Georgia – A week in Tbilisi and Batumi

We visited the country of Georgia last week. The small country in the Caucasus Region south of Russia has an eventful history, interesting cities and a great landscape. Unfortunately one week was not enough to visit the mountainous regions so we decided to focus on the cities.

Our first stop was the country’s capital Tbilisi. We flew here on Ukraine International Airlines through Kiev and had a good flight. We stayed at the Light House – Old City Hotel (Tripadvsior) first. They picked us up from the airport and checked us in so we were able to sleep as we arrived in the middle of the night. We had a great stay at this hotel and would recommend it to anybody.

First thing we wanted to do after breakfast the next day was getting train tickets to go to Batumi and back a few days later. Unfortunately it was not possible to buy them online before our trip (www.railway.ge is only able to sell tickets if you are logging in from a computer inside Georgia). We took the metro to Tbilisi Station Square and went to the ticket office. Unfortunately there were no more seats on the day we wanted to travel to Batumi, we only got tickets for the ride back to Tbilisi. There were two options now: taking a Bus, what would’ve meant travelling the whole day, or booking a flight ticket. We decided for the flight ticket as there were some available for only 63 EUR (~71 USD) one way on Georgian Airways ( www.georgian-airways.com ). With the train ticket for the return in our pocket we left the station again. Now we were about to discover the city center.

We took the metro to Liberty Square, actually a big roundabout with a monument for the Holy George in the middle and the old city hall of Tbilisi next to it. We took the Rustaveli Gamsiri Avenue from here and roamed along it. Beside a lot of shops at this street there were some interesting sights such as the Parliament of Georgia and the Rustaveli Cinema.

After having some iced coffee in the heat (we had around 40°C) and checking out some of the stores in the small malls along the road we decided to take the metro back to the hotel to have a break and a shower.

After the break, a snack and cooling down we went to the city center again, but this time we went by foot. As our hotel was quite near to it we passed the presidential palace and walked down to the bank of the Kura river. We passed a small park and walked along the river opposite of the public service hall.

After a few minutes walking along the river we passed the brand new cultural center of Tbilisi which is connected to the other side of the river by the Peace Bridge, a modern bridge made of glass.

We crossed the bridge as we were getting hungry and searched for a good restaurant or bar. During walking through the streets we discovered a the City Museum Josif Grishashwili of Tbilisi, an old caravansary built in 1650 which is a museum with some souvenir stores as well. As it was pleasantly cool inside we walked around a little, bought some Georgian wine (Georgia offers a lot of great wines, a must for every wine lover, I can’t explain why there is almost no availability of Georgian wine in Western Europe) and postcards.

We left the building to the rear exit and walked just a few meters until we discovered the Konka Station, a bar and restaurant were we decided to sit down for dinner. We had some good food here and a refreshing drink, the bar also servers cocktails from an old tram wagon right next to the terrace (Tripadvisor).

As this hot day and the walking around made us quite tired we decided to end the day at this point and returned to the hotel by foot. We got some snacks at a nearby supermarket and relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the evening.

We planned to go up to the Narikala Fortress the next day. There is a cable car going up but unfortunately if was quite windy that day so it didn’t work. Nonetheless we just went up there on a little hike, it is not far but the streets and staircases are quite steep in some parts. When we arrived at the fortress the view was worth the climb up. You can climb up onto the walls of it so you have a great view onto the city center and the old town of Tbilisi. Not far from here, just a few hundred meters further up the street you can visit the statue Kartlis Deda, also called Mother of Georgia, a giant statue of a woman holding a sword and bowl of wine which has been built in 1958 for the 1500 year anniversary of the city.

A walk down into the city led us to a street with some nice little bars and cafés, we had some lemonade here (try the Georgian Lemonade, especially the Pear and Lemon flavored one taste great) before we took the metro back to our hotel for some break as the heat was quite exhausting even if there was some wind this day. Later in the evening we want back to the city to have some cocktails. We discovered the King Erekle Street were different cafés, bars and restaurants are located at and had some cocktails at the KGB bar (Tripadvisor)

After our last night at the Light House – Old City Hotel we had breakfast, packed all our stuff together and left for the airport. We took a the flight to Batumi, a quite short but good flight, the airport in Batumi is tiny but that makes you be able to leave it fast after landing and during the approach you have a great view onto the beach and skyline of Batumi if you have a window seat on the left side of the plane.

