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Best 4 Day Trips from Tbilisi, Georgia: Kazbegi, Stalin and Beyond

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2 weeks ago

Georgia’s vibrant capital city, Tbilisi is home to a third of the country’s population. It goes without saying that there is always something to do. From exploring the colorful bazaars to soaking up the views from Mtatsminda Park and gorging on hearty Georgian cuisine, Tbilisi has it all. If you need some inspiration, check out our suggestions for two days in Tbilisi.

Tbilisi is city break heaven, the ideal destination to spend a few days seeing the sights and enjoying the hospitality. Transport, food and accommodation is plentiful and extremely cheap when compared to Western standards.

We recently put together the Ultimate 5 Day Georgia Itinerary which can either start or end in Tbilisi. But if you prefer not to pack your suitcase every night and base yourself in the capital for the entire stay, there’s no reason you have to miss out. Our top day trips from Tbilisi give you the opportunity to explore some of Georgia’s most impressive gems.

Before You Go: Understanding the Orthodox Church in Georgia

Aside from being an architectural marvel (often with a breath-taking backdrop), visiting a church during your time in Georgia is a must. As you plan your day trips from Tbilisi, keep in mind that religion is very important in Georgia.

The Georgian Orthodox Church was founded in the 1st century, making it one of the oldest religions in the world.

During Russia’s 116-year rule of Georgia, the church was suppressed. Interestingly, the same didn’t happen when Georgia fell under Soviet control. Whilst the church initially faced harassment, under Stalin the Orthodox Church was given full independence.

Today, over 83% of Georgians consider themselves Georgian Orthodox Christians. The Church’s role in daily life is significant with the government having granted it special status in the country’s constitution. As a result, certain aspects of Georgian society are more conservative than other Christian nations. As you’re planning your day trips from Tbilisi, bear in mind that, outside of Tbilisi, a degree of modesty is expected in terms of clothing and behaviour.

Best day trips from Tbilisi, Georgia

1. Kazbegi

Sitting high in the rugged Caucasus mountains, Kazbegi is one of the most beautiful spots in Georgia, and that truly is saying something because this isn’t a country short of beauty. If you’ve only seen one photo of Georgia, the odds are it’s a photo of the iconic church against the mountain vista in Kazbegi. As such, it’s no surprise that Kazbegi is one of the most popular day trips from Tbilisi.

At first thought, it can be a little tricky to pinpoint what and where Kazbegi actually is. Mount Kazbegi sits within Kazbegi National Park, the main town of which is also Kazbegi. At the same time, it isn’t; if Schrodinger did towns! The town was historically called Kazbegi but is today known as Stepantsminda, but, to confuse matters, most locals still call it by its old name.

Stepantsminda/Kazbegi

Whatever you want to call it, Kazbegi is small but pleasant and sits on the banks of the Terek River. It’s a great place to stop for lunch or provisions before heading out into the National Park.

Local tip: Hidden away from the main street, Restaurant Tiba is the best spot in town and well worth the short walk from the town center.

You’ll get stunning mountain views dished up alongside authentic Georgian food.

The highlight of a visit to Kazbegi is getting out of town and being at one with nature. Thanks to having relatively limited tourist infrastructure, you won’t find crowds here and it’s easy to find a peaceful spot all to yourself.

If you’re an avid hiker, there’s plenty of long distance trails leading up into the mountains. Many people choose to spend several days hiking here, but as we’re focusing on day trips from Tbilisi, we’ll cover the highlights you can see in one day.

Gergeti

From the town, either drive or walk the three kilometers to the picturesque village of Gergeti. There’s no shortage of serene scenery along the way. When you reach the village, follow the trail leading towards Gergeti Trinity Church (you’ll see people streaming this way).

After a short 15 minutes or so of walking, you’ll find the church. Built in the 14th century, the church is unique in that it’s belltower is separate from the main church building. As one of the most iconic vistas of Georgia, visiting Gergeti is one of the most popular day trips from Tbilisi.

Getting to Kazbegi

By car

Tourist infrastructure in Kazbegi is fairly limited, so the best way to get here is to rent a car. The drive from Tbilisi, whilst less than a hundred miles, takes around three hours and follows the Georgian Military Road. It’s a scenic drive, so you’ll want to allow a little extra time to stop for photos. In particular, don’t miss the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument.

By tour

If you don’t fancy driving yourself, there are several day tours which operate from Tbilisi, many of which include additional stops. Group tours include several stops within the Caucasus mountains offering excellent value, whilst slightly more expensive private tours are also available.

By marshrutka

If you prefer to stick to public transport, it is possible to travel by marshrutka (minibuses). These depart from Didube Station in Tbilisi roughly every hour and take 3-4 hours to make the journey. If you are planning on visiting Kazbegi as a day trip from Tbilisi, the increased time on the road will eat into your valuable day trip.

