Every couple of years, it seems, magazine and newspaper editors decide that Georgia is due a tourism revival. Its status as a gateway between Europe and Asia is mentioned and there is much talk of the stunning Tbilisi. And it’s true.
The old town, home to the dramatic Narikala fortress and a cultural mix, which bears the legacy of Arab, Mongol, Greek and Russian invasions, make it a fascinating city that falls in that magic “less-than-four-hour-flight-time” category.
Look just a little further, however, and you will learn that Georgia has more to offer than just a historic capital. Adventure holiday company Travel The Unknown runs twice-yearly tours designed to give a broader introduction to Georgia, with an itinerary that takes in the Caucasus Mountains, medieval fortresses and a view of the city beyond the most well-trodden paths.
Beyond Tbilisi are settlements such as the Unesco World Heritage Site Mtskheta and the 3,000-year-old town of Uplistsikhe, where you can soak up the tradition of these historically fascinating regions. The tour also gives visitors the chance to explore around 13 levels of cave dwellings in the ancient Vardiza complex.
Travel The Unknown’s expedition doesn’t take in Georgia’s Black Sea coast, but there is the opportunity for that other holiday favourite – a spa, albeit in a former Soviet style. The resort of Tskaltubo has a natural spa where water is heated by radon-carbonate springs. It used to attract more than 125,000 visitors a year in its peak Soviet years.
This, perhaps, is the true pleasure of Georgia. It’s a country on the edge. Between Asia and Europe. Between old and new. Between the familiar and the downright jaw-droppingly strange. Maybe it is time to follow the advice of magazines and move Georgia to the top of your travel list.
The Georgia Explorer tour from Travel The Unknown: Dhs8,900 (excluding flights). May 26 to June 6, www.traveltheunknown.com; flights to Tbilisi with Flydubai: Dhs1,630. www.flydubai.com.