Georgia is a country in Eurasia to the east of the Black Sea. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of Georgia is Tbilisi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² and its population is almost 4.7 million. Georgia is a unitary, semi-presidential republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy. The landscape is quite varied, with mountains and high peaks (Ushba, Shkhara, Kazbegi, etc.), mountain ranges, hills and low-lying lands. Georgia’s landscape ranges from lowland marsh forests, swamps and temperate rain forests to eternal snows and glaciers, while the eastern part of the country even contains a small segment of semi-arid plains. There are alpine and sub-alpine zones as well. Georgia abounds with small and large rivers. People in Georgia are famous for their distinguished generosity and hospitality.
Georgia, though a rather small country, has a variety of regions, which differ greatly from each other. Everyone has its own special beauty. They differ in nature, population features, habits and customs.
MAIN CITIES & TOWNS IN GEORGIA
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia is one of the most ancient cities in Caucasus, established more than 1500 years ago, but as the records show, the first settlers arrived here much earlier. The city covers an area of 350 km² (1352 miles) and has more than 1,345,000 inhabitants. The city of the 4th c is nestled nearby 21st c where past meets the future and Europe meets Asia.
Tbilisi as the capital was found in 458 by King Vakhtang Gorgasali, before that date the capital of Georgia (Iberia) was Mtskheta. According to the legend King Vakhtang once was hunting in (area of Tbilisi) when he shoot a pheasant, which fell in to a nearby spring and boiled there. Vakhtang decided to locate the new city around this hot water springs and named it Tbilisi as “tbili” means warm in Georgian, (afterwards it was discovered that this waters have a heeling affect).
The city stretches out along the banks of the river Kura, in asymmetrical mountain hollow, where all peculiarities of Georgian land gathered in miniature: mountains, rivers, canyons, rocky precipices, springs, lakes, and though artificial but its own Tbilisi Sea.
Already at dawn of its history, Tbilisi was one of the main migratory crossroads, where both military arrays and trade caravans were passing. The city is located along one of the historic Silk Road routes and plays an important role as a trade/transit center.
Tbilisi is divided into The Old and New towns. It is situated on both banks of KuraRiver, if you look down from Funicular on the Holy Mountain Mtatsminda you can see the river, dividing the city on two parts: right and left bank.
The main tourist attractions and historical landmarks like Narikala fortress (4th-17th cc AD), Anchiskhati Church (6th c), Sioni Cathedral (13th c), Church of Metekhi (13th century), Sulfur Baths etc. are located in Old City.
By taking the Botanical Street we climb from the bathhouse district to the ruins of the Narikala Fortress, also known as The Rival Fortress. It dominates the OldTown and is its most imposing architectural landmark. The first fortress was built at the end of the fourth century.
After numerous invasions of different conquerors (Persians, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans) and the explosion in 19th century due to which most of the sections were destroyed, the ruins of Narikala Fortress still stand upon Tbilisi.
The Museum of Fine Arts was found in 1933 by bringing together over diverse collections of artworks. The permanent collection of sculpture and painting from all over the world is enriched by unique works of Georgian painters and sculptors.
The treasury contains an awesome display of gold and silver sculpture, jewelry, ancient enamel from medieval period. Here you will see extraordinary masterpiece of Georgian repousse work from 9th to 19th century. In addition to this there are numerous of objects, which served for ecclesiastical purposes.
The Tbilisi Holy Trinity Cathedral commonly known as Sameba is the main Georgian Orthodox Christian cathedral, located in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Construction dedicated to the millennium was coroneted in 2000 and is listed among the largest Orthodox churches in the world.
Kutaisi is Georgia's second largest city and the capital of the western region of Imereti. It is 221 km to the west of Tbilisi, with a population of about 194,171 (2011).
