Looking for the very best day trips from Tbilisi, Georgia? This guide is for you!
During our month-and-a-bit stay in Republic of Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, we got to do some pretty incredible day trips. I could happily spend a lifetime walking Tbilisi’s charming streets—but for first-time visitors, I recommend incorporating a few day excursions into your itinerary as well.
There are mountains, monasteries and wineries waiting to be discovered right on Tbilisi’s doorstep. This complete guide to the best day trips from Tbilisi, Georgia includes things to do, up-to-date transport information, ticket prices, and everything else you need to plan the perfect day out.
In this post, you’ll find information on six of the best day trips from Tbilisi, Georgia:
Day trip from Tbilisi to Mtskheta
Day trip from Tbilisi to Gori and Uplistsikhe
Day trip from Tbilisi to David Gareja Monastery
Day trip from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi (Kaketi)
Day trip from Tbilisi to Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)
Day trip from Tbilisi to Borjomi, Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia
Essential reading: Awesome things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia
Best day trips from Tbilisi, Georgia — Day trips for independent travellers
It’s easy and affordable to day trip from Tbilisi as an independent traveller (i.e. without a guide). Since this is our preferred style of travel and the way we explored Tbilisi’s surrounds, this list focuses on the best day trips from Tbilisi, Georgia for travellers who want to go their own way. Depending on the location and how far afield you want to explore, you may need to hire a taxi once you arrive. I’ve provided clear instructions if this is the case.
1. Georgia’s historic capital: An independent day trip from Tbilisi to Mtskheta
Distance from Tbilisi to Mtskheta | 25km
Recommended transport | Marshrutka
Travel time | Approx. 40 minutes each way
Time to spend in Mtskheta | 2-3 hours
Total time | 5 hours
Why visit Mtskheta?
Dripping with history, Georgia’s former capital, Mtskheta, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The small town is also the most popular (and convenient) day trip you can take from Tbilisi—which means it’s often packed with tourists, especially on weekends. Although Mtskheta wasn’t our favourite day trip from Tbilisi, we don’t regret going. At the very least, a trip to Mtskheta gives you the chance to see one of Georgia’s most famous monasteries, Jvari, in the flesh. Mtskheta is located on the highway between Tbilisi and Gori, so you can easily combine it with further travel to Gori and Uplistsikhe (see the next section).
Things to do in Mtskheta
Mtskheta is a tiny town that’s easily explored on foot. Start by visiting the centrally located Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, an 11th-century Orthodox church with beautiful interior frescoes. Free guides wait at the front door to show guests the various points of historical interest inside the cathedral. Further up the road, just outside of Mtskheta proper, the 4th-century Samtavro Monastery is celebrated for its intricate bas-relief carvings.
Jvari Monastery, one of Georgia’s most iconic houses of worship, is perched high on a hill overlooking Mtskheta. It’s not difficult to find a driver in Mtskheta to take you up the snaking 15km road to the monastery—just look for the 4WDs parked around Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. (If in doubt, consult the staff at the tourist information office outside the cathedral. Pro tip: There’s also a public toilet inside the office.) A trip up to Jvari and back typically costs 20 GEL per car. Carpool with other visitors to save on cash. At the top, the driver will wait for you for an hour, which is plenty of time to see the monastery.
It’s also possible to hike up to Jvari from Mtskheta (according to this report, the hike takes around 90 minutes over some pretty average terrain). The interior of Jvari Monastery is pleasant enough—but it’s the view of the church as you approach and the sweeping vistas over the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi Rivers that command most visitors’ attention.
Back in Mtskheta, there are a number of small cafes and restaurants dotted around the town square. There’s also a market outside the cathedral, where vendors sell souvenirs (knitted socks, fridge magnets), mulled wine and churchkhela. I personally found the products a bit tacky and the market too touristic, but it’s worth having a quick poke around before you head back to Tbilisi.
How to get to Mtskheta from Tbilisi
Marshrutkas (minivans) leave from Tbilisi’s Didube Station for Mtskheta every 10 to 15 minutes. Most continue on to Gori, so they tend to fill up fast. Tickets cost just 1 GEL per person. This post from Lost With Purpose provides detailed instructions for navigating Didube Station and purchasing a ticket.
