Intersecting Europe & Asia: A Javanti tale in Turkey & Georgia.

Intersecting Europe & Asia: A Javanti tale in Turkey & Georgia.

Javanti traverses stunning mountains, scrumptious wine country, quaint seaside villages, and the world’s most interesting topography.


This was a classic “we had booked this trip in 2020, and COVID happened trip.” I never felt sad about that because the happy couple that was forced to cancel their Istanbul wedding was obv in a rockier spot.

Soo, enter 2023, when Jon would finally allow us to venture close(r) to Russia with the insanity that is that part of the world. Fair caution, this reckless gal will admit.

BUT why Georgia? By happenstance, on our 2019 trip through Russia, we had devoured Georgian food (& wine!) in all of its glory. We found ourselves seeking out Georgian restaurants, and for good reason. Holy party in your mouth. A perfect mix of rich, buttery, creamy, spicy goodness. Think French ooey cheese and butter meets Indian and Nepali (heyy Mingmar! 😉 spice meets delicious Spanish bread, and to top it off, Middle Eastern lamb and meats. Let’s not forget the (better, drier, smoother than) French wine to top this all off. Oof that Saperavi grape!

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

-Mae West

How to get there.

(Again ) enter Chase Ultimate Rewards. A constant for our international travels, we absolutely used (this time, 65k – equiv of ~$2k/each) Chase Sapphire Reserve points for each R/T, direct flight in and out of Istanbul. Another steal of a deal.

You know from our past posts that if you don’t already have this credit card, it is worth every penny of the annual fee. While $450/year appears hefty, you will easily get $300 back year after year for travel purchases that include flights, hotel, rideshare, and more. Throw in perks like global entry fee ($100/good for 5 years) reimbursement, and it all makes sense. The points accumulate wonderfully quickly as well, if you use the Reserve as your go to card in today’s world of plastic. 

We were in and out of IST on ~11 hour flights run through Turkish Air. Def  not short, but the airline does a good job with meal service, wine for days (just ask nicely), and lighting, to foster many good zzzzs throughout.

This trip, we also had internal flights given the giant nature of Turkey, and our desire to hit Georgia. See tips below for working these in the most efficient manner possible!

Runabout tips

  1. We again had a Friday overnight out of ORD, this time at 9:10pm, arriving at IST the following day at 3:45pm. Def recommend not only the overnight, but a Friday evening out if you can swing it. Arriving on a wknd & having had a full week is clutch to fully take advantage upon arrival.
  2. It felt like nothing short of a miracle (someone has completely given up on time zone calculation after this trip) returning home essentially at the same time we left IST. Ahh the gift of time is truly priceless.
  3. HUGE protip: In today’s world of autofill (info., on your trusty laptops), be very wary of the passenger info. you’re (or your trusty bot, often unknowingly is) inserting when booking tickets, esp if you’re booking multiple internal flights at a time as well. There’s 1000% a story there.
  4. Internal flights & choices. 
    • We narrowed our Turkey voyages to: IST of course, stunning Kapadokya, and a short stint in beachy Antalya
    • For Georgia, we blissfully stuck to Tbilisi with SO much it has to offer, and opted for a road trip in & out rather than a train or plane to sea-side Batumi before heading back to the States. Read on below! 
    • For each destination, I checked Skyscanner for the best and least pricey direct flights, using a map to determine the most efficient flight plan. Wala! 
      • IST → Kayseri (ASR) – $50pp on Turkish Air
      • Kayseri (ASR) → Antalya (ANT) – $44pp on Pegasus 
      • Antalya (ANT)→ Tbilisi (TBS) – $50pp on Pegasus 
      • Tbilisi (TBS) → IST – ~12k/Chase Ultimate Rewards points/pp via Turkish Air
    • Protips: Luggage on internal flights
      • As you know very well, budget airlines like Pegasus can save tons of $ while often simply recouping this in seat & baggage charges. We honestly often take our chances, i.e. wait and let them book seats, which end up together, and think small when boarding to avoid any luggage issues, as we only do carry-on which does require a roll-on suitcase & duffel between us. 
      • We’ve fared lucky 99 out of 100 times. With those stats, the deals pan out, and we have no qualms with the service on these airlines. 
    • Final protip: Be sure you’re flying into/out of the correct airport in each locale. IST, for ex, is Istanbul’s “new” airport, with SAW on the Asian side its smaller, older airport. Flights go into and out of both – I believe Pegasus, for ex, only flies into SAW.

