Georgia Travel Itinerary: One to Three Weeks in Georgia

A guide to the best places to visit in Georgia so you can create your own Georgia itinerary for one, two or three weeks. 

Georgia is quickly becoming the hottest new tourist destination and it’s easy to see why. This country has it all! Stunning mountain vistas, coastline, vibrant cities and an abundance of wine, what more could you want?!

Visiting Georgia is a brilliant idea and planning a Georgia travel itinerary is probably a good start but it’s hard to know what to fit into your trip. We read so many things about the different parts of Georgia and even in five weeks we didn’t see it all! So I’ve compiled this guide to the best places to visit in Georgia along with a recommended time for each and suggestions for one, two and three-week itineraries so you can pick and choose what works for your time, budget and interests.

travel itinerary for Georgia

How long do you need to visit Georgia?

How long have you got? Many nationalities enter visa-free for a year and you could easily spend that long. But ideally you’ll have 2-3 weeks. If not, you can still explore Tbilisi in a couple of days and a few of the most impressive areas in about a week.

Transport in Georgia

Georgia has (mostly) decent roads and if you plan your route carefully driving times are short. You can hire a car which gives you the ultimate freedom, take minivans from place to place or even hire a driver. There are also trains linking some parts of the country such as Batumi and Tbilisi.

public transport in Georgia, roads in Georgia

We drove our van there and can safely say Georgia has some of the craziest drivers we have come across! It can be a bit stressful driving in the cities so make sure you have steady nerves.

Hitchhiking is possible in Georgia, the people are very friendly but often don't speak English outside of the cities but you can always give it a go!

Basic Information About Georgia

Population: around 4 million

Currency: Georgian Lari (GEL) €1 = 3GEL

Borders: Russia, Armenia, Turkey, Azerbaijan

Language: Georgian, most people speak Russian, there are varying levels of English throughout the country but many people in the cities speak very good English.

Thank you in Georgian - Madlobah

Quick Glance – Top Places to See in Georgia

Tbilisi - Capital city

Batumi - City on the Black Sea coast

Signaghi - East Georgia in the wine region

Mtskheta - Historic capital near Tbilisi

Kazbegi - Central North in the moutains

Mestia - North West in the mountains

Kutaisi - West Georgia 

Planning a trip to Georgia Gelati Monastery

 

One Week in Georgia

If you only have one week in Georgia you can still see a fair bit of the country from a base in Tbilisi. I recommend seeing as many of these as you can comfortably fit into your one-week Georgia itinerary. If you have longer, start with these and then read on for more Georgian awesomeness.

 

Tbilisi

Recommended time: 3-5 days

Travel Itinerary for Georgia Tbilisi

Tbilisi is the heart of the country and is connected to everywhere. You can either use it as a base and visit other areas from there or include it as part of your route throughout the country. The city is quite large but most of the centre is walkable and there is good public transport options as well as cheap taxis

We fell head over heels for Tbilisi and would love to live there one day. It’s a really affordable city with something for everyone. Highlights include the beautiful balconies of the old town, a soak in the sulphur baths and visiting the theme park on top of the hill. There is also no shortage of cafes, wine bars and restaurants to wile away an hour or three. We spent almost three weeks in Tbilisi and were still discovering new things. For a cosy, central hostel with free pancakes, dorm beds with curtains and a comfortable private room check out Pushkin 10.

Related articles:

Tbilisi for Booklovers

Visiting the Tbilisi Sulphur Baths

 

Mtskheta

Recommended time: 1 day

Traveling in georgia, europe Mtskheta

The ancient capital of Georgia lies just 30 minutes away from Tbilisi and can be easily reached as a day trip. The main drawcards are the two stunning cathedrals. One in the centre of the town and the other on the hill overlooking it.

The town is very small and has a couple of restaurants and some souvenir shops. We stayed three days because we were waiting for good weather to head to the mountains but there is really only one day’s worth of things to do!

We stayed at Hotel Prime which had a balcony with great views of the cathedral and super friendly hosts. 

 

Signaghi

Recommended time: 1-2 days

Where to go in georgia Signaghi city of love and wine

This is known as the city of love and lies in the middle of the wine region in the East of the country. It’s about two hours from Tbilisi and is a popular spot for wine tasting tours. The town is surrounded by old castle walls and there are some beautiful churches, it’s Georgia after all! It doesn’t take more than a day to wander the town but there are lots of nice restaurants and wine shops so many people spend the night. We camped in our van with views of the town.

A day tour from Tbilisi costs around €20 per person.

Fun fact: You can get married here just by showing up with your passport if anyone is keen for a shotgun wedding! 

 

Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)

Recommended time:  2 days

Georgia Travel Itinerary Kazbegi

This beautiful little mountain town will charm your sock off! The town itself is made up of a few restaurants and guest houses but the real drawcard is the hilltop church and the mighty peak of Mt Kazbegi. The hike to the church takes around two hours and has some amazing views. Back down in the town make sure to head for a coffee at the beautiful Rooms Hotel. Both the cafe interior and the views are incredible! 

For those feeling a bit more adventurous, you can take a tour up the mountain. We were there in late October and it was probably the last week before the place was covered in snow. It’s still possible to visit later in the winter but make sure you have warm clothes and hiking boots.

We loved the private rooms for a bargain €9 at Hostel Soul. If you've got a bigger budget definitely check out the incredible Rooms Hotel for amazing views. 

2-3 Week Itinerary for Georgia

If you have more than a week you can choose to spend a bit longer sipping wine in Signaghi or hanging out it cafes in Tbilisi. But you could also add another few spots to your Georgia itinerary. Here are some other suggestions for more places to visit in Georgia.

 

David Gareta Monastery and Udabno

Recommended time: 1 day

Travel Georgia

We drove here on our way back from Signaghi to Tbilisi. The monastery was under construction so we couldn’t see parts of it but it was very cool to see the old rooms built into the rock. The area around is also stunning with vast plains and colourful rock formations. If we were doing it again we would stay in the little village of Udabno and hike to the monastery which takes about 2.5 hours.

There isn’t much in Udabno but for one night all you need is the wonderful Oasis Club. This is a hostel and restaurant run by volunteer staff and local cooks. There is a dorm room, spots to camp and adorable little ensuite cabins looking out over the views. The food is amazing, there is a book for beer swap and some adorable kittens that roam around the place. It’s a great place to spend the night but be careful you don’t end up there for years! You can book a cabin here

Note: The roads are shocking! Like, possibly the worst condition of any roads we drove in our 3 months driving through the Balkans to Georgia. Huge potholes and so many that you can’t avoid them so you have to drive incredibly slowly. It took us an hour to go 14km. But there was a small stretch that had been newly sealed so maybe they have plans for the rest? (Oct 2017)

 

 

Kutaisi

Recommended time: 2-3 days

planning a trip to georgia. Visit Kutaisi

This chill little city lies between Batumi and Tbilisi and is great base for seeing some interesting sights in the surrounding area. We had a day out exploring the Gelati and Motsameta monasteries which are both beautiful. There is also a monastery on a pillar nearby which we didn’t visit.

We had a very comfortable stay at Sun Guesthouse which was in a great location! 

Related articles:

Exploring Kutaisi, Gelati and Motsameta

 

Mestia

Recommended time: 2-5 days (depending on if you do the 4 day hike)

Visitng georgia 2 week itinerary Mestia hike

Image: © Amy Nelson

We didn’t make it here due to the weather but when we return to Georgia (and we will!) this will be first on our list. This tiny village is nestled in the mountains in the North West of Georgia and is the base for a four-day hike. Each day takes you to a new village and the views along the hike look insanely cool. There are guest houses in each village and taxis or minivans escort hikers back to Mestia from the final village.

To get to Mestia you can take a minivan from Tbilisi (or Kutaisi) or take an overnight train to Zugdidi and get a minivan from there. There are also flights every second day for only 65GEL (around €22). There is a website for booking these flights but we haven’t heard any success stories so better to head to a travel agent (the price is fixed). The flights are very weather dependent so in the off season you have to be lucky to get a good flying day.

 

Batumi

Recommended time: 2-3 days

Where to go in Georgia Caucasus. Visit Batumi Black Sea

The Black Sea casino city is your first impression of Georgia if you arrive over the Turkish border. It’s not exactly a typical Georgian city or a place to rave about but it has its own weirdly charming personality. We spent three days there and really enjoyed it. There’s all kinds of odd sculptures and attractions to see including the Alphabetic tower and a Ferris wheel in the side of a building. If you’re there during the summer expect lots of Russian tourists but also nice weather for enjoying the beach!

We had a great stay at Lemon Tree Guesthouse. It's a bit out of the city centre but there is a bus stop, supermarket and restaurants nearby. The owners are lovely and at under €10 for an en-suite room, it's a steal. More details and prices here

Related articles:

Weird and Wonderful Things to do in Batumi

 

Gori

Recommended time: 1-2 days

This town is famous for being the birthplace of Stalin and is home to the Joseph Stalin Museum. There is also a plaque at his birthplace and a statue in the main square. A must see for Communists and anyone else interested in a bit of obscure history! The town also has a castle and a cathedral. You  can get there by mini-van from Tbilisi and see Gori as a day trip or spend the night. 

 

Borjormi and Vardzia

Recommended time: 2-3 days

6229570171_af7bd28350_z.jpg

Image: © Levan Gokadze

For the luxury travellers, Borjomi is a resort town famous for its mineral water which is bottled and sold all over the former Societ Union. The area also has many spas with supposed healing qualities and you can easily spend a few days having relaxing treatments.

Borjomi is also a good base for visiting Vardzia, an ancient cave town and monastery dug into a cliff face. We didn't make it here but the photos look really cool. 

So now you're ready to start planning your trip to Georgia. These are just the places we experienced and heard about during our month in Georgia. There are plenty of other areas to be explored if you stay longer, and trust me, you'll want to! 2018 is going to be a big year for tourism in Georgia so make sure you get involved and see a bit of this amazing country. 

