sky above.
Racha is a richly mountained province, neighboring Svaneti. A place of marvelous, virgin forests and snow-capped peaks all that surround villages with impressive medieval churches (such as Nikortsminda). It is also home to one of Georgias favourite semi-sweet wines, Khvanchkara.
The Lesser Caucasus, Bakuriani, and the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
The Lesser Caucasus rise up on the southern side of Georgia and contain several animal species endemic to Georgia. Set in their heart are the resort towns of Borjomi and Bakuriani - established by the Tsar in the 19th century, as a spa town and game reserve. He also built a narrow gage railway to connect the two towns still running today. Since then Bakuriani has developed into Georgias second ski resort in the winter and a walkers paradise in summer. The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park has recently been developed into a superb nature reserve, with educational trails for children and magnificent, several-day hikes through virgin forest and canyons, for adults. The rich flora and fauna range from the sub alpine to the sub-trpoical. Beyond the Park are the Meskheti and Javakheti provinces dominated by their high plateaus at over 2000 metres. The area is rich with history, churches and fortresses. They also contain Georgias largest lakes on the high volcanic plateau.
Ajara Region: Batumi, the Black Sea Coast, Gonio Fortress
Set in the southwestern corner of Georgia, against the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Ajara spans a wide variety of landscape, from high forested mountains to lush sub-tropical hills all set beside the balmy Black Sea coast. Batumi, the capital, is a major sea port and offers a beautiful Botanical Garden beside the Black Sea, surrounded by tea and citrus plantations. Down toward the Turkish border lies the ancient town of Gonio. Built in the 2nd century BC the town played a vital role as crossroads between the west and the Caucasus. Archeological excavations still take place in Gonio and have already unearthed a wealth of gold and other artifacts.
Imereti, Guria & Samegrelo Provinces
These western regions of Georgia attracted the Greeks and Romans many centuries ago who established settlements. Today the landscape is equally appealing to the tourist. It ranges from bird-rich wetlands now being developed for visitors close to the Black Sea coast, to subtropical low-lands and forested mountains. Many medieval churches and monuments adorn these provinces, but the focal points are the larger, historical towns of Kutaisi (Georgias second city), Poti and Zugdidi. In the village of Vani (that dates back to the 8th - 3rd centuries BC) a fascinating excavation is still underway, each year unearthing more treasures from ancient Colchis now being transported to the main museums in Tbilisi.
In conclusive proof of Georgias ancient origins and key position within international travel, bones from the first Europeans were discovered in Dmanisi, in southern Georgia, 75kms southwest of Tbilisi. Dating back 1.8 million years, the now famously reconstructed faces, present a crucial link between the first human migrations from Africa to Europe. Today the dig continues in Georgias picturesque southern mountains.
Georgian Language and Script
Georgian language belongs to the Iberian Caucasian group of languages. There are 3 dialects in Georgian (Kartvelian) language (Georgian, Svan and Mengrelo Laz dialects).
Georgian alphabet is one of the 14 existing alphabets in the world. It consists of 33 letters. Many scientists believe that Georgian alphabet was derived from one of the Semitic alphabets around 6th 5th century BC. The alphabet has been modernized during centuries, but keeps the original roots. One Georgian historian informs us that Georgian script was created in the 3rd c. BC by Georgian King Parnavaz. The mosaic inscription in the Judean desert in Palestine is known as the oldest Georgian inscription ever found. It dates back to the 433 AD. Bolnisi Sioni Church, situated south of Tbilisi, also has one of the oldest (493 AD) inscriptions in Georgian. The oldest manuscript (864 AD) is kept in St. Catherines Monastery on the Sinai Peninsula.
Georgian literature has ancient and remarkable history. The oldest known literacy work The Martirdom of Shushanik was written in 476 483 AD by Iakob Tsurtaveli.
The Knight in the Panther Skin created by Shota Rustaveli at the end of the 12th century is the most brilliant literacy work in Georgian literature. This poem has been translated into many languages of the world.
