NATIONAL

Georgia touted safe, beguiling tourism destination

By Joel Lee

The South Caucasus nation has promoted itself to globetrotters as the region’s shimmering gem of history, architecture, culture, nature, cuisine and winemaking.

  • Published : Jan 15, 2018 - 18:02
  • Updated : Jan 15, 2018 - 18:02
Georgia is among the safest countries in the world to travel in, according to the United States State Department’s latest travel advisory.

The advisory offers recommendations to US travelers with information on the safety and security situation of countries around the globe. Georgia is listed in the top tier of countries -- the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk -- out of four categories. The top level urges visitors to “exercise normal precautions,” while acknowledging there is some risk in terms of travel.

The South Caucasus nation has promoted itself to globetrotters as the region’s shimmering gem of history, architecture, culture, nature, cuisine and winemaking.

Aided by strenuous government-led promotion and online marketing as well as increasing coverage in renowned international media, tourists from around the world are increasingly recognizing the value of Georgia’s trove of attractions. 

Georgian capital Tbilisi, a city with more than 1,500 years of history, is laden with medieval fortresses, cobbled winding alleys, timeworn, magnificent religious edifices, saunas and spas. (AP/Yonhap)

Georgia, nestled between Europe and Asia, has interacted with neighboring Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey for centuries. As a result the tourism experience is sundry and multilayered, offering an attractive mix of historic and religious tours, cultural festivities, winemaking, spa bathing and caving.

The country has an extremely variegated climate and terrain, ranging from the Black Sea coast to the Caucasus Mountains, and from alpine meadows to semi-deserts, valleys and wetlands. Visitors can go skiing, paragliding, horseback riding, rafting, biking, hiking and ballooning.

Tbilisi, the capital in the east, has a 1,500-year history, and is adorned with layers of medieval fortresses, cobbled winding alleys, timeworn, magnificent religious edifices, saunas and spas.

The Sulfur Baths in Old Tbilisi is a spa facility that uses naturally heated mineral spring water. It is reportedly beloved by Koreans, many of whom are accustomed to the “jjimjilbang,” a type of steam sauna popular in Korea. Korean travelers are also known to be impressed by Georgia’s famed cuisine, widely popular across the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe. 

Georgian capital Tbilisi, a city with more than 1,500 years of history, is laden with medieval fortresses, cobbled winding alleys, timeworn, magnificent religious edifices, saunas and spas. (Radisson Blu)

Some 5,000 Koreans traveled to Georgia in 2016 visa-free, as they are allowed to stay in the country for up to a full year without a visa. Places most frequented by Korean tourists include Tbilisi; Gori city where Joseph Stalin was born; Kazbegi village on the slopes of Mount Kazbegi; Batumi city on the Black Sea coast; the former capital, Mtskehta, with its many monasteries and churches; and Kakheti province, which is famous for wine. 

Meanwhile, the Georgian passport has moved up 15 spots to occupy the No. 53 spot on the Henley Passport Index, which ranks all passports in the world based on the countries their holders can travel to visa-free.

Georgian citizens can travel freely to the European Union and Schengen Area: a zone comprising 26 European states that have abolished passport and border control at their mutual borders to encourage unrestricted travel.

The World Bank raised its economic growth forecasts for Georgia up 0.2 percentage point, announcing 4.2 percent economic growth for this year, 4.7 percent in 2019 and 5 percent in 2020. Georgia is set to become one of the most vibrant economies in the region in terms of growth, according to the Global Economic Prospects report.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)