Georgia Road trip guide: 10 must-see highlights for your itinerary
The ultimate guide to discover Georgia off-the-beaten-path (by van, 4×4, motorbike or cycling)
Located at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, Georgia is a mountainous country of wild and stunning beauty. Monasteries, fortresses and watchtowers, dotted along scenic roads, stand as testimony to its tumultuous
past. Surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Greater Caucasus and lying on the coast of the Black Sea, the country is a must-see destination on the Silk Road.
In this article, we give you some travel tips and practical information to organize your Georgia road trip, from the historical city of Tbilisi to the Caucasus mountains!
Why travel to Georgia?
Georgia is a country well known to itinerant travellers along the Silk Road. Situated on the borders of Europe and Asia, the country stands out for the diversity of its landscapes as well as for its rich cultural and historical heritage. This small mountainous country, surrounded by snow-capped peaks of over 5,000m, has vast wilderness areas that are still preserved from mass tourism. Its medieval fortresses, megalithic sites and picturesque valleys will take you back in time.
Georgia is a paradise for those who like to travel off the beaten path, on small dirt tracks or on impressive mountain roads! From the volcanic plateaus of the central part of the country to the mountain passes of the Greater Caucasus, the driving is sometimes meditative, sometimes challenging. No visa is required to travel to this small Caucasian country. It is also easily accessible from Turkey: you can import your vehicle for 3 months free of charge. For those who wish to travel by plane, flight tickets are very cheap from Europe and the offer of 4×4 and motorbike rental is growing every year. We have prepared a list of the best 4×4 rental agencies and motorbike rental agencies in Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
The icing on the cake is the delicious Georgian cuisine, with a wide variety of local dishes and wines! We particularly enjoyed the khachapuri, delicious breads filled with cheese, and kindzmarauli, a delicately sweet red wine. Georgians are rightly known for their hospitality and their sense of celebration! Indeed, they love to party and regularly organise large banquets to which you may be lucky enough to be invited. Be careful before you set off again, if you have drunk too much!
Our travel guide book: Explore Georgia
Our time in the country and with its inhabitants has forever left its mark on us, so much so that we decided to write a book about it! We are convinced that the hospitality of the Georgian people and the beauty of their country will leave a lasting impression on you. Designed like a roadbook, and illustrated with a multitude of maps and photos, EXPLORE GEORGIA is both a tool and guide for independent travellers who wish to discover, understand, and visit Georgia.
In the book you will find the 24 most beautiful routes in the country and more than 80 sites to discover (monasteries, fortresses, hikes, etc.). Use this guide to build a personalised itinerary of your own, but do remember to let the locals natural hospitality and any spur-of-the-moment decisions sway and tempt you. We recommend including at least one day of outdoor activities to your itinerary (hiking on foot or horseback, rock climbing, white water rafting, etc.) to turn this trip into an unforgettable adventure! 🙂
Everything you need to know before your Georgia adventure
- English only in major cities and tourist sites
Tip: bring a small lexicon with you.
No visa required for members of the European Union. You can stay up to 1 year in the country. A passport valid for 6 months after your arrival in the country is required.
- 150-350€ round trip from Europe. There are international flights to Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
- Best season: June-September. We prefer spring for the green plains!
Cost of living
- Local currency: Georgian Laris (GEL)
- In 2023: 1€=2.9 GEL
- Food: 5-7€ for a meal in a restaurant
- Night in a guesthouse: 25-40€/pers with dinner and breakfast
- Wild camping allowed
- Petrol SP: 1€/L
- Diesel: 0.9€/L
Price of 4x4 rental in Georgia: 60 to 90€/day depending on the model (Toyota Landcruiser, Prado, Lada Niva, UAZ Buhanka, etc).
Find our recommendations in this article: rent a 4x4 in Georgia.
- available models
- the best rental agencies
- road conditions
Motorbike rental prices in Georgia: 80-100€/day depending on the model (Yamaha 600XT, Africa Twin, BMW 650 GS, etc)
Be careful, the offer is quite limited so we advise you to book in advance.
Find all our recommendations in this article: rent a motorbike in Georgia.
Find a local guide
There is a wide range of agencies and guides in Georgia. In order to promote employment in the country, we have created a list of local guides that we have met during our trips in Georgia and whose services we have been able to test. This list is regularly updated, you will find guides for hiking, horse trekking, rafting, etc. Go to this article: Find a local guide in Georgia.
Planning your trip and itinerary around Georgia
How much time should I spend in Georgia?
Despite its small size (1/8th of France), Georgia is full of cultural and natural sites, each more breathtaking than the next. We recommend that you allow a minimum of 15 days to discover what the country has to offer.
Driving in Georgia: what you need to know
The road conditions vary drastically by region. The roads connecting the main cities of Georgia (Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi) are paved, meaning they are in quite good condition, and you shouldn’t have any issues. However, due to frequent floods and landslides, mountain roads can often be badly damaged and under continuous repair. When you leave the main roads, you will be on tracks where the conditions are very variable. Having a 4-wheel drive with a high ground clearance will allow you to travel safely and cross technical sections (mud, fresh or melted snow, fords, steep slopes, etc.). To help you, we have classified our routes by difficulty levels, from 1 to 5. Be careful when driving: many locals don’t respect the rules of the road and drive quickly and recklessly.