It’s worth noting that marshrutkas from Tbilisi to Kazbegi operate less frequently during the winter months. Accordingly, it’s worth checking the timetable locally before heading off (or your Tbilisi hotel may be able to help you).

2. Mtskheta

First settled in the 2nd millennium BCE, Mtskheta is not only one of the oldest cities in Georgia, but in the world. Mtskheta is where the Georgian Orthodox Church was founded and it remains the Church’s headquarters to this day.

Svetitskhoveli Cathedral

With that in mind, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral should be your first stop on your day trip from Tbilisi. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the original cathedral was a wooden building built in the 4th century. It was replaced twice, with the current structure dating back to 1029.

This impressive building is said to be the home of Christ’s mantle, the seamless robe worn by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion. Nobody truly knows if this is the case as different sects of Christianity have different beliefs as to where it is. Some claim it is in the Cathedral of Trier in Germany, others the Basilique Saint-Denys just north of Paris.

As far as most Eastern Orthodox churches are concerned though, it’s here in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta. What is known for sure is that the Cathedral is the final resting place of several Georgian kings who were also crowned here. Whilst now a republic, Georgia was ruled by a monarchy until 1810.

Jvari Monastery

With three monasteries in Mtskheta, whichever way you turn, the significance of the Orthodox Church is evident.

Local tip: Head to Jvari Monastery at sunset to get the best pictures of Mtskheta.

Of all of Mtskheta’s monasteries, if you only have time to check one off, make it Jvari. Perched on a clifftop overlooking the city, Jvari Monastery is a sight to behold. Completely unchanged since it was built in the 6th century, Jvari is still in active use and important site of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians.

Aside from the religious significance, the view from the top is stunning. It looks straight down to the meeting point of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers offering a panoramic view of the entire city. You can reach the monastery by taxi or shuttle bus (summer only) from the Tourist Information Office in the city center.

Old Mtskheta

Given the city’s history, Mtskheta’s old town is not to be missed. Set around Svetitskhoveli Square, to the side of the cathedral, we just love exploring the maze of pedestrianized, cobbled streets in the old town.

The old town is full of market stalls selling snacks, spices and juices along with souvenirs. Bear in mind that prices here may be a little higher as there are plenty of tourists around!

Where to eat in Mtskheta

If you’re looking for traditional Georgian cuisine, head for Check-In Garden in the old town. With a stunning riverside location, they offer all the classics which you can enjoy whilst watching turtles roam around the terrace.

For something a little special, try Ornament Express. Overlooking Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, this sophisticated spot serves up a modern take on Georgian classics. Their khachapuri is famous across the city.

Getting to Mtskheta

By car

Located just 25 kilometers north of Tbilisi, Mtskheta is one of the easiest day trips from Tbilisi. When the traffic’s on your side, it’s only a half hour drive.

By tour

If you’re not driving, day tours are available which include transport to Jvari Monastery.

By marshrutka

If you’d prefer to stick to public transport, marshrutkas run every half hour from Didube Station in Tbilisi, costing just 2GEL each way.

3. Gori

The first stop after leaving Tbilisi on our 5 Day Georgia Itinerary, Gori makes one of the most interesting day trips from Tbilisi. It also happens to be one of the easiest day trips from Tbilisi to make by public transport. Small and unassuming, at first sight a far cry from the beauty of the capital, Gori is a city with a fascinating past.

The birthplace of a dictator

Gori’s biggest claim to fame, and the main reason most visitors to Georgia flock to the city, is that is was the birthplace of one of the biggest names in modern history. Here, on 18th December 1878, a child named Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili was born.

You’d be forgiven for wondering who on earth I’m talking about. He’s better known as Joseph Stalin.

Stalin left Gori aged 16 to enrol in the Russian Orthodox Theological Seminary in Tbilisi, but there’s a feeling in Gori that he’ll always be their most famous son.

Stalin’s early life and “achievements” as leader of the Soviet Union are displayed at the Stalin Museum.

Located in his childhood home, the museum is a must see on your day trip from Tbilisi. It’s open daily from 10 am to 5 pm and tickets can be purchased on site.

Travel tip: Opt for a ticket with a guided tour to see inside the original railway carriage that Stalin used to travel in, which sits outside the museum.

Gori Fortress

The 13th century fortress which overlooks the city from a hilltop was severely damaged by an earthquake in the 1920s. It’s since been partially rebuilt but is still a shadow of its former self. The hike up to the top of Gori Fortress an easy one and well worth it for the views alone.

Best food in Gori

When in Georgia, eat like the Georgians do. There’s an old saying that every meal in Georgia is a feast and after a few hours in the country, you’ll find that to be very true.

