Azerbaijan & Georgia - 20 Day Explorer (Virtual Tour) - Day 20
We were due to be heading to Aerbaijan & Georgia @ this time of year, however, COVID-19 restrictions have required us to suspend all tours for the rest of 2020.
On this virtual Tour, you can travel with us as we explore two emerging countries - Azerbaijan & Georgia. On this Tour, we fly into Baku, Azerbaijan and out of Tbilisi, Georgia and bus, hike & funicular our way around these amazing cultures.
Day 20/21 Batumi - Tbilisi
Our last few days in Georgia were with a city tour of Batumi and a free afternoon/ evening that gave everyone a chance for some last minute wandering/wondering, shopping and cramming in as much great Georgian food as possible.
The following morning we packed up for the trip to Tbilisi but stopped on the way at the Makhuntseti Waterfall & Bridge. The Makhuntseti Waterfall is located 30 kilometres from Batumi. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Georgia, which is 50 metres high and creates a large pool where visitors can swim. Near the waterfall, there is the bridge of King Tamar, also known as the Makhuntseti Bridge, which dates from the 12th century although it has been refurbished several times.
We had about 6 hours of driving in front of us but we stopped frequently to take in the sights.
Our planned stops are:
Poti, Samtredia & Zestafoni. All of these stops are in towns with significant historical & cultural features that will have to be more fully explored our our next tour.
There are a few options to travel from Batumi to Tbilisi including:
Fly - approx 1 hr flight (+45 minutes from Airport to Tbilisi) with Georgian Airlines. They operate 9 aircraft to 15 international and numerous domestic destinations. They have a good reputation for safety & reliability, are the Georgian flag carrier and operate executive services on behalf of the Government.
Georgian Railways operate 3 services/ day between Batumi & Tbilisi. Cost is up to AUD$20 and takes @ 5 hours. Georgian Railways now operates Swiss-made Stadler electric trains capable of speeds up to 160km/h.
Georgian Metro operates 4 services/day to Tbilisi, cost is up to AUD$15 and takes 6.5 hours. These are modern, Wi-Fi & toilet equipped buses and the road is pretty good although the driver does have to keep an eye out for local hazards.
As mentioned, we were not in a huge hurry to get to Tbilisi so arranged a number of stops between Batumi & Tbilisi:
Poti - Poti is only 50 minutes from Batumi, is a major seaport (and headquarters of the Georgian Navy), located in the Rioni river delta on the Black Sea coast, 340 kilometres from Tbilisi. The city ranks second (after Batumi) in the country among the other ports in maritime traffic. In the neighborhood there is Lake Paliastomi, within the boundaries of Kolkheti National Park. It boasts a unique species of flora and fauna, in particular relic liana forests, strictly prohibited for logging by law.
An interesting and unique landmark in the proximity of Poti is the Magnetic Sands of Ureki (24km from Poti). These magnetic black sands feature amazing healing properties for cardiovascular, nervous, respiratory and skeletal systems. They are also used in the treatments of hypertension and neurosis. We didn't get a chance to test this out - perhaps next time.
Samtredia - not far up the E60 is the city of Samtredia. Samtredia is a very beautiful area and is a major transport hub for road & rail being located in a valley. There are a number of interesting cultural monuments including the Church Of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Vazisubani, the ruins of the XI-XII centuries Telepisi Fortress, the Church of St. George in Gamochinebuli, the Church of Jiktubani and a house-Museum of Niko Nikoladze (a notable 19th century Georgian writer).
Zestafoni/Zestaponi - is both a major industrial/mining town and a recognised wine growing area. Whilst we only managed a comfort stop here (and to stock up on khachapuri (cheese pies) and water for the remaining 190 kms into Tbilisi.
The rest of our trip into Tbilisi was interesting as we had not previously travelled this way. Next time, it would be really interesting to take the train from Batumi as you travel a slightly different route and can see different things from a different perspective.
Our final night in Georgia was back at the Hotel Oriental and, as a treat, we had arranged our final dinner at the Shavi Lomi (Black Lion) restaurant. This restaurant is renown for its chakapuli - a beef & wild plum bouillon - and other Georgian specialties.
Tbilisi - our tour to Azerbaijan & Georgia finished up today with our transfer to the Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi International Airport, located some 17km/25 minutes southeast of the city.
After another extraordinary breakfast, we trekked out to the airport for our 12:40pm Qatar flight to Doha (QR356). This flight arrived at 14:45pm (local time) and our next flight (Doha - Sydney) was not until 07:55am the following morning. This gave us a chance for a quick tour of Doha city and an early night to ease into our 14hour flight to Sydney (QR906). This flight was onboard one of Qatar's latest Airbus A350-1000 aircraft - a stretch version of the A350-900 - 7 metres longer and with seating for up to 40 additional passengers. A trip report on the Doha Stopover & review of the Qatar A35K/A351 flight will follow soone.