I know I had already announced that I was going on a two-week trip to Schengenland on my social media platforms, but sometimes things do not happen as you we want them to. Just 12 hours prior to my flight to Prague, I found out that my photographer was denied a visa (damn Third World passport), so I had to rebook everything and decide on a place that we could fly to. There’s no way I’m traveling for 14 days alone – I don’t do selfies!
The most obvious city was Tbilisi. It wasn’t something very exciting, every Tom, Dick and Harry with a UAE residence visa had already visited the place so there wasn’t going to be any sense of novelty there. So with an indignant look on my face and a heavy heart, I cancelled all my reservations in Prague, Wroclaw, Oslo and Dresden, and made bookings for a short trip in the Georgian capital.
Twenty-four hours later, we landed in Tbilisi. People don’t drive particularly well, it was as if everyone was in some point of an epileptic seizure as they traversed the freeways. The route from the airport to the hotel wasn’t very inviting and as soon as we reached what would be our home for the next seven days (the Radisson Iveria was fully booked!), I was ready to catch the next flight back to Dubai. But I was encouraged to keep an open mind and do some research on worthy shoot locations within the city, so I did.
I was actually surprised with the sheer number of beautiful spots you can visit in Tbilisi and I figured it would extremely helpful for other travelers to compile a list of the most photogenic places you can shoot in. Here are my top recommendations so prep your outfits and shooting gear!
1.) Old Tbilisi
This location starts at the foot of some mountain whose name I can’t be bothered to remember, and features a vibrant scene with bars, restaurants and local residences dotted on hilly one-way streets (really more like walkways for tourists). It’s a colorful location that every tourist is going to want to start their trip with, before branching out to the other, more external traps. After a hearty lunch – try the ojakhuri and khachapuri – you can then trek up to the Narikala fortress to get an unobstructed view of the city below. View it on Google Maps here.
2.) The Bridge of Peace
Connecting Old Tbilisi with the new district, this Italian-designed metal and glass structure stretches over the Kuri River and is a sight to behold in the day and a light show of its own in the night. Because there are a lot of tourists here, you’ll do well to know your long exposures and image averaging tricks to remove the people in your photos. A bit trivia: this architectural visage is nicknamed the “Always Ultra” bridge, due to its resemblance to a feminine maxi-pad. View it on Google Maps here.
3.) Mtatsminda Park
I kept Googling Mtamensky park and kept coming up with nothing. But thank God for Google suggestions! This amusement facility is obviously very family oriented with children’s rides but there are some interesting spots where you could take unique photos. You can also take in the view of the city below from observation decks dotted around the park. View it on Google Maps here.
4.) Open Air Museum of Ethnography
This museum is really just a bunch of old houses in a park, but they offer up some interesting spots for photo ops. It also gives you a glimpse of traditional Georgian architecture and craftwork from various regions of the country. Sprawled across some 52 hectares of land, there’s no way you can walk all over the museum in a single trip – not that you would want to. Throughout the seasons, this location transforms with the weather and it would be fascinating to see this all covered in snow during the long Georgian Winter. View it on Google Maps here.
5.) Turtle Lake
This mountaintop lake is just a few hundred meters up from the Open Air Museum, so you’d do well to visit the place after you’re done with the museum. I didn’t see a single turtle while I was there – in fact, the turtle I spotted was in the woods of the museum, so maybe that one just got lost. Anyway, there are restaurants, lounges and bars with a beautiful view of the lake, so it’s a great spot to relax after the big-incline trek up the mountain. If you’re more feeling more adventurous, you can even take a dip on the side opposite the F&B hotspots. View it on Google Maps here.
6.) The Chronicle of Georgia
Also known as the Stonehenge of Tbilisi, the Chronicle of Georgia is a massive art project that features big-ass columns etched with scenes from the bible and the history of the country. There are also massive statues of I don’t know who, kings or saints perhaps, that can be found on a landing on the way up to the monument. It’s not a very popular spot for tourists so it’s a great location for a shoot. There’s not much information you can find in guide books or even online, just from people documenting their visit to the place. Anyway, it’s humbling to look at these massive structures while also elating to view the city below (when in Tbilisi, you can always see the city on top of any mountain) and the blue reservoir on the other side. View it on Google Maps here.
Runners-up: Rustaveli Avenue and Marjanishvili Square
These spots are right in the city and offer a great urban vibe, with the usual shopping brands interspersed with local restaurants and street vendors selling all kinds of unique souvenirs. You could spend an entire day shopping, wining and dining at Rustaveli and Marjanishvili. Don’t forget to check the side streets branching out from the main avenues, you’ll find F&B gems in the most unexpected corners! View them on Google Maps here and here.