This was a very last-minute travel plan that came together so well. Daniel and I bought flight tickets 2 weeks before we were going to travel. We made the mistake of going for an 8-hour layover in Doha. Not recommended. After the long wait, we finally arrived in the cold Tbilisi.
I have heard and read stories about this country. I think the biggest attraction to me was that it was VISA-FREE for South Africans. Tbilisi wowed us from every single angle. It’s a destination that is friendly, safe and comfortable. We did explore a bit more of Georgia in our 6 days there but let’s focus on Tbilisi right now.
Tbilisi is the Capital of Georgia. The population currently at 1.5 million people. We flew with Qatar airlines and had one very long stop in Doha airport. It was the easiest way to get there. The flights cost us around R11 500 each. A bit pricer than our usual trips but everything else was shockingly affordable.
The location of Georgia is in the Northern Hemisphere on the Easternmost border of Europe and most Georgians consider themselves as Europeans however they are geographically on the Asian side. Tbilisi has the best of both kinds of weather! In summer you are expecting highs of 20 – 32 degrees Celcius and in winter between 7 – -1 degrees. The country has the most breathtaking landscapes. With all these mountain ranges you can use Georgia as a Ski country!
We went to Georgia at the end of January. It was peak winter so it was very cold. There were still tourists and walking tours in Tbilisi. It is the Capital city and it doesn’t sleep. The Georgians are persistent to show you their city with the best intentions in mind.
Georgia’s currency is the Georgian Lari. For the South African market, we are currently looking at R5,50 to 1 GEL. It really is affordable. A 2-course dinner at a stunning restaurant is around 40 – 80 GEL for 2 people, South Africans that are between R200 to R400 for a 2-course meal including drinks. We ate like kings!!
If we are going to talk about food, then Georgia knows exactly what they are doing! We have 2 restaurant recommendations.
Shatre – We were welcomed into this restaurant with the biggest smile and smells that took us to heaven. We were in love with the decor of this beautiful eatery. The plates, the food, everything was so Instagram worthy! The environment is cosy and the staff are incredibly friendly. This restaurant is on the more modern side of Tbilisi but is very easy to walk to. We went in winter so we were set up inside, they do have an outside section for summer. It’s definitely one to try, we were lucky to find an Airbnb right next to the restaurant.
Shemomechama ( You are so full, that you can not eat anymore, but you are eating anyway, cause it’s so f*&^& delicious) – That’s the name and the meaning! This place has then best Khinkali I tasted on my entire trip! There are so many options and you can mix and match. It is a more modern style in the old side of Tbilisi. It is right around the corner from the Sulphur baths.
Food in Georgia is mouth-watering after you have had it once you can’t get enough. I think I had eaten over 15 different Khinkali’s when I was in Georgia for 6 days. There’s a specific way to eat it though. It’s fairly big, you gotta wait for it to cool and then grab the hand size dumpling, bite the one side and at the same time suck the delicious juices out. Once you have done that you can then eat the rest. The top of the Khinkali is thick steamed dough, some people don’t eat those and keep them aside and count how many they ate at the end of their meal. IMPORTANT! Never eat Khinkali with a knife and fork. This is definitely a messy hand situation, and you WILL love it.
The other must-try food is Khachapuri. Its bread shaped into like a boat, the middle of the boat is filled with cheese, butter and egg. Honestly, you can get sick from eating a whole one on your own but it’s so easy to eat a whole one because it tastes amazing! Another one of those eat with your hand type of situation, you break off the bread around the warm insides and use it to scoop up the egg, butter and cheese. I promise you, its serious carbo-loading but so goddam worth it!
Georgia is good at stuffing cheese into bread, all over Tbilisi you will find food stands that offer Khachapuri squares. Never did I not enjoy every single bite of these bread treats. I mean seriously Georgia stole my heart and made a cuisine out of my favourite things! Bread, cheese and eggs! Well done, I will be back!
Getting around Tbilisi is definitely the least of your worries. There is so much to see, I would definitely recommend walking everywhere. There are busses that are very cheap but we didn’t conquer those as the language was really difficult to pronounce to the bus driver. Alternatively Taxi Cabs and Bolt… Crazy affordable and you ride in style. We caught a Bolt ride from one side of Tbilisi to the main town for around 6GEL – R33. 1km is like R26 in Cape Town! Going back to walking, this is my highest recommendation as you see the most amazing buildings, wine vines all around the city and it’s also better for the environment. You also get to meet all the Guardians of Georgia that are ready to show you around.
We stayed in 2 places in Georgia, one was through Airbnb and the other was a hotel through bookings.com. I would say stay in the older side of Tbilisi. There are loads of restaurants and activities, within walking distance. It also has an amazing atmosphere with the big cobblestone roads and gorgeous restaurants in gardens along the road. The old town is the most quaint area to stay in. In saying that, Tbilisi is small, you can stay anywhere and walk anywhere. The accommodation is still working on their approach to tourism so I would just double-check the Airbnb you are staying at has hot water, especially in winter, and temperature control.
Tbilisi has plenty to see. Depending on what you are interested in. Daniel and I did a few things that we really felt was more than enough. I mean you still want to relax at the end of the day.
When we arrived in Georgia, we went to our accommodation and got ready to head out to our Royal Baths. Definitely book it before you arrive. You can pay when you are there or online. You hire a room with a bath in it for an hour. I promise you that hour is plenty. The baths are really hot but the reaction with your body and skin is amazing. Daniel and I did like a rotation system. In the hot for 5 minutes, in the cold shower for 5 minutes and keep going. Our skin felt absolutely amazing for like a week after!
Here is the link to the baths I would recommend. It’s the famous picture of Tbilisi that everyone sees.
The Clock Tower – This is a really stunning architecture to get a few photos with. When you arrive at the tower there is just so much to look at you don’t know where to start. My favourite thing about the clock tower is that it was only built-in 2010. We all have this stigma of this being built long time ago but no, its a modern clock. This also adds to the history of Georgia, only recently has she been able to grow her independence.
The Bridge of Peace – such an amazing site. Beware though, there are people on these bridges with animals that really are unhappy. They come up to you and force you to pay them for a photo with this animal. I would advise strongly to please not support this, it’s animal cruelty. Besides that the bridge is a really stunning sight.
After the Bridge of peace, you will find a cable car station that will take you up the mountain to the Narikala Fortress. The fortress consists of two walled sections on a steep hill between the sulphur baths and the botanical gardens of Tbilisi. On the lower court, there is the recently restored St Nicholas church. If you love photography you will enjoy the city skyline from here. As you walk back down, you will find amazing little cafe’s to get a beverage or enjoy the sight with some lunch.
There is so much to see in Tbilisi, I would definitely recommend taking spending money and getting some amazing hand made Georgian crafts. You can find these in the Median Bazaar that also doubles up as an underground walkway near the royal baths. This place has stunning wines, knives, crafts, postcards, magnets, pretty much anything cultural you want to take home with you. Prices again are incredible. We wanted to buy a handwoven carpet on our way home but actually realised we ran out of space from all the other things we bought.
Tbilisi is beautiful, trendy and so very friendly. We really had an amazing time and can’t wait for you to have a great time too. Don’t forget to send us your pictures and tag #peacockonaplane when you go.