The landmark of the city is the newly renovated Bagrati Cathedral, built by Bagrat III, king of Georgia, in the early 11th century. The Bagrati Cathedral, and the Gelati Monastery a few km east of the city, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Kutaisi was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Colchis. Archeological evidence indicates that the city functioned as the capital of the kingdom of Colchis as early as the 2nd millennium BC. It is widely believed by historians that when Apollonius Rhodius was writing about Jason and the Argonauts and their legendary journey to Colchis, Kutaisi/Aia was the final destination of the Argonauts and the residence of King Aeetes. In 975-1122 Kutaisi was the capital of the united Georgian Kingdom, and in the 15th century-1810 the capital of the Imeretian Kingdom. Finally, the Russian-Turkish wars ended in 1810 with the annexation of the Imeretian Kingdom by the Russian Empire.
Kutaisi was a major industrial center before Georgia's independence in 1991. Independence was followed by the economic collapse of the country, and, as a result, many inhabitants of Kutaisi have had to work abroad. Small-scale trade prevails among the rest of the population.
In 2011 Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, signed a constitutional amendment relocating the parliament to Kutaisi. On 26 May 2012, Saakashvili inaugurated the new Parliament building in Kutaisi. This was done in an effort to decentralize power and shift some political control closer to the Western regions of Georgia.
Batumi is a seaside city on the Black Sea coast and capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic in southwest Georgia. With a population of 180,000, Batumi serves as an important port and a commercial center. It is situated in a subtropical zone, rich in agricultural produce such as citrus fruit and tea. While industries of the city include shipbuilding, food processing, and light manufacturing, most of its economy revolves around tourism. Since 2010, the face of the city has been transformed by the construction of new high-rise landmark buildings and the renovation of the Old Town. Batumi is also the last stop of the Trans-Caucasian railroad and the Baku oil pipeline.
The city Batumi is located 350 km from Tbilisi on a gulf of the Black Sea about 15 km north of the Turkish frontier. and is an attractive city, popular resort for people who like sea and relaxation. Many gardens and streets here are lined with exotic plants (palm, bamboo, eucalyptus, magnolia, Laurel). In the north of the city is the Batumi Botanical Garden, with a rich collection of subtropical and tropical plants. Batumi is the centre of tea and citrus-growing area. Summer is very warm and pleasant. It is perfect place for recreation.
Bakuriani is Georgia’s year-round mountain playground and was Georgia’s first ski resort. The area became famous in the 19th century when the Romanov family developed the area into a game reserve and mountain retreat. They even hired Gustav Eiffel to design a bridge for a narrow-gauge railway up to its verdant pastures. There the Russian aristocracy enjoyed abundant coniferous forests, crystal clear air and breath-taking views.
Meeting Olympic standards, Bakuriani was the training ground of champions in the Soviet era. Now it has become Georgia’s beloved family destination, a superb venue for small children to take their first steps onto the slopes, and popular among the snowboard generation. On clear days much of the Greater Caucasus is visible against the horizon all the way to Mt. Elbruz – the highest mountain in Europe.
The village of Bakuriani sits in a wide volcanic crater at an altitude of 1,650m, surrounded by virgin spruce forest. It is connected by narrow-guage railroad to the valley spa town of Borjomi, the summer playground of the Czars.
Featuring a wide array of newly built hotels, guest houses, and chalets in tasteful settings, accommodation is both plentiful and affordable in Bakuriani. Most prices include lavish breakfast and dinner buffets.
Bakuriani boasts a unique climate, due to the fact the resort lies in a subtropical zone but at a high altitude. Summer is temperate and relatively cool (the average temperature is 20 degrees) and the winter is very wet and snowy but relatively mild. In the spring it is common to be able to ski in the sunshine without jackets. The average depth of snow is 60 cm, but the sun shines over the area for more than 2,000 hours a year.
The skiing season lasts from December till at late as mid March.
The resort town of Borjomi is located in the southeastern part of Georgia, in the Mtkvari river gorge. At between 810-850 meters above sea level Borjomi is one of the lower mountainous resorts in the region. The town rests among a series if mountains that are covered with coniferous and deciduous forests.
