The schools spring vacations have been announced and we are thinking where to go now for a small vacation and suddenly Georgia came to our mind. There are few reasons for selecting this destination;
- Its near from UAE with flying time is around 3 hours
- Kids love playing in snow and there is a snow resort
- Lot of natural beauty and old churches
- The most important thing is we can travel visa free to Georgia as a UAE resident.
We started preparing for our trip. My husband got 8 days leave and we don’t want to stay for so many day days in a snow resort, so we also included Azerbaijan in our trip. Packing done as per our packing check list and we are ready to fly.
Before flying you need a few preparations;
Packing warm clothes
I traveled in late March and Tbilisi was cold with cold spell. The temperature was 6 °C in Tbilisi, outside even less. In Gudauri, the temperature was 0 °C in day and -6 °C in night when we visited. Aside from thick clothing, warmers, hand gloves, winter caps and thick socks you need to have scarves long enough to cover your neck to keep you warm and also required for entering the churches. It’s better to dress in layers to keep you warm. As per our travel guide weather in March is very unpredictive in Tbilisi.
All the tourist area in Tbilisi are nearby and can be easily explored by foot. So when we plan to visit Tbilisi we marked all the point of interest and places we want to visit on google map and make an offline walking map for our self. In case of offline walking map, you don’t need data and you don’t need to carry any Maps with you. So, I’ll suggest you to always install one offline map of the place you are visiting in your phone and prepare a walking route map and other point of interest you want to visit for yourself. I always use maps.me offline map.
The power socket in Georgia is same as in most of the other European countries, it is two round pin power socket of type C and F. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Not all two round pin plugs will work because the socket is not on the flat surface. So always carry a universal travel adapter with you it is easily available in supermarkets.
Georgian Lari is the official currency used in Georgia. It’s almost very difficult to find this currency in your country, so you need to exchange money once you are in Georgia. Taking our currency like AED or INR and exchanging there is not a good idea. The exchange rate for these currencies are very poor. Its best to change the currency in your home country to most popular currencies like USD, Euro or GBP and then exchange them when you reach Tbilisi.
Once you arrived at Tbilisi Airport, you can change a small amount of USD at any of the exchanges available there and exchange the remaining once you reach the city center. We have exchanged the USD at the airport and inside the city. There was no commission charged. There is no difference in the exchange rate at the Airport or the city center.
Credit card is accepted at most places in Tbilisi, Gaudauri and other tourist places but it’s advisable to always carry cash when going outside to countryside. Most of the tour operators quote in USD and they accept USD also.
Mobile company kiosks are available at the international airport. There was one vendor offering free sim card near the exit gate. I want to buy but our guide told not to buy from there as it is costly, so I just checked the price and left the place. Price was around 25 GEL for 1GB. After reaching our destination there was a mobile company office in front of our hotel. I went there and check the price; it was only 3 GEL for the SIM card and 4 GEL for 2 GB data valid for 10 days.
Topping up is very easy. There are many charging kiosks conveniently located everywhere on the roadside (mostly orange color). The kiosks have an English menu option. Just change the language, select the mobile operator and top up with the amount required. There is a small commission on this transaction.
Day – 1 Arrival
Since we plan to visit two countries the best option available was from Azerbaijan airlines. We fly to Tbilisi via Baku and reach around 10:00 AM. Immigration was smooth and our passports were stamped without any hassle. When we came outside the airport, we immediately felt the cold spell. Day one we have planned for walking Rustaveli avenue and Rike park but due to chilling weather we decided to stay indoor and went outside for an evening stroll and dinner near Marjanishvili metro station.
Day 2 – Jvari monastery and Mtskheta
The second day was planned for visiting Jvari, Mtskheta and old Tbilisi. After breakfast we went straight to Jvari monastery. Jvari monastery is Georgian orthodox monastery of 6th century near Mtskheta. There are only two things at the hill top; the church and the views.
when we arrived at jvari the temperature was very less and windy. During the time we were there we witness snowfall on the mountains. If it is clear weather there will be very nice view from jvari monastery overlooking Mtskheta and the confluence of two rivers. There is a small parking lot at the monastery where tour buses are also coming and there are a few stall near the parking selling snacks and fresh juice.
