Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Must-do in Tbilisi

We are always looking for weekend getaways that offer us a change of scenery, lifestyle and even weather. A trip to Tbilisi offers that. I went there by myself, so this city is completely solo travel friendly. It's also a very good winter destination if you're looking to ski.

Tbilisi - view from the top

Trip's total cost: this includes Flight + 3 nights accommodation + Activities + Food + Souvenirs = 2126 AED, which is equivalent to 579$. To be honest, people pay this over a weekend in Dubai between shopping, eating and clubbing.


Fun fact: Mtskheta was the capital of Georgia for 800 years (between the 3rd century BC and 5th century AD) until King Dachi I Ujarmeli (early 6th century AD), who was the successor of Vakhtang I Gorgasali, moved the capital from Mtskheta to the more easily defensible Tbilisi according to the will left by his father. What this means for us? It means we get a direct flight to Tbilisi with Fly Dubai. And it's a convenient one, because it's as short as 3.5 hours and with no timezone difference, hence no jet-lag or exhaustion.

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Tbilisi Airport - Georgia

Recommended Flight & Trip Duration

I traveled on Friday noon, landing there in the early afternoon, and left on Monday dawn. This gave me a full 2.5 days to explore the city which I felt where enough for me. I also keep an eye on the discounts that Fly Dubai do on a continuous basis, I avoided visiting during the Adha weekend as it was super expensive and went two weeks later. If you're not based in the UAE and still looking for a quick trip, in this case it's worth checking if there are direct flights from where you are.

Visa (Entry to Georgia)

The great thing about Georgia, God bless them, is that they don't require a visa from most countries. I am Lebanese and was able to enter with no visa.


Transport in and out of Tbilisi

  • Airport: I arranged for both airport pick-up and drop-off with the guesthouses I was staying in. In fact, my airport pickup was by the owner's son in his old but cool Mercedez Benz (around 20$ = 50 GEL). As for drop-off, the owner arranged it for me with a lady taxi driver who picked me up around 3AM, the cost was around 10$.
  • In the city: I walked most of the time and didn't feel the need to use any mode of transport. However, they do have a metro system you can rely on, and you can rent the tuktuk around the city for 5GEL, or even do a boat trip in Kura river.
  • Out of city: As usual, I recommend to rent a car if you are more than one person. But if you don't feel like driving, there are tons of tour companies that you can stumble upon in the city and organize several day trips with out of Tbilisi.
Seen in Tbilisi

Accommodation & Location

  • Old Tbilisi: Stay where I stayed! I stayed in Guest House Gaori. Keep in mind that this is in Old Tbilisi, when I say old, I mean old! As in some buildings are being destroyed or completely revamped. Guest House Gaori is run by a family, this used to be their great grandparents house, the oldest on the block where there was only one close by church Giga, and the house is aged around 300 years old. Fear not, the house has been revamped and is so accommodating. I loved it because I had a nice chat with the young son of the owner where he told me the history of the house, and the mother actually prepares the breakfast for you, a generous breakfast! Being in this location means easy access to most of the activities mentioned below.
Guest House Gaori - Breakfast area

Common area where you can have your coffee and enjoy the view

The view (+ Pizza)
  • Newer Tbilisi:  If you're looking for a newer area, newer hotels then probably you need to search for places near the Liberty square in this case. I would still pick old Tbilisi :)
Askana hotel. But it's not really a hotel, more like few rooms rented out by a super nice lady.

Money 

Their local currency is GEL (Georgian Lari). There is no need to exchange in your local airport or even in Tbilisi airport, you can do that when you reach the city (schedule airport pick up with guesthouse or hotel so you don't worry about that). There are different rates on the main street "Kote Afghazi" near old Tbilisi, keep an eye till you find a very good one (I was lucky that the closest one to me was the best).

I wasn't able to pay using credit card in both guesthouses though, so it might be worth double checking with them before traveling so you carry enough cash for that to avoid withdrawing using an ATM and being charged a crazy fee. Read more here about being safe with your money.

View from Narikala Fortress

Things to do

  • Wine tasting (see post below) is definitely something that should be on your list if you're a wine fan. There are many local wine shops on the main street Kote Afghazi or in its vicinity. You can do wine tasting and try some Geogian wine and some other local alcohol types.
  • Hike to Narikala fortress (great view of Tbilisi) and continue on the trail through the hill to the statue of Mother of Georgians. It's not a difficult hike at all, if you have average fitness, you absolutely do that.  


  • Funicular: If you can't make the hike for one reason or another, taking the Funicular (or cable car) is an alternative. 
  • Borani River lunch and tour by the Kura River.
  • Watch folklore music (some of the places that were recommended to me by a local: Mukhambazi, Tavaduri, Georgia House)
  • Walking tour for sure. Unfortunately my time didn't allow it because I was supposed to do this on my first afternoon, but it was raining like crazy.


  • Coffee or drink on top of Old Tbilisi hill in cafe / restaurant. All you need to do is find those secret stairs (you can walk around Old Tbilisi - try to be under the cable car line).
Stairs in old Tbilisi

Places to visit

Bridge of peace
Bridge of Peace
If you walk down the bridge, you will find the famous wings!
  • Bridge of Peace
  • Yerevan - Armenia. This is a 2 days trip, if your time allows, it would definitely give your trip a great flavor.
  • Kutaisi Prometheus Caves. I didn't get to do this as I was only there for 2 days, but if I had a third day, this would have definitely been my next choice to see such a natural wonder and observing the stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and more.
  • Kazbegi (on the way they stop at Ananuri lake, Gudauri Ski Resort, the offroad to Gergeti Trinity church which overlooks Kazbegi mountain. If you like skiing, and want to change scenery from Mall of the Emirates, Georgia is definitely a very good and quick ski fix destination.
Ananuri Lake - Zhinvali. Their attempt to preserve drinking water for Tbilisi residents
Gudauri Mountain - Ski resort during winter
Gudauri
We reached Gergeti Trinity Church by offroad to get the view of Kazbegi mountain. It was snowing!
Kazbegi mountain

Local food & drink

  • Wine, Cognac, Chacha. In terms of wine, I recommend Teliani Valley - Saperavi (dry Red wine).
  • Khachapuri (cheese pastry)
  • Khinkali (traditional meal)
  • Cheese
  • Churchkhela which are amazing Georgian sweets. I know that Armenians do them as well and I was always a fun. There are different flavors, best is to try as many as you can ;)

Khachapuri for Breakfast
Georgian Sweets
On a miscellaneous note, it was very interesting to see interesting architecture happening in Tbilisi. I saw many buildings that captured my attention, but that's one of the most eccentric ones.



FROM TBILISI WITH FUNK
#TravelwithFunk - Don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

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