Georgian Art & Architecture
History of Georgian art dates back to 4000 years; Archeological
excavations have proved the existence of large centers of metallurgy in
Georgia. The art of metal-working has been developed and perfected during
many centuries of antique and medieval periods. Among the specimens of
gold-ware dated back to III and I millennium BC, the gold sculpture of
lion, the gold and silver cups from Trialeti and the jewelry from the
Akhalgori treasury are the masterpieces of Georgian art.
The new era of art and architecture began with adopting Christianity as
the state religion in Georgia in 337. A high level of development was
attained by various branches of art: fresco-painting, iconography,
miniature decoration of manuscripts, chasing on gold and silver,
enameling, etc. Two major forms of ecclesiastical building developed in
Georgia since the 4th century: the central domed structure and basilica.
Sioni Church in Bolnisi and Jvari Monastery in Mtskheta are remarkable
examples of early medieval architecture of Georgia
Georgian art reached its golden age in the 11th 13th centuries. Immortal
monuments of Georgian architecture were built in the 10th 13th cc;
Churches Bagrati, Oshki and Khakhuli (both in Turkey territory), Gelati,
Svetitskhoveli, Samtavisi, Alaverdi, Ikorta, Betania, Nikortsminda, etc.
Vardzia, the huge complex carved out of rock is the evidence of the high
level achieved by Georgian architecture.
The works of Georgian goldsmiths Beka and Beshken Opizari are an outstanding contribution to world-art. The Opizaris icon of Our Lady from Khakhuli belongs to the worlds finest works in cloisonné enamel. Georgian mural painting blossomed during the Middle Ages.
The new era in Georgian art begins in the 19th century. This period is presented by painting as well as sculpture, decorative applied art and architecture. The 20th century art in Georgia has new revival; Painters Niko Pirosmani, Gigo Gabashvili, Mose Toidze, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Elene Akhvlediani and sculptors Iakob Nikoladze, Elguja Amashukeli, Merab Berdzenishvili, Zurab Tsereteli, are well known in Georgia and abroad.
Georgian Songs and Performing Arts
Georgian people have long been famous for their musical traditions. Folk-secular musical culture, which produced polyphonic music and turned composition into an independent branch, developed side by side with Church-music. It is traditional for Georgian songs to be sung in three-part harmony (though in some regions the fourth voice may be included). Singing is an important element of Georgian culture. There are songs linked with social and celebration activities. There are work songs, traveling songs, lullabies, wedding songs, dance songs, and table songs. The Georgian folk singing tradition stands out in the world as complex, unique, very profound and very ancient.
dancing is world-famous. The Georgian dance is distinguished for its
aristocratic restraint and steadiness: a man is a knight, a lady is as
delicate and gracious as a fairy.
Very often Georgian folk singing and dancing performances are available in Tbilisi Concert Hall and other cities of Georgia. CDs and cassettes of Georgian songs can be purchased at music shops in Tbilisi.
Wine and Cuisine
Georgia is considered to be one of the oldest homelands of viniculture in the world. It is proved that wine-making in Georgia has been practiced since the 3rd millennium BC. For many centuries vine remains one of the fascinating symbols of Georgian history and culture. Vine growing is one of the ancient branches of economic activities of people in Georgia. Famous sorts of Georgian wines are Rkatsiteli, Manavi, Napareuli, Tibaani, Tsinandali, Vazisubani, Mukuzani, Saperavi, Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara, etc. The head of the Georgian table is Tamada, a person who proposes traditional toasts.
Georgian cuisine is diverse and delicious; It consists of much ingredients and spices and offer variations of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, cheese, eggplant, walnuts, hazelnuts, pomegranates, kidney beans, hot peppers, etc. Mtsvadi (barbeque), roast pig, chanakhi, tabaka, khinkali, chakapuli, khachapuri, phkhali, satsivi, badrijani, churchkhela are some of the many popular dishes in Georgia.
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