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you book something through one of these links we will make a small commission to help sustain the blog! Thanks! 

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Explore Georgia, Caucasus. A guide to the best places to visit in Georgia so you can plan the perfect Georgia travel itinerary. #georgia #caucasus #travelitineraries  

The Budget Traveller's Guide to Finding Cheap Accommodation

How to Save Money on Accommodation

This guide is packed with tips and hacks for finding budget accommodation. Tricks for saving money on accommodation from free accommodation options to a bit of luxury on a budget.

Accommodation, like food, is a necessity whilst travelling and in many cases it can be the biggest portion of your travel budget. We’ve travelled to over 60 countries on a budget and our current trip has no time limit except when our money runs out. So, as you can imagine, it’s pretty important for us to save money on accommodation wherever possible.

budget hotel room finding cheap accommodation

We’ve used lots of tricks and booking options over the years, some have worked and others not so much. So I’ve put together this guide to help other budget-conscious travellers get the most out of their money and hopefully save a few pennies along the way. These are all our tried and tested tips for finding budget accommodation around the world.

 

How to Find Free Accommodation

This is the budget travellers dream and there are a few ways to do this. Be aware that free often means free of payment but may be more of an exchange.

Wild camping

This requires a tent, car or van so does have some initial costs but there are endless possibilities for free camping spots in many countries. This ranges from it being legal to camp anywhere in Scandinavia, the Baltics and many Eastern European countries. To places like New Zealand where there are some government-provided campgrounds free of charge.

One of our amazing free camping spots in Albania

One of our amazing free camping spots in Albania

Make sure to be a courteous camper and take your rubbish with you, don’t light fires unless in a safe and responsible area and don’t camp on people’s property without permission.

Read More: The best free camping spots in Albania

 

Couchsurfing

We have had nothing but awesome experiences with this network both as guests and hosts. It’s a great way to meet like-minded travellers and staying with a local always helps you enjoy a city more. Try to request at least three days in advance although some people prefer a week or two (much harder to do when you’re travelling without set plans!)

Dinner with one of our couchsurfing hosts in Iran

Dinner with one of our couchsurfing hosts in Iran

It’s nice to bring something to share e.g a bottle of wine or something from your home country. But most people are pretty easy going and welcoming. We often offer to cook if we’re staying more than one night. Most couchsurfers are also budget travellers so hosts don’t expect lavish gifts.

 

Staying with friends and family

Dinner with friends in the Netherlands

Dinner with friends in the Netherlands

This is where an excellent facebook network comes in handy. Someone always knows someone in every corner of the world so don’t be afraid to ask. Make people aware of your travel plans and they will often volunteer people they know to show you around or host you. It’s also a great excuse to connect with extended family. I definitely plan on staying with my many distant cousins when I finally get to Ireland! Currently, Max’s cousin is staying with my aunty in New Zealand, it’s all about connecting!

 

Using referral programmes

Booking options such as Airbnb and Booking.com offer refer a friend bonuses. If you can sign some people up then you can make enough to yourself a place to stay for a few days! If you want to get started sign up for Airbnb and get €35 off your first stay!

 

Volunteering

There are a few websites which connect hosts and travellers where you can find work in exchange for accommodation. These range in time but some are available for just a week. It can be anything from seasonal farm work to childcare to computer work and the work times and conditions vary. We recently signed up to workaway and hope to find some places to settle for longer periods on our trip. We can save on accommodation and get to know some locals at the same time. You can also try WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)

Children at a school I volunteered at in Cambodia

Children at a school I volunteered at in Cambodia

It’s also very common for hostels to take on staff and let them stay for free. Accommodation is usually in dorm rooms so it’s not always ideal long term. But if you’re a social butterfly it can be a great way to meet other people and save some money. 

 

House sitting

We haven’t done this yet but it sounds like the perfect way to save money when you’re slow travelling. It’s a network where people who are going away can find people to look after their house, garden and pets while they’re gone. You get a free place to stay and they get the security of knowing their things are looked after. Win-win!

We’ve been looking into joining Trusted House Sitters but are waiting until we have more time and flexibility in our itinerary.

 

Sleep at the airport

save money on accommodation - sleep at the airport

This is not such a glamorous option but often a very practical one. If our flight leaves early in the morning we hang out in a café or at our hostel and head to the airport around midnight and find a place to nap until check-in. It’s not the best night’s sleep but it’s free! There is also a great website aptly named sleepinginairports.net which rates airports and gives information on the facilities available.

 

How to Find Budget Accommodation

Campgrounds

If you carry a tent with you this is the perfect way to stay cheaply. But even in if you don’t, during the summer months there are many places that have permanent tents or will rent tents. Search ‘camping’ on Google Maps in the area around the city and check out the options. I stayed at a great campsite in Rome with a pool which was way cheaper than staying in the city.

Campground in Montenegro

Campground in Montenegro

Read More: Best Campgrounds in the Balkans

 

Hostels, budget hotels and Apartments

When I travelled solo, dorm rooms were my go-to accommodation. Good value for money, easy to meet people and hostels are usually well located and can provide local information about a place. Now that we travel as a couple, private rooms are often cheaper than two beds in a dorm so we take that option. Best of both worlds- benefits of a hostel but the privacy of our own room.

hostel dorm room-min.jpg

When booking hostels or guesthouses we compare across a range of booking engines. We also use meta search engines such as Trivago

Hostelworld – This has the biggest range of hostels and a fairly accurate reviewing system. You can filter the results by price, rating, location etc. It’s very difficult to search based on price for two people though.

*TIP* Always check with on the hostels own website for prices. Sometimes they cost more on Hostelworld to cover the fees they have to pay.

Booking.com – Has a complete range of hostels, guesthouses, apartments and hotels. The search filters are easy to use and there is even a function which shows the best rating to price value.

*TIP* Once you make several bookings using Booking.com you become a ‘genius’ member which means they offer you discounts and deals. Often it’s 10% off and they can end up being a great deal.

 Airbnb – We often find an entire house for the same price as a double room. It’s the perfect solution if we need to do some washing or want a bit more space. They are usually a little further out of the city centre but you can view the options on a map.

*TIP* Watch out for the extra fees with Airbnb. They quote the price per night in the search but there is always a service fee and sometimes a cleaning fee which gets added on.

 

Overnight transport

Getting overnight trains and buses are a great money saver. If you can sleep on them! Usually cheaper than a night’s accommodation but it includes your travel too. Plus you don’t waste any time travelling, you wake up and you’re there! We’ve taken overnight transport in Europe, Russia, Asia, the Middle East and South America with varying degrees of comfort.

Max on the overnight train from Tbilisi to Baku, Azerbaijan

Max on the overnight train from Tbilisi to Baku, Azerbaijan

The only downfall is if you don’t sleep you end up needing to nap the next day. We were often lucky and were able to check in at our hostel when we arrived and grab a couple of hours sleep before exploring the city.

 

Guest houses or homestays

cheap accommodation Cuba-min.JPG

Unfortunately finding genuine local homestays can be difficult online. We often turned up in places and had a look around for signs. This led us to some great homestays in Cuba where there are only over-priced tourist places online.

 

How to Find Luxury Accommodation on a Budget

So you’ve been travelling a while and feel like a splash-out but the ever-budget-conscious traveller in you still wants a good bargain. I know the feeling. So when we’re looking to treat ourselves with a little bit of luxury here’s how we do it.

Last minute booking sites

Lastminute.com and other similar ones sell hotel rooms for really cheap prices if you book, you guessed it, at the last minute. We’ve never actually booked anything from here as they tend to be expensive hotels to begin with so we always find something cheaper. But if you’re looking for luxury there are huge discounts available.

 

maldives-666122_1920-min.jpg

Groupon

This site offers deals for all kinds of things, from restaurants to massages but it also has a holiday packages section. Sometimes you can be lucky and find a deal that’s valid during your dates. I once used this for a seafront guest house in Fiji and it turned out cheaper than most hotel rooms.

 

General tips for saving money on accommodation

Stay in big cities on weekdays

Weekends are almost always the most expensive time to stay in cities. If your schedule is flexible, try and plan to spend the weekends in smaller places and come to the cities mid week when there are no local tourists.

Be flexible

Often accommodation costs change depending on the day and availability. If you can go a day later or arrive sooner you might be able to save a bit of money.

Read travel blogs

In places that don’t offer so much accommodation online make sure to read up on blog posts about the area and see if they recommend good places to stay. You can often find a top travel tip.

Factor in transport costs

If you find really cheap accommodation but it ends up being way out of the city centre you could end up spending more on transport than the difference of a room in the centre. Plus you waste a lot of time. This isn’t always the case though, we’ve stayed in some great budget places where transport was cheap and easy like Sofia and Pristina.

Stay longer

Hostels often have discounts for longer stays and if it’s not advertised it doesn’t hurt to ask. This is also the case with local accommodation, they will often discount your stay or give you a free night if you stay longer. With Airbnb you can save more this way as the cleaning fee is a fixed amount so splitting it over several days saves you paying it for multiple bookings, there are also properties that have weekly and monthly discounts.

Do some research

It can get very time consuming when you travel full time to be constantly looking up accommodation options. But if you take some time to research the area and look at some different booking options you’re much more likely to find a good deal and a place that is good value for money.

Take the reviews with a grain of salt

The reviewing system on almost every booking site can be very useful or very misleading. Make sure you read a good range of them and take into account who is writing them. Often people of different ages and cultures have different expectations in accommodation and different perspective on what is good value for money. For example, somebody from London may think a place is really cheap but someone from Albania may think it is over-priced depending on what they are used to. Also bear in mind that people are more likely to write about a bad experience than a good one (unless it was exceptional).

Use an incognito window

Google is really clever about remembering your recent searches and you may find that you can no longer find that awesome deal you found two days ago. It may just be gone but it might also be that the search engine knows you're interested and has hiked up the price. Check again in incognito! 

