After a fun few days in Tbilisi, we hired a car and spent a wonderfully varied four days exploring different sights dotted around the country. We were only in Georgia for 10 days, and after our leisurely public transport pace of the last 11 months we decided to rent a car to see a bit more. We love taking the bus, but a road trip is always fun and we really enjoyed the freedom of having our own wheels for a few days.
First up we headed west to the cave city of Vardzia. The long drive to get there was absolutely worth it and we were blown away by the scale of it. At its heyday Vardzia was 19 levels with caves stretching for 500m along the cliff. These caves were not only places of prayer but also homes, wine storage and more. There’s also a huge church built into the cliff and from it are escape tunnels to other levels – it’s really quite something and a great place to explore.
We enjoyed lunch at the riverside cafe and headed back the way we’d came to Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Having studied history at high school and spent six months learning about the Russian Revolution and the rise and rule of Stalin, it was fascinating to wander around the clearly biased museum. We also visited the house where he was born and walked through his beautiful mahogany train carriage (Stalin was afraid of flying and went everywhere by train).
We found a lovely home-stay and a great garden restaurant for dinner before another very early start the following morning to the town of Roshka. We stopped en route for our now standard coffee and khachapuri breakfast and passed a pretty lake as we turned off the main road. The last 8km in particular was very slow going with steep, sharp bends and rough terrain and we felt a little justified in our decision to follow the blogs we’d read and hire a 4×4 (There were a couple of river crossings but nothing like our epic Enfield bike ride in India and you could probably get by without one in dry weather although we found there wasn’t much difference in the price).
We had driven north to see the Abudelauri multi-coloured lakes and we thoroughly enjoyed our day’s walking. The three lakes really are different colours (green, blue and white) and we weren’t expecting them to be framed by such a beautiful range.
Heading back after our picnic lunch we noticed the incline more but it’s not a particularly strenuous or lengthy walk, it took us 6.5 hours, and the views of both the lakes and sharp peaks make for a wonderful day out. We found somewhere to stay in the tiny village and were very grateful for the bread, cheese and salad dinner that they were able to rustle up at the last minute.
The following morning we continued onto the Kakheti wine region and the pretty town of Signagi with its cobble streets and lovely cafes to eat and drink. Georgia is one of the world’s oldest wine regions and home to some fantastic wine, both red and white.
It was a lovely afternoon wine tasting and hopping between terraces and we particularly enjoyed the food and wine at Okros.
From Signagi it’s an easy two hour drive back to Tbilisi where we hopped on the night train and headed west to Kuataisi, the country’s second – largest city and our final stop on our unforgettable adventure.
Renting a car
We rented the 4×4 from www.rentautotbilisi.com and it was $35/day (this included unlimited mileage because we’d rented for four days).
We headed to the furthest place first and for the first two days left at 6am to ensure we had enough time.
- Day 1: Tbilisi – Vardzia – Gori; 7 hours
- Day 2: Gori – Roshka; 4 hours
- Day 3: Roshka – Signagi; 5 hours
- Day 4: Signagi – Tbilisi: 2 hours
- Vardzia – 6 (plus 10 for the audio guide that two people can share)
- Stalin Museum – 15