Budget Friendly trip to Borjomi, Georgia. | Visit Georgia in winter.
In my previous post (You can read it HERE ) I was telling about our trip to Georgia in winter. It started in Kutaisi. One thing I didn't tell you is that starting from the first day it was filled with a lot of interesting situations. First was a naked man in our hostel (long story short he came in, striped, put his clothes in the washer and acted really loudly. He didn't even live in the hostel. Weird). Funny and annoying at the same time. Second thing was that our hostel turned out to be locked one night (we came back after a nice dinner and the doors were locked. We didn't have local phone number, so we ended up asking help from a guy on the street. It ended well, we got into our hostel and we found a new friend - guy who helped us).
Getting from Kutaisi to Borjomi
So the story about Borjomi starts with another... hmm.... fail.... no, let's call it an adventure.
So we checked how to get from Kutaisi to Borjomi and our option was two minibuses-marshrutkas a day. Departure times were at 8:20 am and 1 PM (You can check Timetables HERE, but don't rely on them :D). We chose second option.
We walked to a Central Bus station, which is located outside the city center (7M4C+GG Sheikhpura, Georgia).
First of all some of the drivers said there is no Bus to Borjomi today. They tried to convince us that we have to take their bus and drive half way with them. We didn't buy this and kept looking. On the other side of the Bus Station there are many other minibuses and that's where we realized for these ones there were Routes written on them only in Georgian. We couldn't read them, so we asked about the Borjomi bus (it was easy, because most people do understand Russian) to the nearby drivers. We found a bus, but then when the depart time came, the driver said: "Sorry there are not enough passengers. I am not going."
That was unexpected. The last bus of the day, that could take us to Borjomi, and he is not going. There was another driver asuring us that they will organize another bus, a bit later that day. So we had to rely on them and we decided to wait. Luckily there was family/friend group coming and they needed to get to the Borjomi as well. Another Bus was organized and after 3 hours we arrived in Borjomi. Ticket costed 10 GEL (~3,20eur) per person.
Where to stay in Borjomi
We stayed in a Tamarioni Guesthouse. It costed 22 Eur for 2 nights and we had a lovely room with double bed and private bathroom. There was a kitchen as well. The owner gave us some delicious home wine, and we really loved the place (it was hard to find at first, but you have to go through a "tunnel" right next to the Bergi restaurant).
If you choose to stay on this side of the Kura River remember that it is pretty hilly. If you look for the place closer to the Shota Rustaveli Street it will be fine, but further in the streets gets steeper. That means that you might get better views from your windows. Also that means steeper climb (so be aware, especially if you don't enjoy that). Most of the guesthouses and private houses are located here. The best is to stay closer to the center (check map below). There are many nice hotels as well, but they are not as budget friendly.
Where to eat in Borjomi
There are couple of nice restaurants in Borjomi. I am sure that there are more opened in summer time, but finding a good and cheap food in winter wasn't a problem.
I highly suggest Pesvebi as that was our first choice. And OHHH MY GOD! The food is perfect here. We tried Khinkali, khachapuri, ajapsandal, lobio and many other things. This is just the perfect place to have delicious food and not break the bank. Prices are reasonable and the place very traditional looking and cozy.
The second place we loved was Bergi. Although the day we decided to go there it was empty, we saw a lot of people go there for late dinner. Food was really delicious and they even gave us some complimentary homemade Chacha at the end.
Also if you stay at the guest house with a kitchen I really recommend to try to boil some khinkali at home. We bought those in grocery store called ნიკორა. They were 0,50 gel per piece and tasted the same as the ones from restaurants (where they charge 0,70 - 2 gel per piece). Delicious!
What to do in Borjomi
Winter is the perfect time to skip the tourist crowds and enjoy the winter wonderland.
On place that is definitely on the list is Borjomi Central park. Entry is 2 Gel per person. You can also take a Cable car up the hill wich is 5 Gel per person. Keep in mind that if you want to go down as well, you need 2 tickets! You can also come down by using a hiking trail which is for free.
In this park you can find a lot of attractions for kids, but in winter they are closed. Also the toilet is additional 1 Gel. As for us we decided to go all the way to the Thermal Mineral Baths at the end of one of the trails. They Cost 5 Gel per person. You can soak in the open pools and relax. We didn't try, but some people said they are not warm enough to go in winter. But we saw a lot of people doing so. I guess it depends.
If you love hiking like we do, there are 2 main hikes you can go for. One is hike up the hill in Borjomi Central Park which we did.
After you reach the Thermal Baths, the trail continues up hill. After you go up it gets easier and you can enjoy nice walk through the woods. Check out the church in the middle of the woods - Temple of Saint Seraphim of Sarov.
After you reach the Plateau Wheel (which doesn't work in the winter) you can check out the spectacula views from The Cable Car station. It was so much more satisfying to come all the way up instead of taking tha Cable car. The view to the Valley and the Park is beautiful. After that you can come down by using zigzag trail that leads you right back into the Park.
If you are interested in some nice handmade souvenirs there are many shops along the 9 April Street, closer to The Central Borjomi Park. Don't forget to do bargaining, as it is really okay to do so.
The second hike leads you to the Cross Hill, where are three White Georgian crosses. Also known as Grapewine cross or Saint Nino Cross. They are shaped a bit different than a regular Christian Cross. It is recognisable by the slight drooping of its horizontal arms.
So the hike using The green trail goes all the way uphill. It is steep climb, but the views from the top are breathtaking. Even though there was snow everywhere and there were no visible trail (we were first ones to go up and there were no other footprints in the snow) it was relatively easy to follow the marks on the trees.
Also you can explore Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park where are some trails as well. You can go straight to Administration to get more info what is doable in winter months.
One thing we did was trying the local water Borjomi. We didn't find where you can try it right from the stream, but we ended up buying one in the grocery store. Huge was my surprise when the water tasted completely different than Borjomi I had tried back at home. It didn't have any after taste, and it was delicious. Couple days later I tried it in Latvia, and my memory wasn't wrong, it tasted totally different from the one we bought in Borjomi Village. So Maybe there are different water wells and the water they send to Latvia comes from different one, with different taste. Or maybe they add the flavour to make it different from other mineral water. I really don't know the explanation. But I would love to know! I would definitely drink Borjomi if it would taste like the one in Georgia.
It is enough to stay in Borjomi for 2 days, or more if you want to explore more of the surrounding area.