Georgia in Summer is something else. The green forests, clean white mountains and the winter sport opportunities that it gives are as stunning as they are overwhelming.
Our first ride is out of Tbilisi is in the direction of Rustavi. This town was built during the Soviet era to become a worker’s paradise. The whole town revolved around its gigantic steel factory. Big fancy boulevards lead you to the impressive administration building of the factory. You will feel like you ended up in a different era. From Rustavi we keep on heading towards the Azerbaijani border. Close to the border the in a steppe like area we find the David Gareja monestary complex. A beautifully well preserved sight with many fresco’s and rock hewn livings for priests. From there we take our first off road tracks through the semi-dessert around Davit Gareja. From the small village of Iormughanlo we connect back to the main road leading to Sighnaghi. Here we spent the night at the Zandarashili family, home grown food and homemade wine will fill the evening. We will experience the first ‘’Supra’’ of the trip.
Georgia is the birthplace of wine. Remains of Georgian traditional wine making have been discovered and they date back to 8000 years ago. Kakheti, the region where we are, is known as THE wine region the country. First we visit the one of the oldest and biggest wine producers of Georgia. Afterwards we visit a small winery situated right at the home of the Milorava family, small and authentic wines grown right in the yard and made with ‘’qvevri’s’’. Afterwards we visit a biodynamic winery, out here they only work with horses and hands, no machinery whatsoever. The scenery during the wine tasting is gorgeous, overlooking the wine fields and the mighty Caucasus Mountains. We sleep in Telavi, the capital of Kakheti.
Today a great road trip awaits, it is time to go off the beaten track. The immense diversity of Georgia will show itself again. From the wine fields we travel up north. Nature changes fast out here. We continue the road towards Shatili, the main town in ‘’Khevshureti’’. One of Georgia’s less travelled regions. It is as remote as its get, the nature around is spectacular. Since we have a 60 KM dirt track towards Shatili coming up we spent the night before the main mountains passes. Driving here will feel like going back in time. The town of Shatili is famous for its 60 towered medieval castle. If you ride in the town after the small track into the town you wonder, why they needed this castle exactly here. The Khevshur people are known as brave warriors and border guards. We visit the castle and have a wonderful local dinner in the middle of Shatili, with a view over the castle.
For those ready for some hiking Mutso is the place to go. This little travelled region is the place for outdoor activities.
With the main, yet same and only track to and from Khevshureti back down South. We use a small bypass road connecting the old capital of Georgia called Mtskheta with Gori, mostly famous for given birth to Joseph Stalin. For those interested we will pay a visit to the museum that gives an unusual account of his life as the leader of the Soviet Union. Gori has also been the theatre for another historical event, the Russian invasion of 2008. At request our hosts will give an intriguing yet interesting account of that.
We move southwards towards Vardzia. Again a totally different region with natural sights that will amaze you. Nevertheless, the are incomparable to any of the sights we already encountered. We take the paved roads via Borjomi. The region is not only famous for its beautiful nature but also because of the numerous immense cultural and historical treasures that it houses. It can truly be soon as the cultural birthplace of Georgia. One of the most special ones being the secret monastery build in the 12th century into the rocks of which the front collapsed during an earthquake. The roads here are twisting around rivers, cliffs and castles. The region had a history of mixed ethnicities and religions co-existing peacefully, and this still remains. We spent the night 5 minutes away from the cave city, where all the food is grown at the facility. Even the freshly barbequed fish is from the river that flows through the yard of the hotel.
We take a 35 KM-long off-road pass from Sairme to Abastumani with stunning views over the biggest national park of Europe. This will bring us from Vardzia all the way to Kutaisi. Georgia’s second biggest city. The place has a relaxed vibe, and after the rocky ride we have a delicious dinner at Kutaisi’s only and best bohemic-styled restaurant.
From Kutaisi it is a decent drive back to Tbilisi. On the way the road connecting East and West clearly shows the natural and cultural differences this small country has to offer.