Khachapuri & Kebabs: A Summer Trip to Georgia and Turkey

In this trip report, we will travel from Georgia’s Black Sea coast all the way across Anatolia to Izmir on the Aegean Sea coast of Turkey.

A summer trip to Georgia and Turkey

In the summer of 2018 I was planning two holidays. In August I was already booked on a trip to Indonesia, but I still had no plans what to do during my 10 days off from work in July.

As my Indonesian holiday would already take me far away from home, I wanted something closer by this time around.

My eye quickly fell on Georgia (the country in the Caucasus, not the US state) and Turkey. I’ve been to Georgia and Turkey a couple of times before and always loved my travel experiences in these neighbouring countries.

Georgia and Turkey have friendly people, stunning scenery, and certainly good food. As I also have some good friends in both countries, it seemed like it would be an excellent plan for another trip to Georgia and Turkey.

batumi pier georgia sunset
Sunset as seen from the pier in Batumi, Georgia. ©Paliparan

Original plan

My original plan was to start in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to visit some friends, to make a 3-4 day road trip to the gorgeous mountains of Upper Svaneti and to finish my time in Georgia in the popular seaside resort city of Batumi. From Batumi I would then fly to Izmir via Istanbul in order to visit friends there.

Unfortunately, I had to radically change these plans due to some unforeseen circumstances.

svaneti georgia
Originally, I planned to drive high into the mountains of Svaneti. ©Paliparan

Change of plans

A couple of weeks before the start of my holiday, it started to dawn on me that I might have to alter my travel itinerary a bit. My driving licence had expired and getting it renewed was a much more cumbersome affair than I thought it would be.

As a foreign citizen living in Romania, I had to exchange my old Dutch driving licence to a Romanian one. Although the process is easy enough on paper with both countries being in the EU, there was still some bureaucracy involved.

In the end it took two full months until I finally got a call that I could pick up my new licence. Of course, at that time I had already completed my revised trip to Georgia and Turkey..

Being without a driving licence during the holiday, it meant that I could not rent a car and thus had to forget about my Georgian road trip plan.

Itinerary

Fortunately, I had not yet booked my flight tickets or anything else, so I was flexible to draw up a plan B. When I suddenly found a dirt cheap 20 euro Wizz Air flight from Bucharest to Kutaisi in Georgia, I immediately booked that ticket.

I decided to forget about revisiting Tbilisi on this trip and to add some more days for Batumi on my itinerary instead as it made for a much more logical route and relaxed pace (otherwise I first had to go from Kutaisi to Tbilisi, only to return again from Tbilisi to Kutaisi in order to head further west to Batumi – quite a lot of backtracking!).

After relaxing a few nights in the Black Sea resort of Batumi, I would then cross the border with Turkey on foot and make my way with public transport to the historic city of Kars, which is an excellent jumping-off point for visiting the ruins of the ancient Armenian capital of Ani.

Kars is also the starting place (or actually, rather the end of the line) of Turkey’s most spectacular train journey. This train is called the Dogu Express (Eastern Express) and it links the Turkish capital of Ankara with Kars. Taking this train, which runs through spectacular mountain gorges, has always been on my bucket list and this trip would be an excellent opportunity to do so.

From Ankara, Izmir was just a 40 EUR domestic flight away on Turkish Airlines. There, I would visit some friends and explore the great sights the Aegean coastal region of Turkey has to offer.

To get home from Izmir, I managed to book a decent 120 EUR ticket back to Bucharest via Istanbul on Atlasglobal and TAROM. On the map, the flights I would take during this trip look like this:

flight map georgia turkey
The flights I would take on my trip to Georgia and Turkey. ©Great Circle Mapper

Highlights

Highlights to look forward to in this ‘Khachapuri & Kebabs: A Summer Trip to Georgia and Turkey’ trip report include:

– Visiting caves, churches and monasteries in and around Kutaisi
– R&R in the bustling subtropical Black Sea coastal resort of Batumi
– Admiring the spectacular scenery in remote corners of Turkey
– A visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ani, the ruined Medieval capital of ancient Armenia
– An amazing train trip across Turkey on the Dogu Express
– Ancient ruins and sunny beaches around Izmir
– Eating tons of kebabs, khachapuris and many other authentic Turkish and Georgian dishes

georgian food georgia khachapuri kutaisi
Enjoying some khachapuri and wine in Kutaisi, Georgia. ©Paliparan
motsameta monastery monk church bell georgia
Monk ringing the church bell at Motsameta Monastery, Georgia. ©Paliparan
ani kars turkey
Ruins of the ancient Armenian city of Ani near Kars, Turkey. ©Paliparan
dogu express train turkey anatolia train trip report
Crossing the wild interior of Anatolia on the Dogu Express train. ©Paliparan
ephesus efesus efes turkey trip report
The ruins of ancient Ephesus (Efes) in Turkey. ©Paliparan
aegean sea cesme turkey beach trip report
A beach in Çeşme on the Aegean Sea. ©Paliparan

Trip report index

This Georgia and Turkey trip report consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Wizz Air Airbus A320 Bucharest to Kutaisi
2. Exploring Kutaisi
3. Caves, Churches and Monasteries – A Kutaisi Day Trip

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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