 

So that's everything we know about finding budget accommodation, now you're ready to find great accommodation at budget prices! If you have any other tips or hacks, let us know in the comments! 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you book accommodation through one of these links we make a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Thanks for helping us save on accommodation!

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Tips and hacks for finding all kinds of budget accommodation. From free accommodation to luxury accommodation on a budget. #budgettravel #traveltips #accommodation
Tips and hacks for finding all kinds of budget accommodation. From free accommodation to luxury accommodation on a budget. #budgettravel #traveltips #accommodation

Visiting the Tbilisi Sulphur Baths: A Guide for First Time Visitors

Visiting the sulphur baths in Tbilisi is a definite must-do when you’re in the city, especially if you’re in Tbilisi in October to March when it’s much colder. It is a really enjoyable experience but it pays to know a few things before you go.

We had a look at six different bathhouses in the Abanotubani district of Tbilisi and used two of them. So here is what we found out about prices for the Tbilisi sulphur baths, what you need to bring with you, what they look like inside and exactly what goes down when you’re in there!

visit the sulphur baths in tbilisi Georgia

But let’s start at the beginning…

Many years ago, the King of Georgia discovered the sulphur springs in Central Georgia and decided to build a city surrounding them. And so, Tbilisi (warm place) was born. These days the sulphur springs are somewhat of a tourist attraction and many people visit daily for a soak, scrub and traditional massage beneath the domed roofs.

 

Where does the hot water come from?

Tbilisi is built on top of thermal springs. The water the comes from the contains sulphur and is around 40°-50°C.

sulphur water in Tbilisi Georgia

What are the benefits of sulphur baths?

Besides being incredibly relaxing and making you feel toasty on a cold day, sulphur baths are also believed to treat skin problems such as eczema and dry scalp. They are also said to help with arthritic joints, digestion problems and even insomnia.

I have minor acne and definitely noticed improvements after visiting the baths and Max’s dandruff also disappeared for a few days.

Which Tbilisi bathhouse should you go to?

There are around 10 bathhouses in the Abanotubani area. They all have private rooms of varying standards, sizes and prices. Your best bet is to take a wander around the area and ask to look at some of the rooms. The staff are quite happy to show you the options before you make a booking.

We looked at six of the bathhouses before deciding on which ones to use. Here’s a brief summary of what we found:

Chreli Abano bath, Tbilisi, Georgia-01-min.jpeg

Orbeliani Bathhouse  

You’ll probably take a photo of this place before you even realise it’s a bathhouse. The beautiful mosque-like exterior leads to a series of newly restored private rooms. This place runs a slick operation with English speaking staff, quick turn-around and new facilities. Definitely a top option.

Bathhouse No. 5

This is the oldest and most traditional bathhouse, or so we’ve been told. The entrance is crowded with locals and the staff are a lot less interested in customer service but the rooms are beautiful. They have recently been retiled with stunning mosaics and the more expensive rooms (100GEL) are very luxurious.

DSC07723.jpg

Gulo’s Baths

This place came highly recommended and we liked the look of it. We almost went but ended our route at No.5 so stayed there. Gulo’s has clean, spacious rooms and friendly staff.

Queen's Sulphur Bath

This look of this place is less traditional as it’s not set underground. But the staff were very helpful and professional. The rooms had no special mosaics or decoration but were clean and the massage offer sounded much more thorough than the ‘rub down’ received at the other places.

Royal Bathhouse

This is another well-known one as the entrance is right on the main square in the bathhouse area. The rooms were all taken when we went to look so we didn’t see inside. But the entrance area gave off more of a brothel vibe and we weren’t too keen to check it out any further. It has good reviews online though.

Abanotubani, Tbilisi, Georgia-01-min.jpeg

Doesn't have a name but it's here

The ‘budget’ option had big signs offering rooms for 30GEL, however, we saw the signs have recently been changed to 50GEL. These rooms were much more rundown but in the end it’s just sulphur water so if you’re on a budget you could give it a go. However, the cheapest rooms at Orbeliani are much nicer and no more expensive.

How much does it cost to visit the Tbilisi sulphur baths?

Luxury room for one hour: 100-120GEL

Mid-range room for one hour: 60-80 GEL

Budget room for one hour: 30-55 GEL

Towel, shampoo, soap, slippers: 1-3GEL

Massage and scrub: 20GEL

This totally depends on your taste and which room you decide on. For a clean, spacious room with a pool, table and chairs, toilet, shower and massage stone expect to pay around 60-80 GEL. If you want to splash out and have a sauna, a cold pool and more space there are rooms for 100-120 GEL. The budget rooms often don’t have a seating area or are more rundown.

Remember this is per room per hour so if you go as a group this becomes much cheaper.

Roofs of Abanotubani, Tbilisi, Georgia-01-min.jpeg

What happens inside the bathhouse?

You’ll be shown to your room and left to your own devices. We used the rooms naked but if you feel more comfortable in swimwear then go for it. The doors lock from the inside so there’s no issue with people coming in.

If you booked a scrub and massage they usually come after about 20 minutes and knock on the door. Be aware that it can be a man or a woman regardless of who they will be massaging. I had a male masseur but he was completely professional and I has Max in the room as well. Had I known before he turned up at the door I might have asked for a woman but in the end, it didn’t really matter.

Orebliani baths Tbilisi Georgia.JPG

The masseur will ask you to lie on the stone slap and scrub you down with a coarse exfoliating mitt. It doesn’t exactly hurt but it’s not pleasant and you do lose a huge amount of dead skin! After the scrubbing they fill a pillowcase-like sack with soapy mixture and cover you in soap suds, this was my favourite part. It smells like baby shampoo and with shiny new skin, you actually feel a bit like a baby getting washed!

The massage varies depending on the baths and the masseur. My first one was more of a brief back rub whereas my second one was more thorough and included legs and arms. Altogether the scrub and massage process lasts 10-15 minutes and will leave you feeling incredibly refreshed. Some places offer an extended massage option so if you want a proper treatment just ask.

What do you need to bring?

Just yourself! If you want to save money you can bring your own towel and soap. Make sure to bring or buy a bottle of water, it gets really hot it there and dehydration isn’t fun. You can take cameras with you. If you want to chill for a while bring a book, you can read about all the best bookshops and cafes in Tbilisi here. 

So there you have it, everything you need to know about visiting the sulphur baths in Tbilisi. You're ready to soak, scrub and sulphur yourself to relaxation and experience a Georgian tradition that dates back centuries. 

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Tbilisi for Book Lovers

Tbilisi for Book Lovers

Tbilisi, Georgia is definitely a city I’d consider living in. There are great restaurants and cafes, a beautiful old town, it’s cheap and it has so many great places for book lovers. So bookworms and literature aficionados rejoice, here are all the wonderful places to browse, read and appreciate books in Tbilisi.

Books to Read When in Georgia

I picked up a copy of 'Stories I Stole' by Wendell Steavenson while I was in Tbilisi. It's a really interesting book about an American journalist who moves to Tbilisi during the late 90s. Good for learning a bit of history and reading some interesting anecdotes. 

books about Georgia country
books about georgia ali and nino

I also bought a copy of 'Ali and Nino' by Kurban Said which is actually set in Baku but tells the story of a Georgian girl and an Azeri boy who fall in love but can't be together. I've heard it's the Romeo and Juliet of the Caucasus and I'm really looking forward to reading it. 

Bookshops in Tbilisi

We’ll start with the obvious, head to a bookshop. There are a few good English bookstores in Tbilisi where you can find a range of bestsellers, non-fiction and Caucasus literature.

Prospero’s Bookshop and Café

prospero's bookshop tbilisi georgia

This is set in a gorgeous little courtyard off the main street. It has a great range of English books including travel, textbook and children’s sections and gifts. Most books are between 15-30 GEL. The café does brilliant coffee, sandwiches and snacks and is a great place to sit and get some work done or cosy up with a book.

Address: 34 Shota Rustaveli Ave, Tbilisi 0108

http://www.prosperosbookshop.com/

 

Parnassus books

Photo: https://www.librarything.com/venue/65204/Parnassus-books

Photo: https://www.librarything.com/venue/65204/Parnassus-books

This is a great book store with a large range of English books. It's great for a browse and is located just off a street with great cafes. So pick up a book and find a comfy place to sit and read for a couple of hours. 

Address: 22 Ilia Chavcahvadze Avenue

 

Rare Books

Rare books Tbilisi english book shops

This shop is overflowing with stacks of books of all genres and languages. If you’re like me and get warm fuzzies just from being around large collections of books you’ll get all kinds of good vibes in this place. There are lots of collectors’ items as well as a second hand English section. The books in the English section are quite old but it’s worth a browse.

Address: 77 Davit Aghmashenebeli Ave, Tbilisi

 

The Book Markets

book markets in tbilisi georgia

Along Rustavali Avenue you’ll find plenty of street vendors who have set up shop with a range of old books. Most of them are in Russian or Georgian but you might find the odd English book. All the same, they are nice to wander through and some of them sell beautiful maps and postcards.

 

Book Cafes in Tbilisi

There seems to be a thing for book cafes in Tbilisi and obviously I made sure to personally try them all. From gorgeous bookshelves to book-themed décor, these places will make any book lover want to settle in for the day.

Begemot Coffee and books

Begemot book cafe tbilisi georgia

I mean, the name says it all. This place serves the most amazing, giant coffees, roast vege and pesto sandwiches and the walls are lined with books. What more could you want?! The books in the front are 5GEL and on the back shelf they are 10-20GEL. On the left side of the back bookshelf there is a section that are free to swap. This place is also a speak-easy and has a downstairs bar behind the sliding bookcase! See if you can get the invite to check it out.

Address: 2 Ivane Machabeli St, Tbilisi

http://www.begemot.ge/

 

Book Corner Café.

