The year ahead is the perfect opportunity to step back in time with a visit to Georgia, famed for its pristine landscapes, beautifully-preserved churches, and passion for slow travel.
One of the fastest emerging destinations of Central Asia, Georgia has left years of conflict in its past and forged ahead, offering travellers a breathtaking fusion of past and present. A burgeoning economy and greater air access from Asia thanks to Kazakhstan’s national carrier Air Astana have helped put this remarkable nation on the radar for travellers with a passion for culture, history, and of course, a few glasses of wine.
Start in the country’s dynamic capital and largest city, Tbilisi. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt 29 times, showing the fortitude of its residents, and today offers visitors a contemporary metropolitan experience punctuated with odes to its rich heritage that has drawn comparisons to Berlin. Edgy yet welcoming, Tiblisi is the nation’s cultural heart, with stunning contemporary architecture set against the timeless backdrop of the mountaintop fortress of Narikala, which overlooks the city and its meandering Kura River.
In contrast, life takes a decidedly slower pace outside the capital. Make your way to Signagi, the pint-sized capital of Georgia’s ancient wine belt, famed for its red-roofed buildings and the stunning views across the valleys below. Georgia is the cradle of viticulture and exploring its verdant landscapes and leafy, quaint villages is the best way to discover some of the region’s best wineries, including the stunning Chateau Zegaani, which was built in 1820 by Prince Alexander Chavchavadze, founder of Georgia’s contemporary wine industry.
Spirituality is also a vital component of this unique destination. You can experience the deep held faith of the Georgians at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Living Pillar. Located in the historic town of Mtskheta, northwest of Tbilisi, the UNESCO-recognised church is regarded as the burial place of Christ’s mantle and is among the most venerated shrines in a country punctuated by churches and cathedrals.
For the active, Georgia also offers exceptional hiking opportunities, whether its climbing to the protected Vardzia cave monastery, a series of shrines recessed into the rock wreathing a 12th century church; or something a little more challenging, like hiking the spectacular Mouth Kazbek, which offers captivating views from the Holy Trinity Church set on its flanks.