A long weekend in Georgia, Europe
When living in the UAE, there are multiple public holidays per year to take advantage of. The next thing I generally take into consideration is a) a location which isn’t too far away and b) one that is feasible.
Guess what popped up? Georgia. No not Georgia Atlanta, Georgia next to Armenia; a Eurasia country which dates back to 12th Century.
Instead of booking our flights and accommodation ourselves we used Holiday Factory for the first time. The booking process was smooth-ish a little confusion over traveling on the long weekend dates as there is a surcharge which wasn’t clearly stated on their site but once it was finalized it was pretty convenient after that.
After boarding our flights from DXB we had a short 3.5 hour flight and arrived in a comfortable 22 degrees celsius with a fresh breeze; a welcome temperature as we left Dubai at 35 degrees celsius and then some.
We gathered inside the airport where a HF representative marked our names off to ensure we had all arrived then escorted us to our mini bus where we would get our transfer to our hotels. A few of the boys in the group got harassed by local beggars asking for money so always be aware of your surroundings and personal belongings.
Once on the bus our tour guide for the day discussed with us a few options to add on different day tours for an additional fee. Rather than try to plan our own itinerary we decided to add all 3 days which was easier for us as it covered all the places we wanted to see.
After a delayed arrival to our hotel due to a flat tyre, we are all eventually checked in and hopped back on the bus en route to Tbilisi town where we would see the highlights of the city. First up was lunch in a Georgian restaurant where we got to try the local cuisine. This is where we first got to try Khinkhali after a rather seductive demonstration by our new tour guide. Khinkhali is basically an oversized Xiao Long Bao or soup dumpling if you wish.
We then walked up to a church perked on top of a hill which gave us a great view over the city. We even met the priest who let us inside to have a look. As dusk fell, the temperatures dropped rapidly and I was already feeling a chill. We then caught a cable cart up to the top of the mountain which gave us the ultimate view just before night fall. We think walked down again in the dark and headed over to Peace Bridge before calling it a night.
We woke up early eager for the day ahead and made sure to fuel up at our breakfast buffet before jumping on the bus. We were headed to Kazbegi which is a mountain 5,047 metres above sea level. On the way there we made a few pit stops, one so we could take pictures of the stunning reflective Jinvali Lake and then on to Ananuri Fortress for some more photo opportunities, followed by a stop at a local bee keepers to buy some fresh honey.
We eventually arrived Gudauri, a popular ski resort in Georgia where we sat down and had lunch. We were excited as on the drive there we had seen snow which was unsual for this time of the year. The best part was we had new options which were to go snow mobiling or paragliding in the mountains. We opted for the snow mobiles. I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the temperatures but that didn’t stop me from getting out in the snow. The last time I had seen snow was when I was living in London 5 years ago. We had so much fun, you couldn’t wipe the smile of our faces.
We then went on to Gergety Trinity Church which should come with a warning. We had to switch into smaller vans where you endure a 30 minute scary, bumpy as all hell, experience up to the top of a mountain to visit another church. Now don’t get me wrong, the views are incredible but the journey up and down are not pleasant. Especially if you have any spinal injuries or are busting for the loo. FYI, there are no proper loos up there either so make sure you’ve emptied your bladder before hand. Also, it’s colder than the bottom of the mountains due to the wind factor so be warned!
I almost kissed the floor once we back down to safety. We has a quick toilet & tea break before our long journey back into Tbilsi. We’d made plans to meet up with some of the crew from the tour later for late dinner & drinks and made the “I Love Tbilsi” sign our meeting point.
Tbilsi town has loads of small alley ways with bars, clubs and restaurants. There’s pretty much something for everyone. From shisha to tawla and karaoke, you name it, they’ve got it.
Our final day we headed to Kakheti where our first stop was at a winery. Georgian wine is like no other that I’ve ever tasted. After the tasting, we hop back on the bus en-route to the city of love, Sighnaghi, home to ancient churches and a medieval monastery named Bodbe which to this day still has working nuns.
My favorite part of this day was hiking up to the fort where you could see over the border into Russia. The panoramic view was just breathtaking. That evening back in Tbilsi we hopped around, firstly out to a wine bar, then to restaurant, followed by a shisha bar, a club, and finally a karaoke bar.
We travelled in April 2017.
Holiday Factory Package with a 4* Hotel was 2099 AED during EID.
Despite the booking process, I’d recommend HF for the ease and convenience during your stay, plus it’s a great way to meet new people.