In This Series:
- Introduction: The Adventure to the South Caucasus
- Part I: The City – Tbilisi, Georgia
- Part II: The Caucasus Mountains
- Part III: Georgian Food and Wine
After spending a few days in Baku, I flew to Tbilisi. It was a quick one hour flight which cost less than $90 one-way. Upon arrival, I took the airport cab to the city, which took about 35 mins with some moderate traffic. There are a few transportation options at Tbilisi airport, which I recommended.
Where To Stay
Before the trip, I did a little research on where to stay. I considered different options around the city center. Out of many, this property caught my attention. Not only the nightly rate was reasonable, but it’s also centrally located. It’s a boutique hotel called Iota Hotel Tbilisi. I booked using my Citi Prestige travel portal, which gave me fourth night free. The total cost for 4 nights after taxes and rebates was less than $400.
The hotel location couldn’t be more perfect. It’s only one block away from the Monument of St. George. What I love about the hotel is the design. It’s sort of a mix between simplicity and being rustic, yet it’s cozy and warm. I love how the courtyard is laid out and decorated with plenty of greeneries.
I booked the “Solo Lucky” room. The room itself is not very spacious, but it has a cozy feel to it. It’s more than enough for a single guest. The bathroom has a sliding door with a single shower.
What to See
On the first day, I kind of took it easy. I settled in my room and laid down for 30 minutes before heading out to explore the city. Around 2 PM, I started to feel hungry. I stopped by a little place a few blocks from the hotel called “Racha” to have my very first Khinkali. I will talk more about Georgian Food and Wine in my upcoming posts in this series. After lunch, I walked towards the Freedom Square and checked out the area.
The adventure began on the second day when I decided to explore the city by walking. On the third day, I purchased a bus tour pass. When traveling to new places, I love getting on the bus tour. I say that because not only it’s affordable, but also it covers most places worth the visit.
The leaning tower of Tbilisi or The Clocktower is a unique and sort of bizarre-looking building that attracts many tourists. The landmark is located in the old town Tbilisi, about a 10-minute walk from the square. It’s an Instagram worthy place.
To the east, you will find Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi. Keep in mind, to get there, there is a steep hill that we need to hike through. The cathedral is the home of the Georgian Orthodox Church. It was constructed between 1995 and 2004.
Next, one of the most popular landmarks in Tbilisi is The Bridge of Peace. The architecture of the bridge resembles the shape of a whale, stretches 150 meters. At night, over 1200 LED fixtures illuminate the bridge over the Mtkvari River.
In 2012, a cable car construction finished connecting Rike Park and Narikala Fortress. It costs 1 GEL to get up to the top of the hill. I highly recommend this, especially around Sunset. The view is magnificent. You can see the bird’s eye view of Tbilisi. There is an outdoor cafe where you can enjoy the evening with a cup of coffee.
If you want to get the best view of Tbilisi, I recommend visiting the area near Europe Square. By the river, you will see the Metekhi St. Virgin Church and the Statue of King Vakhtang Gorgasali. The best time to take this photo is early in the morning when the sun rises.
After a long walk, I decided to check out the neighborhood located just to the south of King Vakhtang’s statue. This complex is known for its sulfur baths. The price varies depending on the place, amenities and services offered.
What’s confusing is what these places are called, despite my research before the trip. I believe there is one public bath called Bath Number 5. It was not a five-star spa by any means, but if you wanted to experience the authentic sulfur bath in Tbilisi, I recommend you try this one.
The entrance fee is very cheap, between 3-5 GEL. They also sell extras such as towel rental and scrub. You can also get a body scrub and/or oil massage which doesn’t cost very much. There is a locker inside that you can use, but there is only one master key for the lock. You need to ask the attendant every time you want to retrieve your belongings. Once entered, you can stay as long as you wish. There is also a small hot spring pool inside. Clothing is optional.
Fast forward, on my last day in Tbilisi, I revisited the sulfur bath. It was such a fun experience that I wanted to try a different one. This time, I visited Orbeliani Baths. The price at this place is higher than Bath Number 5, but at the same time, they offer more up-scale services. This time around, I had a massage only. After waiting a few minutes, a burly blond masseuse came. With a deep voice, she said: “Come with me”. Let me tell you – She is a strong woman!
Five days were not even close to being enough to explore Tbilisi and the surrounding area. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience in exploring the countryside in my next post.