On Eid al Fitr, local carrier SalamAir launches flight service to Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia. This opens up very easy access, direct from Oman. An opportunity you should snatch up. I visited Georgia with friends over the course of two weeks in Summer 2017, and it blew away my expectations, keeping me itching to go back. Here’s why:
Who Should Visit Georgia
Georgia has something for everybody, but generally the country is seen as a budget destination making it popular with travelers looking for a good value. With that said, wine connoisseurs, foodies, overland tourers, hikers, adventurers, skiers, nature lovers, and culture enthusiasts will all appreciate the tiny nation. Unless you like to sit on a white sand beach, sipping cocktails I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t visit Georgia.
What to see/do in Georgia / Where to go?
Wine connoisseurs – Georgia is best known for its wine, if you forget that time Russia invaded in 2008. Winemaking is mainly found in the north east region, but is also found in other regions. There are countless wineries and vineyards opening up to tourists who fancy tasting and touring. Some even offer accommodation and amazing food, I pleasantly discovered on my last night in Georgia.
What was even more surprising was finding two different wine markets. One market for locals and one for export/tourists. The export/tourist market produces amazingly tasty reds and whites bottled as you’d expect. On the other hand, the local production is less refined and bottled in repurposed plastic jugs that remind you of a concoction made in a bathtub within a dry kingdom someplace on the Arabian Peninsula. Pick your poison.
Foodies – Listing all the delicious food unique to the Georgian people would take huge space. The variety and wealth in their food is boundless. My three favorite Georgian specialties are khachapuri, a cheese stuffed bread baked fresh. Khinkali, a juicy dumpling brimming with seasoned meat, veggies, or cheese. And lobio, a bean dish served in a traditional clay pot. This rich food, and more, is found all over the nation.
Overland tourers – Oman is a unique country because it offers tremendous 4×4 touring opportunities, and surprisingly Georgia is very similar, despite its small size and larger population density. Georgia shares two main characteristics with Oman that make 4×4 touring possible: the ability to wild camp in any open place, and beautiful rural land. I spent two weeks traveling out of the back of a specialized 4×4 from local entrepreneur, Zura Pagava. If you like to travel this way check him out at 4×4 Car Rental Georgia. In my opinion it’s the only way to see the country.
The highlight of my trip was the Svaneti region in the Caucasus Mountains. Here I traveled through a mountain pass featuring wildflowers so colorful my camera couldn’t capture their true reality, and observed mountian-fortress villages like Ushguli.
Hikers – While my trip to the Black Sea nation didn’t include plans for hiking, I found loads of opportunity for future adventures. The main bulk of popular hikes are found in the aforementioned Svaneti region with everything ranging from multi-day hikes to day hikes. Other prime regions include Kazbegi, Tusheti, Khevsureti, Samegrelo, and Racha. Trails are generally marked and well maintained.
Adventurers – If hiking doesn’t get your heart racing enough, then you’ll have to opt for something like mountain biking, paragliding, hot air ballooning, white water rafting, or ice climbing.
Skiers – This tiny nation is mountainous and cold in the winter, but that makes for good skiing conditions for the snow bunnies. There are a number of resorts dotted around the republic, the best being in the Caucasus Mountains.
Culture enthusiasts – Georgia has a rich and ancient culture, which you can view in all regions of the country. Two experiences stood out for me.
The first being Vardzia, a cave monastery dating back to the twelfth century. The vast complex was literally carved out of the side of a mountain to house a church and its worshipers. I was particularly impressed by the network of tunnels used for defense. A site sure to list on UNESCO’s world heritage registry in the future.
The second cultural experience was one I initially wasn’t keen to experience. However, my travel partners wanted to visit a dinner hall in Tbilisi to view live Georgian music and dancing while eating local delicacies. I expected it to be a total tourist trap. Instead, after a good recommendation, it turned out that we were the only tourists listening to and watching the country’s best cultural performers. Everybody else watching were local Georgians out with their families.
When to Visit Georgia?
Summer is the best time to visit in my opinion, unless you are looking to hit the ski slopes or climb ice. Good deals are possible in the spring and fall. For hiking July and August are the best because it is the driest season, and mountain passes free of snow. May and June are rainy, generally.
As stated earlier, SalamAir is launching direct flights via Muscat International Airport, making your journey very convenient. However, non-daily flights and low-cost-carrier ticket terms might turn you off from using the budget airline. Fortunately, Qatar Airways and FlyDubai both offer daily flights via their regional hubs. So, you are bound to find a schedule, price, and travel time that fits your needs. The table below should help you find the best option.
Muscat to Tbilisi Flight Options
|Flight Number||Frequency||From/Departure Time||To/Arrival Time|
|OV311||Mon, Wed, Fri||MCT/2300||TBS/0240 (+1)|
|OV312||Tue, Thu, Sat||TBS/0340||MCT/0700|
|QR1127/QR255||Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat||MCT/1735||TBS/0020 (+1)|
|QR256/QR1128||Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun||TBS/0310||MCT/1020|
With direct flights, amazing activities, and immense value, Georgia seems too good to be true. Yet, in the words of Billy Mays, “But wait, there’s more!” The Republic of Georgia sits in exactly the same time zone as Oman, GMT +4. Residents of Oman will thoroughly enjoy any visit.
Will you be adding Georgia to your travel wish list? Let me know in the comments below.