Ever had that feeling of being in snow because you’ve had enough of the desert for the last 20+ years; okay maybe not that latter part, but at-least the want for the snow. Well if you live in the Middle East or Europe – Gudauri, Georgia might be that spontaneous break you might need. This was our second time in the country and still an amazing one.
We had a similar feeling back in April this year, and after a year and then some of being stuck at home – and we did, thanks to my wife ‘the amazing vacation whisperer’ us and two friends dashed off to the snowy side of Georgia for some sun, snow, ski and fireside pizza on the slopes of Gudauri. If you are itching to do the same, read on – details on what we recommend.
But First, the checklist:
- Visa Related – for UAE Residents there is visa on arrival
- Travel Essentials:
- Toiletries – the usual depending on hostel or hotel stay
- Tech – just your phone+power-bank would do apart from a universal power adapter; GoPro, Drone, Insta360 if you love good video captures
- Snow Gear – the usual snow jackets with a hoodie, pants, socks, shoes, gloves at the minimum
- Thermal Underwear – Trust me, do not go cheap on these, totally worth the spend; and get more than one as things don’t dry as well in the snow – even indoors.
- About 50 Georgian Lari or GEL (local currency) per day – depending on how much exploring you plan to do – does not cover hotel stay. 1 Lari = 1.18 AED (Sep 2021) plus some extra for the Covid Test you might have to do based on the length of the stay and for the exit out of the country. Skiing is relatively cheap in Georgia.
- Translator App – since most don’t speak English well, though do expect quite a few english speaking people even if broken english, the Georgians are a very kind people mostly we’ve found
- Roaming Data or Local SIM – would be useful out of the airport to use the Bolt App (similar to Uber/Careem) for transport, really cheap compared to Taxi’s & booking.com travel service + there’s a cash option to pay. Also keep in mind once you get to Gudauri, there is no bolt so better make friends with the local cabbies – cheaper than hotel transport I assure you.
- Also read up on the most current Covid Regulations to be aware – during our time, curfews started at 9pm i.e. no one outside after 9pm or else you get fined. And no restaurants open on the weekends (Saturday & Sunday) and I mean none of them.
The Flight & Drive to Gudauri
The Flight is a relatively short one from Dubai International Airport to Tbilisi International in Georgia clocking in 3 Hours 30 min. And if you are traveling from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, it is a frequently travelled route that would cost in the range of AED 1000/- to AED 1,600/- on average in 2021 depending on the time of the year. Though if it is specifically for snow days then best to go between December to April.
If you go through the slide show on the left, you would see that once the scenery passing your window shifts to pink lakes and then snow you know you are in Eastern Europe. And then finally it is a 2 Hours 30 min drive from the airport till snowy Gudauri that cost about 60 GEL (Georgian Lari).
Day 1 – Walking around in snow
Once we landed and drove down to Best Western in Gudauri, we rested up for a bit, got into our snow gear and walked up the mountain to the ‘Drunk Cherry’ restaurant – always look to Google & Trip Advisor Reviews to find the best places.
Slide show on the right showing the snowy areas around our hotel and the scenic snowy mountain sides; the walk up towards Drunken Cherry and finally the delicious food there.
Was a first day well spent, we even ran into cops on the way down back to the hotel as we were a little bit past curfew. The cops were sweet enough to tell us not be out past 10pm and to plan our outings accordingly. The curfews of course are in place due to the Covid pandemic and impact not only evenings but also the weekends – when no restaurants are to be open. Apart from that it’s pretty free up in Gudauri.
Day 2 – To Ski or not to Ski
When around on the first day we did enquire around about the rental’s for the ski equipment and for the ski slope pass to use the snow lifts. So as we began the second day we had a plan after breakfast on where to go and what to do. Surprisingly enough the ski equipment and the slopes were relatively inexpensive. We even got a training instructor each in order to learn the right way to ski. I decided to learn snowboarding whereas the rest chose to ski.
The Bill for Skiing comes up as below:
- Ski Pass x 2 Days = 80 GEL
- Ski Gear x 2 Days = 80 GEL
- Ski Instructor / Hour = 60 GEL
Apart from the above to consider would be the food and drink to get through the day as it does get quite exhausting, especially when considering the effort exerted when learning and more importantly when you see kids 5 years old that ski effortlessly and want to be half as good.
The pictures to the left don’t do justice to the actual view in person – but seeing that the pictures itself are so good that the in person view is truly magnificent. Some good restaurants along the slopes as well to satisfy the appetite that comes along and you get to meet some amazing friends along the way too.
Other things to do before you head out
There are other restaurants that we visited during our time there apart from Drunken Cherry, VITA MIN and the food at the Best Western.
We had some good food and drink at the Platforma Restaurant and Varstla Restaurant as well. These places were good too; not great though. Platforma was such a good ambiance and service comparatively though for a big meal and some variety. Varstla was more a home cooked feel though the variety wasn’t the best.
In particular there is a Sparkling Pear Lemonade popular in Georgia that you have to try; quite a unique taste that most might really like in my opinion.
Also keep in mind to make friends with the local taxi drivers as the hotel transfers are always far more expensive – i.e. double if not more.
Last but not the least, we chose Best Western primarily because of the Hot Tub Jaccuzi on the roof in the open snow, which was definitely an amazing highlight of our evenings and nights there. Something about being in the snow in hot bubbly water that is just plan enjoyable.