Book corner cafe tbilisi georgia

There are now two of these book cafes in Tbilisi. The first is located on Ivane Tarkhnishvili Lane and is in a house. As a result, it has a really homely feel and is filled with all kinds of literary touches from quotes on the wall and lampshades to the menu printed in a book. They serve really good food (we loved the Ceasar salad and fresh soup) as well as coffee, tea and cakes.

Address: 13 Ivane Tarkhnishvili Lane, Tbilisi

http://www.bookcorner.ge/

Book corner cafe tbilisi

The second one is located on the river next to the Dry Bridge and has similar décor and the same menu. However, because of the location and new building with views out to the river it has a much more hip and modern vibe. Both cafes are lovely but the first has much more of a cosy, bookish feel.

 

Café at Rooms Hotel

This is a modern, chic hotel with some amazing decor. If you've got a spare few hundred euro you should definitely get a room there. If you're like us and prefer life on a tighter budget then you can head there for a coffee and enjoy the beautiful cafe with plenty of bookshelves. 

cafe at rooms hotel kazbegi georgia

They also have another hotel in the mountain town of Kazbegi which sports amazing bookshelves and mountain views. 

Address: 14 Merab Kostava Street

https://roomshotels.com/tbilisi/

Other Activities in Tbilisi for Book Lovers

The National Parliamentary Library

National Parliamentary Library Tbilisi Georgia

This is a beautiful old building which is free to enter. Inside there are books in several language sections including English, German and French. It's definitely worth a look if you're in the area. 

The Book museum

The Book Museum Tbilisi Georgia

Look into this when you get to Tbilisi. Nobody quite knows when it will open but if the interior is half as nice as the exterior it'll be a real treat. It's meant to display ancient Caucasus literature and antique books and be 'the biggest book museum in the Caucasus and the first in Georgia'. Let me know what it's like when it opens! 

The Museum of Georgian Literature

Museum of georgian literature tbilisi

This is another thing I'd love to hear about if anybody makes it. We went here on Sunday and it was closed and returned on Tuesday to be told by security that it would be opening at 6pm. This seemed a little weird for a museum and we didn't return in the evening. But for literature lovers with an interest in Georgian literature it might be worth trying! 

Puppet Theatre

puppet theatre tbilisi georgia

This isn't strictly book-related but book lovers tend to also love theatre and stories. In the old town of Tbilisi there is a puppet theatre which shows various performances throughout the year. We were lucky enough to meet one of the crew on the last night of the production who sold us the last two tickets! It was really interesting and entertaining. The play is usually in Georgian with English subtitles. Check out the performance schedule during your visit. 

Reading in the park

reading english books tbilisi georgia

Tbilisi has so many well-manicured green areas including the Botanical Gardens. They make a great spot for chilling on a warm day and reading your book. There's even some reading-themed sculptures to spot in some of the parks around the city. 

As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Tbilisi for book lovers. Tbilisi also has plenty of appeal for history lovers, foodies and wine lovers. But we'll leave all that to another post! 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of the links we will make a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) Thanks for your support! 

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Love travel and books? You will love this article about book lover things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia's charming capital. Including bookshops, cute cafes, book-swaps and much more about books in Tbilisi! #tbilisi #georgia #books #cafes #bookshop #travel

Driving in the Balkans: A Complete Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Driving in the Balkans

This article tells you everything you need to know about driving in the Balkans. Car insurance in the Balkan countries, roads in the Balkans, safety of Balkan roads as well as individual insurance requirements, toll road and road condition information for each country. 

Driving in the Balkans is certainly an experience. We really enjoyed our road trip and think that driving is the best way to see the Balkans but there are a few things we wish we'd know before we left!  

So we've put together this guide to go with our other Balkans information so you're properly prepared with everything you need. Driving in the Balkans is absolutely amazing and the less time you spend stressing about navigation, tolls and insurance the more time you can spend enjoying views like this...

driving in the balkans views albania

If your looking for help with planning your road trip you can read our guides with tips, budget advice and itinerary suggestions here

The Green Card Insurance System

Driving in the Balkans: A Complete Guide, Green Card

When you insure a vehicle in the EU you are given a green card. This is your proof of insurance and shows on it the countries you're insured to drive in. Throughout the EU and in Serbia and Switzerland you can drive without having to show it but for the other Balkan countries (except Kosovo) you will need to show this card to enter (may or may not actually happen!) 

We didn't get our green card in the post before we left and, being the super organised travellers that we are, didn't read into it either. We ended up paying for insurance in Bosnia (€22 for 7 days) when we were already insured, doh! We then printed a copy of our green card and used this for the rest of the trip without problems. 

Car hire companies will usually charge extra for this card (actually a piece of paper.) So make sure you're clear with them about which countries you can and can't go to within your policy. 

Is it safe to drive in the Balkans?

Driving in the Balkans is not for the faint-hearted but it is one of the most incredible ways to see these countries. Our biggest safety issues were with the size of the roads. Many roads in the Balkans are about the width of 1.5 car, meaning you need to pull to the side to pass an oncoming vehicle. A good reason to take it a bit slower and be respectful right? Wrong! Balkan drivers will continue to drive at high speeds, over take on blind corners and refuse to pull over so you can pass. But you just have to keep driving at a safe speed and focusing on the road. 

dangerous driving in the balkans animals on the road

The other major hazard of driving in the Balkans is animals on the road. We passed (and often nearly hit) sheep, goats, cows, dogs, horses, pigs, ducks, cats, donkeys and foxes on a daily basis. Sometimes they would move out of the way, other times we had to wait. 

In the end, if you're a confident driver you'll be fine. The bigger highways are of a good standard and if you're vehicle is ok on unsealed roads you'll make it to everywhere even if it takes a bit (hours) longer than you planned. If you're in a large camper van then make sure to check the roads out before you go. 

Navigation in the Balkans

We used a combination of maps.me and google maps but found that neither of them really prepared us for the roads ahead. Maps.me by default shows you the shortest route regardless of the road quality/size and google maps didn't seem to be very up to date with the area. For example it tried to send us through Montenegro to get into Kosovo when there were several borders from Serbia which were open and much closer. 

Our advice for planning your routes in the Balkans:

-Cross check between at least two navigation systems.

-Use the satellite option on Google maps to see how big the road is. 

-Search Youtube for the name of the road and see if there are videos of people driving it to see the quality of the road. 

-Ask locals, the roads in the Balkans are constantly being redone as many of them look towards joining the European Union. The locals will know where the best route is.

-Remember an extra 50km of sealed road beats bumping your way down even 10km of unsealed road so sometimes the longer route makes sense.  

Petrol Prices in the Balkans

Under each country below we have given the cost of diesel as of July-October 2017. In some countries there were variations between petrol stations and in some places it was the exact same price at every petrol station. In general petrol was more expensive than diesel but price changes were relative i.e where diesel was cheaper than other countries so was petrol. 

Driving in Slovenia

driving in slovenia balkans

Currency: Euro

Car Insurance: Slovenia is covered by the 'green card' insurance. Although, since it is part of the European Union you're unlikely to be checked when you enter. 

Road tolls/vignettes: Slovenia has a vignette system. Costs are around 15€ for 7 Days or 30€ for 30 Days for more info check this website

Diesel prices: €1.14/L (no variation)

Road Conditions: Slovenia's roads are European standards and very safe to drive on. 

Other Useful Info: We decided not to buy a vignette and take the smaller roads around Slovenia. Because it's such a small country we didn't add much extra time and got to see lots of beautiful little towns. To find the roads that don't require a vignette use Google maps and select 'avoid toll roads'. 

 

Driving in Bosnia and Herzegovina

driving in Bosnia balkans guide

Currency: Bosnian Mark (KM)  €1 ≈ 2KM

Car Insurance: Bosnia and Herzegovina is covered by the 'green card' insurance. You need to have the original with you and it's very likely you will be asked for it when entering Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Road tolls/vignettes: Bosnia and Herzegovina has a toll system for it's two bigger and newer highways. Tolls are around €1-2/100Km. 

Diesel prices: KM 1.80 (about €0.90/L)

Road Conditions: The toll roads are mostly European standard. Smaller roads are partly in bad condition with potholes and fewer street signs. On maps it is hard to distinguish between a sealed and an unsealed road so be prepared for some rough terrain. 

Other Useful Info

 

Driving in Serbia

driving in serbia driving in the balkans

Currency: Serbian Dinar (RSD) €1 ≈ 120 RSD

Car Insurance: Serbia is covered by the 'green card' insurance but you won't need to show it to enter. 

Road tolls/vignettes:  Serbia has a toll system for some of the bigger and newer highways. Tolls are around €3-5/100Km. 

Diesel prices: RSD 144 (€1.20/L)

Road Conditions: The toll roads are mostly European standard. The smaller roads can be in bad conditions or unsealed with potholes and fewer street signs (a bit better than Bosnia). 

Other Useful Info: 

 

Driving in Kosovo

driving in kosovo balkans road trip

Currency: Euro

Car Insurance: Kosovo isn't covered by the 'green card' insurance. You have to purchase a separate insurance at the border. This costs 15€ for 15 days for a car or small van. There are higher costs for larger vehicles but most camper vans will fit in this bracket. 

Road tolls/vignettes: Kosovo has no toll roads, all streets are free to use. 

Diesel prices: €0.94-1.04/L

Road Conditions: The streets are in very good conditions. All major routes were new roads and we didn't come across any unsealed roads. 

Other Useful Info: Crossing from Serbia into Kosovo was no problem but the other way is difficult. We heard mixed stories on the road but the general consensus is to do Serbia first or exit into another country and enter Serbia through a different border. 

 

Driving in Montenegro

driving in Montenegro driving  in the balkans

Currency: Euro

Car Insurance: Montenegro is covered by the 'green card' insurance.  

Road tolls/vignettes: Montenegro has one toll tunnel, but the streets are free to use. The toll is €2.50.

Diesel prices: €1.09/L (no variation)

Road Conditions: All the roads we used in Montenegro were sealed and marked. 