The gorge wherein the city lies is protected and maintains a more stable climate and is protected from drastic shifts in temperature. Borjomi is situated in a stretch of a low-altitude forest of the subtropical zone and this is the reason for the particularities of its climate. For the most part, the weather is dry and the sky is blue. Summer is warm in Borjomi but the weather begins to turn cold near the end of October. The Borjomi winter reasonably is mild, with occasional snowfalls between December and March.
Borjomi is well known for its mineral waters that have been revered for centuries for having positive healing affects on people with digestion disorders. Archaeological excavations have revealed the existence of stone bathes in the area, proving that these mineral waters have been utilized by people for thousands of years.
The original name of the gorge was Tori. It has variety of historical sights, including: the castles of three brothers (Petre, Gogia and Sali) and various churches and monasteries built between the 6th and 12th centuries. The Romanov Palace, constructed at the end of the 18th century by Tsar Nicholas, accentuates the role Borjomi has played for royalty and commoners alike throughout its history.
The state has recently established the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park to help preserve the beautiful and unique nature of Borjomi.
The Physical Rehabilitation Center BORJOMIS KHEOBA meaning "Borjomi Gorge" is situated in the middle of the town and offers its guests a stunning view of both the city and the MtkvariRiver.
The history of protected territories in Georgia dates back to the Middle Ages when the territories were used by local feudal lords for hunting. The next stage of environmental protection began in the 19th century when Georgia lost its independence and became a part of the Russian Empire. In 1862, the brother of ruling Russian Emperor MikhailRomanoff was appointed Viceroy of the Russian Empire to Transcaucasia. He was greatly impressed by the beauty of the Borjomi Gorge and decided to build a summer residence there. In 1871, King AlexanderII presented his brother with the whole of the Borjomi Gorge. Soon, MikhailRomanoff fenced in a large part of the forest and forbade the felling of the trees and hunting without permission. After more than a century of the country’s turbulent history, the implementors of the Borjomi-Kharagauli used the territory established by Mikhail Romanoff as the basis for the first national park in the Caucasus. 1995 Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park was created with the support of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the German Government and was officially inaugurated in 2001.
Gori is an industrial city in the Shida Kartli province, 86 km west of Tbilisi. The city was founded by one of the greatest kings of Georgia, David the Builder (1089–1125). It has a population of 60,000. Gori is situated where the Liakhvi River enters the Mtkvari (Kura River).
Gori was an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages and maintains a strategic importance due to its location on the principal highway connecting eastern and western parts of Georgia. In the course of its history, Gori has been invaded by the armies of regional powers several times. The city was occupied by Russian troops during the 2008 South Ossetian War.
Gori is also known as the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, ballistic missile designer Alexander Nadiradze and philosopher Merab Mamardashvili.
Joseph Stalin Museum contains items related to his life, the house where he was born, and his personal railway carriage. The town is overlooked by the medieval fortress of Goristsikhe.
Located on the southern slopes of the main Caucasus ridge, 2,153 meters above the sea level, 120 kilometers from Tbilisi, Gudauri is the newest skiing resort in Georgia and is perfect for extreme sports. Perched in the heart of the Greater Caucasus, surrounded by a vista of dramatic peaks and breathtaking gorges, and just two hours drive from Tbilisi -Gudauri is spectacular on every level. Set high above the clouds, Gudauri’s southern facing ensures plenty of sunshine and excellent snow conditions until late April.
Gudauri's slopes are all above tree line. They are ideal for free-riders and are generally considered avalanche-safe. This is a perfect place for intermediate to advanced skiers to test their skills. In Gudauri you truly feel on top of the world. Set at 2000 meters, just below the historic Jvari Pass - the main crossing point of the Greater Caucasus – it offers a wide range of accommodation and summer and winter activities.
The resort also boasts some of the best Heli Skiing in the world, at some of the most affordable prices found anywhere. Throughout the season skiers and snowboarders can choose from seven peaks all just minutes away and enjoy lengthy runs on virgin snow.