Visas – a must read. Alright, people, so US citizens DO need a visa for Turkiye. I absolutely should have looked into this, and did not, as many spots are either no-visa-required for US citizens, or easy peazy grab one on arrival. 

Here, I think we got super lucky, as we went during a time that Turkey allowed US citizens to grab a visa at IST airport, for a mere $30 USD at that. The timing of  which handful of countries can do this – and most imp to us, whether the US can – changes quite a bit, as the few 2023 articles I read (after grabbing the visa) seemed to indicate. 

To ease this process, you can easily grab an e-visa. Runabout tip: Go directly to the site to grab your e-visa, rather than through a third-party of which there are tons. The process is easy enough that you don’t need the extra help. 

What about Georgia? No visa needed, homies!

How to get around.

Alright, what is Javanti to do with our love of road tripping – okay, my love of being chauffeured around internationally by Jeff Gordon? So many amazing destinations to speak of, yet we want to balance the flexibility of having a car v. the peace of mind of not having to drive or care for one. 

Where we landed:

  • Istanbul – like many big cities, zero need for a car, and no use driving around (& impossibly seeking (pricey) parking) in the madness. Easy no.
  • Kapadokya – My quick research dictated that having a car is a godsend here, in part because Kayseri airport is an hour from Kapadokya, and it’s not difficult to get around in one or park. See here for rental car tips, particularly abroad. I easily emailed with the cave hotel of our choice and confirmed parking on site at no insane charge (better, free 99). Highly recommend getting a car for this destination.
    • Of course, we used Skycanner. The booking was through Nissa, which was a bit janky. I mean, seriously, will a girl ever learn? The price was right (and there it is), at ~$130/3 days. 
    • Note: There is a closer airport than Kayseri to get to Kapadokya – Neveshir. NAV is pricier & has less frequent/avail. flights in and out, however. 
  • Antalya – With our less than 48 hours here, all-inclusive stay during, and ~20 minute ride from ANT to the hotel, opted no. If you’re avid hikers & intend to hike the Lycian Way, would recommend a car. 
  • Tbilisi – A friend of a friend that lives in Georgia gave a firm no. I listened. Until I didn’t – my intuition – and our few hour journeys in and out of TBS – told me to book a car as we took off for TBS.
    • We ended up using because of the timing, i.e. we rolled into TBS while making the decision to book. 
    • Pros: At the rental counters, the quoted cost was ~$260/5 days, which is not bad at all. Our booking ended up being ~$160. 
    • Clutch tho, I paid extra (w/in that price, which is awesome), for delivery of the car to our hotel & also to be able to leave the car at the airport upon leaving glorious TBS. Both super convenient.
    • Cons: You could end up with a janky car. Thankfully, we did not. Our hybrid Prius was perfect for gas mileage & a bit tricky at times in the rugged roads of Kazbegi & Kakheti. Ouch.
    • Also, no credit cards accepted upon the rental guy’s arrival with the car. We easily had him go grab change for our $USD cash. That did take a bit.

