Whether you want to escape the crowds of the spring and summer months, get into the holiday spirit, or just see a different side of this incredible country, here’s a wanderlust-fueling Georgia winter travel bucket list.
While each of these 10 destinations are all terrific places to visit in Georgia at any time of year, I think they’re especially beautiful in winter.
Nearby Gudauri takes the lion’s share of winter tourism thanks to its ski slopes. Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) is quieter and much more tranquil by contrast. Some restaurants and cafes close for the winter, but you can always find something open.
Venture up to Gergeti Trinity Church (it’s recommended to go by 4WD in winter unless you have proper hiking gear) and spend an afternoon on the deck at Rooms sipping glint wine.
1. KAZBEGI – SCENIC DRIVES & MOUNTAIN MAGIC
Under 3.5 hours by road from Tbilisi, Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) is the best place to get a peek at the Greater Caucasus without venturing too far from the city.
The scenic Georgian Military Highway remains open throughout winter, making it easy to reach Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) and visit a slew of winter-wonderful sights along the way, including Gudauri, Pasanauri and Sno Village. The views along this road in winter are nothing short of dazzling.
2. GUDAURI – SKIING & CHALETS
An obvious addition to any list of places to visit in Georgia in winter, Gudauri is the country’s most popular winter resort.
Skiing, snowboarding and heli-skiing on 64km of runs (serviced by 15 lifts and gondolas) are all available from mid-December onwards.
If you’re skiing, go all out and stay at great hotels. Otherwise, it’s much better to spend an hour in Gudauri on the way up to Kazbegi (Stepatnsminda), where the winter vibe is more pleasant and accommodation far more reasonable.
Bakuriani sits on the northern slopes of the Trialeti Range in the foothills of the Lesser Caucasus mountains. As you might imagine, the entire area is a winter paradise of ivory coloured trees and hoary hills.
Another must-do is to ride the historic Kukushka Train, Georgia’s only scenic rail that runs from Borjomi up to the ski resort. The track delves into deep forest and is absolutely gorgeous in winter.
3. BORJOMI & BAKURIANI – HOT SPRINGS, SKIING & WINTER HIKES
Located in southern Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region, Borjomi is one of many places in Georgia with natural hot sulfur baths. A trip to the open-air thermal baths is the perfect way to warm up in winter.
Bakuriani is the second most popular ski resort in Georgia after Gudauri. With 29km of slopes spanning all difficulty levels and 20 ski lifts, this is a snow bunny’s paradise. Ski season normally starts in mid-December.
4. SVANETI – TOWER HOUSES & MAJESTIC PEAKS
If you want a taste of a raw, rugged mountain winter in Georgia, it doesn’t get much better than Svaneti. Winter arrives early on Georgia’s highest peak and promises a good three months of snow-white landscapes that are almost too perfect to be real.
As a winter destination, Svaneti is quite diverse: Skiing and snowboarding are available at Hatsvali, Mestia town offers a range of cultural and historical attractions, and you can take a side trip to see the tower houses in UNESCO-Listed Ushguli. To top it off, Kubdari (Svanetian meat pie) might be the pinnacle of winter fare.
All this against a backdrop of the country’s most monumental mountains, with Shkhara as snow-clad sentinel. Snow is visible on the highest peaks from as early as the end of September.
5. BAKHMARO – CAT SKIING & ALPINE AIR
Located in western Georgia’s Guria region, Bakhmaro is a beloved alpine resort praised for its curative air. Some say this is the purest air in Georgia – that’s why a trip to Bakhmaro is often prescribed to people with respiratory issues.
Summer is the favourite time to visit for dramatic sunsets.
In winter, the air is a touch frostier to say the least. The storybook A-frame cottages that dot the mountain labour under heavy snow – up to 5 metres deep in a good year – enclosed by pockets of fir and pine tree forest.
6. LAGODEKHI – TRANQUIL LANDSCAPES
A hiker’s refuge in summer, in winter, Lagodekhi National Park takes on a completely different character. This little patch of warm, wet forest in arid Kakheti – located very close to the border with Azerbaijan – is all silvery rivers and vast swathes of snowy pasture in the cold months.
Seeking sanctuary from the harsh winter conditions in the mountains of Tusheti, herders bring their flocks down to pasture in Lagodekhi and Vashlovani in winter – hence why you’ll often see streams of sheep roaming the landscape at this time of year.
Roosting birds make off for warmer pastures as lakes Paravani, Saghamo and Bughdasheni freeze over. Ice crystals take up in every tree, while the surrounding meadows transform into fields of deep snow and the sleeping volcanoes in the distance gather powder on their crowns.
Also in this region, Vardzia Cave City takes on a completely unique appearance in winter as snow collects in its craggy rock cloisters.
7. JAVAKHETI – FROZEN LAKES & SNOW-CAPPED VOLCANOES
Bitterly cold and unforgiving, Javakheti demands proper gear, snow tires, and a lot of grit. But if you’re brave enough, it’s one of the most distinct landscapes in Georgia and truly a sight to behold in winter.
The Javakheti Plateau stretches across the southern part of the country along the borders with Armenia and Turkey, and encompasses a handful of small jewel-like lakes interspersed by vast prairies and deep canyons.
Houses huddle together in small villages as if to share warmth, some buried under turf roofs to squeeze every drop of heat out of the earth. Other colourful villages on the lake’s shore are almost Nordic.
8. FOREST SABADURI – FAIRYTALE LANDSCAPE OF FROSTY TREES
Just an hour by road from Tbilisi, Sabaduri Forest is the ultimate winter playground and the place to go for photos frolicking over snow-glazed paths amongst powder-puff trees. Find a quiet spot on the side of the highway that winds its way alongside Tbilisi National Park and wander off into a snowy paradise.
Half an hour further up the road, Sioni Lake looks pretty as a picture when mirroring frozen foliage. Nearby Martkopi Monastery, nestled deep in the forest, rounds out the ideal winter day trip from Tbilisi.
For a real winter treat, book a day trip to Sabaduri and Gudauri ski resort or a guided day trip to Sabaduri, Sioni and the nearby Chronicles of Georgian monument. Sabaduri is also a wonderful spot to see fiery foliage during the autumn months
Photo credit: Shermazana
9. UPPER ADJARA – SERIOUS SKIING & SWEET VILLAGES
The highlands above Batumi wear their winter cloak so well. Sweet alpine villages such as Beshumi sport similar A-frame cottages to Bakhmaro and are gorgeous in winter.
Georgia’s third ski resort, Goderdzi, is located in this region and despite being smaller (there is just one gondola and 8.4km of slopes) is probably the most scenic. With fewer tourists, the atmosphere here is more intimate. The season typically runs from December to March.
10. KAKHETI – CLEAR SKIES & FROZEN VINES
Most people suggest a trip to Kakheti in autumn during the Rtveli grape harvest. Having driven around Kakheti in February, I can tell you Georgia’s wine country is equally beautiful in winter – just in a different way.
The biggest advantage of visiting Kakheti in winter is clear skies. While haze obscures the view at other times of year (particularly in summer), in winter you can see all the way across the Alazani Valley to the Greater Caucasus.