We were expecting big things from Georgia, the 3rd country in our cycling tour, especially after reading that so many other cyclists rate it in their top 5. It was a roller coaster of a ride, with some beautiful moments and many lessons learnt. High expectations often lead to disappointment, and our experience in Georgia was a great reminder for me to go into every situation with no expectations.
After 28 days and 834km cycled, here's our rough guide to cycling in Georgia.
Cost of living
We spent €576 in 28 days, which averages at €10.20 per person per day. We definitely could've done Georgia cheaper, as we spent 11 days at a hostel in Tbilisi while I did some work for a client in Australia.
- Gueshouses and hostels are €6-7 per person
- Restaurant meals are €2-3
- Takeaway from the many bakeries would set you back €1
The cyclists dream! Every town has a bakery stocked full of goods, and 2 of the national dishes are:
- Khachapuri: Baked bread stuffed with cheese. Make sure you go all out and get the one with butter and a runny egg on top!
- Lobiani: Baked bread filled with beans, for when you just can't stomache any more cheese.
I highly recommend trying a couple of restaurants in Georgia, the food is really unique with soups and stews that pack a powerful flavour punch, as well as the infamous Kinkali - giant dumplings filled with soup and meat.
As the birthplace of wine, a visit to Georgia isn't complete without tasting the blood of Christ. Skip anything in a fancy bottle and go straight for the homemade stuff. Every shop usually has a 10L plastic bottle under the counter, and you fill up with as much as you need. Just be careful of the Chacha, with an unknown alcohol percentage you definitely won't enjoy cycling the next day.
Georgian hospitality is a special specimen. While we didn't get invited into as many homes as we did in Turkey (which in hindsight may be why we were a little disappointed, though this isn't fair on Georgia), we did encounter our fare share of kindness, including staying with 2 friendly families. You'll be waved down almost every day, and this will invariably include an offer to drink, so be careful not to stop too early on. One memorable morning I was sculling wine at 9am.
If you approach a random with a request for help, they'll always go out of their way to assist. One group of kids even walked us to their favourite restaurant. Bonus points if you speak Russian (we recommend learning a few words) as this is the 2nd language and English was few and far between. All in all, Georgians are friendly people so put on your best smile and getting your drinking stomache ready.
Heaven for cyclists, there a only a few major highways, and if you skip these you'll be treated to a good time. Imagine rolling hills, mountains, Disney-like castles and endless rivers. The highways did have a good shoulder and all drivers were pretty respectful of cyclists. Although they don't seem to respect their cars, with almost 25% missing a panel or 2.
We were particularly lucky to be their in Autumn, with stunning colours. I'd recommend riding around the Eastern wine region (Talevi, Sighnaghi), and our favourite: the road to Vardzia, with it's unique cave city at the end of a canyon-like road.
You can't get much better than Georgia for wild camping, everyday we saw spots that would make any traveller drool. With it's many rivers, it's not hard to find a spot next to water in an open field, and you won't need to travel far from the road. Be ready for a morning chat with the friendly shepherds, as they're always curious as to who you are and what you're up to. If you're travelling between November and March, make sure you've got a warm sleeping bag as snow and freezing temperatures will be the order of the day.
On the whole we'd definitely recommend a few weeks in Georgia if you're cycling to Central Asia, the food's tasty, scenery beautiful, and the cycling/camping the stuff dreams are made of.