February in Abastumani – A Solo Traveler’s Perfect Winter Holiday!
Hiking and Sightseeing in Georgia at its best!
Abastumani, long praised as a summer holiday destination, is absolutely breathtaking in winter, too! An easy 2.5 - 3 hour drive from Tbilisi, it’s a quick anytime escape to the forest! I love to travel and explore new places on my own and Abastumani is a perfect hiking and sightseeing destination for the solo traveler.
Because Abastumani is a few kilometers from the main road, I chose to travel with a driver from GoTrip. GoTrip.ge is a professional door-to-door car service that makes getting around Georgia a relaxed and stress-free experience. Though a bit pricey when compared to a marshrutka (mini-bus), you don’t have to worry about getting lost or not speaking the language. Book Eduard or Temuri if they’re available!
What is Abastumani Anyway?
Abastumani is a charming, little Czarist-era spa town tucked away in a lovely mountain valley. Once popular with the Romanov family for its hot mineral springs, clean air, and pristine forests, Abastumani is still relatively undiscovered by foreign tourists. Today, the resort town is the gateway to Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park with many developed hiking trails, fascinating points of interest, historical architecture, and stunning natural beauty plus all the amenities!
Hitting the Trail!
Due to a recently completed development project, Abastumani has several new expertly constructed and signposted hiking trails most starting right outside your hotel or guesthouse door! The trails are accessible in both winter and summer which is marvelous and allows visitors to disappear into a snowy winter wonderland…safely! Trail description boards can be found along the main road. Here are a few of my easy to moderate hike favorites:
Abastumani-Observatory Trail: This 10-12 km loop trail starts near the local park and has it all – forest, birds, stunning mountain and valley views, a fortress, an observatory, cable car and so much more! Start early, bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a truly relaxing day in nature, or for a shorter hike, take the cable car up. The trail is in good condition and well signposted so put on your hiking boots, grab your backpack and head out! Visit the 13th century Tamari Fortress and the Kachalgora scenic viewpoint along the way. Enjoy a walk back through town to plan your next day’s adventure!
Kainpuari Ridge Trail: Walk north towards the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park entrance to find the trailhead for this 6-7 km easy-to-moderate forest hike. A quiet woodland walk with hundreds of birds to keep you company. What could be better? The trail descends to the lovely Cathedral of Alexandre Nevsky but before returning to town, follow the trail to check out the scenic viewpoint of the surrounding mountains and Abastumani.
Have a longer hike in mind?
Try the Observatory-Digmaghali Shelter-Abastumani hike! This is a more challenging trail but definitely a doable 18-20 km one-day hike. Start by taking the cable car to the top of the mountain and walk through the Observatory to the trailhead.
Follow the path north to a fork bearing right called the Abastumani bypass road and continue towards the Digmaghali Shelter. The road will lead you back towards the main road and after another right, to Abastumani.
There are other trails available on the maps.me navigational phone app but keep in mind they will not be signposted. Just use your best judgment, be prepared, and have a great time!
What’s so special about Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park?
Many things but you will have NEVER seen or heard so many songbirds in your life! Year round, birdwatching is a fan favorite in Abastumani and everywhere in the park. If birds are your thing, then don’t miss out or forget your binoculars!
LEARN more about birds in the Caucasus at sabuko.ge.
Other Cool, Not to Miss Stuff!
Abastumani was and is a spa town. Unfortunately, the baths built by the Romanovs are presently under reconstruction but there are a functioning spa and hotel, the Abastumani Residence Hotel, in town. Ask about access to the public Sulphur baths in summer and you just might get lucky!
Take a moment to look closely at the traditional Georgian architecture along the main road. Fully restored to its former glory, these houses represent Georgian society at its best and shouldn’t be missed.
History is everywhere here. Check out the former mosque (Abastumani was once under Ottoman rule), churches and monasteries, Soviet-built Observatory buildings and the Romanov Palace (currently under construction). Every era can be seen right here in this quaint resort town.
Enjoy a pleasant walk along the town’s off-road paths, parks and streams. Abastumani is a picturesque retreat that fully lives up to its reputation any time of year.
Interested in Abandoned Buildings of Abastumani?
Because of the healthy climate and fresh air in Abastumani, the Soviets built an ENORMOUS sanatorium in 1924 to treat patients with tuberculosis. The building has been long abandoned (though scheduled for renovation) and is fascinating to visit. Head north up the main road and turn right up a winding mountain road until you reach the sanatorium at the top. An eerily beautiful place, it’s not safe to enter the buildings due to the level of deterioration but you’re welcome to take pictures and enjoy the splendid view!
Abastumani is the perfect destination whether you’re traveling alone or in a group. The town boasts plenty of quality, affordable accommodation. I stayed at the professionally-run Green Hotel. The owner speaks English and the food was great! I strongly recommend both room and board as it will save you both time and money. Grocery stores, taxis, cafes, and an ATM are also available.
What About a Self-Guided Walking Tour in Georgia?
Camp Caucasus Tours includes Abastumani in their Forest and Fortresses self-guided walking tour in the Samtske-Javakheti region of Georgia. All you have to do is get here and enjoy. Camp Caucasus will do the rest! If walking, history/culture, and great food and drink are your thing, I can’t recommend Camp Caucasus Self-Guided Walking Tours enough!
Have questions? Contact the author! I’d love to hear from you! Shawna Turner is an outdoor enthusiast currently living, hiking, and camping in Georgia. She’s an experienced solo traveler and hopes to encourage other women to safely and expertly take the world by storm – single-handedly!