Georgia has something for every intrepid rail adventurer, from lush green valleys and vineyards, to snow capped peaks. Wander around old churches and watchtowers amongst mountainous scenery. Georgians have been making wine for 8,000 years, it is little wonder that Georgia is known as the ‘cradle of wine.’

If you love to explore places that are a little off the beaten track, then nestled on the edge of the South Caucasus mountains, Georgia could be the place for you. It’s also home to Europe’s tallest peak, Mount Elbrus.

It’s a country that offers diverse experiences; from its modern and energetic capital Tbilisi, to the serene, incense filled mountain-side monasteries and traditional villages in the Caucuses.

Georgia is renowned for its hospitality and warmness towards travellers. This is in spite of its tumultuous history, given its location at the borders of Europe and Asia. As a symbol of this, you’ll find Kartvlis Deda, the statue known as ‘the Mother of Kartvel’, on Sololaki hill in Tbilisi. In one hand, she holds a sword for those who come as enemies, but in the other, a cup of wine to greet those who come as friends.

The city of Kutaisi was the believed destination of the mythical Jason and his Argonauts, searching for the golden fleece. There’s a statue in Batumi, of Medea holding the fleece. She was King Aeetes’s daughter who helped Jason overcome the three challenges set for him to reach the fleece.

For wine lovers, you’re in for a treat, as Georgia is known as the ‘cradle of wine’. Early Georgians in 6000 BC, apparently found that by burying grape juice underground for the winter, turned it into wine! One of Georgia’s best known wine regions is Kakheti, about an hour’s drive east of Tbilisi.

Georgia was also the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, born to a poor family in Gori in 1878.

Our rail holiday in Georgia will aim to travel on as many of the parts of the Georgian railway system as possible; from the traditional slow trains, such as the one winding its way on a narrow gauge mountain track to the ski resort of Bakuriani, to some of the speedier, Stadler trains.

As part of our itinerary, you will also visit the seaports of Poti and Batumi, both on the Black Sea coast. Plus, there will be plenty of opportunities to sip fine Georgian wine, such as Kindzmarauli, a semi-sweet red wine with rich berry tones.

Georgia Embedded

Rail & Cultural Journeys In Georgia

Georgia at a glance


Capital: Tbilisi
Language: Georgian
Money: Lari
Travel advice:

It’s not mandatory, but like many countries, it’s always appreciated as wages are relatively low. 10% to 15% is standard.

  • New Year – Jan 1-2
  • Orthodox Christmas – Jan 7
  • Orthodox Epiphany – Jan 19
  • Mother’s Day – Mar 3
  • International Women’s Day – Mar 8
  • National Unity Day – Apr 9
  • Orthodox Easter – Apr 16
  • Victory Day – May 9
  • Saint Andrew the First-Called Day – May 12
  • Independence Day – May 26
  • Saint Mary’s Day – Aug 28
  • Day of Svetitskhoveli – Oct 14
  • Saint George’s Day – Nov 23
  • Gamarjoba (hello)
  • Madloba (thank you)
  • Arapris (you are welcome)
  • Ki / Are (yes/no)
  • Ukatsravad (excuse me)
  • Tu Sheidzleba (please)
  • Nakhvamdis (goodbye)
  • Ludi (beer)
  • Gvino (wine)
  • Ra girs? (How much is this?)
  • Vts’ukhvar (sorry)

Exploring Georgia

georgia food shutterstock 1395798560

To the north of the country you’ll find the southern boundary of the Caucasus snow capped mountain range, which itself extends down through Azerbaijan and Armenia. To the west is the Black Sea coast, with the port of Batumi. It’s graced with a subtropical climate and a decidedly Turkish feel, given its close proximity to the Turkish border. The inviting shoreline leads into lush groves including citrus and tea plantations, and then climbs up into the mountains.

With legends like Jason and the golden fleece, Georgia certainly inspires thoughts of mystery coupled with an ancient and exotic culture dating back thousands of years. It embodies aspects of many cultures, from Anatolian, European, Persian, Ottoman and even that of the far east. You can expect quite a feast of sights, flavours and sounds.