Runabout tips – Taxis!:

  • For Turkey, download Bitaksi. Recommend using this from the airport to your accommodation in Istanbul, which is likely an hour ride if in the city proper. Should run you about 500 Turkish lari, or $20 USD. Uber will work but is not recommended here. We did use it on our first ride (to the hotel) before wisening up, and worked out just fine paying $USD. Later learned this was likely part of the grand scheme tho, and was a bit pricier.
  • If you use Bitaksi to get out of IST, note that the driver will text with you in the app to meet at an arrivals door (likely #11) and will meet you on foot to then walk to the parking lot with you. Has to be a prohibition against Uber & Bitaksi from entering the airport terminal. 
  • For Georgia, download Bolt. I had read Yandex is also in use, and we had used this in Russia but did not in GE, only Bolt.
  • Taxi drivers will tell you their credit card machines are not working to extract cash. Biggest reason we recommend using the above apps, as you obv cannot force their machines to magically start working, even where they okayed payment by card before you go in.
  • If you’re not able to, simply negotiate the price up front and do not be shy to knock this down. In both IST and Tbilisi, cab drivers tried to get about $100 USD more than we were willing to pay. Yowza.

Where to stay.

One million options. How does a girl choose? We covered a few Runabout tips applicable to any destination in our recent Spain post! 

Where we landed:

  1. Istanbul – Hammamhane, $500/3 nights, inclusive of a solid breakfast
  2. Cappadocia – Luvi Cave Hotel, $500/3 nights, inclusive of a solid breakfast
  3. Antalya – Porto Bello Resort, $500/2 nights at an all-inclusive property & fitness center on site. Do not stay here. 
  4. Tbilisi proper – Hotel Mercure, $110/single night, with a gym & sauna on site
  5. Kazbegi – Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, $500/nights, inclusive of an awesome, awesome breakfast, gym & sauna on site, and a stunning backdrop within which to experience it all. Love.
  6. Kakheti – Schuchmann Wines Chateau, $200/2 nights, inclusive of a breakfast spread and simple but lovely gym on site. 
  7. IST on our way out – The flight timings back into IST and out of there early AM our last day put us at Treekos Suite for the day/night at $117/1 night, inclusive of a breakfast we did not stick around for. Just 20 minutes away from the airport in a little seaside town, we made the most of this adventure. 

Runabout tips

  1. See above!

As always, depending on our length of stay, absolutely worth taking a peek at Airbnb. We recommend navigating the search by map function the same way, as location is truly make or break not only as a time saver to get to your hot spots but also for a midday reprieve.

Dinero – what to bring, exchange, and how far does your $$ go?

Bringing plenty of $USD was clutch, as we simply used this where needed, and accepted change in Turkish lira or Georgian lari. Wala! No trip to any exchange office needed.

In Turkey, inflation is a dire problem, and the 25 TRY to each $1 USD is a strong indicator of this. 

2.6 GEL = $1 USD on the other hand. So, a meal of 50 GEL, for ex, runs you just under $20.

In both spots, our money stretched far. Particularly in Georgia, the quality of food and wine for the price was honestly hard to comprehend. So, so lucky this duo is, and we tried to tip because of this even where not at all expected. Which, by the way, was everywhere. Hospitality at its truest.

Runabout tips

  1. When paying in $USD, and particularly when accepting change in the local currency, do the math! Show the merchant, server, etc. your calculator (on your phone, people) as needed. Strong note that every place & person in TR & GE accepted the standard rate (you can simply google this) without jacking this up at all by virtue of providing change. This is unusual as compared to other countries. 
  2. At the family run wineries in Kakheti, GE, discuss the price and what you’re paying for ahead of time. We found these to be much pricier than the commercial wineries – seems counterintuitive, but each family run spot will sit you down for a giant meal, all the wine you can drink (thought this was a tasting…?), and cha cha to wash it all down. Yowza! See below for more on these delectable visits.

What to do, see, and… most imp, eat and drink.

Part I: Istanbul, Turkiye

With Hammamhane as our home base, off we went to explore Europe & Asia by way of Istanbul.

We hopped out of our Uber at Hammamhane and instantaneously felt at home. Deliberately decorated and furnished, this cozy abode was just perfect for our first 3 nights back in the Middle East.

