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Georgia - When and where to visit
There’s quite a wide range of climates in Georgia, from the warm, humid, subtropical Black Sea coast, via the colder, wet, alpine climate of the High Caucasus, to the arid steppes of the east.
Temperatures in the mountains range from an average –4.6°C in February to 16.4°C in July and August. In Svaneti the winter lasts for up to eight months, with an average temperature of –15°C; it gets even colder on the high bare plateaux of Javakheti where temperatures drop to –30°C. On the coast of Adjara, temperatures range from 5.8°C in January to 23.8°C in August; on the Abkhaz coast temperatures are slightly lower in winter, noticeably warmer in April and May, but virtually the same in high summer. In eastern Georgia temperatures range from 0.5°C in January to 23°C in August, and in the south they range from –2.1°C in January to 20.1°C in August.
The weather in the Caucasus is more stable than in the Alps. In June there may still be too much snow for high hikes; July and August have the best weather, but even then it can drop to –10°C at 3,000–3,500m. Lower altitudes can often be hot and humid at this time of year, and the inhabitants of Tbilisi and Kutaisi flee to the coast or the mountains.
Precipitation ranges from 2,800mm in Abkhazia and Adjara to 300–600mm in the east (with 462mm in Tbilisi), and about 1,800mm at the main Caucasian passes. There’s an average of 1,350–2,520 hours of sunshine per year (four–seven hours per day) in Tbilisi.
Georgia may not suffer so much from energy shortages these days, but winter is still not the smartest time to visit, unless you are just interested in Tbilisi and the ski resorts. High summer can be too hot and humid, but spring and autumn are ideal times to visit; in particular the golden autumn colours can be spectacular, and the wineharvest makes this a great time to visit Kakheti.
Cave city of Uplistsikhe © Alexander Ishchenko, Shutterstock
Given the difficulties and unpredictabilities of travel in Georgia, some visitors will confine themselves to Tbilisi, with brief excursions to places such as Mtskheta and Davit-Gareja. However, the rewards for venturing outside the capital are great for those prepared to make the effort. To the east, Kakheti is ideally placed for an outing of two to four days, sampling wines and churches, and to the north the Georgian Military Highway leads into the heart of the High Caucasus. The country’s main axis is the highway from Tbilisi to Kutaisi and on to Poti or Batumi, or to Zugdidi and Abkhazia; this begins by following the Mtkvari and then crosses into the Rioni Basin in the west of the country. Batumi is one of the most pleasant and laid-back cities in Georgia, although the Black Sea’s beaches are not really worth visiting. From Zugdidi it’s also possible to head north into the heart of the Caucasus, to the region of Svaneti, where unique architecture and semi-pagan customs are preserved.