As you might expect, Georgian cuisine has been influenced by its neighbours. Georgia was one of the countries on the Silk Road, and so has to a degree been influenced by Asian countries too. Each region of Georgia has its own distinctive style of food preparation.

Every country has a national dish, and for Georgia this is Khachapuri. Looking rather like a canoe with short handles at each end, it’s made of leavened bread, filled with melted sulguni cheese topped off with lumps of butter and an egg. Different regions will have their own spin on this, using different ingredients.

Next to try would be Churchkhela. If you pass a stall selling these, you might at first glance think they are curried meats, as they look almost exactly like sausages. They are, however, sweets made from walnuts and left over grape juice from each year’s wine production. You’ll find these sweet delights everywhere in Georgia.

For vegetarians, there’s Pkhali. Born out of the hearth times of Soviet rule where meat was scarce and expensive, they comprise essentially of whatever vegetables came to hand. Usually though they are best described as similar to a vegetable pate prepared as a ball, made with beetroot, carrot, leaf vegetables like spinach poured with lemon juice, garlic and walnuts. Different varieties and colours can be served. Like data, eat them with bread.

Most nations have a dish they turn to in colder months. For Georgians, this is Kharcho. As with other dishes it varies by region, but usually consists of chicken or beef casserole with garlic local spices coriander, the ubiquitous walnuts. Some variations may have pieces of soured fruit. Served in a steaming bowl, it’s best eaten with bread.

Other dishes to try include: Mtsvadi, similar to a shashlik, and Khinkali, which look rather like Chinese dumplings filled with a meat broth.

You can’t visit Georgia without emerging yourself in its wine culture, unless of course, you’re teetotal. There’s around 8000 years of experience to enjoy. Besides, they are some of the most unique to be found anywhere.

The most famous wine is amber wine fermented in a huge clay amphora called qveri, hurried in the ground in the same way their ancestors did 8000 years ago. Unlike other wines, grapes are not separated from their skins, stalks and pips, everything is fermented together for months. It’s a trend that’s catching on in a number of countries in Europe, including the UK.

With over 500 different grape varieties to choose from, wine makers in Georgia produce a considerable range of wines, from dry white wines to medium sweet fruity wines, along with an interesting range of reds too.

Georgia gets a full range of seasons, from summer heat and humidity influenced by the Black Sea, to a freezing winter brought on by air flows from the Caucuses. Visit during May and June or September and October, as you’ll avoid the summer heat. Autumn is a great time to visit too, as you’ll catch the wine harvest, especially around the vineyards of Kakheti.

If you are travelling in the warmer months, pack lighter clothes and something warmer for the evenings, especially if you are closer to the mountains. Closer to the coast, pack for a Mediterranean trip, as things can get quite warm. As a ‘modest’ country, you can pack tee shirts and summer clothes, but keep them modest and over the shoulder. Avoid provocative slogans and branding. Avoid exposing too much skin.

For rail trips, good walking shoes as you’ll have time to explore.

Georgia’s rail system is embodied by Georgian Railway LLC. It provides the main arterial connection between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It is a standard Russian gauge. The mainline is fully electrified and runs a total of 1,576km.

Georgia is a mountainous country, a fact you can’t miss considering the main line has some 1,422 bridges and 22 tunnels – that is a bridge nearly every kilometre. This has presented Georgian railway engineers with some formidable challenges.

The original rolling stock has since its independence from Russia, been composed of mainly Russian stock. However, in 2009, Georgian Railway took delivery of eight inter-city EMUs from China’s Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock company. In 2016, four double-decker electric trains from the Swiss company Stadler Bussing were ordered.

  • Please don’t call it Soviet Georgia – Mary Russell
  • Young Stalin – Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • The making of the Georgian nation – Ronald Grigor Suny
  • Bread And Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia – Tony Anderson
  • Ali and Nino – Kurban Said (one of the most popular books in Georgia by all accounts).
  • For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey Through the World’s Most Ancient Wine Culture – Alice Feiring

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through Georgia

  • Established in 1998, PTG has evolved into a leading tour agency offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted rail tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.