Visiting the Hot Springs in Tbilisi, Georgia
By and large, Georgia isn’t known for hot springs. Not in the same way that Japan or Iceland are, and while there aren’t as many natural hot springs, Georgians are fiercely proud of their bathing culture. Hell, they are fiercely proud of everything Georgian, and rightly so. It’s an amazing country that we instantly fell in love with.
My first introduction to Georgia was wine and food and mountains, but shortly upon arrival and after taking our first walking tour, we became obsessed with taking a hot sulfur bath.
So after a few days of wandering around we made the trek over to the area by the river that has a few options to choose from. If you aren’t careful and don’t shop around, you will certainly get hit with what we call the “tourist tax”. What this basically means that you will pay more if you aren’t Georgian and appear to be a tourist. Which is fine to a certain extent. I mean, people need to make a living, right?
The quality ranges as well, but if you are adventurous you can easily have a good time. That is, if you plan your hot spring trip carefully.
What to Bring to the Georgian Hot Springs
This is pretty basic stuff, but still I managed to forget my flip flops. That said, don’t be like me. Bring your flip flops. Of course everything you could ever want is available for rent at the hot springs themselves. But if you want to save some cash, you should bring your own towel and water. Oh, and flip flops.
What to Expect at the Georgian Hot Springs
1. The Hot Springs are HOT. Again, this sounds pretty stupid, but you should know that some of the springs are really hot. Like untouchably so. We managed to find ourselves in one that had a bath of ice cold water and a bucket that we used to attempt to cool down the pool of hot water that must have been at least 40 degrees Celsius. Later on in our trip we spent 5 days in Borjomi and found what we called the “not so hot” hot springs. That was not the case with the hot springs in Tbilisi.
2. The Bathhouse will seem…unclean. This isn’t probably fair to say. I’m sure they are all quite clean, but there is just something about a drippy tiled room that has seen hundreds and hundreds of naked bodies for about a century. It just sounds like a party for bacteria. So know that going in. I’m sure it’s clean, right?
3. There is Booze. When we were there a few rooms were filled with locals or visiting Russians who were having a grand old time at 10 in the morning. You can buy beer and vodka at your bathhouse, or you can bring your own. Piping hot water and alcohol don’t exactly mix for me, but maybe that’s your thing.
4. Book Ahead. I meant it when I said that Georgians are proud of their sulfur springs, which means they can fill up. Call ahead or make an appointment when you are wandering around exploring Tbilisi.
5. Cheaper by the Dozen. You rent the rooms by the hour and the price depends on the size of the room. Even the smallest room can seat up to 5 or 6 people. If you plan this right, the price per person is quite low, almost obscenely cheap. So find some friends or bring your own and prepare to get toasty!
There are lots of unique things to do in Georgia, but this is one you can manage quite easily, even if you don't prepare in advance and are only staying for a few nights. Tradition has it that after a long night of drinking chacha, all you need is a good morning of soaking in the hot sulfur water. But then again, I was told that chacha was the perfect cure for drinking too much chacha..
We spent about 14 days with Living Roots touring about Georgia and drinking wine (and eating cheese and bread!). You can read about that series starting with Day One.