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From sulphur baths to Stalin’s home: five great trips in Georgia | Georgia holidays

From sulphur baths to Stalin’s home: five great trips in Georgia | Georgia holidays

Kazbegi mountains

Some Helly Hansen-clad travellers consider the Kazbegi area, next to the Russian border, one of Georgia’s more mainstream mountain trips. Don’t be put off: Stepantsminda, the main village of Kazbegi, may be frequented by tourists but it doesn’t feel overrun, and neither do its surrounding villages. Other mountainous areas, such as Svaneti, require longer slogs.

Illustration: Guardian Design

The climb from the town to the hilltop Gergeti Trinity church is the classic short Kazbegi hike, rewarded with views over the Caucasus mountains. There are great trekking trails all around, but it’s also fun to drive the winding road north of Kazbegi, stopping for jaw-dropping views of the Darial Gorge.

There’s no train line to Kazbegi, but the Georgian Military Road from Tbilisi offers one of Europe’s great road trips, passing vast, colourful Soviet-era mosaics and spectacular valleys, with the occasional herd of sheep blocking traffic. Kazbegi is worth visiting, even if you only have one spare day.

Climbing to the hilltop Gergeti Trinity church in the Kazbegi mountains. Photograph: Ryhor Bruyeu/Alamy

Taxi vans run to Kazbegi from Tbilisi’s Didube bus station for 15 lari (about £4.50), departing every hour (less frequently outside summer) from 8am until 7pm. The drive can take up to four hours.

Sulphur baths

Red-brick domes and warm eggy whiffs announce the historic and natural sulphur baths on the edge of Tbilisi’s old town.

Offering medieval-looking stone rooms as well as fluffy towel-laden sanctuaries, this bath house cluster has steamy sessions that can be basic or bougie. Most are still mainly visited by locals, so your dunk can feel as authentically Georgian as it is linguistically challenging. Seek Georgian or Russian language help when booking cheaper venues by phone, or prepare to be hung up on by irritated receptionists.

Facade of the Chreli Abano baths. Photograph: Alamy

The bath houses also offer private rooms, which have large baths with continually flowing hot water plus a cold stone slab to lie on. Bohema Sulphur Bath, believed to be one of the first here, is an adventurous option with cheap, often dungeon-esque rooms (room hire from about £15 an hour). Chreli-Abano snags visitors with its lovely mosque-like frontage and interior mosaics (room hire from £38 an hour).

Hiring a room solo or as a couple, and floating in naked relaxation, opens pores and clears minds. To crank things up, a kisi is a skin scrape and wash-down…

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