How we chose this area? I had read that first timers often fare well staying where the city’s main attractions are in Sultanahmet, but there are better restaurants, art, and vibes in the Cihangir and Beyoglu hoods. There are tons of options for where to stay, as you can imagine, and we were quite happy with our choice. Pros, cons & tips below!

Sights & awesome activities.

Highly recommend simply putzing around the Sultanahmet area to see the world famous structures that reside there. Admittedly as visitors that are more into interacting with locals and eating with them – you’re shocked – we loved that this area had a combined historical feel with the bazaar as well as tons of shops and restaurants within just a stone’s throw. 

Runabout tips:

  • To get to these spots, order a Bitaksi for a mere few dollars and paid via CC through the app. Easy peazy. 
  • You can also take public transport easily, or if  you have the time and depending on where you’re staying, simply make the hour or less walk over. Much more pleasant than sitting in inevitable traffic closer to the monuments. Note that public transport may not be much faster or cheaper, but we agree that it’s a lovely way to get around as a local.
  • Sights to see: Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Sultanahmet Square, to name just a few.
  • Then, hit the Grand Bazaar! You can spend hours here, word on the street is to come early before merchants are forced to stick to prices to meet a quota, and be sure to try some sweets. 
  • When leaving the area, getting a Bitalksi on the app will be tricky due to the congestion. We negotiated a much more fair price with a taxi than the absurd amount they wanted to charge. That said, we were cognizant of the issues surrounding inflation and did our best to support the local economy while not being robbed for being tourists. 
    • Be sure to have change whether in USD or TRY, or this process is awfully difficult! Best negotiation tactic out there – explain that you have a fixed sum of X, show it to the driver, do not mess with other $, confirm that price, and give that amount to the driver at the end of the ride.

Other neighborhoods to hit:

  • Karakoy (formerly Galata) – cross over the Galata Bridge into Sultanahmet 
  • Taksim Square – Tons of activity, nice hotels, restaurants, you name it 
  • Besiktas – luxury hood

As you know well, we see cities and countries through our happy bellies. We recommend simply jumping onto Google Maps, searching restaurants, and filtering for “top rated”. You can sort by distance, and focus on any hoods you’d like to wander. 

One thing you must try: a hammam! 

  • Aptly named, our lil haven had a very well rated hammam next door: Cukurcuma Hammami, where we received 10% off for being guests of Hammamhane. 
  • I honestly had no idea what to expect, and am a bit hesitant to fill you in on the surprise that awaits. Suffice to say this was super relaxing, the people that work here are saints for this level of service, and the experience is worth the price: in euros, 55/pp for the typical hammam experience, and 120/pp total for that + an hour long glorious massage to follow. Romantic & awesome all around. 

Runabout tip – only go to a very well rated hammam. Sure, there are tons, but not all are super clean and have the stellar service you’re looking for with these types of treatments.

Where to Eat and drink

    1. Galata LilyThis Galata Tower area is super cute to walk through, and the food here, to die for. The police had blocked off this area for a (peaceful) protest in support of LGBQT rights, but we were committed. We called the restaurant, confirmed open, and marched right into the otherwise barren area that afternoon. The lamb curry and stuffed squid dish were on point, as was the ice cold white wine. 
    2. Old Ottomanlocated in Sultanahmet, the service, cool libations on a hot day, kebabs, and lamb curry were all on point.
    3. Meat MootSuper cool concept for smoked meat that the US should emulate. Chi, get in there! Fantastic for a group, as you’ll quickly observe. 
  • Afiyet Olsun – With jussst a lil hunger left, we grabbed a bottle of wine and a few Georgian-esq treats from this joint for a cute date night at home post-dinner crawl. Yes, it’s a good life. 
  • Fresh mackerel sandwiches underneath the Galata Bridge

Bounce around Kamankes in Karakoy Letoile, Sokak Lezzeti, Yeni Lokanta were all great spots for a bite and drink before popping on to the next one.

