In the past few years, I heard so much about Georgia from my friends as a travel destination to visit. In the back of my mind though, I’ve always wondered why I never learned about the country from my geography class at school. It could very possibly be that I wasn’t paying attention! But as a child, I had a thing for memorising all the capitals of the world, and I just never ever really came across Georgia!
Long story short, I decided to go on a mini escapade with my best friend Amal Tayssir. She’s the best companion one could ever asked for (except she’s afraid of heights and deathly terrified of bugs, so adventure travel is out of the question with her). Do hit her up for great image consulting though!
Geographically, Georgia borders Russia on one side and Turkey on the other. So you can imagine the cultural richness that this country enjoys. Due to other historical happenings involving the Persians and Soviets, their influences have also left a significant mark in Georgia’s food, language and culture.
Our trip was short, but oh so sweet, with 4 days equally split between Kazbegi (country side) and 2 days in Tbilisi the capital.
As soon as we landed, our driver Zaza drove us up to the most scenic route to Kazbegi. It was chilly, beautiful and their mountains are majestically lush and green. A sight many of us Khaleejis aren’t used to seeing in the desert.
Before Zaza dropped us off to our hotel, he convinced us to check out Gudauri mountains which was on our way to Kazbegi, (just 15 minutes away). Gudauri is a lot higher than Kazbegi, therefore it was probably below zero degrees that day because my ears froze and I experienced a piercing headache from the cold winds. Nonetheless, the view was to die for and totally worth a quick pitstop.
The entire drive from Tbilisi airport to Kazbegi took us about 4 hours because we stopped a lot to observe and take pictures, but normally it’s a 2 hour trip, and one that is breath taking, must I re-iterate again.
Our stay was partially sponsored by this boutique hotel called “Rooms Hotel” for two nights, and boy oh boy, let me tell you. It was the perfect little spot for a girls’ getaway. I normally like to stay at guest houses and air bnb when I travel for a more local experience, but I’ll get to that bit in for another post because I sure do have a story for you!
What I loved about Rooms hotel is the no fuss interiors and architecture. It is beautifully designed to give the feeling of warmth and broodiness using wood, statement installations and lots of books and shelves to reflect Georgia’s reading culture. Previously, the building was a dormitory for Soviet tourists. Now, a charmingly restored space that retains the building’s legacy. It is an SPG hotel member and designed by two Georgian architects, Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia.
The best part about the hotel is that it is somewhat perched on a mountain and the outdoor deck where people also have the option dine. It overlooks a plethora of other mountains. Green during the summer and totally covered in snow during the winter. It was relaxing to just lounge there, and absorb everything Mother nature had to offer.
In the morning, we booked a walking tour to Juta mountain with the hotel and made friends with two german ladies who joined us on the tour. The trip was a mix of driving for 40 minutes to get to a specific destination and then hiking for the rest of it.
The trail was quite steep and it shockingly tired us quickly. A definite sign to get back to gymming and make time to be more active. That said, the hike was totally worth it after reaching Juta House, a chill out spot and a family run restaurant to enjoy homemade Georgian food from. This wasn’t one of those trips where I was adamant about perfecting my food photography. I just wanted to enjoy the trip as opposed to being vigilant with styling the shots. So don’t mind the point and shoot every now and then.
“5 th Season” is a mother and daughter run restaurant on Juta mountains. It was quite a breath of fresh air and the perfect spot to take a break. A very long one infact! It feels like a hut house, yet at the same time it houses a hostel upstairs for budget travellers. Every meal they make is made from scratch. We went for local delicacies like spinach khachapuri which was delightfully fluffy. A Georgian salad that is an upgrade from your regular tomato &cucumber salad because Georgians dress it with walnut sauce which makes it a lot more substantial and obviously more…. nutty. And finally a potato rosti dish that I can no longer remember how to pronounce. It was slightly on the oilier side, but we weren’t counting calories after that hike!
The best part about the whole experience was getting to lounge on the hammock between the valleys after our scrumptious lunch. It was beyond dreamy and just the perfect way to spend the day.
Make sure to check out the Gergeti Trinity Church before you leave Kazbegi. The drive up there is very groggy due to unpaved rocky roads, therefore not smooth at all. The sights from up there though was phenonemenal. We were lucky to catch a bride and groom getting married on the mountains. Pure bliss.
All in all, we technically had a day and half worth of exploring Kazbegi and definitely felt another night would have made our stay more comprehensive to give us enough time to check out the local area. It is a place I know I will be back again, so I’m not worried honestly.
More to come on Georgia in the post.
Toodles for now.