Heading back to Tbilisi, flag down a van travelling the opposite way. We found a bus shelter near the Liberty Bank on reet (see the location here on Google Maps) and didn’t have to wait long for a marshrutka. Marshrutkas coming from Gori are often packed to the brim (especially on weekends), so you might have to stand in the aisle like we did. If you do need a seat, I recommend walking further north up the same road, towards Samtavro Monastery, and flagging down a marshrutka from there. Just gesture for a van when you see one. Signs propped in the window sometimes have place names written in English, but I recommend you take the time to learn the Georgian characters for Tbilisi (თბილისი).
2. Dark tourism in Georgia: An independent day trip from Tbilisi to Gori and Uplistsikhe
Distance from Tbilisi to Gori | 86km (53 miles)
Recommended transport | Marshrutka
Travel time | Approx. 1 hour each way
Time to spend in Gori | 4-5 hours
Total time | 6-7 hours
Why visit Gori?
Located in Georiga’s Shida Kartli region, travelling to Gori from Tbilisi involves crossing over into western Georgia. It’s a totally different landscape, characterised by lush forests and green plains. There are two reasons tourists come to Gori: Firstly, to explore the ancient cave city, Uplistsikhe; and secondly, to visit the birthplace of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. It might not be for everyone, but visiting the Stalin Museum is a very unique experience—especially if you opt for the guided tour, which I highly recommend you do.
Things to do in Gori
Joseph Stalin was born in Gori in 1878. Many attractions and civic landmarks still bear his moniker as a tribute to his legend. The Stalin Museum, which is dedicated to chronicling Stalin’s life (albeit quite selectively), is a must-see in Gori. There’s not much information in English, so it’s best to pay a little bit extra for a guided tour. You can also visit Stalin’s armored train carriage and see the house where he was born, both of which have been relocated onto the museum grounds. There’s a Stalin statue in the museum courtyard with an interesting history all of its own. After the museum, it’s worth taking a stroll around Gori to see how many Stalin namesakes you can spot (there’s a stadium, a theatre and a park, for starters). There are a few coffee shops and ice cream parlous located along Gori’s main drag, Stalin Avenue.
before you go: everything you need to know before visiting the stalin museum in gori (including ticket prices, opening hours & tips)
Aside from its dark history, Gori is quite a pretty town, with trellis-lined streets and a big central park. Climb to the top of Gori Castle for a nice view of the city and the Mtkvari River. Chinebuli, right opposite the Stalin Museum, serves decent food and comes recommended by the owner of our guesthouse in Gori.
Uplistsikhe Cave Town
Uplistsikhe is located just 14km from downtown Gori, so it makes sense to combine an excursion to the cave town with a visit to Gori. Thought to have been founded during the Bronze Age, Uplistsikhe is a fascinating landscape of chambers and grottoes cut into the mountainside, not unlike David Gareja Monastery (see the next section). It was once a fully functioning ‘cave town’, with living quarters, churches and municipal services. Uplistsikhe is better set up for tourists than David Gareja, with information placards and rope walkways. You can still clamber around the maze of caves as you please, which is actually a lot of fun (if not a little dangerous). Uplistsikhe is open from 10am to 5pm daily and entrance costs 3 GEL per person.
To get to Uplistsikhe from Gori, hire a taxi from Gori’s main square for 25 GEL round trip (including waiting time). Another option is to flag down a bus along Stalin Avenue (tickets cost just 1 GEL). There is a similarly priced train, which departs Gori at 10am and leaves Uplistsikhe at 5pm daily.
How to get to Gori from Tbilisi
A marshrutka from Didube Station to Gori costs 3 GEL per person (purchase a ticket from the window before boarding). Vans leave regularly throughout the day, starting from 7am. The ride takes just under an hour—jump out when you see the Stalin Museum (the large, unmistakable sandstone building with the Stalin Statue in the courtyard). Heading back to Tbilisi, marshrutka vans depart from Gori’s Central Bus Station, a 15-minute walk from the Stalin Museum (see the exact location here on Google Maps).
You can also travel from Tbilisi to Gori by taxi. Shared taxis depart from Didube Station and cost approximately 5 GEL per seat or 20 GEL for the whole vehicle. To travel back to Tbilisi from Gori by taxi, try asking around for a driver at the bus station.
Alternatively, there are regular passenger trains travelling between Tbilisi and Gori. Check the Georgian Railway website for an up-to-date timetable and fare information.
3. The colours of Kakheti’s semi-desert: A day trip from Tbilisi to David Gareja
Distance from Tbilisi to David Gareja | 67km (42 miles)
Recommended transport | Shuttle bus
Travel time | Approx. 2.25 hours each way
Time to spend at David Gareja | Minimum 3 hours to complete the walking track
Total time | 7.5 hours
Why visit David Gareja?