In summer the resort is surrounded by a selection of fabulous treks and horse trails, taking in some of Europe’s most unspoiled alpine scenery, stunning medieval churches and castles, and world famous bird watching. The excellent, modern and well appointed hotels offer all the facilities needed for international conferences and workshops – in an inspiring setting.
Sitting astride the newly refurbished and historic Georgian Military Highway there can be no better launch pad than Gudauri for explorations of the Greater Caucasus, 12 months of the year.
Poti is a city in the Samegrelo province in the west of the Republic of Georgia. It is situated on the east coast of the Black Sea and therefore serves as one of the three Georgian ports on that sea. Nearby the city, the major river of Western Georgia, Rioni, enters the Black Sea. Poti was founded as a Greek colony in the 7th century BC and named Phasis.
Poti is also a home to a main naval base and headquarters of the Georgian navy.
The legend about the Golden Fleece (the Argonauts, Jason and Medea) is geographically set in the town of Poti and the river Rioni.
Mtskheta, one of the oldest cities of the country of Georgia, is located approximately 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. The city (population 19,423 (2008) is now the administrative centre of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region. Due to its historical significance and numerous ancient monuments, the "Historical Monuments of Mtskheta" became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
Remains of towns at this location have been dated to earlier than the year 1000 BCand Mtskheta was capital of the early Georgian Kingdom of Iberia during the 3rd century BC – 5th century AD. It was a site of early Christian activity, and the location where Christianity was proclaimed the state religion of Kartli in 337. Mtskheta still remains the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The old city lies at the confluence of the rivers Mtkvari and Aragvi. The rare blend of cultural values had ruled in this part of the world since the Bronze Age until prosperous Christian era over the unique eclectic lifestyle creating the mood of the town which is as old as the history of Georgia. Mtskheta is the most religious city of Georgia as it has been the shrine of pagan idols since times immemorial and it is where Christianity in Georgia takes its origin.
Sighnaghi is a town in Georgia's easternmost region of Kakheti and the administrative center of the Sighnaghi District in Kakheti province. It is one of the country's smallest towns with a population of 2,146 as of the 2002 census. Sighnaghi's economy is dominated by production of wine and traditional carpets. The town and its environs are also known for their landscapes and historical monuments. Sighnaghi has recently undergone a fundamental reconstruction program and has become an important centre of Georgia's tourist industry.
Sighnaghi is situated on the eastern foothills of the Gombori Range, a watershed between the Lori and Alazani valleys, in a productive agricultural and fruit-growing region. At the elevation of about 790 m above sea level, the town overlooks the Alazani Valley and faces the Greater Caucasus Mountains.
Sighnaghi has a mild humid climate. There are four seasons, with winters being moderately cold while summers can be hot.
Sighnaghi and its environs are home to several historical and cultural monuments and has been specifically protected by the State since 1975. The town is walled with the remnants of the 18th-century fortifications. There are two Orthodox churches in the town itself - one dedicated to St. George and the other to St. Stephen. The venerated Bodbe Monastery is located 2 kilometers from Sighnaghi and is a place of pilgrimage due to its association with St. Nino, the 4th-century apostle of Georgia.
The local Ethnographic and Archaeological Museum dating from the 1950s was upgraded and developed into a modern-standard exhibition - the Sighnaghi Museum - in 2007.
Telavi is the only city in Georgia, where four fortification monuments from different historical periods remain relatively intact. Due to this reason, architects, scholars and art historians consider Telavi as the most "medieval" cities in the country. Another curious sight in Telavi is a 900-year-old sycamore (45 meters high, 12.4 meters around the trunk).
Kakheti, the heart of the wine region, has a rich history and is home to hundreds of historical and architectural monuments. Its centre Telavi, spread out over the foothills and along the wooded slopes of the Gomborsky Range, became the capital of Kakheti after Gremi was devastated by the Persians.