Where to sleep?
Wild camping in Georgia is an experience you do not want to miss out on! You will be alone in the middle of nature, and you will have the chance to gaze up at a star-filled night sky with no light pollution. Wild camping is allowed everywhere in Georgia, except in some protected areas that are difficult to access anyway. Small, reasonably priced guesthouses are also easy to find on Google maps. Often, dinner and breakfast are included – and delicious 🙂 !
How to prepare your Georgia itinerary?
Download a navigation application that allows you to locate where you are and download maps in advance (which can be used offline). We recommend, for example, the Maps.me or OSMand applications. If you are using a Garmin-type GPS, download the OpenStreetMap maps before you leave. For those who prefer, you can download here the GPS tracks of the 24 routes of the book (with more than 150 GPS points: camping spots, viewpoints, etc.). We also have published a foldable A2 format tourist map of Georgia (scale 1:1,000,000) to help you prepare and organise your itinerary. You will find the main and secondary roads and mountain passes, the 24 off-road routes of the book and more than 80 natural and cultural attractions (monasteries, forteresses, hikes, etc.). Overleaf, you will find a complete English-georgian phrase book to help you start a discussion with the locals! If you are looking for a more accurate map of the country. We recommend the Reise Know-How map with a 1:350,000 scale.
Please note that some border areas require a special permit, which you can obtain from the border police. We explain everything about restricted areas in this article.
Budget for a 2-week road trip in Georgia
Here is our budget for a 15-day road trip in Georgia in 2023, for 2 people with a rental car. We had a preference for wild camping and guest houses.
|Price||Nb of days||Total duo||Total individual|
|4x4 rental (Landcruiser Toyota)||80€/day||15||1200€||600€|
|City accommodation (Tbilisi, Kutaisi, etc.)||35€/day||2||70€||35€|
|Out of town accommodation (dinner and breakfast included)||30€/day||5||150€||75€|
|Others (equipment, repairs, gift, taxi, etc.)||75€||-||75€||37.5€|
10 must-see highlights for a Georgia Road Trip
Visiting the old town of Tbilisi
At the crossroads between the East and the West, the capital city of Georgia is renowned for its charming neighbourhoods, monuments and architecture, influenced by a wide variety of cultures. The heart of the capital stretches along the Mtkvari River in a labyrinth of narrow streets, bordered by wooden buildings with balconies and covered in vines. From Rustaveli Avenue which is lined with Haussmann-style buildings to the immense Arab fortress that dominates the city, Tbilisi is full of surprises and an unmissable stop on your journey in Georgia. The best way to appreciate its beauty and the atmosphere of its lively streets is to walk through it. For those who have enough time, we also recommend a visit to the historic town of Mtskheta, which lies north of the capital.
Driving along the Wine Route in Kakheti
After leaving the hustle and bustle of the capital and heading east, a newly renovated road winds through the forested hills of the Gombori Mountains. It ends in the sunny plains of Kakheti, the country’s biggest wine-producing region! With Georgia being the birthplace of wine, you cannot visit this region without tasting its delicious wines. You must also see its traditional wine cellars (marani), where wine has been produced in terracotta jars for millennia. Full of history, this region also has remarkable monuments such as the Alaverdi Cathedral, the Nekresi monastery and Gremi Fortress. You will surely enjoy strolling through the narrow streets of the old town of Telavi or Sighnaghi, which offers a breathtaking view of the Great Caucasus Mountains!
Exploring Vashlovani National Park
Located in the south-eastern corner of Georgia, Vashlovani National Park has a semi-arid climate and covers about 250 km². With its dried-up canyons, arid steppes and tall grasses, the park looks like the African savannah. It is home to more than a hundred species of birds and mammals such as gazelles, lynxes, bears, etc. The Caucasian leopard lived in Vashlovani National Park before disappearing some years ago! Whether on Route 6 or Route 7, this park should under no circumstances be missed (a 4×4 is mandatory in case of rain). Since 2018, motorbikes are forbidden in the park. Read more in our article about Vashlovani.
Iori plateau and David-Gareja monastery
Any Georgian will tell you about the David-Gareja Monastery, a beautiful cave monastery nestled in the cliffs on the border with Azerbaijan. But the region has much more to offer for those who love adventure. A dirt road runs alongside the border, with breathtaking panoramic views in Chachuna (Route 7) and Iori Reserves (Route 8). From barren steppes to lush forests on the banks of the Iori River, the area is overflowing with stunning scenery that will make you feel as if you are travelling on another continent, or even another planet. Interspersed with thousand-year-old cave monasteries and remarkable geological structures (mud volcanoes), this itinerary will delight both history buffs and those who love wide open spaces. Don’t forget to bring your tent, as this route is not short of fantastic camping spot.