We left the airport and took a taxi to our hotel, the Batumi World Palace (Tripadvisor) where we had a great stay for the next days.

On the ride from the airport to our hotel we took the main road with all the modern hotels, malls and casinos on both sides, the street makes a great impression, you see that there are a lot of international investors from all over the world making this place modern for more tourists in future. Yet most tourists here come from Russia, the other Caucasian countries Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Israel, Turkey and the Persian countries, but the city wants to attract more European tourists as well and it definitely has potential. There are a lot of hotels and malls under construction, it doesn’t affect the other hotels as the area is quite big, but there will be a lot more capacity here when these hotels open within the next years. And to be honest, we’d ever go here more likely than we’d go to Majorca or most other mass tourism destinations.

Batumi is located on the Black Sea with a really long beach (no sand, it’s pebble beach), so the tourists here are not concentrated on a certain part of the beach but spread over the long coast which makes it never seem to full at the beach.

After arriving at the hotel and bringing our luggage to the room we went over to the Piazza. It is a place that has been rebuilt to look like an Italian Piazza, not really Georgian, but a great place to relax and sit down at one of the cafés and restaurants. We had some food and drinks here and went back for some break after travelling and eating out in that heat (it was above 35°C here too, but even higher humidity than in Tbilisi). We were really lucky with the weather, but it sometimes became quite hot. This is also the reason why the Piazza is so empty in this picture, because it was during the noon heat.

From here we walked down to the beach promenade. The promenade runs all the way along the beach and seperates it from hotels and streets what makes the beach having no street noise or anything. The beach itself is between 4 and 5 km long and reaches out almost to the airport on the other side of the city. Along the promenade you have a lot of tall buildings and monuments such as the Alphabet Tower, the Sheraton Hotel, the Radisson blu Hotel or the Technological University Tower which has some special look as there is a ferris weel on the outside of the building:

The walk back to the hotel led us along the European Square and the Astronomical Watch, a quite impressive sight.

It is located right next to a busy shopping street with some stores, boutiques and cafés. We decided to have something to drink at the Piazza again and returned to the hotel afterwards where we had dinner at the Loft Restaurant. It’s not only great food served here, you also have a great view over the port, the beginning of the promenade with the ferris wheel and the city center of Batumi. Definitely worth a visit (Tripadvisor )

The next day started with a visit at the beach. There are different parts, some are feasted by bars where you pay about 30 EUR / 33 USD for two loungers and a sunshade, but we decided to go a few meters further were we got the same for 4 EUR / 4.50 USD. The beach itself has some parts were it can become quite packed, but there is a lot of space to get away from all the people, it is not like at mass tourism destination beaches. We had some relaxing time here and got the sun we needed. After a lunch break at the Piazza, we went over to the pier at the center of the beach, right at the foot of the Technological University Tower. We had some beer in a relaxing atmosphere at the pier bar and roamed through the streets and parks that are really neat and inviting to relax.

Later in the evening we had dinner at divan Pub, a quite fancy restaurant, nothing like a pub with a small menu but delicious food (Tripadvisor ) .

Unfortunately the next day we had some upset stomach, we don’t know why, some of the food or drinks we had must’ve been foul, possibly due to a power blackout in the whole city the day before. That made us stay at the hotel for the rest of the day to recover. Only in the evening we went out to have dinner at the Cloud Restaurant, a restaurant and bar on the top floor of the Radisson blu Hotel and it was really worth it. It costs a few Lari more than somewhere else (really not much more) but the view, the food and the friendly staff are worth a visit here (Tripadvisor ).

After a day of recovering we decided to visit the Zoo and Aquarium the next day. Both are quite cheap, two Lari entry fee for adults (~0.80 EUR / 0.85 USD) but not too big either. We walked through the zoo for about 15 minutes, most animals are in tiny cages with nothing to play with, I wouldn’t actually suggest to go here, especially for animal lovers it is not the best sight, one of the worst zoos I’ve ever seen (actually only the one in Dubai was worse). The Aquarium is small and old also, most fish have some more space and it is interesting for a small period of time if you like fish. Much more interesting is the 6 May Park in which zoo and aquarium are located, a big park with a pond in the middle, a lot of benches and you can even rent pedal boats. There is also a small amusement park for children.