The reign of King Erekle II was a special epoch in the history of Telavi. During this period (1744-1798) it grew into a strategic and cultural centre. Erakle II established there theological seminary and founded a theatre. Erekle II's reforms touched upon all the aspects of life in the country. They changed fundamentally the political, economical and cultural orientation of Kartli-Kakheti and, subsequently of the whole Georgia. His name became a symbol of freedom and national independence of the Georgian people. Erakle II is still called affectionately “Patara Kakhi” (Little Kakhetian), and his heroic deeds are described in the folk literature.
Other notable landmarks around Telavi include the Alaverdi Cathedral (11th century AD) - the second highest cathedral in Georgia after the newly built Tbilisi Sameba Cathedral, the Ikalto Academy (8-12th centuries AD) - where the famous Georgian writer Shota Rustaveli studied), the Church of St. George (dedicated to the patron saint of Georgia; it is said that in Georgia there are 365 churches in the name of St. George), ruins of the city and castle of Gremi (the former capital of Kakheti from the 15-17th centuries AD), Shuamta - a complex made up of three churches of different periods - 6th, 7th and 8th centuries in a highland forest, Akhali Shuamta (New Shuamta in English) - the monastery close to Dzveli Shuamta (Old Shuamta in English), built in the 16th century, the stunning Tsinandali Gardens (the Palace of Noblemen Chavchavadzes family) and many others.
The landscape of Telavi is scenic. The city is wrapped in picturesque landscapes from all sides. Telavi faces the Tsiv-Gombori Range to the south and south-west and borders on the Alazani Valley to the north and east. The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, which runs to the north of the Alazani Valley, can be seen from most of Telavi.
At present, the city of Telavi is connected with Tbilisi by two highways. The most widely traveled (and better-paved) highway runs through the rural areas of Kakheti and is longer (the overall length of the highway is approximately 156 km) than the route, which runs through the highlands of the Gombori Mountain Range. The shorter route (approximately 96 km) is quite scenic, but is less used due to the reconstruction works that are being carried out there.
Because of its beauty, historical monuments and most importantly, the hospitality and the reputation for kindness of its residents, the city is a popular tourist destination in Georgia.
Akhaltsikhe - new castle,also known as Lomisa is a small city in southwestern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. It is situated on the both banks of a small river Potskhovi, which separates the city to the old city in the north and new in the south. The name of the city translates from Georgian as "new fortress". The city is first mentioned in the chronicles in the 12th century. In the 12th - 13th centuries it was the seat of the Akhaltsikhe dukes.
From the 13th up to the 17th century the city and Samtkhe were governed by the feudal family of the Jaqelis. In 1576 the Ottomans took it and from 1628 the city became the centre of the Samtskhe Eyalet of the Ottoman Empire as "Ahıska". In 1828, during the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829, Russian troops under the command of General Paskevich captured the city and, as a consequence of the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople (Edirne), it was ceded to the Russian Empire as part of first Kutaisi and then Tbilisi governorates. In the old part of the city one can see an old fortress, castle and mosque, the old fortress of the Jakelis (13th-14th century), and St. Marine's Church.
Zugdidi - big hill- is a city in the Western Georgian historical province of Samegrelo. The city is located 318 kilometers west of Tbilisi, 30 km. from Black sea coast and 30 km. from Egrisi range. 100–110 metres above sea level. As of 2007, it had a population of 75,900. The city is the capital of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region which combines Samegrelo (Mingrelia) and Svaneti.
The name Zugdidi means big/great hill in Laz-Mingrelian (Colchian) language. Architectural sights of this city are Queen's palace and Niko's palace (now the Dadiani Palace museums. both of the 19th century), Blachernae St. Virgin (1825-30 y.) and Mantskhvar-kari (10th-14th centuries) Churches. There are also an old Botanical Garden (Queen's Garden) and the city boulevard.
Historically Zugdidi was a capital of principality of Mingrelia (Odishi) until 1867, when the principality was abolished by the Russian Empire. In 1993 there was an administration of first President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
Napoleon’s death mask is on display in the Dadiani Palace Museum in Zugdidi, but the main treasure of this museum is a Shroud of Mary, the mother of Jesus.