Our next destination was Mtskheta. Located at 40 minutes drive from Tbilisi, it is one of the oldest city of Georgia. It is a beautiful town with clean and narrow streets and river flowing next to the town. The main attraction of the town is Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. From the parking lot there are 3 or 4 streets before you can reach the church. Both side of the street are occupied by souvenir shops and restaurants.
Before the main entrance there were few peoples with their peacock and parrots who will allow You to hold them and he will take your picture for a fee. Initially the kids were afraid but later they enjoyed holding the bird on their hand.
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral is beautiful & imposing and is known as the burial site of the Christ’s mantle. The Cathedral is built on a site of a 4th century wooden Church, remnants of which are still preserved inside the Cathedral today. The church is surrounded by a defensive castle style wall with few benches to relax and a few wine cellars at the corner.
We went there on Sunday and Sunday mass was going on with men’s chorus singing during the mass. When we went there it was an overcast day and lighting inside was not very good so we are not able to witness all the frescos very clearly still the restored frescos look great.
After visiting Mtskheta our driver take us to Tbilisi mall. We relaxed there for some time till the kid enjoying in the Zootopia. Zootopia is a place where all pet animals are kept and kids play with them. My younger kid enjoy playing the rabbit and sheep and after that we return to old Tbilisi for lunch.
Before we told our guide that we want to do a walking tour in the old Tbilisi. But he suggested that the weather is very cold and windy outside which kids will not enjoy and he will show them by car. So from inside the car we pass through Rustaveli avenue and most of the old Tbilisi area. We passed through many streets multiple times before we reach the Maidan square for our lunch at Samikitno restaurant.
Today we have decided to take Georgian food and this is the best place to be. Since we already have a list of Georgian food which are vegetarian and which we have planned to eat during our stay in Georgia. The hotel menu was good and informative, explaining all the menu items with ingredients and pictures. We order more most of the starter which were cold and khachapuri, Mchadi and few other items. Lobio in the pot was the highlight. Just outside the restaurant there is a sign “I love Tbilisi”. We stop there for some time and take some pictures.
After lunch we started our walking tour. First, we went to the sulphur bath area and after that we go up to the waterfall passing through a narrow gorge.
While returning from waterfall near the bridge of love lock there is a spiral staircase which will take you to the residential area above and from there you will find a road which goes up to the Narikala Fortress parking.
Enjoyed the aerial view of the city. From here our guide left us to bring the car to the mother of Georgia statue. From Narikala Fortress we went up to the cable car station by stairs.
Once we reach this place the aerial view of the city was better than before.
We spend some time at the mother of Georgia statue and then passing through Rustaveli avenue we reached the freedom square. After spending some time at the freedom square, we returned to our hotel.
Day 3 – Gudauri
We started our drive to Gudauri at 10 am in the morning. Tbilisi was crowded and heavy traffic in the city. Outside the city on the Georgian military highway the traffic was very less. Me make our first stop at Zhinvali water reservoir. Water in reservoir was very less.
There was no heavy vehicle movement on the road and all the trucks are parked next to the road. We came to know that there was heavy snow fall a day before and the road after Gudauri was closed.
The road from between Ananuri to Gudauri runs parallel to Aragvi River. We stopped between Ananuri and Pasanauri for a tea break. It was an Indian hotel recommended by our guide and the tea was great. Near the hotel there a person with his horse offering horse rides which both the kids enjoyed.
After short break we started our journey we started our journey to Gadauri. We reached Gudauri at 12:30 PM and after check in to our accommodation we left to the recreation area and gondola station.