Other Useful Info: We didn't find Montenegro to be any more or less dangerous than the other Balkan countries. But when we entered they gave a a graphic brochure about car accidents. Not sure if they actually have higher rates of accidents or if they're just being cautious but don't let it freak you out too much! 

 

Driving in Albania

driving in albania safety and insurance

Currency: Albanian Lek (ALL) €1 ≈ 134 ALL

Car Insurance: Albania is covered by the 'green card' insurance.  

Road tolls/vignettes: Albania has no tolls at all. All street are free to use. 

Diesel prices: Lek 150-160/L (€1.13-1.20/L)

Road Conditions: The roads in Albania were incredibly varied. The main roads along the coast and leading to Tirana were fine. We decided not to drive to Theth (good decision) because of the unsealed roads, although they were working on these so it may be finished some time soon, it also may not! The roads inland were in worse condition and much narrower but still fine for a van/car. 

Other Useful Info: Getting out of Albania can take a lot longer than getting in. An increase in drug smuggling out of the country has led to more checks taking place at the border. It took us nearly two hours to cross into Macedonia. 

 

Driving in Macedonia

driving in macedonia roads in the balkans

Currency: Macedonian Denar (MKD) €1 ≈ 62 MKD

Car Insurance: Macedonia is covered by the 'green card' insurance.  

Road tolls/vignettes: Macedonia has a toll system on the highways. Tolls are around 180MDK/100Km (€2,90/100Km) 

Diesel prices: 49 MKD/L (€.80/L)(no variation)

Road Conditions: The roads in Macedonia were fine between cities and larger towns. We ventured off into some smaller towns and the roads got very narrow! 

Other Useful Info

 

Driving in Bulgaria

Currency: Bulgarian Lev (BGN) €1 ≈ 2 BGN

Car Insurance: Bulgaria is part of the European Union, so it's covered by the 'green card' insurance.  

Road tolls/vignettes: Bulgaria has a Vignette system. The vignette costs €8 for 7 Days.  

Diesel prices: Lev 1.89-2.9/L (€0.95-1.05/L)

Road Conditions: All the roads we used were sealed and marked with a couple of potholes here and there on smaller roads. 

 

If you decide to take a car or van through the Balkans you're in for a real treat. Not only will you get to see some of the smaller places that are harder to get to but you'll also see all kinds of views that aren't in any guide book. 

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you buy something through one of the links, I will make a small commission. This doesn't cost you any extra. Thanks for your support!

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Planning a Road Trip trough the Balkans? Here is a complete guide to driving in the Balkans. Read about road conditions, petrol prices, currencies, toll roads and much more. #balkan #driving #roadtrip #guide

A Road Trip in the Balkans: Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria

If you’re reading this you’re probably planning a trip through the Balkans. Great, you’ve come to the right place! You should start by reading our guide to planning a Balkans road trip full of tips and FAQs about the logistics of your trip and route through the Balkans.

Already read it? Then let’s get planning!

I’ve created this guide to help you find the best stops on a road trip through the Balkans. This post covers the best things to see in Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria.

If you’re heading to Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia or Kosovo read all about them here.

balkan road trip places to stop

Where to stop on a Balkan road trip

Right, down to the nitty-gritty. The best places to visit in the Balkans. This is a hard one as we really love more off the beaten path locations and didn’t have time to see everything in every country (obviously!) But the many of the popular places are well worth seeing too. The great thing about road tripping in the Balkans is that you can get to places that are harder to reach by public transport and you get to see a whole lot more along the way. So here are our favourite places to see in the Balkans.

Things to see in Montenegro

This tiny country is home to just 300,000 people but packs a huge punch in terms of tourist appeal. Mountains, canyons, lakes, coastline – Montenegro has it all! Montenegro uses the Euro so tends to be a little more expensive than its neighbours. But it is still possible to do Montenegro on a budget and even easy in the less touristy areas. So, where to visit in Montenegro?

The Durmitor National Park

Recommended time: 3-4 days (more if you want to do lots of activities)

must-see places on a road trip in the balkans durmitor national park

This is home to the Tara Canyon (the deepest in Europe) and the Black Lake. If you’re an adventure lover there’s white water rafting, canyoning, climbing and some epic hikes. If you’re more like us and love a mildly challenging walk with some good views and preferably a café at the end then your needs are catered for too.

The Bay of Kotor

Recommended time: 2-3 days

places to see in the balkans bay of kotor

This is probably the most touristy areas of Montenegro or even the Balkans in general. It’s a stop of for cruise ships, bus tours from Croatia plus all the usual European tourists on their summer holidays. But don’t let it put you off! Kotor itself is beautiful and the area around is so stunning you could stare all day. There are definitely parts of the bay that are quieter and cheaper.

Read: Bay of Kotor on a Budget

Lake Skadar

Recommended time: 1-2 days

balkan road trip itinerary lake skadar montenegro

Another area of natural beauty, another complete contrast in scenery. Lake Skadar is between the coast and the capital, Podgorica. It is a huge lake which is two thirds in Montenegro and one third in Albania. It’s a great place for bird watching, kayaking and boat tours and hiking. There were a lot of bush fires when we were there and the lake was extremely dry. It was still really beautiful but swimming wasn’t so nice and lots of the surrounding areas were burnt.

Things to see in Albania

Albania completely surprised us and stole our hearts. We spent the longest time here of any country on our Balkan road trip. From hiking in the Albanian Alps to wild camping in the Albanian Riviera we loved every minute of our time here (well minus the dog-biting and crazy storm minutes). There are so many amazing things to do in Albania that we wrote a list of 20 of them. But in case your short on time here are the top ones!

Theth and Valbona

best place to stop on a road trip through the balkans - hiking theth to valbona

Recommended time: 3 days

The Albanian Alps are not the most well-known area (we’d never heard of them!) but they are an excellent place for hiking and adventuring. We took a taxi to Theth and hiked to Valbona National Park before taking the ferry back along the Komani lake. There are so many amazing landscapes in this part of the country and this trip is the perfect way to see a bit of everything in just a few days.

Read: Hiking Theth to Valbona

Himara and the Coast

Recommended time: min 3 days (you’ll want to spend weeks)

beaches of albania a must-see in the balkans

Ahhh Albanian beaches! Think the waters of the Caribbean Islands but the tourist levels of..well, Albania. Which is not very high. In September we had the beaches to ourselves and some of them are simply stunning. I think the picture says it all.

We liked the ones around Himara the best but pretty much the entire coast guarantees the good stuff!

Read: Best Wild Camping Spots on the Albanian Coast

Tirana

Recommended time: 2-3 days

best things to see in the balkans on a road trip tirana city albania

A little bit weird, a little bit rough-round-the-edges but totally funky and hip. Tirana is a city for eating, drinking and being wowed by odd tourist attractions. Like the giant abandoned pyramid on the city centre or the museum in a bunker. You definitely need to spend some time exploring Tirana.

Read: Tirana City Guide

Gjirokaster and Benja Hot Springs

Recommended time: 1 day

best things to do in the balkans road trip itinerary

If you have a bit more time in Albania make sure you don’t miss this part of the country. It has some incredible landscapes but also some really awesome places to stop. Gjirokaster is a UNSECO World Heritage Site and is a pretty, little old town with a twist. All the roofs are made from stacked, flat stones which seems an odd idea but totally works and looks very cool. The castle is also worth checking out.

Thermal pools Albania.jpg

We stumbled across the hot springs by accident looking for a place to park for the night. We couldn’t believe our luck when we rolled up next to some hot sulphur springs in a beautiful gorge. There are pools to soak in, a gorgeous old bridge and hardly anyone else around. It costs 200L for 2 people and parking.

Things to see in Macedonia

We arrived in Macedonia at the end of our Balkan road trip and wished we had a little more time, and better weather, to enjoy it. It is definitely on the cheapest countries in the Balkans and has some amazing nature to explore. So if Macedonia is high on your list leave yourself more than a week. But in a week you should start with Lake Ohrid and Skopje.

Lake Ohrid

Recommended time: 2-3 days

things to do on a road trip in the balkans lake ohrid macedonia

This lake sits right on the border to Albania and there are plenty of things to do in the surrounding areas. We stayed the amazing Camping Rino right on the banks of the lake and from there we were able to visit Ohrid, hike in the mountains nearby and explore the other small towns on the lake’s edge.

The city of Ohrid is a must-see and is home to 365 churches! Yes, on for every day of the year. The old town itself is really lovely and there are lots of great restaurants and cafes with lake views. A little further round the lake you can also visit the Museum on Water also known as Bay of the Bones, an archaeological museum about a settlement discovered on that exact spot in 1997.

Skopje

Recommended time: 2 days

road trip through the balkans places to stop skopje macedonia

We heard pretty poor reviews of Skopje from a variety of people including tourists and locals. But after spending a few days there we still couldn’t really work out why it gets such bad press. Sure, it’s a little bit weird (like all Balkan cities) and it’s a lot smaller than many others but the old town is charming and the ridiculous sculptures everywhere add a fun twist.

 

Things to see in Bulgaria

Sofia

Recommended time: 3 days

church-2264661_1920.jpg

We had heard a lot about Sofia and while we spent some time getting over the shock of being cold again we still had a great time. The city has some amazing history shown through beautiful buildings and even some ruins displayed in a metro station. There’s great food culture here and a whole range of free tours which give you a different take on the city whether it’s graffiti, food or cycling focused.

We found Sofia to be a bit more expensive than the other Balkan countries so we wrote a handy guide on how we stuck to our budget in Sofia.

Plovdiv

Recommended time: 1-3 days

where to go in the balkans plovdiv bulgaria

This is Bulgaria’s second biggest city but it feels very different to Sofia. It has a small old town with a great café and bar scene. There are some historic sites such as the amphitheatre and the castle ruins which are all easy to visit in a day. But the city will draw you in with its chilled out vibe and you might spend an extra few days sipping coffee and watching the world go by.