Despite being relatively small, Gori has dozens of fantastic restaurants. KE&RA is the place to go if you fancy a modern take on Georgian classics in swanky, hip surroundings. For a more traditional lunch, Black Star dishes up all the favorites. Their khinkali are the stars of the show; these rich dumplings are always flavorsome and juicy with meaty or vegetarian fillings.

Getting to Gori

By public transport

If you’re looking for the easiest of the day trips from Tbilisi by public transport, Gori is the one to try. The quickest way to travel is by train. Georgian Railways run three times per day between Tbilisi and Gori with a journey time of around an hour. It’s really straightforward to book in advance through their English language website or mobile app.

There are also marshrutka minibuses running from Tbilisi’s Didube Bus Terminal which leave every hour.

By tour

If you’re the type of traveler who prefers not having to deal with public transport, there are countless excellent day tours from Tbilisi to Gori (many of which usually combine with Mtskheta).

4. Borjomi

If you mention Borjomi to anyone in the Former USSR, they’ll immediately know you are referring to the naturally sparkling bottled water drawn from glacial springs along the Bojormi Valley. Bojormi is another must-do day trip from Tbilisi. In my opinion, it’s one of those cities that feels confused, and that’s why you should visit.

Bojormi is a mismatch of Medieval Georgia, the period of Tsarist Russian control (1801-1917) and, like everywhere this side of the Iron Curtain, some hideous Soviet eyesores. Maybe “hideous” is a little unfair, but they certainly add to the character of the city.

Bojormi Water

Situated in the old bottling plant in Bojormi Park, the Bojormi Water Museum is well worth a visit. A beautiful marble fountain stands at the center; surrounding it are hundreds of photos which tell the story of the discovery of the springs and the bottling process of years gone by.

Once you’ve finished, head outside to the original Bojormi spring well which is located within the park. There are taps all around the spring which you can use to fill your bottle with fresh, naturally carbonated water.

Sulfur Baths

Just like Tbilisi, Bojormi has some amazing outdoor sulfur baths. Tucked away in the forest, near the banks of the Kura River, they are the ideal place to go if you need some peace and solitude. If you have the choice between visiting Tbilisi’s baths or Bojormi’s, I’d recommend the latter purely because they’re usually far quieter and slightly cooler.

Borjomi’s pools sit at around 30°C year round, so there’s never a bad time to visit. It’s a bit of a hike, but a rewarding one. You can, of course, cheat and take the cable car and walk a little way downhill.

Cable Car

Rising up from the city to the Bojormi Plateau, the cable car still uses the original Soviet-era cars. It’s a little similar to the Mtatsminda cable car in Tbilisi, with a restaurant and Ferris Wheel at the top.

The restaurant Bojormi Plato Café is a little more expensive and touristy than most places in town. Nevertheless, I recommend stopping by for a coffee to enjoy the view.

Best food in Bojormi

As ever, you’re not going to struggle to find a good meal anywhere in Georgia. But there’s one spot in Bojormi which really stands out to me. Bergi Terrace is a boutique restaurant and wine bar with views of Bojormi Park.

They serve all the dishes you’d expect, plus some western options. Their Georgian stews are my favorite though. In my view, this is the best restaurant in Georgia to try Chakhokhbili (a herby chicken stew) and Chashushuli (a spicy beef stew).

Staying in Bojormi

There’s plenty more to see in Bojormi, and it truly makes for a relaxing break from the other bigger cities and towns. If you have the chance to spend a little longer in Borjomi, I’d definitely recommend it.

The Alma-Ata Hotel is my top pick of Bojormi’s hotels, with a central location and mid-range prices. If you’re traveling on a tighter budget, Hillside Guesthouse is a great choice and it’s situated right by Bojormi Museum (a sight worth seeing if you have more time in Bojormi). At the luxury end, the Crowne Plaza and Golden Tulip are the top upscale hotels in Bojormi.

Getting to Borjomi

By car

Whether you opt for a day trip from Tbilisi or an overnight stay, the quickest way to reach Bojormi is to drive. It’s a fairly easy two and half to three hour journey, following the E60 highway to Khashuri where you branch off into the Bojormi Valley.

By public transport

If you prefer public transport, there are two trains per day from Tbilisi which take around three and a half hours. Alternatively, minibuses run every hour from Orikba Bus Station in Tbilisi, taking around three hours.

Add a visit to Vardzia to your day trip from Tbilisi

Similar to the stunning caves in Goreme, Cappadocia, the monastic sites at Vardzia date to the 12th century. They were pretty much abandoned in the 16th century when Georgia fell to the Ottoman Empire. That said, to this day, five monks still live in the caves.

caves at vardzia georgia a popular day trips from tbilisi

To combine both Vardzia and Borjomi makes for one of the longest day trips from Tbilisi. Unquestionably, the easiest and most-hassle free way to make this trip is by joining a day tour which covers both Vardzia and Borjomi.


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