Since it was last minute booking, we did not get the hotel we want in Gudauri. We started looking for hotel in new Gudauri area, and the hotels with family rooms available are far from the lift station. Finally we start looking for Airbnb apartment and we got the apartment just 200 meters away from the lift station. This was the best decision we have make. The apartment was serviced apartment with reception, efficient heating system, views were amazing and in the middle of everything. It was lunch time so we decided to take our lunch next to the gondola station. There are many restaurants with outside seating area. Weather was good so we decided to have our lunch there. Chair and tables are partly buried in the snow.
After finishing our lunch, we take single ticket and catch the gondola to the next station where we spend almost two hours playing in the snow.
At 4 PM we catch the gondola and came back to the new Gudauri. After spending some time near the ski lift station, we returned to our accommodation and decided to return after one hour which we never did.
Day 4 – Ananuri, Chronicles of Georgia and Tbilisi
The weather was foggy / cloudy with low visibility. We decided to play near the ski lift station. Yesterday I missed the paragliding when the weather was clear. We hired a sledge from the nearby rental shop and kids have a great time sledging on the end of the slope.
I hired a snow bike for myself and my daughter and we went for a snow bike ride for around 15 minutes. Though the view was limited, bike ride was enjoyable. When we are done with snow activities, we left Gudauri at 1:30 PM.
While returning from Gudauri, Ananuri castle was in our way which we decided to visit during our return trip. Ananuri it is a castle complex on the aragvi river in Georgia, about 72 kilometers from Tbilisi.
There is nothing much to see or do. Since Ananuri castle is used more frequently for Georgia tourism showing castle with blue reservoir water and green mountain in the background. We were disappointed since the river bed was completely dry and not looking as stunning as in pictures. It’s probably best to visit Ananuri in late summer or autumn as the forests and rivers around might make this place look even more stunning. The best photo spot is the nearby bridge on the Georgian military highway.
After spending some time in Ananuri we started our drive to the chronicles of Georgia. It consists of gigantic concrete pillars with metallic panels portraying the history of Georgia.
The top part are decorated with scenes of Georgia, the lowers part portray the life of Jesus. The monument was created by Zuab Tsersteli, a Georgian sculptor. The construction was started in 1985 and still some panels are incomplete.
It must take ages to create a monument of this size. Behind the giant rock pillars there is a small church which was close. We walk around the church and saw an amazing panoramic view over Tbilisi sea and the suburbs of the city. We really liked this place.
After visiting chronicles we checked in to our hotel. Still there was lot of time and we decided to go and visit Rike park. Weather was comfortable than it was two days before.
We spend our evening at Rike park and after sunset we decided to stroll around the river and then go to Davit Aghmashenebeli Street. We passed through the house of justice and this mushroom shaped building next to the river looks very nice.
After this we reach the Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue Pedestrian only section. This is a very lovely street with both side beautiful buildings and restaurants. The street is beautifully decorated with nice lighting which give a very colorful Ambiance in the night. Since we have already planned our dinner at an Indian restaurant on the same Street, we did not stop at any restaurant and we just pass through the street enjoying the beauty and ambience of the place.
After dinner we reached our hotel and concluded our trip. It was short but sweet trip. Next day our guide Mr Vakho dropped us to the airport. He received us as a guide but dropped us as a friend. Thanks Mr Vakho for making our trip comfortable and memorable.
Some useful Tips
- If you are traveling to Georgia in March pack your woolen stuff. Weather is unpredictable and can be very cold.
- Download an offline map and mark the places you want to visit.
- Download the translator app. In Google translator Georgian language pack is available and can be used offline.
- For vegetarian people lot of options are available in Georgian food which you should try and there are many Indian restaurants with vegetarian menu in Tbilisi.
- For snow activity carry leather / waterproof boots, pants, woolen cap, gloves, lip balm and sunglasses.
- If you are traveling in a group or Family, hire a car with driver/guide. This option is most comfortable and saves a lot of time.