Buzludzha

Recommended time: day trip

must-see on a road trip in the balkans - bulgaria buzludzha monument

This is very out of the way but really worth the mission. What if I told you that you could drive into the Bulgarian mountains and see an abandoned UFO-like building standing at the top? True story, it’s the old meeting house of the Bulgarian communist party and it sits on top of the mountain surrounded by amazing views. There are stories of people being able to get inside but the entrances get closed by authorities, so we couldn’t find any. It’s very impressive from the outside though and on a clear day the views are amazing.

There are, of course, plenty of other places to stop on a road trip in the Balkans. But if you get to these ones you will have seen a good variety of areas and enjoyed some of the top places to see in the Balkans. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or drop us an email! 

This post may contains affiliate links. This means if you buy something through one of the links, I will make a small commission. This doesn't cost you any extra. Thanks for your support!

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Interested in a road trip in the Balkans? Read about the second part of our great road trip in the Balkans, including places to see in  Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. #roadtrip #balkans #montenegro #albania #macedonia #bulgaria

Balkan Road Trip Tips and Information

Balkan Road Trip Planning Guide

If you’re planning a road trip in the Balkans this is the guide for you. This article has everything you need to know about planning your Balkans itinerary for an epic road trip. Including answers to all your Balkans road trip questions like how long do you need and how much does it cost to travel in the Balkans. 

This post answers questions about the logistics of a road trip in the Balkans. If you want some ideas for places to stop along the way, have a read of these:

Best places to see in: Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo

Best places to see in: Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria

We didn't get to Croatia but if you're looking for a road trip itinerary you can check out this great post we found with all the info you need about Croatia. 

Planning a Route Through the Balkans

We spent three months on a road trip through the Balkans and our route looked like this….

Planning a road trip in the Balkans? This is our route through the Balkans

As you can see, we had to do a bit of zig-zagging to get to everywhere we wanted to go but luckily driving distances are short so we could cover a lot in three months. Your route through the Balkans will obviously depend on where you start and finish and how much time you have. My advice is to put dots in the places you really want to see and then join the dots in the most logical way. 

You might have to make some sacrifices, we didn't get to the north of Serbia or to Greece, but there's always next time! 

 

Why a road trip instead of public transport in the Balkans?

Driving is the perfect way to see the Balkans for several reasons:

-You can stop wherever you like. There are so many amazing views and things to see in the Balkans you’ll spend more time on the side of the road with your camera than actually driving!

-You can get to anywhere. Well almost anywhere as some of the roads in the Balkans aren’t actually made for driving. Find out more about driving in the Balkans in our handy post. It covers everything you need to know about insurance, petrol costs, road tolls etc.

-You make your own schedule. No waiting for a bus that’s late or only leaves once a day.

-Petrol prices are cheap in many Balkan countries.

-Public transport in the Balkans has a reputation for being pretty terrible. Although we never used it so we can’t compare!

- You don’t have to drive far. We drove an average of about 100-150km on driving days. Sometimes this took a few hours sometimes less. You never know what you’re going to get with Balkan roads!

van edited.JPG

There are, of course, also some downsides to taking a car or van through the Balkans. Make sure you consider all of the costs that might be involved e.g car hire, insurance, petrol. Public transport or hitchhiking is definitely a cheaper option.

Driving in the Balkans can be dangerous and scary. We never had any major problems but there is a much more relaxed attitude to road rules and some of the roads are really only reasonable for a 4x4. But with a good attitude and nerves of steel it's well worth it. 

Car Hire in the Balkans

We drove with our own van from Germany so have no experience with car hire in the Balkans although it seems to be very common practice in this area. Prices range and start at around €10 per day depending on the country you hire it in. It’s important to check your plans with the car hire company as there are varying insurance policies that cover various countries. Most car hire companies in the Balkans will include a green card insurance which covers most countries except Kosovo. But be sure to check so you don’t get stung with huge insurance fees at the border!

How long do you need for a Balkan road trip?

We could have spent years! If you want to stop in places for more than one day and see several places in each country I recommend planning at least a week per country. We spent less in some places e.g Serbia as we wanted to spend longer in others e.g Albania where we spent four weeks.

laptop-2557615_1920.jpg

If you have less time choose a couple of countries you want to go to most and do them well. It’s not worth spending the whole time driving. Like really not, driving in the Balkans is something you don’t want to do more than strictly necessary.

How much does a road trip in the Balkans cost?

Short answer: it depends.

Here are some basic costs to help you plan your Balkan road trip, obviously it varies between countries, but this will give you a guide.

Petrol: €0.60-€1.30/litre

Campground: €10-20/night (2 people and a vehicle)

Hostel: €8-15/person

Private room: €15-30

Meal in a local restaurant: €3-€10

20170801_184650.jpg

Fresh fruit and vegetables are very cheap and living off burek is a viable option for hardcore budget travellers. At just 60c per piece, we had this almost daily!

In 3 months we spent an average of €270 per week including all food, accommodation and fuel costs. We mixed wild camping with Airbnbs and campgrounds. We ate at restaurants every second day and cooked meals in the van. We drank coffee or beer almost daily but avoided most tourist attractions with large costs. 

Crossing borders in the Balkans

The conclusion that we came to after crossing borders in the Balkans and talking to other travellers was that Balkan border crossings are very variable. And I don't just mean between countries or locations, I mean the same border on two different days or even times. 

It's possible you'll get a thorough vehicle and document check, stamped passports and some questions totalling up to an hour of your time. There are other times where you'll get a tick on a piece of paper and be through - a total of about 10 seconds. No stamps, no checks. 

It's impossible to tell when or where you'll get each one but in general, we never spent more than half an hour crossing a border and only had the interior of the van checked once (leaving Albania). Most of the border staff we encountered were either friendly and easy-going or decidedly neutral to our existence. Make sure you have the green insurance card, car document and passports read.

Don't know what I'm on about with all the car stuff? Check out everything you need to know about driving in the Balkans

When is the best time to travel in the Balkans?

We travelled the Balkans in July to October. Luckily, even peak season in the Balkans is very easy-going compared to Western Europe. But our favourite month by far was September. The weather was still warm enough to enjoy the beaches and camp. But there was hardly anyone else around and we often had the beach all to ourselves.

Beaches in Albania-min.jpg

I imagine it’s a similar situation in late May-June. By October it was cooling down a bit and there was a lot more rain. Sogginess definitely makes van life a bit less awesome.

Do you need a visa to travel the Balkans?

visas in the Balkans road trip planning

It depends on your passport but mostly, no. Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Greece are all part of the European Union and the Schengen Zone.

Citizens of the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries can enter Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia visa-free for 90 days.

Where to stay in the Balkans?

If you’re travelling with a van or a tent you will be spoilt for choice. Camping in the Balkans is amazing and a great way to experience nature and save some money. We even wrote an article on our favourite campgrounds in the Balkans.

camping in the Balkans road trip planning

If wild camping is more your thing then you’re in luck. Wild camping is legal in many countries in the Balkans and mostly ignored in the others. Croatia is the only place we heard of people having problems. So take advantage of some of the amazing places to pull over and camp. But remember to be responsible and considerate of others and the environment! Wild camping on the Albanian coast was one of our favourite experiences of our trip so far!

When you need some indoor time or if you want to travel with a little more luxury then you’ll find plenty of good accommodation in the Balkans. Airbnb is used in many areas and you can often find a great deal (Get €35 off your first stay). There are hostels in the cities and booking.com will show you a good range of these as well as affordable guesthouses and hotels.

Other tips for planning a road trip in the Balkans

-          Look at a map! Have a good overview of the area in your head. You can cut out a lot of driving by planning your trip in advance and having a good idea of the route you’re going to take. We didn’t do this and you’ve seen our snakey route! We recommend getting old school with a proper paper map to draw your route. We used this one.

-          Make sure you are flexible. We almost always took longer than our GPS suggested.

-          Read into border crossings and paperwork requirements before you get to the border! Yea, we didn’t do this either- big regret!

-          Give yourself flexi-time in your schedule. We stayed days in places we planned to stop overnight and vice versa.

-          Get a sim-card in each country. Sounds like a lot of hassle but it’s actually really cheap and simple. Anywhere we were staying longer than a week we purchased a sim-card so we could get directions on the road. This website gives a great break-down of the costs and options.

road trip balkans driving.JPG

 

So now you know everything you need to start planning your perfect road trip in the Balkans. Here are some other resources to help your planning! If you have any questions feel free to leave us a comment below.

Other Helpful Resources

Complete Guide to Driving in the Balkans - everything you need to know about car insurance, safety on the roads and an individual breakdown of road conditions and petrol prices in each country.

Top Spots in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo - Top three spots to visit (plus some bonus ones) in each country including recommended time in each. 

Top Spots in Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria - Summary of the best places to visit in these countries with recommended amount of days. 

Best Campgrounds in the Balkans - The most amazing places we stopped for hot showers, laundry facilities and social interaction!

Best Wild Camping Spots in Albania - 3 weeks of Albanian beaches to ourselves! These were our favourite places to free camp including co-ordinates, photos and descriptions of the area.

City Guides

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia is a cute little city with an edgy vibe. A beautiful old town set on a river, castle on a hill and plenty of cafes and restaurants. Here's your complete city guide

Tirana is the quirky and colourful capital of Albania and is definitely worth stopping in for a few days. Find out everything you need to know about Tirana. 

Sofia, Bulgaria is a European city with an interesting blend of Russian and Balkan influences. There are lots of things to see and do in Sofia

Interested in a Road Trip through the Balkans? Read all the information you need to plan your perfect Balkan Road Trip. Including facts about costs, border crossing, visas and much more. #balkan #roadtrip #planning #vanlife

Best Carry-On Backpack for Long or Short Trips

If you're looking for the best carry-on backpack you can't go past the Osprey Farpoint 40. This backpack is perfect for travel of all kinds from weekend getaways to full- time travel. We currently use them to fit everything we own in and travel with carry-on only full-time! This Osprey Farpoint 40 review is completely independent, we just really love our backpacks. 