HOTEL REVIEW - Hammamhane

$500/3 nights


  • Location location location. We were able to walk everywhere, including to all of the hoods mentioned above.
  • Amazing attention to detail, and use of the space. Elevator right to our lil tiny haven, what?!
  • Apartment style. Small but has absolutely everything you need (including a balcony depending on which room you book).
  • Breakfast daily, with awesome service.


  • No gym. Howeverrrrr, travel hack/Runabout tip! I searched high & low for a gym open: 1. On Sunday, our first full day, and 2. Before 9am, come on people. Enter – the Safira Spa that showed up on my intense (but very quick) Google Map search. Opened at 8am on Sunday, and 7 each weekday, so why not give it a shot? Turns out this is the gym inside the CVK Bosphorous hotel, and boy was it niiiice. We strolled in like we owned the place, and did a repeat each AM in Istanbul. Truth be told, I would have happily paid, but no one seemed interested in this. Boom, gym to start each awesome day. 

Would absolutely stay again, particularly to pay a visit to our friends at Cukurcuma Hammami (see above!).

Part II: Kapadokya, you’ve stolen our hearts.

Stunning beauty, insane topography, and stellar company to top it all off (heyy Max!). 

The balloons are un. real. But that’s just it – you hop in one, and it’s real. You’ve seen the pics of these magical, colorable objects seemingly suspended in the sky for days. It is every bit as stunning – and of course more so because you’re there – in person. Wowwowwow. 


Where to balloon, hike, eat, and drink: Goreme.

Like Istanbul, there are options on what area to stay in. In Cappadocia (or as the locals dub it, Kapadokya), the options consist of towns perhaps 10 or so miles away from one another. I had read that Goreme is best for the action, and off we went. 

While in Cappadocia, we found that Urgup is an upscale alternative with a heavy focus on wine (yes, please) and explored there one afternoon. Both are lovely and great options, with a small lean towards the former in part because of the friends we made in Goreme. 

    1. Hot air balloon? Yes! Absolute must. We went with Get Your Guide, at $586/RT 🙂 for the flight for the two of us. Worth. Every. Penny, as this was our first balloon ride.
      • I’m not sure any other place in the world is lit up by balloons like this. Truly spectacular.
  • Runabout tip: Book the flight for 2 separate AMs so that if wind or weather doesn’t allow for the first, you have a backup. The company understands this process and will assist with canceling once you do successfully grab a flight as needed. 
  1. That said, another must. Stay in a cave hotel with a terrace. The view from land is, in some respects, just as or even more so breathtaking. So, if you’d rather experience this magnificent with your feet on the ground whether for price or comfort, you’re all set! More on this below.
  2. Rose & Red Valleys hike – Favorite hike of this leg of the trip, and longer/harder than expected, particularly after an unexpectedly fun evening filled with new friends. Yes, on brand, we know. Highly recommend. 
  3. Chubby Meatballs – While the food was on point – all of it – the service was even better. The ambiance may be a tiny bit wanting, but we’d be back in a heartbeat. 
  4. Kebabs & Mezes – Outstanding terrace for sunset views, and a good variety. Not the best kebabs we’ve had tho, despite the name.
  5. La Linda – Solid happy hour to boot with delicious sausages. Need I say more? All down (up?) hill from here, friends. 
  6. Goreme Restaurant – Delish lentil soup & lamb kabobs. Pop in for a wine tasting! 
  7. Dalchini – Indian goodness and a great ambiance. Need I say more? 
  8. Wood Fire BBQ – Service was great, as was presentation. I hate to say it, but for a steak place, the food was subpar. We hope this was a one off because the servers and folks running the joint were oh so welcoming. 
  9. There is a stellar bar in the middle of the action that we absolutely loved. While I’m sure our credit card statement will be telling, my brain has conveniently blocked out the name. Heyy Saachi, Vani & crew! Loved our night with you all. 

Grub in Urgup!