After having some snack, soup and homemade lemonade at La Brioche we returned to the hotel for our last night in Batumi and had another dinner at the great Loft restaurant.

We were brought to the train station of Batumi in the early morning of the next day. We took one of the three trains running from Batumi to Tbilisi this day. The trains are modern and not expensive (41 Lari per Person ~ 15.50 EUR / 17.30 USD) and the ride takes a little more than five hours. If you want some snacks, bring change or five Laris bills as there are only vending machines on the train. No problem, we got something at the supermarket the day before 😉 Traveling by train is quite interesting, you see more of the countryside than you do when flying and you see how people live. Aside from the cities of Tbilisi and Batumi we saw a lot of basic living in the small towns and on the farms along the railroad in the center of Georgia. The countryside changes from subtropical afforestation in the hills around Batumi to savanna-like landscape in the heart of Georgia. You also cross a lot of rivers and valleys, not to forget you are in the Caucasus region. The mountains you sometimes see in the north are going up high.

We arrived in Tbilisi at noon, had some not so good hotel unfortunately, we wouldn’t recommend the Hotel Shine Palace to anybody but we had something to eat in the city center and went to bed early as we needed to leave for the airport around 03:15 am.

In the morning we were picked up and brought to the airport. Tbilisi airport is small but modern, you won’t get bored if you arrive here two hours before departure. We boarded our plane and had a good flight back home on Ukraine International Airlines again. They did a good job and we had a great trip which we will keep in memory for some time. Both cities we visited were really different but showed the will and aim of Georgia to develop and get more people to visit their country. All people we met were friendly and seemed to be proud of their country. We never had a situation we felt unsafe in. We can really recommend visiting the country of Georgia to anybody as there is a lot to discover and a lot more we even discovered within these eight days. Don’t be shy if you don’t speak Georgian or Russian, the main languages in this country, especially young people understand and/or speak English as well.

HOW TO GET TO GEORGIA:

Tbilisi is the capital and the gateway of the country. You can reach it by train, bus or car from the surrounding countries but the easiest way for most of you will be flying here. From Europe you can book non-stop flights on Georgian Airway that serve Amsterdam, Paris, Moscow, Odessa and Vienna. Otherwise you can go on Ukraine International Airlines (via Kiev), Aeroflot (via Moscow), Aegean Airlines (via Athens), airBaltic (via Riga), Alitalia (via Rome), LOT (via Wasaw), Lufthansa (via Munich) or Turkish Airlines and Pegasus (both via Istanbul). Best connections from Asia are through Dubai on Emirates and FlyDubai, Azerbaijan Airlines (via Baku), China Southern Airlines (via Urumqi) or Qatar Airways through Doha. As there are no non-stop flights from the African and American continent, you would need to take a connecting flight in Europe.

Batumi has a small international airport also which is not served all through the year by all airlines. There are domestic flights to Tbilisi 4 to 6 times weekly (depending on the season) on Georgian Airways and Turkish Airlines, Pegasus (both from Istabul) and S7 Airlines (from Moscow) are serving the airport and offer connecting flights from their hubs.

You can also take the train between Tbilisi and Batumi but you should buy tickets right on your first day here as they can be sold out fast during high season.

WHERE TO STAY AT?

There are lots of different places to stay here such as in every other country, from a cheap hostel to a fancy five star hotel. You can choose from a broad variety of accommodations, best is to use a meta searcher such as www.trivago.com, www.kayak.com or www.discavo.de to find a place to stay.

WHAT ABOUT THE COSTS FOR FOOD?

The meals in Georgia are not expensive. We have been eating out daily at different restaurants and mostly paid between 10 and 20 Lari per Person for a meal and one or two drinks, that equals 4 to 7.50 EUR or 4.50 to 8.50 USD. Even in more expensive restaurant such as the cloud bar we didn’t pay more than 30 Lari per Person. If you get some snacks and drinks at the supermarkets you will also pay much less than in Western Europe or North America.

Thank you for reading, we hope we were able to give you some interesting insight into our trip 🙂 As always, you can contact us by commenting below or just dropping an e-mail to thealterlookout@freenet.de in case you have any questions or suggestions. Also don’t forget to follow our Twitter ( http://www.twitter.com/thealterlookout ) and Instagram ( http://www.instagram.com/thealterlookout ) to be always up to date about our blog posts and to see some pictures even while we are travelling.

Hendrik & Jardena

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