There are a lot of reasons to come to Georgia – the gorgeous Caucasus mountains, the friendly people, the delicious food, the fascinating 8,000 year old wine culture, the unique architecture, the history and much more.
Lee and I have been living in Tbilisi, the capital, since September and we have simply fallen in love with it here. I highly recommend that you put Tbilisi, and the rest of Georgia, on your travel list. However… you may want to consider waiting until winter to make the trip.
The main tourist season in Georgia is in the summer, which is when the weather will be hot and sunny. However, there are a lot of reasons to consider planning your trip for October-April instead. Visiting Georgia during the winter season offers a lot of advantages, such as:
Prices Will be Cheaper
Since it’s not the peak tourist season, you’ll find better deals on airfare, hotels and tour packages. Georgia is already a very affordable destination, but if you visit during the winter it’s even cheaper!
This means that you’ll have more money in your pocket left over for drinking delicious Georgian wine, or buying yourself one of those ridiculous big furry hats.
There Will be Fewer Crowds
Also, since it is the slow season there will be fewer crowds. Tbilisi will be chilled out and you’ll get more of a chance to interact with the locals. There will be more choice for hotel or hostels as they won’t be fully booked and you’ll also find yourself on smaller group tours, which can give you a better and more intimate experience.
It’s The Peak of the Cultural Season
Another reason to chill out in Georgia at this time of year is that the winter months are the peak cultural season. So, if you want to see operas, plays, musical performances and art shows – this is the best time of year.
For example, while in Georgia you must see one of the incredible puppet performances at the Rezo Gabriadze Theatre. Gabriadze is a talented Georgian artist who has worked as a painter, graphic designer, writer and director and has created 35 screenplays. He lived his life under Soviet rule, so puppets became a sneaky way to write controversial plays without drawing too much attention from the authorities.
I saw “The Autumn of my Springtime” last month and it was whimsical, funny, heartbreaking and visually spectacular. The puppets are intricate and striking and they are operated with such skill that the puppeteers fade into the background and all of your focus is on the puppets – beautifully carved figures acting out sad and funny stories filled with meaning and depth.
The thing is, if you want to see a Gabriadze puppet show you should visit in the winter, as the summer months are when the puppets go on tour all over the world. If you do, be sure to book tickets in advance – they sell out very quickly!
The Weather is Cooler
In the peak summer months of July and August, the heat in Tbilisi can get up to 40 degrees Celsius, which can be pretty uncomfortable and sweltering when you are walking around the city. It’s slightly cooler in the mountains or by the seaside, but it will still be pretty warm.
If you prefer chilly weather, you’ll love Tbilisi in the winter. It’s just right for wearing cute scarves, jackets and boots and curling up in a cosy cafe with a hot coffee.
The Hearty Food is Just Right
Most typical Georgian cuisine is heavy and stodgy, the type of food that warms you up on a cold winter’s night. When you have been walking around on a chilly day, there’s nothing like slurping the beefy broth from a khinkali (dumpling) or digging into some glorious melty khachapuri (cheese bread).
There are wonderful soups, stews and grilled meats that will warm you up from the inside out. Plus, you’ll be able to find delicious mulled wine to wash it all down with.
The Snowy Caucasus Mountains Are Gorgeous
When Lee and I were in Gudauri a couple of months ago, we were constantly staring in awe at the enormous snow-covered mountains all around us. They fill the horizon with their jagged, icy peaks and the light reflects on them, making the snow sparkle like diamonds.
If you visit Georgia in the winter, don’t just spend your time in Tbilisi. Be sure to head up to somewhere in the mountains, whether it is Gudauri, Kazbegi, Bakuriani or any other higher altitude destination. Just keep in mind that you might have to be flexible with your travel dates – sometimes the roads close down due to heavy snows and the risk of avalanche.
If you love skiing, snowboarding and other sports, Gudauri is a gorgeous ski resort only two hours from Tbilisi, with over 20 ski runs and a total of more than 50 km of slopes. You can read about our trip to Gudauri here.
You Can Warm Up in a Sulphur Bath
On a chilly winter day, a visit to a traditional bathhouse is exactly what you need. (Yes, it smells like eggy farts but you’ll get used to that after a few minutes.)
Lee’s mum and I experienced the bathhouses for the first time recently and it was truly luxurious. For 160 lari ($65) ni total we got:
- One hour in a private bathing space with a hot pool, cold plunge pool and dry sauna.
- A full body exfoliating scrub each.
- A full body massage each.
- Two bottles of beer!
That’s amazing value, compared to what it would cost to visit a spa in Canada or the UK!
We stripped nude (no swimsuits allowed!) and soaked in the wonderfully warm, therapeutic waters. Then, the burly Georgian woman entered and gestured for us to lie down on a large marble slab, one at a time.
With a rough mitt she scrubbed every inch of me… dead skin was sloughing off in layers. It felt like she was scratching every itch I have ever had. Then, I heard her dunk a bucket in the warm spa waters and I closed my eyes as she threw the water over me, washing my dead skin away and leaving me feeling like a shiny seal lounging on a beach in an Attenborough documentary.
Then, she grabbed some bars of soap in a fabric bag, blew some air into the bag and suddenly she had an enormous bouquet of foam in her hands. She covered me in soapy foam, firmly rubbing and massaging me. It felt so good that I closed my eyes and started to drift off into a relaxed stupor. I only snapped out of my spaced out state when she gently slapped my ass and gestured for me to roll over so she could rinse me down again.
All in all, if you don’t mind the naked-ness… getting scrubbed and massaged at the Sulphur Baths is a must-do experience in Georgia. After that wonderful woman scrubbed 8 years of travel grime off me with that mitt, I felt incredibly relaxed and my skin felt so ridiculously soft.
The New Years Fireworks Are Impressive
Georgians are serious about New Years – they seem to celebrate it for about two weeks straight. There will be a fireworks display at midnight on December 31st, with fireworks blasting from the top of the funicular and all over the city. Plus, all of the people around you will be lighting off their own personal fireworks from their balcony, making it feel like the Battle of Hogwarts.
Then, since Georgians follow the Orthodox Calendar, they will also celebrate Christmas on January 7th and Orthodox New Year on January 14th. Late December and the first few weeks of January will feel like an entire month of celebrations.
What’s the Weather Like? What Should I Wear?
In the winter the weather will be snowy throughout the country, except in Tbilisi. You might see a day or two of snow in the capital, but usually temperatures will hover around 0 degrees C. If it does snow in Tbilisi, it usually melts within a day or two.
All throughout this winter in Tbilisi I didn’t need anything warmer than a jumper, leather jacket and a scarf – sometimes a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. When we went up to Gudauri it was colder, but I still didn’t need a big winter coat – I simply wore a couple more layers of thin long sleeved shirts and jumpers under my leather jacket.
Also, when it comes to shoes make sure that you are wearing something sturdy with good grip! Leave the high heels at home, as the streets of Tbilisi are not exactly even – they are often steep and have potholes, cobblestones and other obstacles.
No Matter What Time You Visit, Georgia is Pretty Great.
These are just a few of the reasons why you might consider visiting during the winter. However, spring, summer and fall are all pretty great times to hang out in Georgia as well. I think my point is… just get here and check it out!
P.S. Want to know what to do when you arrive in the capital? Check out our post 25 Interesting Things to Do in Tbilisi, Georgia.