How I Fell in Love with Rural Georgia!

Bakhmaro / Georgia

Many interesting Georgian villages lie on the chain of the Caucasus Mountains, isolated in deep valleys of long forgotten urbanization. These villages have been abandoned by most of their inhabitants, but have recently become tourist attractions, monuments to the memory of rural Georgia.

Georgia can boast some of the best preserved rural areas in Europe. In many places, life in the Georgian countryside still involves using carts as a transport, unpaved roads, and agriculture that follows traditional methods.

© Koba Petriashvili / Roman Tolordava

Modern life has penetrated this region as well as in other rural areas in Europe. Fortunately it did not succeed in destroying the traditions that have become part of the local character.

Roman Tolordava / Irina Bakashvili / Koba Petriashvili
© Koba Petriashvili

Rural Georgia is where you can experience the best that Georgia has to offer. Some of the best scenery, slopes of the Great Caucasus, moody, mist-shrouded mountains, Tolkienesque towers, flower-strewn meadows and spectacular snow-capped peaks, volcano lakes, amazing landscapes and hiking routes, delicious food, coniferous forests, and small pretty villages, which are well kept, charming and unspoiled, gushing rivers and lovely streams together with welcoming locals make unforgettable impression on the travelers.

Dabadzveli, Borjomi / © Koba Petriashvili

Cuddle up by the fireplace in the fairytale interiors of Georgia’s tiny wooden houses, sample gourmet cuisine brought to you by local chefs and admire the peaceful rolling views from just outside your window.

©: Nika Gabatashvili

Windows into the past — Life is meant to lived, to see and experience, to create memories that will stay with you for all of eternity. Visiting a rural area is a great way to experience the true culture and charm of a country. Harsh living conditions, including a lack of running water and electricity, and massive emigration flows triggered by the appeal of a better life in larger cities, have all contributed to the abandoning of rural villages. There is something haunting and really mystical about being in a place that once was thriving as cultural and religious centers. Old dusty roads, fierce dogs, colorful wooden balconies and broken windows of the abandoned houses, old folks with their old traditional ways still have a lot to offer in this fast-paced world we all live in. And you’ll discover that every backroad has its own stories to tell.

© Irma Laghadze / Roman Tolordava / Koba petriashvili

Taste the real flavor — at the farmers market you find an amazing array of produce that you don’t see in your average supermarket: red carrots, delectable tomatoes, fresh nuts, green garlic, quail eggs, local spices, fish, forest mushrooms, a wide variety of fruits and much, much more. The fruits and vegetables at the farmers market are fresh and so tasty. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you — no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is as real as it gets — fresh from the farm. Everything is carefully selected. From truly tasty homegrown vegetables to aromatic herbs picked up from the forest and carefully dried all summer long, from the fresh milk and cheese brought from the sheepfolds in the mountains to the clay pots in which food is always prepared on wood fire. Here one discovers that each dish has its own story.

© Irma Laghadze

Call of the wild- Go Camping in the rural areas of Georgia. Camping is one of the best and easiest escapes into nature, away from the chores and routines of daily life. Truly there is nothing more peaceful than sitting in front of the campfire, watching the sunrise, and breathing in that fresh, pine air. The quiet and peaceful serenity you will find is difficult to match anywhere else.

© Koba Petriashvili

Let’s face it: what’s the best part of a camping trip? — waking up and preparing your coffee and food over an open campfire. Time for picking berries and mushrooms in the forest, walks in fresh, crisp air, through the hills of Georgia’s countryside that is teeming with wildlife, where you can find endemic plants that can’t be found elsewhere in the world.

Feel the harmony between man and nature — Take a break from the television, put away your damn phone and live amongst wildlife in its natural habitat. Enjoy cooking by the campfire, eating outdoors and getting close to all the outdoor activities you enjoy, cuddle up by the fireplace with a glass of wine, or enjoy amusing travel stories and legends told by locals.

Warm and welcoming locals — you may have already heard about Georgian hospitality. There is an old Georgian saying that “a guest is a gift from God.” Hospitality takes a very strong and special position in the Georgian tradition and mentality. Georgians put all of their efforts into pleasing their guests, assuring that the guest is comfortable and happy. They will offer the best of what they can possibly provide.

© Irma Laghadze / Koba Petriashvili

No money no honey”? — I remember the day when I went on my first hitchhiking trip around Georgia, I was a student, I had no job, everybody said “no money, no honey dear” :) but …

During that trip I spent 24 days on the road, changing cars 62 times, visiting 5 national parks, 3 UNESCO Heritage sites, 3 cave towns, sleeping under the stars in Ushguli (the highest settlement in Europe), having my first horseback riding lesson in Tusheti — this region holds some of Georgia’s best-kept secrets in terms of food, hospitality, and natural beauty. I attended a festival in Shatili, Khevsureti- a place where ancient pagan traditions survive mixed with Christian symbols and beliefs, and medieval fortress village that guards the secrets of the valley. I went to Black Rock Lake, one of the most interesting trails of Georgia distinguished by its astounding views of the Alazani Valley and the Caucasus Mountains. I spent several days in Bakhmaro — surrounded by fir and pine tree forests, sleeping in a hammock while enjoying the most breathtaking sunset I have ever seen in my life. Quite often the locals didn’t even let me sleep in the tent, they always invited me to stay at their place, offering me the last piece of bread… The only “danger” I found were shepherds’ dogs. So this a real example of how my fears of being a solo female hitchhiker turned out to be an unforgettable adventure.

There is so much peace in simplicity–and that’s exactly what you’ll find out here in Georgia’s rural lands. Georgia has its share of big cities and tourist attractions, but what’s really special about Georgia lies in our small towns and rural areas.

© Koba Petriashvil
© Giorgi VIncent Jmukhadze

So still need more inspiration?! pack your bags and explore rural Georgia — where time seems to be standing still.