Borjomi to Vardzia

Saturday, August 6, 2022 - 18:45

We were a little nervous going to bed last night since the forecast for today was showing thunderstorms all morning until about 3pm, which coincided with the time we had reserved to see Borjomi. Luckily when we woke up we could already see the sun through the curtains, and the weather was perfect all day long. Seems like this is one of those places where they don't really have any idea what the weather will be due to the surrounding mountains changing things so quickly.

With the sun shining above us we set off for our mini excursion to the Borjomi Sulphur Pools. There were two ways to get there: either a 3km walk along a path through the forest, or to get a 4x4 buggy with driver to take us. We opted for the latter due to the path not being buggy friendly and a 6km round-trip walk being quite a tough proposition with a baby hanging on to you, and probably too much for Summer to walk as well. What the buggy driver didn't tell us was that he was going to take us to the pools by an alternative route suitable only for 4x4 vehicles. This might have been a bit of fun when it was just the two of us, but in an open air buggy with no seatbelts and holding onto a baby and a dog, we didn't feel particularly safe on the steep track of mud and rocks! Not the smartest move this trip, but we lived to tell the tale and reached the pools safely in one piece.

The pools themselves have an interesting history, where people have been coming to enjoy the supposed healing properties of the sulphurous water since ancient times. They became much more famous in the 19th century when the Romanovs of Russia started coming here, and had some baths built so they could enjoy the waters more comfortably. The water is also considered to be delicious, and it has been bottled as Borjomi brand naturally carbonated water, also since the 19th century. The baths in their modern form are a small and rather busy area which costs 5GEL (about £1.50) to enter, where they have three swimming pools constantly replenishing with the water, and a shower too. There is also a path down to the actual river if you dare go in, though just dipping our toes in we found it to be icy cold! It wasn't quite clear if these pools were the same ones the Romanov's had made for them, but we doubt it since they didn't look particularly old. Unfortunately it was a bit too busy to enjoy the pools properly, though we did go for a short dip to see what the fuss is all about. Due to all the sulphur there is a faint unpleasant whiff of eggs all around, and the water itself was a bit cloudy and didn't look very clean. However it had a soft feeling to it, and left our skin feeling just as soft and cleansed after the short dip. Quite a unique experience overall.

After returning from the baths, we had a walk around Borjomi Central Park near the hotel which is a lovely park set out along the same river which runs by the pools. The park has a somewhat run down amusement park inside it with rides aimed at children, along with some well kept gardens from the times when the Romanovs would visit, and the factory building first used to bottle the local water. There was also quite an elaborate status of the Greek god Prometheus, though it wasn't clear what the connection to Borjomi is. Entry to the park was free by flashing the key cards from our hotel which was a nice touch. We also stopped for a late lunch in a Turkish restaurant which was a nice break from the last few days of Georgian food.

The rest of the afternoon was spent making the two hour drive from Borjomi to Vardzia. The route was only 100km, but it was fairly windy mountain roads the whole way. Luckily these roads were much quieter than the congested ones from yesterday, which made for some very pleasant driving through the beautiful landscape. The first 30 minutes or so continued the green forest climate we had seen in Borjomi, but it quickly changed to something more semi arid, with the forest disappearing and making way for dry yellow grass and only the occasional tree. It looked fairly similar to what you might see in parts of California or Peru near Cusco. On the second half of the drive we found they were building a new much straighter road which resulted in quite a lot of gravel stretches through the roadworks. We noticed there were a lot of oil tankers from Iran driving past us, which might explain why they want the road in better condition if this is a primary route for Georgia to get oil from the Middle East.

Just after the turning point to the road to Varzhia we saw a large fortress on the side of a mountain as we drove past. We quickly stopped and turned back to find this was a visitable attraction called Khertvisi Fortress. At £2.50 per person to enter, we made the stop and walked up to see the fortress walls and the views of the surrounding mountains from the top. There wasn't much information about the fortress itself other than it may have once been destroyed by Alexander the Great, and was more recently used by the Georgian and Russian armies as a base for troops; still worth the small entry fee though.

The final stretch of the drive past the fort was the most outstanding of the day, with the road taking us along the side of the valley. We had a bit longer than planned to take it in since on one of the bends in the road a cow walked out so we had to slow down and stop. It then stood there for about a minute, looked us dead in the eyes, and did its business right in the middle of the road before completing its crossing - rather amusing! We reached our hotel shortly after, which is set on the mountainside in the valley with views in every direction, and two swimming pools overlooking the valley which we are excited to use tomorrow after our excursion.

Dog Notes: 

Following on from our telling off about Summer being too large to stay in our room yesterday, I was approached by a woman in the hotel corridor this morning and she asked how heavy Summer is - not something I've been asked before! I said about 10kg and she explained she was asking because they had called the hotel beforehand about bringing their dog with them, and they had said the 6kg limit is so strict that the dog must stay at home which it ended up doing! I explained that we hadn't realise the rule and had actually had quite a telling off from the manager about it.

Electric Vehicle EV Notes: 

No charging today since we only drove 66 miles and we have enough charge to get to Yerevan in a couple of days. I did ask the hotel if they have a place I could connect the car in the car park and they said they'd check with management and let me know, but they never did. Actually the third time now in Georgia where someone has said they would ask the manager and then never got back to us - maybe that's a Georgian thing!

Miles Driven: 
Vardzia Resort


More intrepid day by day! Outstanding scenery. Keep it up! A

Interesting photo of the tie sign. Being smart is forbidden perhaps

Add new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.