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Although this itinerary hits Georgia’s three major cities and includes all the quintessential landscapes – mountains, rivers and the coast – it misses a few notable attractions, such as Vardzia, Kakheti wine region and Kazbegi, so compared to other itineraries out there, this is a little bit unconventional. But don’t worry- this is totally on purpose since these “mainstream” tourist destinations can easily be visited on your own some other time, while this will be your chance to visit Georgia’s m0re remote corners and support regional tourism.
This road trip itinerary starts in Tbilisi and ends in Batumi. It covers a total of 670 kilometres or just over 15 hours behind the wheel. I purposefully designed it so that the biggest driving days are in the middle, with lighter days to start and finish.
Most of the roads on this itinerary will be good, with little or no potholes, but just in case we want to do some detours or end up getting lost we will make sure to get a lifted car such as a Subaru Forester or a Toyota RAV4. Anyway, here is the full, detailed itinerary for those who like to dig into the small details:
Welcome to Georgia! Today people will be arriving at different times, so we will have no activities planned. Feel free to explore the city by foot and get to know the group at a welcome meeting and dinner around 19. o´clock.
Accommodation: Overnight at Kindli Hotel or similar.
Since it will be our first days in Georgia, we will use this day trying to ease a bit into the trip. On today’s drive, we will cover 120 kilometres and spend just under 2 hours on the road.
From Tbilisi, we will take the E60 highway, passing north of Gori before tracing the river down to Khashuri in central Georgia’s Shida Kartli region. This part of the country is pancake-flat, and so is the road. The highway should be quiet, and it be an easy route to navigate.
On our way out of Tbilisi, we have an opportunity to stop in Mtskheta to visit Jvari Monastery and the UNESCO-Listed Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. The city of Gori lies at roughly the halfway point and is an ideal place to break for lunch.
Another option is visiting Surami which is a typical Georgian town dating back to the bronze age with beautiful brick houses and bountiful grape vines forming a canopy over every street. The best thing to do here is climb up to the 12th-century Surami Fortress for a view over the plains.
Accommodation: We will spend the night at Villa Rbona or Guest House Metreveli Street 19
Day 2 of our Georgia road trip will be one of the biggest days of driving. We will cover 175 kilometres for a total of 4.5 hours on the road.
There are lots and lots of places to stop along the way to split the journey up, so don’t be overwhelmed by the raw numbers. The best thing will probable be make our way as early as possible to ensure we arrive in Oni before dark.
We will first be driving through the Rikoti Pass then follow the E60 to Zestafoni. Then we will turn off at Terjola to go through Tkibuli and Nikortsminda up into Racha.
Alternatively, we could backtrack slightly from Khashuri to Agarebi then take the road through upper Imereti. This would take us through Chiatura and Katskhi Column – two popular spots in Western Georgia – before continuing down to Zestafoni, where we would then pick up the same road to Racha.
Accommodation: We will spend the night at Guest House Gallery or Orion Hotel.
After a huge day on the road to get to Racha, we should probably try to make the most of our time in this remote corner of the country. This should best be done by parking the car and setting off to explore on foot.
Oni is a very special town with a long and storied past. At one point it was home to Georgia’s third-largest Jewish population, though most families left between the 1950s and 1990s. Their legacy lives on in the divine Oni Synagogue, which shines like a gem on a quiet suburban street in the centre of town. Built in the 1880s by a Polish architect and skilled labourers from Thessaloniki, it’s one of the most distinctive landmarks in Georgia.
In the afternoon, we can make use of the car by driving to some other points of interest around Racha. For example we can venture as far as Shovi, an old Soviet resort town in Upper Racha and home to the infamous ‘Stalin’s Dacha’. In all likelihood, Stalin never once set foot in Racha, so the name is probably a misnomer. This doesn’t at all detract from the abandoned building’s grandeur though.
Other things to do in Racha include visiting the Khvanchkara wineries around Ambrolauri, and sitting by the river with a cold beer at Bungalow Changes. If you’re interested in hiking, the 5km trail to Sairme Pillars starts just off the highway near Ambrolauri.
Accommodation: We will spend the night at Guest House Gallery or Orion Hotel.
Day 4 will be another big day on the road, but it should be totally worth it. Racha and Samegrelo are considerd to be some of the most beautiful regions in Georgia, and this drive takes us through some of the most scenic pockets of both.
We will cover a similar distance to Day 2 – 170 kilometres, or approximately 4 hours on the road.
From Oni, we will first drive back down to Ambrolauri then turn west to make a big horseshoe through the mountains. After a detour to the remote village of Lailashi, we will eventually come out at Tskaltubo for a quick stint back on the highway up to Martvili.
As we follow the Rioni river west from Ambrolauri, we will pass through a varied landscape of limestone pillars and canyons, twisting streams and spectacular passes. At certain points, the road cuts under giant boulders, making us feel as though we are driving through a long stone tunnel.
Our first stop of the day will involve a big detour off the highway to visit Okronishi Fountain, better known as Lailashi ‘Secret Pool’. This high-altitude natural pool has been made famous in recent months on Instagram. Lets see if its worth the extra 2 hours or so return on a bumpy unpaved road.
Despite being a ‘secret’, the pool is marked on Google Maps and should be easy to locate. Lailashi is an old Silk Road Town with a fascinating history.