Looking for the best carry-on backpack for travel? The Osprey Farpoint 40 is the best carry-on you can find

Once I settled down in Europe it fast became apparent that I needed a carry-on backpack. Most airlines, not just the budget ones, now charge extra for checked-in bags and we know how much I love to save money. It needed to be small enough to satisfy budget airlines but also hold enough stuff for a few weeks travel. I loved the convenience of my previous hard-shell suitcase but wanted a carry-on backpack.

After extensive research (reading hundreds of blogs and reviews for best carry-on backpack) I found the Osprey Farpoint 40 . I can tell you now, I would buy this bag a million times over! And I'm not being paid to say that. It is comfortable, durable, stylish and compact. My current record is six weeks with more than enough stuff. 

I love it so much I convinced Max to buy a matching one- so cute! We've now downsized our entire lives to just 40L and travel the world with our carry-on backpacks. Stay tuned for updates and packing lists as we experiment with fitting our lives in a 40L carry-on backpack.

I bought my carry-on backpack four years ago and Osprey have since released the Fairview 40 which is effectively the same but made more specifically for women. Click here to see the specifics and current prices.

Here are the reasons I love my carry-on backpack:

1. It folds out

best carry-on backpack for long-term travel

A carry-on backpack with all the functionality of a suitcase! The Osprey Farpoint 40 folds out when unzipped. This alone is a selling point. Yip, no digging around in the bottom of a backpack to find the one thing you're looking for. Just everything laid out in front of you and easily accessible.

2. It's comfortable

Osprey Farpoint 40 - the best carry on backpack for travel

It's lightweight but has enough back support to be worn for a long time. It has a waist and chest strap to switch the weight to your hips. I've carried it around many cities and airports without being uncomfortable. It's much more padded than other carry-on backpacks I've seen and we've even tested them on a hiking trip through the Albanian Alps where they definitely proved their versatility and comfort! 

3. It fits so much in it

You'd be surprised, I know I was, at just how much you can squeeze into a carry-on backpack. We use packing cells to compress clothes and make them easy to find. We use our Farpoint 40s to fit everything we own while we backpack the world so they need to fit a lot! It comfortably fits enough clothing and toiletries for over a week and for longer trips we just wash our clothes. 

 

4. It has a variety of straps

Osprey Farpoint 40 review- Why it's the best carry-on backpack

It's not just a carry-on backpack! The backpack straps fold away for when you do want to check it on. There is also an over the shoulder strap which is great for when you're carrying a smaller backpack as well. The handle at the side is padded and easy for carting the backpack around short distances. 

5. It has a padded computer pocket

Osprey farpoint 40 is the best carry-on backpack for travelling Europe

This is more important to me now that I've started blogging. We need somewhere safe to store our laptop while we're on the move! This pocket gives good protection without adding lots of bulk to the backpack.There are also other zippable front pockets and a mesh pocket on the inside which I use as my underwear compartment.

If you're looking for a decent, light-weight laptop have a read of the best ones for digital nomads and minimalist packers. 

6. It has compacting clips/straps

These are on both the inside of the main compartment and on the outside of the entire bag. They keep everything tightly packed and help to squeeze stuff down to make the bag appear smaller and keep everything safe. 

7. It comes in a variety of colours

I bought mine in charcoal a few years ago but Osprey has since released it in blue and red as well. Max chose the blue one so we could tell them apart. Personally, I think the darker is better as dirt doesn't show up!

*Upadate* I have just noticed they have started making it in rain forest green! This is my dream carry-on backpack! Unfortunately I don't see mine breaking anytime soon so I can't justify a new one. But you can! Get the green!

8. It has lockable zips

Security is always a good idea. I usually lock my passport pocket with a combination padlock if I'm leaving my bag somewhere or putting in the luggage hold of a bus or plane.

9. It's durable

I've had mine for three years now and it's been hitchhiking in Kazakhstan, on buses in Cuba and taxis in Egypt without any kind of damage. I definitely think it has a few good years and countries left! 

Convinced yet? Check out the colour and price options

I'm feeling pretty good about living only from this backpack for the next couple of years and can thoroughly recommend it for short or long trips. It truly is the best carry-on backpack for all kinds of travel. Everything you need in one handy, comfortable, budget-flight friendly, little package.

If you're wondering how we fit everything in, check out our travel accessories for packing light.

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you buy something through one of the links, I will make a small commission. This doesn't cost you any extra. Thanks for your support!

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The best, versatile backpack that meets budget airline requirements. The Osprey Farpoint 40 will be your best travel buddy! #osprey #backpack #carry-on
The best, versatile backpack that meets budget airline requirements. The Osprey Farpoint 40 will be your best travel buddy! #osprey #backpack #carry-on

Ten Weird and Wonderful Things to Do in Batumi

If you’re into quirky tourist attractions then Batumi, Georgia is your place. This city is full of unique and bizarre things to see. Read on for a list of weird and wonderful things to do in Batumi.

Batumi was our first stop in Georgia and our first few days in the country constantly left us with a big question mark hanging over our heads. Being a lover of strange attractions (and an avid follower of Atlas Obscura) Batumi left me impressed and bemused in equal amounts. There are so many odd things to do in Batumi that try and slip past as ‘normal tourist attraction’ or everyday parts of the city.

Batumi is very walkable and lots of cool things to see aren’t necessarily on a map, so walking is the best way to see the city. We had four days in Batumi in October but two of them were filled with torrential rain so we spent a lot of time indoors. During the summer months, Batumi is a busy, beach town for (mostly) Russian tourists. I imagine the vibe is quite different during this time and the lack of tourists while we were there gave the city an even stranger feel.

Despite its oddities, or because of them, we really enjoyed Batumi. It should definitely be a stop on your Georgian travel itinerary so make sure you plan a couple of days here and check out these bizarre attractions of Batumi.

Quick Facts About Batumi

Population: 153,000

Currency: Georgian Lari (GEL) (€1 ≈ 3GEL)

Where to Stay: We had a wonderful stay at Lemon Tree Guest House. Perfect for budget travellers! Really friendly hosts, comfortable room, free laundry and only €9 per night for a private room with ensuite!

If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket try searching for a flat in the city like this one. You'll get something for under €20 per night or have the option to splash out on some luxury. 

Things to do in Batumi

Europe Square

Batumi Georgia Europe Square-min.JPG

This is the centre of the city and displays an eclectic mix of architecture. Statues, palm trees, a casino and an astronomical clock, what more do you want in a square? There are colourful and decorative buildings as well as historic and modern ones all visible from this one square. It’s very representative of Batumi itself. A great place to start your walk in Batumi.

Alphabetic Tower

Along Batumi’s waterfront you’ll find all kinds of interesting sights. One of the biggest is the ‘Alphabetic Tower’. A huge cylindrical building is meant to look like a helix of DNA. Wrapped around the building is the entire Georgian alphabet which to any non-Georgian looks like some artistic, squiggly code. The building is lit up at night in true party fashion. The letters are lit up and the disco-ball style top changes colours and light patterns. Quite a sight to see in the day or night.

Batumi Georgia Alphabet Tower-min.JPG

You can take a lift to the disco-ball at the top and enjoy some not-so-picturesque views of the giant hotels along the coast. But for a novelty experience, you can eat dinner in the restaurant which rotates while you sit. We went to a bar that did this in Tirana and it was pretty cool!

Ali and Nino Statue

A sculpture inspired by a book you say? I’m there! The novel I’m still trying to get my hands on but is meant to be the Georgian/Azeri version of Romeo and Juliet. Set in Baku it tells the story of a Muslim Azeri boy and a Christian Georgian girl in their struggle to be together.

Ali and Nino statue things to do in batumi Georgia

The giant metal figures of Ali and Nino stand just under the Alphabetic Tower. By day they’re kind of just big metal people but by night… they’re superheroes! Not really, but they are very cool lit up. At 7 pm they start moving slowly towards each other. The sculpture is designed so that each person is made up of sheets of metal which pass through each other as they touch. Showing the story of Ali and Nino never being quite able to be together. Romance and tragedy all shown through giant moving metal people. A definite must-see!

We’ve heard that the moving schedule can be a bit erratic. We were there one rainy night and they were doing their thing. But there’s been reports that they don’t every night. It just adds to the mystery and weirdness of it all. One movement cycle takes around five minutes.

Check out the book here. 

Ferris Wheel/Cable Car

If views are your thing then there are a couple of novelty ways to see the city. As well as the Alphabetic Tower there is the giant Ferris wheel on the waterfront. It costs 3GEL for a ride and takes about 10 minutes to complete a round. And, sticking with the disco lighting theme, at night it displays colourful patterns. When we were in Batumi in October the lights were going but the Ferris wheel was closed at night but we have heard of other people going on after dark. Maybe in the summer?

Georgia Batumi by Night-min.JPG

The other option is the cable car. We also skipped this due to weather conditions i.e not being able to see the actual cable car. But on a clear day, I’m sure the views are great. It costs 10GEL for a return trip.

Love Statues

love statues batumi georgia

Batumi is the city of love. I don’t think it’s any kind of official name but all throughout the city you’ll find statues dedicated to love. Our favourites were the ones featuring giant red hearts, including a man playing golf with a heart. There’s a few along the waterfront and we spotted some others in random parks green areas around the city.

 Batumi Mc Donalds

The Batumi McDonalds was named one of the world’s best buildings in 2013. It looks like some kind of futuristic, space, laser, shiny thingy. Inside there is (ironically) a whole collection of displays with words like ‘healthy’ ‘energy’ and ‘meat’. Along with some fake carrots in a glass display cabinet. I almost felt motivated to buy something.

Batumi Georgia MC Donalds Building-min.JPG

There’s an indoor garden seating area which is supposed to offset the fumes from the petrol station that sits under part of the building….yea see what I mean about the question marks?!