Tusheti: An epic route to Omalo and Dartlo
Covered in snow for half the year, this mountain track is the only way to access the mythical region of Tusheti. Both challenging and dizzying, the route crosses narrow gorges and green meadows to the magnificent Abano Pass (2,826 m). Next, the track drops progressively deeper into the national park of Tusheti, known for its alpine landscapes and its medieval historical sites. In the most improbable places, stone towers stand tall and pagan shrines are scattered throughout the green meadows, where the last nomad shepherds of Georgia lead their herds and flocks. A 4×4 or all-terrain vehicle is required but all your efforts will be rewarded: nestled at an altitude of 2000m, the village of Dartlo is without doubt one of the most beautiful villages in Georgia. This unique historical site, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can be discovered on Route 5 of the Explore Georgia guide. Read more about Tusheti in this article.
Discovering Mutso et Shatili’s medieval architecture
Shatili is a fortified, medieval village located in the Greater Caucasus, at an altitude of about 1,400 m. The fortress village is an impressive combination of stone towers and buildings, linked by secret tunnels and narrow paths. It is a must see along Route 3 of our guide. Only a few kilometres from Shatili, you can also discover the village of Mutso : a remarkable fortified settlement, which for centuries was the strongest outpost in northern Georgia, controlling the roads and protecting the kingdom’s border. Set imperiously on the top of a steep-sided rocky hill, the fortified village blends naturally into its surroundings. Thanks to a rehabilitation project, the village has been entirely reconstructed. It is without doubt one of the prettiest historical sites in the region!
The military road and Truso Valley
The Georgian Military Highway is a historical route linking Georgia to Russia through the Greater Caucasus Mountains. The road was built to facilitate the entry of imperial troops, after the annexation of Georgia by Russia in the late 19th century. The road follows the ancient route taken once upon a time by Persian, Roman and Mongolian invaders as well as by the merchants of the Silk Road. There are many historical landmarks along the route, from the medieval Ananuri Fortress to the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, which has incredible views across the Aragvi Valley. This scenic drive will bring you to the Gergeti Trinity Church in Stepantsminda. Perched 2,170 m above sea level, the church overlooks the Tergi Valley, and offers a sensational panoramic view of Mount Kazbegi (5,047 m). On the way, don’t miss the Truso Valley (Route 1). Accessible by a dirt track through a narrow canyon, the valley is remarkable for its meadows coloured white and red by the iron springs that surge from the mountains. Read our article about the 10 best places to stop along the Georgian Military road.
Discovering the cave city of Vardzia
Nestled into the steep cliff on the left bank of the Mtkvari River, the incredible cave city of Vardzia is the symbol of the Georgian Golden Age of the 12th century. The monastic complex was mostly destroyed by a large earthquake in the 13th century, but the hundreds of rooms still visible today are a testament to the city’s former grandeur. The bedrooms, refectories, wine cellars, medicine cabinets and churches, connected by a network of tunnels and narrow staircases form an impressive labyrinth that can be explored on Route 14 of our book. The perfect day trip betwen Tbilisi and Kutaisi !
Exploring the high volcanic plateau of de Javakheti
If you love the great outdoors, then don’t miss the region of Javakheti in southern Georgia! The immense volcanic plateau of Javakheti is reminiscent of the lunar landscape of the steppes of Central Asia. Dotted with extinct volcanoes and sparkling lakes, the scenery is gorgeous and welcome rare species of migratory birds, as well as thousand-year-old megalithic structures, remnants of Georgia’s pre-Christian history. Don’t miss a visit to Lake Tabatskuri and its picturesque fisherman’s village.
Svaneti: a scenic route from Mestia to Ushguli
Surrounded by Georgia’s highest peaks, Svaneti has spectacular mountain scenery. The slopes of its deep valleys are covered with thick forests and alpine meadows. The highest peak in Georgia, Mount Shkhara, stands at 5,201 m. Also in this region is Mount Ushba (4,710 m), which overlooks Mestia, the region’s capital. Svaneti is home to the Svans, a Georgian mountain people who speak their own language and have a very strong cultural identity. The imposing watchtowers which dominate the landscape have come to symbolise the region. Don’t miss the village of Ushguli which is without a doubt the most beautiful village in Svaneti. A 4 day loop will allow you to cross this mythical region of Georgia, with mountain passes at more than 3000 m altitude. In addition, the province has no shortage of wild expanses and hiking trails where the only people you will come across are a handful of shepherds. Don’t miss our article about the best itinerary in Svaneti.
Batumi and Adjara hinterland
Bordered by the Black Sea, Adjara and Guria are the country’s two main summer tourist destinations. Both regions are famous for their humid and sunny subtropical climate, their seaside resorts and for Adjara’s vibrant capital, Batumi. Batumi is the second largest city in Georgia and is a popular for its beaches and trendy clubs. However, there are many other beautiful but less well-known aspects to these provinces that we invite you to explore on Routes 16, 17 and 18. The fertile mountains of the Lesser Caucasus, which descend into the Black Sea, are home to vast areas of unspoilt wilderness and many traditional mountain villages. Its inhabitants have a rudimentary way of life based on agriculture and cattle rearing. Despite this, anyone venturing into these almost impenetrable mountains will be treated royally.
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