  1. Apetito – Best dolmas we’ve had, the clay pot beef curry was on point, and the white wine to wash it all down was simply delish on this hot hot afternoon..
  2. Barbarian Medieval Tavern – Just wow on this decor. From outside to each inside level (yep, I said it – there are many), every inch and crevice is beautifully executed. The wine & treats were not too shabby either. We’re a bit sad our hunger levels were not quite at devour and will be back for the meats!
  3. Solem Cave Suites – Relatively new, this place is gorgeous. Would 100% recommend looking into staying here. If simply paying a visit to Urgup like we were, grab a drink at the bar with its perfect views. 

HOTEL REVIEW – Luvi Cave Hotel 

$500/3 nights


  • Max! The cutie of a pup that runs the place will melt your heart. Over. And. Over
  • Location. Perfectly placed to ditch the car and explore Goreme.
  • Free parking on site.
  • Breakfast was solid, and the place provided unlimited drinking water, unfortunately in the form of bottles. Note: Tap water in Turkey is not drinkable, and we don’t advise giving it a shot. Refillable water stations are hit or miss.
  • The room itself was clean, well kept, and well designed. First time in a cave!


  • This is not at all the hotel’s fault, but the lack of natural night may have me rethinking whether the cave concept is for me. Wouldn’t change a thing this trip tho.
  • No gym, which I suppose can be expected in a cave. Ain’t no thing – enter Goreme Fitness Centre, a short walk away!

All in all, would absolutely stay again if in Goreme. I’ll prob take a gander at Urgup for our next go around tho.

Part III: Small Stint in Beachy Antalya.

A little fun in the sun before our Georgian adventure. 

I factored in the end of the work week, approaching 4th of July week, and approx 2 days in between (otherwise known as the weekend. Where is she going with this…?) before we entered the beauty that is Georgia, and thought – beach. Why not?

I’ll tell you why not. I booked an all inclusive that simply didn’t do the trick. The place was hot (inside, people), quality low, and to top it off, tequila not included (let’s be real, this last reason alone has this place blacklisted). Yep, in the all inclusive package I had oh so smartly booked. 

Of course, Javanti made the most of it. We discovered Raki, Turkish truth serum, went for long walks on the… path, and of course indulged in the gym that was… fine. 

Am I being bratty? A little. This just wasn’t the haven I was seeking. Lesson learned, I promise. Bring your own tequila, obv.

Runabout tips:

  1. Book a nicer all inclusive, or none at all. This is obv common sense. We understand these are prevalent in Antalya, so I’d give the search another shot. 
  2. Perhaps rent a car. The Lycian Way seems like a solid hike, and there are absolutely other attractions, altho none were near. Hence the car, if you have time to bounce around, which we did not.
  3. Honestly, if doing this all over again (should we be so lucky), I would either find a super swanky hotel or skip Antalya, instead tacking on another day in Tbilisi and perhaps Kakheti.
Antalya beach walk!

HOTEL REVIEW – Porto Bello Resort

$500/2 nights, all-inclusive. ish. 


  • About 25 min from ANT airport.


  • Read above. 

Quite obv, we will not book again.

Part IV: Georgian Tbilisi, Kazbegi & Kakheti

Georgia, you surpassed our lofty expectations, and we will be back. 

It’s honestly difficult to put into words just how amazing Georgia is. The country not only boasts the warmest of hospitality but sprawling mountains, incredible pride in wine making dating back to 6000 BC, and holy smokes, that food. What more can a girl ask for? A trip back, yes indeed.

Tbilisi: Eat, drink & stroll.

Of course we would have loved longer, but the mountains of Kazbegi and vineyards of Kakheti tugged at a girl’s heartstrings. 

We arrived at the tender 7am hour, apparently because flights into Georgia are at awkwardly early hours. Can’t say we minded, and the Hotel Mercure did a stellar job allowing us to use their facilities while the room was being prepared. Early workout to kick off our first day in GE? Yes, please.

What did Javanti get into? 

