Sometimes photographers carefully compose their images in order to show an idealized version of a destination, cropping out undesirable sections of the city or landscape. In Georgia, I had quite the opposite inclination. Whether exploring the colorful capital of Tbilisi, the mountain-bounded wine country of Kakheti or the awe-inspiring Caucasus Mountains, I found myself taking panoramic videos, in order to show the beauty surrounding me on all sides.
Tbilisi has yet to be homogenized into an international city. I loved exploring its crumbling former embassies and palaces (converted by the communists into apartments), sampling eye-opening Georgian bottlings in chic wine bars and relaxing in historic sulphur baths.
The oldest evidence of winemaking yet found is in Georgia, and the country makes delicious and thoroughly unique wines to this day. Kakheti, the wine region best-equipped to handle visitors, has vineyards backdropped by imposing mountains, and a number of evocative orthodox monasteries, some more than 1,500 years old. The well-preserved hill town of Sighnaghi is the best base for sightseeing and wine tasting.
The Georgian Military Highway leads north from Tbilisi, past the ancient capital of Mtskheta into the sensationally scenic Caucasus Mountains. At first, they resemble vast piles of crushed green velvet, and then snowcapped peaks begin to appear. The 14th-century Gergeti Trinity Church, perched improbably atop a low mountain, is the region’s star attraction, but nearby dramatic waterfalls and unspoiled mountain villages also merit exploration.