As a new visitor to Georgia, there are sure to be many “must-dos” on the tourist list. Of course, one has to see the off-kilter buildings of Tbilisi’s Old City, get a perfectly-timed photo of Batumi’s Ali and Nino monument, gorge themselves on khachapuri and khinkali, and maybe even scale Kazbegi for an unbeatable Facebook profile picture.
But for those who have made Georgia their home — or those who simply want a different lens for the country they love — there are many destinations throughout the country that haven’t yet found their way into the guidebooks. If you’ve already laid out a few summer trips to Georgia’s many hotspots, here are some of our favorite selections for nearby destinations that you need to add to your to-see list.
Before you set out to the towering peaks of Mestia, we recommend starting your journey off with the daring heights of the Enguri Dam.
For as long as the Enguri Dam has stood in Georgia, it has been a technical and physical achievement. Located across the Enguri River near the northwestern town of Jvari, the Enguri Dam is second only to China’s Jinping-I Dam in terms of height, offering anyone who walks across its 271.5 meter-tall slope a breathtaking view of the Georgian wilderness. For years, this view was only accessible to those who worked on the dam — but now, the dam, which produces a substantial portion of Georgia’s electricity, has been given a parallel life as a tourist destination.
Visitors to the Enguri Dam receive a two-hour guided tour of the dam’s facilities, allowing guests exclusive access to an important element of Georgian infrastructure while they learn the impressive story of how this technological marvel came to be. Fans of hydrotech can ogle at the dam’s staggering scale and monumental output, while the more nature-minded can take in the awe-inspiring splendor of the surrounding area’s waters and greenery. Paired with a stop to the nearby Intsira Waterfall, a trip to the Enguri Dam is sure to inspire, amaze, and intrigue. Tickets for the guided tour are 20 GEL, with discounts given for students, pensioners and more.
Tskaltubo is known the world over for its spa destinations. But if you’ve left the spa and found you’re not quite done letting loose, a stop at Tetra Cave is definitely in order. Located just 1.6 kilometers northwest of Tskaltubo, the “White Cave” — so called owing to the natural chalk limestone that lines its interior — first made international headlines when discoveries of human and animal life dating back over 300 centuries were made within its dark corners.
Today, thanks to two years of renovations funded by the European Union and the Czech Development Agency, the space has been revitalized and reimagined, casting the once dreary cave into a celebratory place of history, health, and, as is often the case with Georgia, wine.
Visitors to Tetra Cave can experience the story of its history while breathing in its unique air, making it a perfect destination for speleo-healing. Not only that, but its consistent year-round temperature has attracted wine-makers, and today, countless wines are aged within its pale stone walls. Those who enter Tetra Cave can not only take in the cave’s well-lit beauty, but enjoy a tasting of cave-aged Georgian wine — a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience!
There are few natural landmarks in Georgia that parallel the beauty of Dashbashi Canyon. Lush forestry envelops the canyon, with natural and manmade paths allowing visitors to descend into the ravine to see an entrancing series of waterfalls. While Dashbashi Canyon has been an exciting destination for decades, recently, development company Kass Group has taken it upon itself to develop the land as a tourist attraction. Set to open later this summer, the new Dashbashi Canyon will feature a series of facilities and experiences. These will include a full service restaurant, horseback riding, a zipline, campgrounds, luxurious hotel rooms, a spa, and most eye-catching of all, a glass bridge with a diamond-shaped viewpoint and cafe at its center.
“The aim was to create an extreme, exciting, and unforgettable moment that would arouse all five senses of the guests and will manage to stay imprinted in their memory,” chief designer of the concept Tomer Mor Yosef told Georgian Journal. “The feelings at the ‘diamond’ are just impressive – it feels like you are hanging in the void and staring at God’s creation, these two massive walls of the canyon from a 360 angle…What matters the most is that we made nature as accessible as possible to its visitors.”
The Kass Group also says they hope to have concerts and other events in the space and surrounding area. While most of these attractions are still to come, Kass Land is currently receiving guests, allowing all visitors to walk along an elevated cliffside trail before traveling into the canyon for an experience like none other. Plus, with national parks and striking nature dominating the nearby landscape, Dashbashi Canyon makes a great first stop before a trip deeper into Georgia’s wildlife.
“Secret Pool” in Lailaishi, Racha
Can you keep a secret? If so, you better hurry, because this hidden spot isn’t going to stay hidden for much longer. The village of Lailaishi in Racha was once a trading settlement where a diverse mix of Georgians, Jews, Armenians and Greeks lived, exchanging information and knowledge while adding to the breadth of Georgia’s multifaceted culture. While much of the buildings from that period have been lost of time, today, the area is still calling to people from all over the world and from all backgrounds — only this time, the interest is not trade, but an incomparable photo spot. Nestled among the hills of Lailaishi is a small swimming pool encircled by gorgeous Georgian forestry where numerous travelers go to take a one-of-a-kind pic. The pool is public, so if you spend a few hours in its picturesque waters, you’re sure to have a social delight unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. However, if you’re just in it for the peculiar swimming experience and an outstanding picture for your Instagram feed, get there early, snap your pic, and then head out into the rest of Racha, where terrific food is abundant and the naturally skyscraping wonders are second to none.
Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands in Adjara
Heading off to the Black Sea coast for some beach fun? Take a detour into the wild forests and coves of Adjara’s Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands. Recently inducted into UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands in Adjara is a massive space that begs for exploration: over 300 square kilometers of unparalleled nature across a broad scale of altitudes and a host of ecosystems, each one offering tourists a unique and unforgettable experience.
For nature lovers, this varied landscape offers birdwatching for over 300 species of birds and hundreds of unique flora and fauna found only in this region — and for everyone else, there’s more than enough natural visual spectacle to keep you amused and entertained as you traverse the space’s massive breadth. Journeying through this incredible terrain will show you sides of Georgia you’ve never seen before, with available walking tours for the forests and boat tours for the area’s coastline.
In many ways, the journey through these forests and wetlands into the welcoming arms of one of many Black Sea destinations represents Georgia itself: stunning, warm, and full of surprises. Grab a friend, pack a couple lobiani for the road, and set out to see these little-known locales before summer ends.
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