Travelers Begin to Discover Georgia (No, the OTHER Georgia)
Georgia is in a kind of no-man’s land between Europe and Asia. North of Turkey, south of Russia and east of the Black Sea, this small country is dominated by the Caucasus Mountains. Georgia has really come into its own as a tourist destination in the past few years. The country has started to align itself with the EU, which has praised its moves to create a transparent democracy and give citizens freedoms of speech and press. Thanks, in part, to these closer ties with Europe, the nation has been able to gain quite a bit of interest from tourists recently.
As a travel destination, Georgia has a lot going for it
The landscapes here are beautiful. The Caucasus Mountains are scenic and the Black Sea coastline was known as the "Soviet Riviera" during the USSR era. Georgia has been a wine-making nation for 8,000 years, and its fledgling ski resorts and adventure sports scenes are also drawing interest from travelers. A quarter of the country is covered by national parks.
Georgia has a unique language, which boasts its own non-Romanized script. In remote areas, even more-obscure tongues are spoken by the locals. Though Georgia is often lumped together with the other former Soviet states in the region, it is equally influenced by its other neighbors: Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Because of their geography, however, Georgians remain proudly unique, which is one of the reasons that the country has been getting interest from culturally minded tourists.
Close ties with the EU and U.S.
Even with simmering conflicts in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia has seen its profile rise. Part of the reason for this is that it has proved friendly to foreign investment. American and European firms are involved in development projects all over the country.
Like some of its peers to the North, Georgia wants even closer ties with the EU, with the ultimate goal being to actually join the European alliance as a full member. That could be a long way off. Open warfare has ended in the disputed areas, but the conflict has not really been resolved. (Many in South Ossetia and Abkhazia want closer ties with Russia, not with the EU).
The next step for the EU would be to reciprocate the visa-free travel arrangement that most Europeans get to enjoy when they visit Georgia.
Undiscovered, but now more accessible
This will eventually happen. Both Washington and Brussels see ties with Georgia as vital. Russia and Iran are both nearby, so Georgia is a strategically important place. Even though many of the tourists who come to Georgia are from Russia, Europeans have been arriving in great numbers as well.
Hotspots include the “Riviera” city of Batumi and cosmopolitan Tblisi, the wine country of Kakheti, the ancient mountainside monasteries (namely the cave dwellings of Vardzia), and the waterfalls and villages of Svaneti.
Georgia has always been an off-the-beaten-path place. Now, with its ever-closer ties to the EU and U.S., it is one of those rare places that is both accessible and undiscovered.
More by Josh Lew
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