Mobility Scooter Ride

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, the waterfront is where it’s at! Not in a ‘cool, hip place to be’ way. Just in a ‘that’s where most things are located’ kind of way. So instead of wasting time walking along this strip, you can hire any number of transport options. There were bikes, 4-person pedal cars and our personal favourite… mobility scooters.

They come complete with a driver at the front and a 2-person seat at the back. So you can sit back, relax and see the boulevard from the perspective of an elderly woman with hip problems!

Ferris Wheel Building

This was one of the more bizarre stories we read. The building stands in the middle of town and is immediately recognisable as one of the tallest in the Batumi skyline. It was originally built as the Technological University and has a Ferris wheel built into the side! But that’s not even the weird part…

Spot the weird Ferris wheel in the building! 

Spot the weird Ferris wheel in the building! 

The building had technical difficulties (maybe they really needed a Technological University!) and now sits empty in Batumi. No one wants to cough up the money to turn it into anything, likely a hotel, so it’s just there looking totally weird.

Abandoned Hotels

Batumi Georgia Abandoned Building-min.JPG

Walking through many Eastern European cities we came across abandoned buildings but the sheer number and size of the ones in Batumi really blew us away. Giant hotel complexes lay empty right on the beach front. On a cold, rainy day it gave the city a bit of a spooky feel!

Batumi Botanical Gardens

The Batumi Botanical Gardens were a highlight of our stay. We decided to visit them on our way out of town and almost bypassed them but turned in at the last minute. They’re not such a crazy idea in themselves, although the Georgians do love botanical gardens and have one in every city. But the Batumi ones have one of the widest varieties of flora in the world. The sections are arranged into different continents and they even have a New Zealand section!

Botanical Garden Batumi Georgia-min.jpg

My other favourite parts were the Mexican succulent garden and the Japanese garden. Max was very impressed by the giant eucalyptus trees. For a bonus weird activity, you can camp in the grounds! If the weather was better we definitely would have done this. The sign said 15GEL for a camping spot but we weren’t sure if this was on top of the entrance fee (8GEL per person).

For all things weird and wonderful Batumi is the place to be. Add some affordable prices, delicious Georgian food and easy access to the rest of Georgia and you have a recipe for a top destination. You might end up wondering what on earth you’re doing there but you’ll be thoroughly entertained, amused and awe-struck in the process.

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you book or buy something through one of the link we will make small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for the support!

Read about the most quirky and wonderful things to do in Batumi. Georgia's Black Sea beach destination. #georgia #batumi #blacksea
Read about the most quirky and wonderful things to do in Batumi. Georgia's Black Sea beach destination. #georgia #batumi #blacksea

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Exploring Kutaisi, Gelati and Motsameta

Exploring Kutaisi, Gelati and Motsameta

Kutaisi is a slow paced little city in the middle of Georgia. It’s about halfway between Batumi and Tbilisi and is the third largest city in Georgia. This is about things to do in Kutaisi and instructions for walking from Gelati Monastery to Motsameta Monastery.

Kutaisi, as with most of Georgia, is filled with beautiful churches and is generally pretty easy on the eyes. We stayed here for 3 days with a day trip to Gelati and Motsameta monasteries which was definitely a highlight.

Five Things to Do in Kutaisi

Wander the Market

top things to do in kutaisi visit the kutaisi bazaar

There is a busy local market sprawling through a main bazaar and out into the surrounding streets. You can find everything from reading glasses to walnuts. There some great little bakeries (rooms with an oven and old woman with a rolling pin) where you can get a cheap snack while you wander.

 

Visit Bargati Cathedral

Bargati Cathedral in Kutaisi

Perched on the top a hill overlooking the town this is worth a walk up to. The church itself is impressive if you’re not already suffering from church overindulgence (a real affliction in Georgia). But the views of the city also make it a top spot to enjoy the sunset.

 

See the Colchis Fountain

Colchis fountain in the middle of kutaisi, georgia. 

The fountain in the middle of a giant roundabout in the centre of the city. The centre piece is an armoured horse because who doesn’t need a big one of those in the middle of town. Surrounding it is an army of smaller animals chilling in the water. It also gets lit up at night.

 

Visit the Kutaisi Botanical Gardens

kutaisi botanical gardens top things to do kutaisi

We visited the amazing ones in Batumi so were keen to see these too. Unfortunately they were ‘closed’ when we got there. By this I mean there were definitely people inside but all we could get out of the woman at the ticket office was ‘no!’. Not sure where we went wrong but if you can get yourself into this VIP zone it looks like a lovely place for a wander. There’s also supposed to be a chapel in the trunk of an ancient oak tree (this was 90% of our reason for going.)

 

Get Lost in the Old Town

Kutaisi, Georgia old town houses

Kutaisi has so many beautiful but rundown houses. Walking around was really interesting and if you have a love of house renovation this is your playground! Almost every place comes with an adorable balcony and some grape vines growing along it. We seriously considered investing in Georgian property!

 

Where to Eat in Kutaisi

We had a really nice meal at Papavero. This place also had an amazing interior. However, the service was poor and they mysteriously added about 6GEL to various items on our bill.

restaurants in kutaisi where to eat

So we found a place a little more our style. A busy local place called Baraqa. No nonsense, cheap prices and good local food. They even had a picture menu for us clueless foreigners who can’t distinguish different types of Georgian food.

There weren’t many cafes in Kutaisi but the couple we did find where great. Tea House Foe Foe is a cosy café filled with books and arm chairs. They do all kids of speciality teas and a range of other drinks and food.

Our cafe kutaisi, georgia. cafes in kutaisi

Our Café was just that. We spent an entire day here working, drinking Georgian wine, eating cheese, sipping coffee and enjoying the amazing décor. Definite Middle Eastern vibes with lots of tiles, carpets and lamps. Lovely staff and a very relaxed atmosphere. Bottle of wine was €4! How could we refuse?!

A Day Trip to Gelati and Mostsameta Monastery

After several days of cats and dogs kinda rain we rejoiced at the sign of a sunny day and decided to get outdoors. We opted for public transport to Gelati, walking from Gelati to Motsameta and then public transport back to Kutaisi. It’s possible to walk all of these parts but only along the main road which isn’t exactly a top hiking route.

How to get to Gelati

So we started with a marshrutka (a rundown minivan used as a shared taxi) from this point. Tourist information told us they leave at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm and Max was one satisfied German when ours rolled up bang on 11am! The sign at the front of the van say ‘Gelati Monastery’ in English and in case that wasn’t clear enough, it also has a picture. The journey takes about 20 minutes and costs 1GEL (about 30c). You pay the driver as you leave.

Gelati Monastery inside 

The Gelati Monastery has been under construction for at least 18 months and doesn’t look like finishing anytime soon (we were there in Oct 2017). But as we all know ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ and Gelati has the insides of a super model. It’s free to enter, women need to cover their knees, shoulders and hair. There are some headscarves at the entrance.

walking from Gelati to Motsameta Monastery

The easiest option for walking from Gelati Monastery to Motsameta Monastery is to head back down to the main road and walk along to the turn off for Motsameta (around 3km). But we opted for the scenic route which went like this; as you exit the monastery grounds take an immediate right past the graveyard. There’s a signpost (in English) to some other churches, feel free to go and visit them, I’ll wait right here....

Walking to Motsameta from Gelati
walk from gelati to motsameta monastery georgia

We didn’t go but if you did let us know if it was worth it! Anyway, take a right down the hill. The path the whole way is fairly obvious but if you’re ever in doubt make sure you’re heading down. At the first major split take the left path demonstrated for you by Max here.

Once you reach the houses just follow the road downwards passing a range of animals until you meet the main road. Turn left and cross the river, keep going until you reach the supermarket on your left. They have a great range (3) of ice creams from about 20 years ago. So go on, treat yourself! Take the path just past the supermarket with a sign to the hostel.

Here's what the paths looks like (minus the rainbow magic, that was something on the lense!)

walking to motsameta monastery from gelati monastery georgia

Follow this path uphill until you reach the train tracks and follow them to the left. We read that the train tracks were ‘disused’ but evidence suggests otherwise…

train motsameta monastery georgia

However, you won’t see much train traffic and they give you (or more likely the neighbourhood cows) fair warning with some loud whistles. There are areas to walk on the side of the tracks but we found the ‘straight down the middle’ method most effective.

You’ll see the monastery on the left of the tracks. And, if you happen to be there on a weekend, you’ll be alerted to the path by the constant stream of wedding parties heading to the monastery, drones at the ready.

walking from Gelati monastery to motsameta monastery along the train tracks

You’ll see the monastery on the left of the tracks. And, if you happen to be there on a weekend, you’ll be alerted to the path by the constant stream of wedding parties heading to the monastery, drones at the ready.

If Gelati Monastery is all beauty on the inside, Motsameta is all about the external features. No scaffolding to be seen on this baby and it has surrounding views befitting of a nature documentary. We were even treated to the sword play and singing as one of the many bridal parties entered the monastery. The walk from Gelati to Motsameta takes around 45 minutes.

Motsameta monastery georgia how to get there

Motsameta to kutaisi

To get back to Kutaisi, simply follow the road back to the main road (1.8km) and wait at the petrol station (across the road to your left) for any marshrutka . They all go to Kutaisi. We waited about four minutes for one but if it’s a slow day you could try hitchhiking.

A day trip to Gelati and Motsameta Monasteries was definitely a highlight of our time in Kutaisi and we’re glad we made the most of a sunny day as we work to torrential rain the next day, seems to be a thing in October. We’re also glad we saw these two before being monastery and churched out. There’s a lot of them in Georgia and so far these are our two favourites.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you buy something through one of the links, I will make a small commission. This doesn't cost you any extra. Thanks for your support!

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Interested in the beauty of central Georgia in the Caucasus? Read about exploring the region around Kutaisi, including a description of a walk between Gelati Monastery and Motsameta Monastery. #georgia #kutaisi #gelatimonastery #motsametamonastery