Borjomi, Bakuriani, Akhaltsikhe & Vardzia


In this section we discuss Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia with its most popular highlights.
The region was formed in 1995 in southern Georgia from the historical provinces of Meskheti (Samtskhe), Javakheti and Tori (Borjomi gorge). Akhaltsikhe is its capital. The region comprises six administrative districts: Akhaltsikhe, Adigeni, Aspindza, Borjomi, Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda.
Samtskhe-Javakheti is bordered by the regions of Adjara, Guria and Imereti, Shida Kartli and Kvemo Kartli, and by Armenia and Turkey to the south and southwest.
Total Length: 341 km, 6 h 30 min
And here is the link for directions on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/SvJ6GKu3Q2N2


Borjomi, located in the south-central part of Georgia, is renowned for its resort offerings. Positioned in the scenic Borjomi Gorge on the eastern border of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, it constitutes one of the northwestern sectors of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region.
This picturesque town is celebrated for several prominent features. Firstly, it serves as a hub for the mineral water industry, marking a significant export of Georgia. Secondly, it houses the Romanov summer palace situated in Likani, adding to its historical allure. Thirdly, the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, designated as a World Wide Fund for Nature site, further contributes to the town's appeal. Moreover, the bottling of Borjomi mineral water stands as a principal economic driver for the region.
The therapeutic potential attributed to the mineral springs in the area has positioned Borjomi as a popular destination for individuals seeking relief from health issues. The curative powers of these mineral springs draw people seeking their potential benefits.

How to Go:
By train - From Tbilisi, Gori, Mtskheta, it is possible to get in using the Tbilisi - Borjomi train.
Minibus / Marshrutka: In Tbilisi minibuses to Borjomi depart from an area in front of Didube metro station. The price is 8 GEL and the journey takes about two hours. Marshrutkas go from the main bus station in Batumi to Borjomi and vice-verse. The ride is about 3 hours.
The town is small enough to get around on foot. It is possible to get to the entry/exit points of the national park by marshrutka / minibus or taxi.
When in town, do not miss:
·      -- Explore the city park, which extends along the Borjomula River and is home to the source of Borjomi mineral water. The initial section of the park features amusement areas and cafes, while the rear portion provides an ideal setting for leisurely strolls. If you venture beyond the paved area for approximately 2.5 km, you'll discover hot springs where you can take a refreshing dip in a small pool and relax. The natural beauty surrounding this area more than compensates for the walk. At the park entrance, you also have the option of using a cable car to ascend to the plateau, offering fantastic views over Borjomi. Additionally, locals near the park entrance sell homemade jam crafted from pine tree cones. This jam is believed to have beneficial properties for treating upper respiratory tract infections and enhancing immunity.
- Pay a visit to the Borjomi Kharagauli National Park, the largest of its kind in Georgia. You can obtain free access permission and a map of the area, along with route information and shelter locations, from the park's administrative office located slightly to the west of Borjomi (23 Meskheti Street). If you plan to hike within the national park, make sure to bring sufficient supplies, water, and basic sleeping gear since the cabins are quite basic (costing 10 GEL). A one-day hike from Borjomi to Qvabiskhevi (or vice versa) is possible, followed by a return to Borjomi via hitchhiking, local bus, or taxi. Longer multi-day hikes are also an option, allowing you to explore higher altitudes (up to 2600 meters). For more details about this national park, please refer to our National Parks Page - provided link here.
- Discover the Green Monastery, an ancient religious site located just outside the town. You can reach it by walking, hitchhiking, or bargaining with a taxi (a fare of around 10 GEL should suffice for a round trip). A brief hike through the woods leads to the monastery, which is compact yet exudes beauty.


Bakuriani, situated in the Borjomi district, is both a settlement and a prominent skiing resort. Nestled on the northern incline of the Trialeti Range, it rests at an altitude of 1,700 meters above sea level.
The vicinity surrounding Bakuriani is enveloped in coniferous forests, predominantly consisting of spruce trees. The resort is positioned 30 km away from Borjomi and is linked to the latter through an electrified narrow-gauge railway. Mount Kohta, towering at approximately 2,200 meters above sea level, stands as the highest peak in the resort and serves as a skiing haven.
Bakuriani's climate transitions from humid maritime to relatively humid continental. Winters bring chilly temperatures and substantial snowfall, while summers extend with warmth.
Initially designed as an Olympic training hub, it comes as no surprise that Bakuriani is counted among Georgia's most sought-after destinations for winter sports and leisure activities. You can relish the thrill of downhill skiing, traverse cross-country trails, partake in horseback excursions, go sledding, or simply embark on tranquil walks through the enchanting snowy woods.
Though it garners its highest popularity during the winter months as a premier ski resort (for more details on Bakuriani's winter experiences, refer to our Winter Section - Bakuriani Ski Resort page ), Bakuriani receives a continuous influx of local and international tourists year-round, particularly during the summer season, thanks to its breathtaking natural landscape and invigorating air.
How to Go:
Bakuriani is accessible all year round. Distance from Tbilisi is 180 km, from Kutaisi 155km. The journey usually takes 2.5-3 hours.
Daily mini-buses depart to Bakuriani from Tbilisi’s Didube bus station at 4 Karaleti str. Every hour.
Price of journey is 10 GEL.
And Kutaisi bus station, price 10-11 GEL.
For more details about bakuriani please visit official Bakuriani Page: 
http://bakuriani.ge/ and http://www.bakuriani.ski/


