Georgia—the country, not the state—may seem like an intimidating travel destination, but the truth is that it's a surprisingly easy place to explore. Not only is getting there relatively straightforward, but local drivers found through travel outfitters can make language barriers and winding roads a non-issue. If you're ready to book your Georgian adventure, here's what you should know:
Good news: A visa is not required for U.S. citizens. The most convenient option for flying to Tbilisi International Airport is with Turkish Airlines, which has flights from several U.S. hubs via Istanbul (where you can often get a stopover at no extra cost).
While you can tour the country by bus or rent a car from Avis or Europcar, it's a better idea to book a driver through a reliable outfitter. The mountain roads are steep, the local drivers unpredictable, and the wine plentiful. Plus, most visitors find Georgian, which has no roots in any language spoken outside of the area, impenetrable—and Russian is more commonly used as a second language than English is, especially among people over 30. No worries: local outfitter Living Roots, which specializes in food, wine, and folk music, can show you around and tailor your trip to your interests. Also consider Exeter International, a U.S. based specialist in post-Soviet countries.
BEFORE YOU GO
To bone up on Georgian wine, pick up a copy of For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture, by Alice Fiering.
WHERE TO GO
In the capital city of Tbilisi, you'll find picturesque architecture and a lively arts scene. Kakheti, with medieval churches and vineyard-covered hills, is Georgia's answer to Tuscany. The Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, once the country's religious center, has two UNESCO World Heritage sites and spectacular hiking. And, of course, you'll want to eat and drink well: Here are my nine top recommendations, which you can save to your own Georgia trip plan.