Is Georgia Europe's Hidden Gem?

09/29/2016 07:14 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

I've just returned from an incredible week in Georgia in eastern Europe. The trip coincided with the UNWTO's first conference on wine tourism, for which Georgia is famous. Naturally, we drank our weight in Georgia's delicious amber and black wines, but what I quickly discovered is that there's so much more here for any traveler willing to look a little deeper.

Want to travel to Georgia?

Here are some things you might not know about this incredible country, including what made me totally and completely fall in love with it:

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Wine is a Way to Enjoy Life Here

Georgians have a history of winemaking that goes back, literally, more than 8,000 years. For centuries, families have been making and enjoying wine via a variety of methods, including in clay qvevris (clay pots) which are buried in the ground and used for fermentation. Today, wine is made either in the traditional way (qveris in the ground, unfiltered) or via more modern means, and the wine is produced by more than 425 different varietals of grapes which are grown here.

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The Terrain Is Vast and Varied

The actual land in Georgia varies from region to region which means you'll go from seeing flat lands to incredibly scenic, jagged mountains in the clouds. We mostly explored the central regions of the country, including the capital city of Tbilisi and the northern mountain city of Kazbegi. If I had it to do over, I'd spend more time in Kazbegi and would also visit Borjomi and towns along the Black Sea coastline like Batumi.

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Let's Talk About The Food

If you're anything like me, much of your perception of a place is based on how good its food is, and I'm really happy to tell you that the eatin' is good in Georgia. I will be writing an entirely separate post on the food in Georgia, but for now, let me give the basic rundown: Georgian cuisine incorporates a lot of elements-most meals included cheese and bread and salad (tomatoes and cucumber, but this would depend on whats in season) as well as pkhali, a series of vegetable pates with ground walnut. Main courses always included meats like pork, chicken or beef (sometimes all three) and dessert was typically fresh fruit like watermelon, plums or grapes. All in all, I feel like this is the first trip I've taken in a long time where I've actually lost weight. A happy side effect, mostly due to the fact that we were eating small portions of lots of different things, walking a lot and drinking lots of water + wine. Wine = weight loss, right?

Tbilisi is Awesome

I fell completely in love with Georgia's capital city, which has a laid-back, low-key vibe despite the fact that its home to more than 1 million people. The cobblestone streets of the old town and the important historical monuments throughout the city, combined with the modern feel of life here and the rich nightlife made me think: I could actually live here. Perhaps one day I will! If you're coming here to stay for a few days, I highly recommend staying at the Rooms Hotel in Tbilisi, the only design hotel chain in the country with two locations: Tbilisi and Kazbegi. I also recommend linking up with a guide who can take you around and explain some of the history of this place. As always, I'm happy to connect you with our incredible guide who really made the trip for me, just visit gogirlguides.com and shoot me an email.

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We Must Not Forget the History

You can't come to Georgia and not understand or appreciate the vast and diverse history this nation has endured. The land has been conquered over the centuries by the Persians, the Mongols and most recently, Russia, which they declared independence from in 1991. For much of the 90s, the country struggled with economic and civil wars, but today, they have peace.

Throughout my trip, I was constantly asked if the country was safe to travel to. The answer is a resounding YES. The country felt calm and peaceful on my journey there, and there are no advisories against traveling here at the moment.

My time in Georgia reminded me of exactly why I love travel: the people, the food, the wine, the conversation. I'm leaving the country with a better understanding of this incredible part of the world, and some new amazing friends.

Have you been to Georgia?

*all photos by author

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