If I could recommend just one day trip from Tbilisi, it would be David Gareja. The 6th-century Orthodox monastery complex located east of Tbilisi in Georgia’s stunning Kakheti region really is a sight to behold. A hiking trail leads visitors through the monastery and up a steep ridge, with views of Azerbaijan from the top. David Gareja is currently the subject of a territorial dispute between the two countries, but at the time of writing, it’s safe to visit.
Things to do in David Gareja
alking track, which starts with a steep ascent. Looking down on the main monastery you can see some of the hundreds of separate chambers, living quarters and prayer rooms hewn into the rock. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one of the monks who call David Gareja home tending the gardens. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you’ll come to a small chapel and views of Azerbaijan. You can then clamber down the opposite side to visit a series of small alcoves decorated with frescoes. Many of the paintings were damaged in Soviet times, when David Gareja was used as a military base.
All up, it takes about three hours to walk through the monastery. The trail is unmarked in places and the terrain can be challenging, so wear good shoes and bring drinking water and snacks. At the time of our visit, there was absolutely no tourist infrastructure at David Gareja (apart from a small gift shop), but a new visitor’s centre was under construction at the entrance to the complex.
How to get to David Gareja from Tbilisi
The most convenient way to travel to David Gareja is with Gareji Line, a small company that runs a shuttle bus to and from Tbilisi. Shuttles run daily in the high season and according to demand during low and shoulder season. Just message them on Facebook for the schedule and to organise a seat. Don’t worry, this isn’t an organised tour—there’s no guide, and when we travelled, the driver didn’t speak English. It’s simply a hassle-free way to travel to David Gareja from Tbilisi and back without having to worry about public transport or spring for a taxi. They also provide guests with an A4 map of the complex with some basic information, which is useful given there’s no signage at David Gareja (that may have changed now with the opening of the new centre). A seat on the bus costs 25 GEL per person and includes a stop at the Oasis Club in Udabno on the way back for dinner.
It’s also possible to visit David Gareja as a day trip from Sighnaghi. It takes a little longer to get to the monastery from Sighnaghi, so I recommend doing the trip from Tbilisi if you can. Guesthouses in Sighnaghi can organise transport to David Gareja if you need it.
4. Georgian wine country: An independent day trip from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi (Kakheti)
Distance from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi | 109km (68 miles)
Recommended transport | Marshrutka or taxi
Travel time | Approx. 2 hours each way
Time to spend in Sighnaghi | 6-7 hours
Total time | 10-11 hours
Why visit Sighnaghi?
Also in Kakheti region, Sighnaghi is a quaint little town located in the heart of Georgian wine country. You can easily spend a day walking Sighnaghi’s cobbled streets, visiting cafes and museums—or you could venture further afield to some of the cellar doors and spectacular monasteries around Sighnaghi in the Kakhetian countryside. It’s best to spend at least one night in Sighnaghi, but it is possible to visit as a long day trip from Tbilisi.
Things to do in Sighnaghi
Explore the central part of Sighnaghi on foot, including the old city walls and the town square. For a full itinerary, refer to Day Two of my 72-hour Kakheti Guide. Bodbe Monastery, just outside Sighnaghi, is one of Georgia’s finest nunneries and shouldn’t be missed.
Essential reading: the best wineries and monasteries to visit in kakheti, georgia
Further afield, there are dozens of wineries and monasteries you can visit close to Sighnaghi, but you’ll need a car. Be sure to stop off at the Tsinandali Estate outside Telavi—Kakheti’s bigger city and transport hub.
Travelling by taxi from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi (or vice versa)
I highly recommend taking a shared taxi from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi to maximise your time. Taxis bound for Sighnaghi/Telavi wait behind Tbilisi’s Samgori bus station (exit left from the Isani metro and wrap around the back—you’ll see cars and drivers waiting near the row of shops). We paid 10 GEL per person for a seat in a shared taxi to Sighnaghi. The journey took less than 2 hours, including a few quick stops to let off the other passengers.
You can find taxis travelling back to Tbilisi from Sighnaghi around the town square and marshrutka kiosk.
Travelling by marshrutka from Tbilisi to Sighnaghi (or vice versa)
Marshrutkas to Sighnaghi depart Samgori station every 2 hours on the hour, starting from 9am. Tickets cost 6 GEL per person and the journey to Sighnaghi takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on traffic.
