Friday, November 23, 2018

Tour Georgia (Day 1 & 2): Sites Worth Exploring + Budget Breakdown

Located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia is a beautiful country called Georgia - a romantic destination that became an instant favorite. Here, we experienced the daintiest things in the most affordable of ways like wine-tasting in Kakheti, DIY church-hopping in Signaghi to sightseeing in Gudauri and Gergeti. This astonishing nation simply gave us some of the best memories.


I never knew about Georgia until I moved to Dubai last year. I would have never imagined traveling to this part of Europe after settling in the UAE, so I was grateful to have experienced it so soon with my husband. And the best part about it is we no longer needed a visa to enter the country because of our UAE residency.

On this travel guide, you will find short narratives about the places we’ve visited, the food that we've sampled, and the wine that we've tasted (and brought back to Dubai complete with receipts). I’ve also included the cost breakdown of our 5-day trip (make sure to read days 3-5, too) in case you need help projecting a budget on your future travel to Georgia. Note that we made Old Tbilisi as our base location. 


DAY 1: FIRST DAY IN OLD TBILISI

Despite arriving late in Georgia, we still managed to squeeze a quick night tour of Old Tbilisi before heading to dinner. We found Mekheti after our mini-tour, a classy restaurant located underground. For 66 Gel, we were able to gorge on some of the tastiest viands, while pairing it with the best-tasting red and white wine. It was a perfect nightcap (and a great introduction to Georgian cuisine) to a full day of road and plane travel.


Cost Breakdown for Day 1:
a) Total Cost: USD $46 (169 AED) or 123.50 GEL for two pax
i) Tour: Kazbegi Tour via Discovery Georgia
(1) First 50% downpayment - 50 Gel
ii) Food & Drinks: 73.50 Gel 

DAY 2: KAZBEGI TOUR

It has always been part of our discipline to wake-up early for appointments. Unfortunately, the travel agency that booked our day-trip ruined our momentum. We weren't duped, but we felt robbed by a few hours as we waited for our tour guide to arrive. Fortunately, we met two other tourists (also expats from Dubai) who were part of our tour. So instead of freezing outside, we all decided to have breakfast at Samikitno restaurant (a few steps from the travel agency) to pass the time. Eventually, our tour guide Akho arrived and led us to his 8-seater car.


FIRST STOP: JVARI MONASTERY

Jvari Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a sixth-century Georgian Orthodox monastery is a beautiful abbey located on the hilltop overlooking the town of Mtskheta (the view was mesmerizing). A sight for sore eyes, the captivating panorama truly makes for a beautiful backdrop. The Jvari Church also has one of the most solemn interiors - simple yet radiating a divine presence.
SECOND STOP: DAMS, LAKES AND RIVERS

Zhinvali Dam & Lake, and the Tetri Aragvi (White Aragvi) and Shavi Aragvi (Black Aragvi)

Our Georgian Tour Guide/Driver, Akho stopped on the roadside so that we could see up-close the beauty of the Zhinvali Dam and Lake, and the merging streams from the black and white Aragvi rivers. I asked what made these rivers special and he responded that the colors of the stream, being that they were black and white.


Roadside falls in Gudauri 

We made a lot of stopovers during our Kazbegi Tour including this waterfall sighting by the roadside. Akho insisted that we drink the cold water straight from the falls. I've always had a weak stomach, so I didn't attempt to drink, and neither did Rubel. But the rest of the guys did. One even filled his bottle up to the brim.


THIRD STOP: ANANURI FORTRESS

Awe-stricken by its old world charm, the Ananuri Fortress is frequently visited for its castle, churches (there are 3!) and bell tower. The site itself also offers one of the most serene views of the surrounding mountains and river (built on the right bank of the Aragvi river).


Make sure to stop by the market stalls on your way out. You'll find some unique finds (horns used as wine cups) as well interesting eats like the Churchkela, a delicacy made from Georgian wine with walnuts.

FOURTH STOP: RUSSIA-GEORGIA FRIENDSHIP MONUMENT

We loved everything that Georgia offered, especially its beautiful landscapes and historical edifices. I will never forget the part where I finally touched real snow, and where I gazed at the scenic views of the snowcapped mountains and the impressive Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument (also known as the Treaty of Georgievsk Monument). The stone and concrete structure was constructed in 1983 and was built to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Georgievsk. It was also created to honor the ongoing friendship between Georgia and Soviet Russia. It displayed a large tile mural that showed scenes from Georgian and Russian history that had us mesmerized.
FIFTH STOP: GERGETI TRINITY CHURCH

It was already late in the afternoon when we decided to join the Gergeti Tour (the last minute decision was made over a very late lunch). It was surreal having been on this tour. Plus, the drive up the mountain was spine-tingling. It was like a rollercoaster ride, but on a 4X4 van that shook our bodies from left to right, as it maneuvered over rocky and uneven trails. We held firmly on to our seats (which took 30 minutes), while our vehicle passed the dangerous cliffs. I was sincerely praying that our van wouldn't topple over the edge because it was that intense. Thankfully, the reward for the crazy ride was getting to see the beautiful Gergeti Trinity Church up close. The climb up the hill was excruciating for my lungs (probably due to altitude sickness), but the breathtaking view made up for it.


Cost Breakdown for Day 2:
a) Total Cost: USD $65 (239 AED) or 176 GEL for two pax
i) Tour: Kazbegi Tour via Discovery Georgia
(1) Last 50% downpayment - 50 Gel
ii) Food & Drinks: 91 Gel
iii) Tour: Gergeti Trinity Church Tour - 35 Gel for two pax

Stay tuned for days 3-5! Our stories will be up real soon.

Explore & Be Free!
Mai
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