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Georgia Travel Guide

Despite the occasional threat of Russian invasion, Georgia is a lot of fun.

Few countries have as much natural charm as Georgia. The scenery varies from the lush coastline on the Black Sea to the mighty Caucasus mountains. The food is great, and eating is just about the national pastime in Georgia. And the Georgians themselves are some of the most wonderful people on earth – massively hospitable, flamboyant, open-hearted, expressive and warm. A gentle climate and laid-back attitude give Georgia a slow, lazy feel.

For a country that has so many natural blessings, Georgia is in a bad way, thanks to a rocky road since leaving the USSR in 1991. The corruption would make a Nigerian blush, organized crime is pretty much endemic, two regions of the country, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have split off and are de facto independent, and a large number of the youngest and most talented people have left the country. None of this means you won’t have a good time there though.

Tourism was big in the Soviet era, but the Russians don’t visit much now and other tourists have not moved in yet in big numbers, so you won’t see many other travellers round, and neither will you find much in the way of facilities and infrastructure. There is so much potential for things like downhill skiing, cycling, cultural tourism, but it is not developed yet. As Georgia scrapped visa requirements for EU, American and many other nationals in 2005, things are likely to pick up.

Georgia is a pretty small country, and as almost all tourists arrive via the capital Tbilisi, it makes a good base from which to travel around. Only if you head west to the coast, or right up into the northern mountains, are you likely to travel far enough to make a night stop.

For travellers, the main attractions are the history, and the scenery. There are loads of old castles, churches, cave-monasteries, museums full of ancient art, and other curios, including a whole town dedicated to Stalin.

One not-to-be missed experience in Georgia is a real feast – Georgians really come alive round the table, and the bonhomie and toasting are unforgettable. Wine drinking here enjoys a reverence you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Howard Gethin

Now resident in Moscow, Howard works as an editor and still makes occasional forays into places where men carry guns and mountains are nearby.