What’s the highest mountain range in Europe? The Alps? Wrong. It is the Caucasus Mountains marking the border between Georgia and Russia. While the highest peak is in Russia, Georgia lays claim to the second highest, Shkara, which at 5,193m (17,040 ft) beats Mont Blanc by nearly 400m (1,312 ft). These dramatic mountains, with their terrifying hairpin roads and hidden villages cut off at winter, are the stuff of legend.
A guest is a gift from God, goes the saying in Georgia. So foreign visitors are plied with food and drink – an enjoyable experience, if not always good for the waistline. But “a toast!” is the phrase dreaded by any visitor with a busy work day ahead.
The area around the ski resort of Gudauri (120km/75 miles north of Tbilisi) makes a good starting point for summer walks through mountain meadows full of flowers. Even in the lowland areas, eagles soar overhead and spectacular views can be had. The mountains in the south and east can offer more gentle walks.
These regions are also suitable for horse riding and mountain biking, and there are numerous mountain roads and tracks. Special Caucasian horses bred for their endurance and beauty, such as the Kabardo and the Tusheti, are the traditional means of transport in this area. Trips can be started at the mountain resort of Bakuriani.
Perhaps it is the Georgian wine and legendary hospitality that lures visitors to the country. As you will notice when you step foot in Georgia, an invitation for a meal is never far away. Before long you will be toasting with your hosts, dancing around and being fed copious amounts of wine and spirits. Georgians love to drink! Maybe it will happen in beautiful Tbilisi with its churches, winding streets and classical facades. Or it might be in Kutaisi, a contender for Golden Fleece glory. For sure it will happen in the Caucasus Mountain, as you hike from village to village in Svaneti or around Stepantsminda, formerly known as Kazbegi. And when you are finished drinking you can take a dip in the Black Sea outside Batumi.