After our first day exploring Tbilisi, Emma and I were ready to see a bit more of Georgia! We booked onto a tour which would take us to see the Kazbegi mountains, the Ananuri Fortress, Zhinvali Dam and Reservoir, and Gudauri to see the Russia-Georgia friendship monument high up in the mountains.
After fuelling up with an incredible breakfast at our hotel, we walked into the old town to our meeting point.
Although we booked onto a group tour, it was only the two of us and a Ukrainian couple, along with our guide Misha.
First stop on the tour was the Zhinvali Dam, on the Aragvi River in the Caucasus Mountains. The building of the dam formed the Zhinvali Reservoir, which is the most incredible bright turquoise colour.
The photos don’t do it justice! The viewpoint was just a stop along the side of the road, and there were a few stalls selling some local products, including these hilarious fluffy wigs!
After stopping to admire the views, our next location was the Ananuri Fortress. Consisting of a fortress and two churches which were built in the 16th-17th Century, they were the scene of numerous battles throughout the years.
These horns are supposedly used for drinking – the small ones for shots and the larger ones for wine!
We climbed up some tiny spiral staircases to get to the top of the fortress, trying not to fall off the edge and break any bones! The view out from the top was just stunning.
After spending some time wandering around the fortress, having a look inside the churches and admiring the pretty scenery, it was time to continue on to our next stop.
A fascinating stop – the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers merging with one another. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “black” and “white” river connected, but flowing next to each other. At some point further down they do merge into one, but it was really cool to see them together!
There was also a small stall selling local fruit and “Georgian snickers”, so we shared a delicious fresh orange and pomegranate juice.
Continuing our drive through the scenic mountains, on the way to the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, we stopped to admire some more of the surrounding scenery, including this waterfall on the side of the road!
The Friendship Monument was built in 1983 to celebrate the ongoing friendship between Soviet Georgia and Soviet Russia.
It’s high up in the mountains, so despite the relatively sunny day we’d had, it started to get a bit chilly with some snow still on the peaks surrounding us.
The view from high up was just stunning, and we had a 360 panoramic view. In winter the Gudauri mountain is a popular ski resort, and we saw plenty of new hotels and apartments being built for the ski season. I’d love to come back in winter for a skiing holiday, especially as it’s so close to Dubai!
We continued driving up towards the Russian border, and stopped for a coffee in a cafe. The change in weather was drastic – we went from wearing all of our layovers to almost getting sunburnt!
After a nice coffee break where the couple that was with us drove up a bit higher to see another church (we decided to skip that part in favour of some sunshine and a sit-down!) we had one last stop for the day – food!
Having tried khachpuri the day before, our guide Misha took us to a great restaurant on the way back to Tbilisi, which was located in the region that is famous for Khinkali.
Khinkali are typical Georgian dumplings, usually filled with meat, potato or cheese and then boiled or steamed. Similar to my favourite Xiao Long Bao that I love to eat in Hong Kong, but a much thicker dough and bigger dumpling.
We massively over-ordered, as Misha suggested 4 per person which was far too much! Of course we couldn’t resist trying another type of Khachapuri either, this time without the egg.
I think I came home 10kg heavier after 3 days in Georgia! Since we weren’t the ones driving, we also had a glass of local wine, which was once again very generously poured. Delicious!
A great ending to a lovely day out seeing so much of Georgia! I’m sure there is still so much more of the country to be explored, but I’m very happy with what we managed to see in just one day trip.