When we cross from Racha back into Imereti and start the gradual descent down to the main highway, there are Managed Reserves on both sides of the road where the scenery is spectacular.
We can stop in Tskaltubo, the famous Soviet spa resort town for a bite to eat. There we can also stroll through the central park and go inside a couple of the abandoned sanatoriums.
At this point we can also squeeze in a visit to Kutaisi, which is just a 20-minute drive from Tskaltubo. If we take this option, we will approach the city from the west, thus driving by Bagrati Cathedral then make our way across the river to the UNESCO- Listed Gelati and Motsameta Monasteries before driving to Martvili.
Accommodation: We will spend the nigth at Karma Hostel which also has private rooms.
Today will be a much lighter day in terms of driving – we will cover just over 115 kilometres in 2 hours to get to Guria from Martvili. We will take the road through Nokalakevi, Senaki, Abasha and Samtredia. Each of these towns has a number of attractions, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop.
Before hitting the road, we could also spend a few hours exploring Martvili beyond the hostel. It’s a quaint, quiet little city with a beautiful hilltop monastery that’s well worth a look in.
There are multiple canyons and waterfalls in the area, including Martvili and Balda Canyons, so we could easily spend the morning outdoors.
After that, it’s onto Guria, Georgia’s tea and hazelnut region. This area has a distinct climate and topography – it feels very different to other parts of the country. Driving in, the landscape changes to broad fields and undulating hills, and you can immediately feel the moisture in the air.
On the way we can make a stop in Nokalakevi for the open-air Archaeological Museum and hot springs. From there we will drive to Ozurgeti which is a quiet but charming city. Because of the climate there, everything is damp and overgrown. There are beautiful European gardens in the centre of town, a few pieces of street art, a museum, and the foundations of an old bath house to check out. If Soviet history interests you, you’ll love Ozurgeti. There are a number of decommissioned factories on the outskirts of the city and a few schools in the centre that all bear wonderful Soviet mosaics.
Accommodation: We will spend the night at Misha and Chika’s Airbnb or Acacia Guest House.
There’s lots to see and do in Guria within a short distance of Ozurgeti. We can I start the morning at the Ozurgeti Market, an extensive undercover bazare with vibrant displays of fresh fruit and hazelnuts, before making our way to Ekadia Church of Saint George for a view.
In the afternoon we can drive up to the mountain resort on Mount Gomi (Gomismta), which is one of the most beautiful places in Guria. The road is entirely unpaved and a bit rough and windy in sections, so it requires some extra care and a vehicle with high clearance. The drive from Ozurgeti takes about 1.75 hours one-way.
Alternatively, Guria’s second mountain resort, Bakhmaro, is slightly further from Ozurgeti but the road up is fully paved. The scenery and views are comparable to Gomismta.
The last full day of our Georgia road trip will be the shortest day of driving. We will travel 37 kilometres and spend about 1.5 hours on the road in total.
We can take a back-route through the Gurian villages of Meria and Shroma before heading towards the Black Sea. The primary reason for visiting the western part of Guria is to see Soviet mosaics and architecture – both these villages have outstanding mosaics and a few semi-abandoned public buildings with opulent architecture and interiors. The Labor Culture House in Shroma should be particularly cool. It’s a bit of a detour, but it should be more than worth it if you’re intrigued by Georgia’s Soviet heritage.
From Shroma we will drive down to Shekvetili, Guria’s largest Black Sea resort town. With some time to kill, we can visit the Miniature Park which could be a lot of fun. This outdoor museum displays tiny replicas of Georgia’s most famous landmarks and architectural gems, including Tblisis Narikala Fortress, the Svan towers of Ushguli, and just about every important church and monastery in the country (including Oni Synagogue). It could be a fun activity trying to guess what’s what and picking out the buildings you’ve seen yourself in the flesh.
In the evening it can be enough to walk on the black sandy beach to watch the sunset and eat cheap and good seafood at one of the many restaurants.
Accommodation: We will spend the night at Gina Shekvetili or Hotel Marinus.
We will finish the Georgia road trip by simply tracing the coastal E70 highway all the way down to Batumi. The distance is just under 50 kilometres, which we can easily complete in around 1.5 hours.
There are a few points to stop along the way if we have time, including Petra Fortress and Kobuleti Managed Reserve. If we want to dig into Georgia’s tea history, we can try hunting down the house built for Cantonese tea expert, Liu Junzhou, who came to Adjara on the invitation of a Russian merchant in 1893. It’s located in Chavki. When we arrive in Batumi, our car will be quite useless since there is almost as much traffic there as in Tblisi. Instead we can rent bikes to cycle to Sarpi, scoot around Machakhela National park or hike to Gonio Cross for an epic sunset view.
Accommodation: We will spend the night at Kartuli Hotel or Mimino Hotel.
Today there are no activities planned, as some will for sure want to stay behind and some will want to continue their journey. Those who wish can also join a full day drive back to Tbilisi to return the car.
Cartagena: Rafael Núñez International Airport (CTG)
Bogota: El Dorado International Airport (BOG)
Quito: Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO)
At the airport or in the city center
Yes. If you wish to have your own room there will be a single room supplement.
USD and EUR can easily be changed locally, although you can pay with a card most places.
If you feel like spending some extra days before or after the trip, sure- go ahead!
If you cancel any time prior to the start of the trip you will loose your deposit (50% of trip cost).
After the trip has started there will be no refund if you decide to leave the trip for any reason.