Winter holiday in Georgia
As there is not much airline flying to Georgia, we decided to explore Wizzair for the first time. Although it is not so straightforward, as we needed to fly from Abu Dhabi and touch down in Kutaisi rather than Tblisi. Price wise, it is definitely cheaper than taking FlyDubai who has the option of touching down in Tbilisi.
Our experience with WizzAir has been a pleasant one. Although they change the flight timing couple of weeks before the flight, the change has been for a better timing. Check in is effortless and easy and the flight is quite smooth, relatively comfortable seat.
Touching down in Kutaisi at 7.30pm, we checked out by 8.30pm and got in our transport that brings us to the city centre 30 mins away from the airport. Nino's cosy home which I booked over on booking.com is a really nice homestay, pretty central with everything we needed in the 82 metres square house.
Our first dinner is nonetheless the most signature khinkali at El depot , open 24/7. Passing by the iconic White Bridge, the city lights light our way.
The next morning, we slept in and explore the town, while getting some chores done (bought SIM card, cash from Revolut). We also visited the Colchis Fountain, Bagrati Cathedral and ah boy got his McD fix at a large Mcd decorated very Christmas-y. For dinner, we visited Lilestan, a really cosy restaurant playing Christmas music all night, decorated in fresh pine tree. Not forgetting FIFA, we watched the exciting match between Argentina and Croatia.
Contrary to many information, there is quite a huge number of establishment including restaurant, shops, that accept credit card. We are quite surprised that a lot of money exchange doesn't accept UAE so its better to change before coming. Although most restaurant take credit card, all the accommodation we booked on booking.com all requested for cash upon arrival. On top of that, we paid cash for our car rental as well (credit card payment need extra 3%)
Our next leg of journey is visiting the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. The journey was not easy as the road connecting Kutaisi to Tbilisi is not fully highway. There are lots of truck along the way and traffic is not pleasant. After 3.5 hours we reached Tbilisi and its such a pretty capital. Its surprisingly pleasant, we try the sulphur bath which is so good especially in this weather, had hearty Chikhritma (chicken soup), kharco (meat soup) , took the cable car up to Narikala Fortress, catch a glimpse of Mother of Georgia, hike up to The Trinity Church and visited their Christmas Market.
We even make a day trip out to their wine region Kakheti , did some wine tasting and climb the Great Wall of Georgia. On the final night, we went for Thai massage at Good Time Thai Massage and had an amazing time.
Next morning, we packed up and head to Mtskheta , the royal capital of Georgia. It used to be the capital of Georgia before the capital moved to Tbilisi. Now Mtskheta is listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a lot of churches, monastery and history in the quaint scenic town. We first check out the Jvari Monastery followed by Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. Jvari Monastery, nestled on the top of the mountain, had amazing amazing view of town of Mtskheta, with two rivers converged. Svetititskhoveli, on the other hand, is in the town centre and it's very pleasant to walk around. Both doesn't require an entrance fees, though in the Mtskheta town, one would need to pay GEL 3 for parking.
Afterwards, we headed all the way to Kazbegi which took us another 2.5 hours on the Georgian Military Highway but please do not think one could drive smoothly up. We encountered so many trucks on the road especially nearer to Kazbegi as the trucks are heading to Georgia-Russia border.
We passed by so so many snow capped mountain and the view is absolutely fantastic. We finally reach our cute wooden house where we will be staying here for 3 nights.
The next morning, we decided to hike to Gergeti Church in -2 degree Celcius. Yes, you heard me right! Hiking in the cold, it is definitely the first for us. We wrap ourselves up in 4 layers of clothing and venture out. The trail starts from Cafe Gergeti, there is a flat trail besides the stream and a steep trail heading right up. We followed the flat trail, it is not very hard but really long and we did not end up reaching the top. On our way back, we saw a group of tourist coming down from the steep path. They took the Delica Car up (you can take them from the town as private car is not allowed up the church) and then hike down , that might be a better way especially in the cold.
For lunch, definitely go for the restaurant at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, this is definitely the best value food with amazing amazing view of the town, Caucasus mountain, and the Gergeti Church. The food is really tasty, menu is a selection of local and international. We particularly like their Green tea, steak is great too, Mac n Cheese is very yummy as well. They also have some today's special which the waiter recommended and we enjoyed them as well. We spend the evening at home and to our surprise, it started snowing! OMG, we were very pleasantly surprise and of course we went out and played with the snow. It snowed the whole night and the next morning, the whole town turned white. It was such a fantastic sight.