Coming back to Tbilisi, marshrtukas depart from a small bus stand in Sighnaghi at 4pm and 6pm. They fill up fast, so it’s advisable to buy your return tickets from the kiosk when you first arrive in Sighnaghi.
5. Into the Caucasus: An independent day trip from Tbilisi to Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)
Distance from Tbilisi to Kazbegi | 153km (95 miles)
Recommended transport | Marshrutka or taxi
Travel time | Approximately 3-4 hours each way
Time to spend in Kazbegi | Minimum 3-4 hours
Total time | Minimum 9-10 hours
Why visit Kazbegi?
It just wouldn’t be a trip to Georgia without an up-close look at the impressive Caucasus mountains. While it’s far better to stay for at least one night and enjoy the hiking this area has to offer, it is possible to visit Kazbegi (often referred to by its new name, Stepantsminda) as a rushed day trip from Tbilisi. Gergeti Trinity Church, which has come to symbolise Georgia tourism, and lunch at one of the country’s best boutique hotels are highlights of a day trip to Kazbegi. There are some nice places to stop on the drive up as you navigate the fabled Georgian Military Highway, the road that connects Tbilisi and Russia.
Things to do in Kazbegi
The Georgian Military Highway that leads to Kazbegi from Tbilisi is an attraction in itself, offering incredible views of the Caucasus mountains and surrounding countryside. I recommend springing for a taxi for at least one leg of the Tbilisi-Kazbegi journey so that you can make a few stop offs along the way. Be sure to pack your panoramic lens to photograph the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, located about five minutes’ walk from the highway, close to the turn off for the ski resorts in Gudauri Recreational Area.
You should also stop for a quick wander around Ananuri Fortress, noting the beautiful carvings on the building’s stone exterior. There’s a great little market outside the fortress where you can stock up on snacks (churchkhela, fresh strawberries) and drinks (wine, obviously) for the remainder of the drive. Make a final stop at Sioni Cathedral of the Dormition, a 6th-century basilica with wonderful frescoes located in Sioni, just outside Kazbegi.
Gergeti Trinity Church, perhaps Georgia’s most iconic place of worship, is perched high in the mountains overlooking Kazbegi, with Mount Kazbek as its backdrop. If you’re on a day trip, hiking from Kazbegi to Gergeti isn’t really an option, so you’ll want to travel up by 4WD. Look for a driver around Kazbegi town square (there are plenty of cars waiting to take tourists up). Expect to pay around 50 GEL (per car, not per person) for the round-trip, which takes 30 to 50 minutes each way, depending on the road conditions.
After visiting the church, I recommend spending the rest of your time in Kazbegi at Rooms Hotel, one of Georgia’s best boutique hotels. Rooms is a quintessential ski lodge (it’s actually an old Soviet sanatorium), with open fireplaces and a spectacular balcony. Enjoy lunch and a glass of Kakhetian wine at the Rooms restaurant, which is open to the public.
Travelling by marshrutka from Tbilisi to Kazbegi (or vice versa)
Kazbegi is one of the most popular destinations tourists head to after Tbilisi, so there are plenty of marshrutka vans leaving throughout the day from Didube Station.
Coming back to Tbilisi, marshrutkas depart from Kazbegi town’s small bus depot, which is located on the opposite side of the river to most guesthouses, close to Cafe Sno (see the location here on Google Maps). We paid 10 GEL per person to travel from Kazbegi to Tbilisi by marshrutka. The journey took approximately 4 hours, including a short bathroom break at the halfway point. Note that marshrutkas don’t stop at the Friendship Monument or at Ananuri.
Travelling by taxi from Tbilisi to Kazbegi
Shared taxis bound for Kazbegi depart regularly from Didube Station (just ask around for a driver, or look at the signs on the car dashboards). As mentioned, taxi drivers are usually happy to make short pit stops at Ananuri and at the Friendship Monument. If you want to spend longer in these places or make extra stops, it’s worth paying for the whole car so that you can travel on your own schedule. We paid 27 GEL per person for a shared taxi carrying three passengers. The trip took 3.5 hours, including stops.
If you prefer to hire a private car for the day to take you to Kazbegi and back to Tbilisi, expect to pay around 50 USD one-way.
