Winter-sports and wine-tasting in Georgia’s High Caucasus Mountains. Powder snow, wonderful hospitality, local wines and the chance to get behind the wheel of an iconic vintage Lada.
Georgia (Sakartvelo in Georgian) is a sovereign state located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia and to the southeast by Azerbaijan, this defiant land has witnessed the rise and fall of some of the world’s greatest empires. Seljuks, Ottomans, Byzantines, Mongols, Persians and most recently, Russians, have all marched, fought, risen and fallen here in the shadow of the mighty Caucasus Mountains. Not to mention a certain Jason who came here in search of a golden fleece…
The main geographical feature of Georgia is the Caucasus, which form the country’s natural border with Russia. Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus (5642 metres), sits just over the border in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, while Georgia’s loftiest peak is Mount Kazbeg (5033 metres). The Alps are mere wrinkles in comparison.
For a small country (one fifth the size of Germany) Georgia packs a serious punch. You can swim in the Black Sea, trek through the amazing Caucasus Mountains, guzzle wine in world-class vineyards, heli-ski, ride sure-footed mountain horses over high passes, dance the night away at one of the world’s best techno clubs, explore ancient cave cities, peer at 10th century frescoes and so much more.
Things we love about Georgia
- The Georgians themselves. We’d be hard pushed to think of a nation whose people are so collectively kind, hospitable, cultured and creative. When the British writer and diplomat John Wardrop visited the country in 1888 he wrote that: ‘Georgia’s chief attraction lies in its people; the Georgians are not only fair to look upon, but they are essentially a loveable people…to live among such gay, open-hearted, open-handed, honest, innocent folk is the best cure for melancholy and misanthropy that could well be imagined.’ Although we might use slightly different language these days, we couldn’t agree more!
- Traditional Georgian feasts, or supras. Involving copious amounts of wine, toasts, polyphonic singing, food and good cheer, these quintessentially Georgian events are more than just an excuse for a knees-up: in a nation plagued by centuries of foreign invasion, they were traditionally a way of keeping the country’s unique culture alive.
- The wine. Did we mention the wine? Georgia is known as the ‘cradle of wine’ and it was on its fertile eastern plains that man first domesticated the wild grape and learned how to ferment it into wine – 8000 years ago! Wine is in Georgia’s DNA, and no trip to Georgia is complete without a few tipples of the local brew. It’s also a world leader in the burgeoning natural wine movement.
- The food. Ottolenghi eat your heart out! Georgian food is a feast for the palate; a tasty array of (largely home-produced) meat and vegetarian dishes infused with the tastes of Persia, the Middle East and Europe.
- Its incredible geographical diversity. There aren’t that many countries where you can swim in the Sea, visit a vineyard and ski in the same day.
- The capital, Tbilisi, one of the oldest cities in the entire Caucasus. Sitting on the banks of the river Mtkavari, this is a true melting pot of cultures – a place where Armenian churches are found next to synagogues and mosques. A rising star on the global fashion and clubbing scene, it’s also buzzing with fantastic shops, bars, hotels, restaurants, clubs and markets. We can think of few cities in the world so rich in charm and romance.