Vardzia is a cave monastery site in southern Georgia. The main period of construction was the second half of the 12th century. The caves stretch along the cliff for some five hundred metres and in up to nineteen tiers. The Church of the Dormition, dating to the 1180s during the golden age of King Tamar, has an important series of wall paintings. The site was largely abandoned after the Ottoman takeover in the sixteenth century. Now part of a state heritage reserve, the extended area of Vardzia-Khertvisi has been submitted for future inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can see Vardzia in a day trip from Akhaltsikhe or Borjomi, but the Vardzia area is so magical that an overnight (or longer) stay is well worthwhile.

How to Go:
You can take public marshrutka from Tbilisi or Borjomi via Akhaltsikhe but you'll need to ask the driver where to drop you off.
While exploring the caves, do not miss:
Church of the Dormition. A 12th century church famous for its wall paintings. The paintings were created during the reign of Queen Tamar, probably shortly after her father's death. The church measures 8.2 meters by 14.5 meters.  Around the main church is an entire monastery complex carved out of the cliff, the façade of which collapsed after an earthquake.

Important Notice!
For those of you, searching for Vardzia Cave Town on Google Maps. If you just search for Vardzia it may show you the small village like area near town Zestafoni, that's not the one!
Although corresponding photos are of Vardzia Cave Town, location is incorrect. Don't be mistaken!
Here is the location of Vardzia Caves, a big highlit of Georgia: https://goo.gl/maps/KkxqPu3FtaCySwzm6


Akhaltsikhe, the capital and largest municipality of Samtskhe-Javakheti, translates to 'New Castle' in the Georgian language. While the Rabati castle, which dominates the northern side of the Potskhovi River and the town, hasn't been genuinely new since the 12th century, it underwent extensive restoration in recent years. This revitalization has played a significant role in transforming a town that once suffered from post-Soviet decline into a reasonably appealing destination. It also serves as a starting point for visits to Vardzia.
The Rabati area and its castle have a rich history of ethnic and religious diversity, as well as tolerance. This region served as a frontier where various empires, kingdoms, and cultures converged. Even today, Rabati boasts a mix of Georgian Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Catholic churches, a synagogue, and a mosque, reflecting this multicultural heritage. Akhaltsikhe continues to have a substantial Armenian population.
The more modern sectors of the town are mainly situated on the southern side of the river. Upon crossing the bridge near the base of Rabati and choosing the right path at two junctions, you'll find yourself on Kostava Street, the main thoroughfare.
How to Go:
Marshrutkas run to Akhaltsikhe main market/bus station from Tbilisi Didube market, as well as from the bus stations in Kutaisi and Khashuri.
Akhaltsikhe is on the most direct land route between Armenia and Turkey (the border between these countries is closed that and is not expected to change soon).
Apart from Rabati Castle and nearby Vardzia, we recommend visiting:
- Situated around 10-12 km uphill from Akhaltsikhe, Sapara Monastery nestles in the mountains. Its origins trace back to the tenth century, while the main church, St. Sabas, was constructed sometime during the thirteenth century. The monastery enjoyed remarkable preservation until the twentieth century due to its secluded location, shielding it from Ottoman discovery during the three-century dominance of southwestern Georgia. Unfortunately, the Soviets eventually uncovered it and subjected it to their typical unfeeling treatment, although not to the same extreme as many other Georgian Orthodox establishments. The frescoes on the walls were not covered over and have remained well-preserved, particularly following a recent restoration. During your visit, take the opportunity to ascend the nearby slopes to a rocky ledge, offering splendid panoramic views of the monastery and the distant valleys. Additionally, remember to refrain from using flash photography within the churches to avoid irking the monks. If you can communicate your intentions, you might even be able to spend the night in the monastery's chambers.
- Overlooking the village of Khertvisi, the Khertvisi Fortress stands tall. This elevated location has served as a fortress since the second century B.C., and legend claims that it suffered destruction at the hands of Alexander the Great. The "modern" iteration of the fortress, however, was constructed during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and witnessed battles during the Ottoman invasion and subsequent control in the sixteenth century. The walls on the opposite side descend sheerly to the far-below Mtkvari River, so if you're up for a bout of vertigo, muster the courage to look directly down.

Western Capital



Around Mt. Kazbegi