We had originally thought that we would be bored in Borjomi. We thought that 5 days in Borjomi was too much. What is Borjomi anyway? We thought we would miss Tbilisi but knew we had to get out of Tbilisi. To see more of Georgia. To see the country and the mountains. To see where the normally contained Mtkvari river unwinds like the wild end of a held snake.
It was supposed to rain every day of our time in Borjomi so we imagined being trapped in a small one room apartment with spotty internet. Turns out that it did indeed rain every day we were there. Sometimes it was a delicate mist. One downpour was so sudden and severe that those eating outside ran inside carrying steaming plates of khinkali like a mother with child fleeing armed Soviets.
5 Days in Borjomi: Day 1
Like most travel days our time was spent packing and checking out of our hotel in Tbilisi, catching a cab to the mini bus station and then taking the bus to Borjomi. So once we checked into the hotel and washed up, we had just enough time to explore the city a bit before calling it quits.
The best way to start exploring a city, and Borjomi is no different, is to have some kind of mission in mind. In our case we thought we may be out hiking the next day, so we sought out the grocery stores. We went into each little bodega we saw on our walk and got items for breakfast. It was a lucky break that we found a fresh little farmers market with spices, and picked up some veggies for dinner.
We stopped at the tourist information kiosk and met Otto. We told him we had 5 days in Borjomi and he told us all there is to do. He gave us maps and even his phone number in case we needed help and we left knowing we would not be bored. We also found one of the famed Soviet mosaics we've heard so much about! Not too bad for a quick little walk after a day of travel!
(Borjomi Day 1 Photo Roundup)
5 Days in Borjomi: Day 2
Most of our days spent in Borjomi could be categorized into two parts: before the rain and after the rain. Generally we would hang around the apartment in the morning and eat breakfast, do yoga and log some computer time. In the afternoon we would head out to explore. Day two in Borjomi was really our first full day, and we were excited to explore. Sadly it was pouring rain. On my way to the tourist information booth I saw a woman wearing a plastic garbage bag like a babushka.
After this we set out looking for a short loop that would take us along the Mtkvari river and up to the Petre Fortress, across the river at some point and onto the grounds of the Romanov Palace. Most of the walk is along the train tracks, which has it's own level of romance. There were a few surprises along the way, like the cows and the somewhat drunk man tending them. He tried to give us directions, but with no language in common we just wound up walking arm in arm along the tracks, his calloused hand gripping my forearm or squeezing my shoulder.
We didn't have enough time to make it to the very very top of the fortress since I had a client call, so we cut this part short and headed back across the footbridge and through the park and to the mineral water building.
(Borjomi Day 2 Photo Roundup)
5 Days in Borjomi: Day 3
Our third day in Borjomi was jam packed with everything you could want - random guide dogs, a funky bridge, a river, crossing barbed wire, a hot spring that wasn't so hot and a depressing derelict amusement park for kids.
I was really amped up when leaving the hotel for some reason. The sun was out and as we walked there were vendors selling all manner of home grown herbal concoctions. There were more cool vehicles and the coolest bridge I've ever seen. Everything seemed possible. We entered the Borjomi mineral spring park and after identifying our route for the day (hour + walk up to a mini monastery, then down to the hot spring) connected with the sweetest volunteer companions. These two dogs stayed with us the entire duration of our journey, even after we took a soak in the not so hot spring.
There were only two downsides for the day, and they are totally minor. One is that we didn't plan ahead and bring lunch. While we were done with our hike before we were starving, we could have stayed at the spring and enjoyed the river a little more while eating. The other downside to our day is that we didn't have anything to tip our volunteer guides! As you know, dogs don't generally use currency, so we were at a loss to thank them for their companionship. :(
(Borjomi Day 3 Photo Roundup)
5 Days in Borjomi: Day 4
The last full day of our short trip to Borjomi. At this point we were somewhat in love. In love with our guesthouse, in love with the mountains, in love with the family restaurant down the street and convinced that we were going to love the rest of Georgia. Especially if it was even remotely like Borjomi.
The morning was a washout so by the afternoon I was really antsy and needed to get out. We had one last hike that we were planning on doing, so I set out prepared to get muddy and wet. Just past the visitors center is a set of stairs that starts taking you up up up. From there the trail goes through a few roads and then jumps off to continue the climb. It was humid from the rain and the trail was really steep for about a whole hour. There weren't many switchbacks, so this was a bit of a slog to the top. Any break found the silence of the forest totally crowding you on all sides. In the best possible way of course. It was so peaceful. I really should have taken some time to just sit on a log, but by the time I got to the top and the magnificent view of Borjomi, the wind had picked up and I started to get chilly. So I headed back down.
The route down takes you directly to an old ruined fortress and the trail gets pretty narrow, At one point you have to walk along a slippery pipe that isn't really buried at all. The pipe seems to be carrying water from a stream high up, and one of the joints is broken turning the narrow trail into a muddy river only twice the width of the pipe.
Jill stayed back at the guesthouse and knitted, had a little dance party and some yoga time. Later that evening there was a knock at the door - our hosts gifted us with a small bottle of homemade wine! A perfect way to end our time in Borjomi.
(Borjomi Day 4 Photo Roundup)
5 Days in Borjomi: Day 5
Our final day in Borjomi was spent in the usual travel day manner - packing our bags, checking out, grabbing a bite to eat and walking over to where the mini-bus takes you back to Tbilisi. I'll spare you the pictures of the mini bus for now, but we will likely write a post on how to choose the right mini-bus in Georgia. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll notify you when we do!
The owners of our lovely guesthouse had a puppy that was at times super cute and totally and absolutely annoying in that "I'm going to bite everything" kind of way. On our way out he decided to try to keep us around by tugging on Jill's backpack. We agreed with him that 5 days in Borjomi was not enough.
Facts about Borjomi, Georgia
It doesn't matter if you are spending 1 day or 5 days in Borjomi, there are some simple facts you to know about the town before heading there.
Borjomi is on the edge of one of the largest national parks in Europe - it makes up 1% of all the land in Georgia, roughly 328 square miles.
Borjomi is known for it's famous mineral waters which have been bottled and exported for over 100 years.
Borjomi was also known as the "pearl of the Caucasus" by Russian nobility, partly because of it's healing waters, but mainly because of the fresh air and mountains.
Borjomi was named as an applicant for the 2014 winter olympics along with a neighboring town but was turned down.