The checkered history of Georgia has given it its unique culturally diverse identity. This small country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, abutting the Black Sea, is abundantly blessed with great natural beauty. Its capital Tbilisi, picturesque and vibrant, with its eclectic architecture and old-world charm, is the most cosmopolitan city in South Caucasus. Leave the city behind and adventure beckons temptingly.
Surrounded on three sides by mountains sloping down to the plains, with the Black Sea to the west, it is a boon for adventure seekers. One of the first on my list would be:
This is an expensive sport but totally worth it. Paragliding is done at the small town of Gadauri, between Tbilisi and Kazbegi near the Russian border. You start at the top of a mountain, about 2,800 metres above sea level. A professional pilot will accompany you, taking you higher and higher. It is not difficult to believe that the views will be breathtaking at that height, the rivers running like tiny silvery ribbons far below and the whole vista spread out in the valley below. An adrenaline pumping activity, certainly worth the 100 dollars for the 20-minute ride.
Georgia has a lot of rivers descending from the mountains. Many of them are fast flowing, especially near the capital, Tbilisi, making them ideal for rafting. Except between December and March, when it is too cold, rafting can be done round the year. The Aragvi river near Gadauri is popular among tourists since it is close to the touristy part of the country. Generally, popular tourist activities like River Rafting have to be booked in advance, but in Georgia, it is possible to book on the spot.
FOREST HIKING IN A NATURE PARK
Hiking through a natural forest is like a healing balm to a city dweller, an out- of- this- world experience, and the Borjomi Natural Park offers just that. Located in the city of Borjomi, it is the largest natural park in the country. Fresh water springs, waterfalls, natural hot water pools and a stream running through are some of the things you get to see. The forest hike starts at one end of the park, with a paved walk. A stream winds its sparkling way through the thick natural forest. The hike ends at a hot spring where you can take a relaxing bath. The park is a protected area and perfectly safe for tourists, but it is recommended that you complete your hike during the daylight hours as there are no lights in the park, and negotiating narrow paths, crossing small bridges in the dark with plentiful insects is really not a sensible thing to do.
DIVING TO AN UNDERWATER CHURCH.
I gave a gasp of fear and excitement on hearing of this. But it was true …this was really a thing to do. I doubt there is any other place in the world that one can do this. This church, is sunk in the Zhinghavli Reservoir on the outskirts of Tbilisi. The villages were abandoned when the whole area was flooded in order to build a reservoir, which supplies water to Tbilisi. The monsoon season, when the reservoir is full, is the best time to dive. Booking for this has to be done in advance. You cannot dive independently. There is an interesting legend that says that anyone who can ring the bells of the sunken church, will be granted any wish that they make. True or false, there is something mysterious and alluring about this place.
TREKKING UP THE MOUTAIN TO A LONELY CHURCH
The mountainous terrain of Georgia gives ample scope for those who love to trek. This particular trek, from Kazbegi takes two hours. The church lies high up in the Kazbegi mountain, a stunning snowcapped peak. It is quite an easy trek and does not require great physical fitness or endurance.
The path winds up through scenic territory, passing through giant pine trees, so dense in places as to obliterate the sky. The trek leads up to an abandoned 6th century church, the Trinity Church, which is something to see in itself. One can take a 30-minute jeep ride to view the church, but then where is the challenge or the adventure?
Most tourists confine themselves to having a good time within the limits of the city but get out and a wonderful world of excitement and adventure awaits you!