6. Green space and ancient cities: An independent day trip from Tbilisi to Borjomi, Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia
Distance from Tbilisi to Borjomi | 161km (100 miles)
Recommended transport | Marshrutka or train
Travel time | Approximately 2.5 hours each way (by van) or 5 hours (by train)
Time to spend in Borjomi & surrounds | Minimum 5-6 hours
Total time | 10-12 hours
Why visit Borjomi?
If you’re craving fresh air and green space, Borjomi might be the best day trip from Tbilisi, Georgia for you. Borjomi is famous for its mineral springs. Once heralded as the best in all of the Soviet Union, water is still bottled here and exported all over Georgia and the region. In Soviet times, Borjomi and the nearby town of Bakuriani were used as summer health retreats to escape from hot and sticky Tbilisi. There are still a few sanatorium-style resorts operating in the area. Adventure lovers should note that Borjomi offers hikes and horse riding in summer, rafting and other water sports, and skiing in the wintertime. It’s also a great base from which to visit two historic sites: Vardzia, another of Georgia’s famous cave cities, and the restored Rabati Fortress in Akhaltsikhe.
Things to do in & around Borjomi
Start your day trip with a wander around Borjomi Central Park, stopping off to visit the Cultural Heritage Monument Firuza and to take a dip in the public hot springs. Further down the highway in Likani is the pretty Romanov Fortress and Petre Fortress. Follow one of the trails behind Romanov Fortress into Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park and track down the green-tiled Mtsvane Monastery, which is hidden inside the park. If you truly want to unwind, head to Rixos Borjomi or one of the ski lodges-cum-spa resorts in Bakuriani, just 25km down the road from Borjomi, for a health treatment using Borjomi’s curative waters.
Travel by taxi to Akhaltsikhe, 50km southwest of Borjomi, to visit the Samtskhe-Javakheti History Museum wrapped in the recently restored Rabati Fortress complex. Further up the road, stop in at St Marine’s Church.
From Akhaltsikhe, it’s another 50km to Vardzia. If you have time, stop in at the Atskuri and Khertvisi Fortresses on the way. The smaller and lesser-known Vanis Kvabebi cave monastery, located off the highway between Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia, also comes recommended.
Along with David Gareja and Uplistsikhe, Vardzia is one of Georgia’s most impressive cave sites. The monastery was excavated from the side of Mount Erusheli in 1185 on the orders of Queen Tamar to protect a community of 2,000 monks from invading Mongols. Vardzia once consisted of more than six thousand separate apartments in a thirteen-story complex; however, much of the city was later destroyed by an earthquake and looting. Entrance to Vardzia costs 3 GEL for an adult; guided tours and audio tours are available. Note that Vardzia closes at 6pm.
The easiest way to travel between Borjomi and Akhaltsikhe/Vardzia is by hiring a taxi once you arrive in Borjomi. Borjomi Online Taxi Service offers this service, along with transfers from Tbilisi if you prefer to do the whole journey by private car.
Another option is to travel from Borjomi to Bakuriani by train. The route, know as Kukushka (‘Little Cuckoo’ in Russian) is a narrow-gauge railway that opened in 1902. The ride takes about 2.5 hours and covers some truly beautiful terrain. You’ll even pass over the Tsemistskhali River viaduct, designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. If the timing is right, you can also take a scenic train ride back to Tbilisi from Borjomi to cap off your day trip with some of Georgia’s most beautiful landscapes.
Travelling by marshrutka from Tbilisi to Borjomi (or vice versa)
Marshrutkas depart from Tbilisi’s Didube Station regularly, with the first bus at around 6am (this is quite a packed schedule, so I recommend getting an early start if you want to fit everything into one day). A ticket costs between 6 to 8 GEL per person and the journey takes around 2.5 hours. See this post for a full report on the journey from Tbilisi to Borjomi by marshrutka.
Travelling by train from Tbilisi to Borjomi (or vice versa)
Another option is to travel to Borjomi by train. It takes around 5 hours—but you will see some beautiful scenery along the way. The early train departs from Tbilisi at 6.40am and costs 2 GEL (board early if you want a seat). If you’re day tripping from Tbilisi, I recommend taking the train back from Borjomi to Tbilisi (rather than to Borjomi) in order to maximise your time. According to Maria at My Travel Affairs, there’s a train that leaves Borjomi at 4.45pm and arrives back in Tbilisi at 9.15pm—ideal timing for day trippers.
What do you think is the best day trip from Tbilisi, Georgia? If you’re planning a trip to Tbilisi in the future, which day trip/s would make your list? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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