Georgia is an up and coming travel destination – and I don’t mean the state. If you’re looking for someplace new and exciting to ring in the new year, look no further! The New Year’s celebrations in Georgia don’t stop after one night. Oh no. If you’re looking for a holiday extravaganza, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled the most Georgian experiences for your New Year’s itinerary – two weeks, four holidays, non-stop fun.
The first holiday on our itinerary is New Year’s Eve. All over the world people celebrate the closing of one year and the beginning of the new and Georgia is no exception. If you make your way to Tbilisi, Georgia’s vibrant capital city, you’re in for a world of fun and food and a whole lot of booze.
Around the country, Georgians will be celebrating with their friends and families. Make yourself some Georgian friends to experience the hospitality that the country is famous for. If you get invited to their homes, absolutely go! It’ll be an experience you’ll never forget (and this handy guide will help make sure you remember it). Plus you’ll get to see the chichilaki, which are a Georgian tradition. They’re cute little white Christmas tree alternatives that Georgian’s share as gifts and then burn down at the end of the New Year’s celebrations.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited to be the mekvle, the first person to cross the threshold of someone’s home for the New Year. Tradition states that the mekvle determines what the new year will be like, either bringing prosperity and happiness or a year of bad luck and misfortune. It’s a real honor to be the first person invited into the home for the new year!
All of the best traditional Georgian deserts come out for the new year and you can’t get them at any other time. It’s basically the best place to be a foodie. It’s the only time of year you can get gozinaki, a sweet Georgian treat made from nuts and honey. All around the city you can pick up some freshly made churchkhela, which people call “Georgian Snickers” in spite of the fact it’s nothing like the popular candy. It’s made from walnuts strung together and then dipped in a grape concentrate and it’s a quintessential Georgian treat. That’s not even mentioning all of the delicious Georgian delicacies that you can’t get anywhere else in the world.
If you like to party, you can dance your ass off at one of Europe’s best dance clubs. Bassiani, which is set up in the basement of a soccer stadium, typically has events for and around New Year’s. If that’s not your scene, there are plenty of bars and restaurants around town you can celebrate in, whether you’re looking for expats, Georgians, or other travelers to celebrate with.
One of Tbilisi’s great New Year’s attractions is its fireworks show. Georgians love fireworks and I mean love them love them. There are 24-hour firework stores that are open year round in some cities. Whether you’re in Tbilisi or a village in Adjara, you’ll get a show. No New Year’s celebration is complete without one. The whole country explodes and it’s a sight worth seeing.
Most people spend New Year’s Day sleeping off their hangover and nursing some of Georgia’s famous sparkling mineral water (great for hangovers!), before they party some more. Reserve yourself a room in one of Tbilisi’s sulfur baths and sweat it out. Abano Street, literally “bath street,” is full of bath houses. I recommend Chreli, it’s the nicest bath house in town. Recently renovated, you can’t miss its beautiful mosaic front. For 100 lari you can reserve a private room for an hour that has a hot sulfur pool, a cold pool, and a sauna. You can bring a group of friends and split the costs! 20 lari extra gets you a scrub down and massage and there’s no better way to relax into the New Year!
Bedoba takes place on January 2nd. It’s the “day of luck” and sets the tone for the new year. It’s the continuation of the New Year’s feast. Georgian’s believe that what happens on this day is indicative of how the rest of the year will be, so you want to make sure to have an excellent day and, probably, keep the party going to make sure your new year is as exciting as it’s begun!
Now you have a few days to relax and explore Tbilisi. You can visit Narikala Fortress and see the Kartlis Deda statue up close. Ride the funicular up to Mtatsminda for an excellent view of the city and, if you’re traveling with kids, a good time at the amusement park on top of the city. Take a stroll through Dry Bridge Market to pick up some souvenirs and old Soviet knickknacks.
On January 7th, Georgians celebrate Christmas – again. They celebrate on December 25th as well, but according to the traditional Orthodox calendar, Christmas takes place on January 7th. This is yet another opportunity to feast and party with your Georgian friends. Enjoy!
You’ve got a few days now before it’s time to wrap up our winter holiday extravaganza. If you like skiing, take a side trip down to Bakuriani or Gudauri. They’re both ski resorts within 3 hours of Tbilisi and, because Georgia is still working to establish itself as a winter sports destination, they’re super affordable!
Alternatively, head to the East to experience the heartland of Georgian wine. Kakheti is known for its winemaking and is full of wineries where you can go to experience firsthand the winemaking process and sample many fine Georgian wines on the cheap.
Assuming you’ve made it this far, please pass go and collect $200 dollars because it’s New Year’s again! Following the same Orthodox calendar that gives us Christmas round two, the Orthodox New Year’s celebration takes place on January 13th. This means you get a whole nother holiday filled with fireworks, fun, and, because you’re in Georgia, a ton of booze!