Georgia is one of the up and coming destinations in the Europe region – and for good reason.
Georgia has the perfect mix of culture, nature, food, wine and history. You can go hiking in the beautiful mountains and canyons; explore old towns; drink fabulous wine at very affordable prices; eat your weight in Georgian style bread and dumplings; and meet some of the world’s friendliest people.
While Georgia is becoming very popular as a summer destination owing to its hiking trails, it’s also a destination that shouldn’t be missed in the winter.
Here’s five reasons why you should visit Georgia in winter.
Go skiing or snowboarding
Did you know that Georgia is home to several ski resorts?
There’s two in the west of the country near Mestia; one in the east near Kazbegi; and one in the south west near Borjomi.
The Hatsvali and Tetnuldi resorts are located near Mestia. The cost of a one day lift pass at both these resorts is 40 GEL (€13).
Hatsvali, located just outside of Mestia’s centre, has some small beginner runs in addition to intermediate and advanced runs, while Tetnuldi is best suited for intermediate and advanced winter sports enthusiast.
Even if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, Tetnuldi is worth a visit to check out the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Marshrutkas run regularly to Mestia from Tbilisi’s Didube Bus Station (9 hours) or Kutaisi (6 hours). You can also catch an overnight train from Tbilisi’s Central Railway Station to Zugdidi (10 hours) and then a marshrutka to Mestia (3 hours). You can walk to the Hatsvali Ski Resort chairlift from Mestia’s town centre.
Tetnuldi is located about a 45 minute drive from Mestia. You can book a seat in a shared taxi to Tetnuldi for 25 GEL return (€10) in Mestia.
If you’re a beginner skier, Gudauri Ski Resort is your best option in Georgia, with some great beginner runs. Experienced skiers or snowboarders will also love Gudauri with many intermediate and advanced runs as well.
The cost of a one day lift pass at Gudauri is 50 GEL . Gear hire ranges from 40-50 GEL (€13-€16). Expect to pay between €10-15 for gear hire in Georgia.
Gudauri is located about a two-hour drive from Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi. To get there, take a marshrutka (mini bus) from the bus station outside Tbilisi’s Didube Metro Station. You can catch a marshrutka bound for Gudauri or Kazbegi (and ask to be let off at Gudauri). Marshrutkas usually leave on the hour, and the cost is 10 GEL (€3.30). It’s also possible to get a shared taxi at the bus station for 15 GEL (€5) but you will have to wait for the taxi to fill up, so best to head there in the morning.
See the glorious mountains covered in snow
Everyone loves snow covered mountains and waking up the snow falling – and the lofty villages of Mestia and Kazbegi are sensational spots to get up close to the mountains.
The drive up to Mestia in the winter months is stunning as you wind up through the mountains, and the drive up to Kazbegi is equally impressive past vast swathes of snow covered mountains.
In Kazbegi, you can wake up to a beautiful panoramic view of Mt Kazbek each morning. You can even do some small hikes in the wintertime.
The first one is up to the Gergeti Trinity Church. You can hike up the road leading to the church during the winter months, although it can get very icy so care is needed.
For another view of Mt Kazbek, head up the road behind the Rooms Hotel. You can also get a great view of Kazbegi here, as well as the mountains in the Juta Valley.
You can soak in Tbilisi’s thermal baths
Winter is the perfect time to go soak in Tbilisi’s thermal baths. The thermal baths are located in the Old Town, and there are several to choose from. On a cold winter’s day, nothing feels better than soaking in hot water.
Private rooms in the bathhouses can be rented on an hourly basis for a relaxing soak.
It’s the perfect time to enjoy Georgia’s hearty food
Georgia knows how to do food and wine. After a day of exploring on a cold winter day, it’s nice to head somewhere warm and eat a hearty meal. Dishes like ostri (beef stew) and Adjarian khachapuri were among my favourite winter meals. And of course, these meals are best paired with delicious locally made semi-sweet red wine and a couple of warming cha cha shots.
There’s not as many tourists
Wintertime is low season in Georgia – so you might even get whole guesthouses to yourself like I did! Low season also means the prices are lower.
Things You Should Know
- It can get very cold in Georgia in the winter months, especially in the mountains. Make sure you pack a warm jacket, gloves, beanies, scarf and thick socks.
- If you want to ski or snowboard, gear can be hired at the ski resorts or the towns neighbouring the ski resorts.
- Gudauri is the biggest and most established ski resort in Georgia, sitting on the south facing side of the Caucasus Mountains. It has seven ski lifts with the highest going up to 3,300 metres. Gudauri offers runs from beginner to advanced.
- You can reach Georgia by air via airports in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Low cost airline Wizz Air flies from several European cities to Kutaisi. It’s also possible to reach Georgia by land via Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.