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Home » Destinations » Europe » Georgia » Explore Winter in Georgia
Explore Georgia during this brief winter break. Spend time wandering the narrow streets of Tbilisi in the stunning scenery of the Caucasus, in direct contrast to the time spent snowshoeing.
Stepandsminda – Snowshoe to the beautiful Gergeti Trinity church, set against the backdrop of the Greater Caucasus Mountains
Kukushka Railway – Watch the wintery landscape roll by as we travel on the narrow gauge railway from Bakuriani to Borjomi
Georgian food – Have a go at making kinkali dumplings and taste freshly baked khachapuri bread
DAY 1 – Join tour in Tbilisi. Explore the city on a walking tour
Arrive in Tbilisi and transfer to the hotel where the leader will meet you in the reception at 11am for a welcome meeting. Most flights arrive in the early hours of the morning and rooms have been booked so you can freshen up and take some rest on arrival.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you’ll need to arrive into Tbilisi International Airport (TBS), which is 25 minutes’ from the hotel.
Today we’ll get out and explore both the Old and New Towns of Georgia’s cosmopolitan capital city, on foot. We start our visit in the old part at the Church of Metekhi, before continuing through narrow lanes past cafes and restaurants to the Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral and Anchiskhati Church – which marks the end of the Old Town. We’ll take a stroll along Rustaveli Avenue, where we can admire the architecture of many grand buildings that line Tbilisi’s main street.
Giving our feet a rest we’ll take the cable car to visit Narikala Fort, which dominates the skyline of the Old Town, and from there we walk down to the brick-domed Sulphur baths. During your free time in Tbilisi you may want to visit one of the bath houses and relax in the warm, naturally heated waters then brave a cold plunge pool to refresh the senses. It’s a regular pastime for locals, especially in the winter months, with both public and private baths available.
Tbilisi has a wealth of great restaurants to choose from and tonight we’ll head out and try some of the local dishes including the delicious khachapuri bread and barbecued meats and salads.
DAY 2 – See Mt Kazbegi from a cable car on the journey to Stepandsminda
Leaving Tbilisi this morning we travel approximately three hours to the town of Gudauri. We are now in ski country and take the opportunity to swap our bus briefly for a cable car. The cable car takes us to Kobi and as we float over the landscape we have views of deep gorges and the dramatic peaks of the Greater Caucasus including Mt Kazbegi. Another short drive brings us to Stepandsminda, our base for the next two nights.
We start our time in the town by sharing lunch with a local family. As well as a chance to try out dishes such as lobiana – a flat bread stuffed with kidney beans and mtsvadi – barbecued meats we’ll have a chance to see how these dishes are made and learn a little about family life in this mountainous region.
Fully fuelled we head outside for a snowshoe fitting. Snowshoeing is fairly easily mastered and we’ll soon feel confident to begin our route to the Elia Church. The route we follow is mostly flat and no previous experience is needed. We’ll cover a total distance of four kilometers and expect this to take around two hours in total however, there is no rush and we have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery as we go. Snowshoes and poles are provided, you will need to wear waterproof walking boots and waterproof trousers or gaiters are ideal.
Once we are back at the hotel there will be some time to relax before dinner. This could be the ideal chance to try out chacha, a local brandy made from the by-products of the winemaking process – a great example of minimising waste!
DAY 3 – Snowshoe to the Gergeti Trinity Church
After a hearty breakfast we put our snowshoes back on and make our way to the regions most well known sight, the Gergeti Trinity Church. This simple yet striking church is located on a hilltop surrounded by views of the Greater Caucasus range. In summer it’s a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, in winter far fewer people make the journey allowing us the chance to take in the surroundings without the crowds and with the added beauty of being covered in snow. The walk is approximately 10 kilometers in total and we expect that to take five to six hours depending on the depth of snow.
We refuel after our efforts with lunch in the town.
This afternoon we’ll visit another local family and learn about the craft of felt making. This versatile material has been used for centuries to make clothing, rugs and tents and items can be seen in markets across the country today.
DAY 4 – Visit the Stalin Museum in Gori and explore Uplistsikhe Cave town
This morning we leave the Kazbegi region and begin travelling south. We make our first stop at the Soviet style town of Gori, the birthplace of Georgia’s most famous son, Stalin. We visit the Stalin museum and learn about his life, from his training as a priest in the Georgian Seminary, before abandoning religion to join the new Bolshevik movement. It has been suggested that Georgia escaped the worst horrors of Stalin’s regime because he was afraid of his conservative Christian mother!
We then take a short drive to the Silk Road cave town of Uplistsikhe. Here an entire town of streets, churches, palaces and residential buildings has been carved into the mountainside. Dating from the first millennium BC, it gradually grew to be an important city on the trade route linking Byzantium with India and China.
Our final destination is the ski town of Bakuriani, popular with locals looking to escape the city and spend a weekend on the slopes.
DAY 5 – Roll through the winter countryside on the narrow gauge train from Bakuriani to Borjomi
Today we start with a relaxed journey as we take the Kukushka train from Bakuriani to Borjomi. This narrow gauge railway opened in 1902 and operates as a once-a-day shuttle service between the towns. Originally powered by an English Porter steam engine the train now uses and electric engine to power it through the snow covered forests. During the ride the train crosses from Tasgveri to Tsemi on a bridge designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, built on the orders of the Russian Royal family. The journey takes approximately two hours and is a popular way for locals to travel to and from the ski resort, so we hope to practice some of the Georgian phrases our leader has taught us along the way.
After disembarking we drive to picturesque Mtskheta, the spiritual heart of Georgia. We visit the hilltop 6th century Jvari Monastery, it’s location offering spectacular views of Mtskheta and the confluence of two rivers below. We make our way down into the town where we visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a 9th century basilica containing the grave of Sidonia, who was said to have been buried holding Christ’s robe. We’ll have some free time to explore the town before taking the short drive back to Tbilisi.
DAY 6 – Explore the old Soviet area of Tbilisi. Make kinkali dumplings at a family lunch
We spend this morning exploring the old Soviet part of Tbilisi, walking between the University Library with it’s quirky design based on an accordion, to the Merani shopping centre on Rustaveli Avenue, once home to the Russian language newspaper Zaria Vostoka. The Brutalist and Constructivist architecture sits in direct contrast with the modern Peace Bridge and the pretty pastel houses that perch in Legvtakhevi Canyon overlooking the Old Bridge.
For lunch today we’ll make our way to the edge of the city to the small town of Zahesi. Here we get a chance to see kinkali dumplings being made, and try our hand at making them ourselves, before feasting on them for lunch.
The afternoon is left free to explore Tbilisi, picking up some last minute souvenirs or perhaps taking another sulphur bath to relax after a week of exploring. Tonight we’ll toast our final night in Georgia with glasses of chacha and local red wine.
DAY 7 – Tour ends in Tbilisi
Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Tbilisi at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Tbilisi International Airport (TBS), which is a 25 minute drive from the hotel.
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