  1. First stop, cruise around! On foot. We hit Rike Park, Queen Darejan Palace, Gorgaseli (Meidan) Square, and the Meidan Bazaar before getting our grub on.
  • Enter, Mapshalia – We’re talking old school, people. Worth a first stop on a lunch crawl for sure. You might avoid the red wine & opt for beer if you’re not into extreme sweetness. The cornmeal cheesy goodness was best, followed by the chicken in walnut curry. You will not get English here, and you’ll be just fine. 
  • Ooooh, Ninia’s GardenBeautiful courtyard, service with a smile, and truly tasty and fresh grub. The tomato & burrata salad came right off the vine, pork belly melted in our mouths, and the khachapuri was on point. The vibrant yet chill ambiance took the cake here. 
  1. After a small hotel reprieve, we popped by the Dry Bridge Flea Market & explored that area a bit to start our dinner crawl. Highly recommend checking out the art and supporting local artists. Heyy Abuladzi!
  2. First stop, Sofia Melnikova’s Fantastic Douqan. Sounds pretty amazing, right? The atmosphere, garden, and friendly serve were on par with the name, and the hard-to-find nature of this spot made it all the more intriguing. The food not so much, with the khinkali sadly being the worst (super dry) of the few items we ordered before moving on. I did a get a fantastic leather bag out of the experience at the leather goods store on site tho. 
  3. Salobie Bia – Run here. Oh. So. Tasty. From the dry red to the super moist and flavorful chicken in a milk curry to the khachapuri, oooolala. Deserving of a full meal for sure.  
  4. We caught a glimpse of the Leaning tower of Tbilisi as we ventured to our third and final dinner locale at… 
  5. OtsY 20 – No hidden feelings about the current state of affairs in neighboring Russia, here. A bit pretentious feeling for my taste, and the beef cheeks (our only dish given Javanti fullness impending) were alright. Clearly, I didn’t love the fancy feel.
  6. Breakfast at Shemomechama – Finally, khachapuri adjaruli! What we had been craving since Russia and oh. so. Good. Wash that down with a dry white, and this girl was in Tbilisi heaven.

Fabrika – Super cool conglom of bars, cafes, and artsy events. Simply love the diversity of Georgia, and we hadn’t even scratched the surface.


$110/single night 


  • Location. Again, very central for our on-foot adventures in TBS. There’s a theme here.
  • Beautiful and well kept. 
  • Strong customer service.
  • We couldn’t commit to a hotel breakfast in this foodie heaven but looked legit. Bit pricey at 60 GEL/~$23 USD compared to prices in the city’s grub spots generally but we suspect many business travelers indulge.
  • Excellent gym facilities, mostly due to the sauna that was all ours! Each of us.
  • Free parking on site, perfect for the car we scooped on day 2 in TBS to head to the mountains.


  • Nada!

All in all, great stay and a repeat for the gym/sauna. 

Steak anyone? Holy cow.

Beloved Kazbegi: Hike, eat & drink your lil hearts out, Javanti.

The Rooms Kazbegi puts it best with its “I woke up like this” line. Woooow, the Kazbek mountain is stunning. When you wake up, when you hike it, when you see its night glow, and all over again. The ice capped peaks somehow warm you right up. 

The hotel was just perfect. The hike to Trinity Church was the cherry on top in making us feel closer to nature than the hotel, even with its stunning views, could. 

Hikes – wowza. 

  • Gveleti Waterfall hike – Relatively easy hikes to waterfalls (2), and worth every step. We had the friendliest, cutest hike guide that we lovingly dubbed Hans. Easily our favorite part of the hike. We did these at sunset to work up an appetite at Kazbegi’s insanely delicious restaurants. 
  • Gergeti Trinity Church – In the books as a favorite of all time. Stunning scenery throughout, and we’d recommend doing this at sunrise to catch incredible glimpses as the sun peeks through over the mountains. Approx. 2.5 hours, and I’d rate this difficult, particularly if took the super steep “shortcut” on the way down. One of us was not thrilled. He survived. 
  • Church to Gergeti Glacier lookout hike – Our friends did this, even with less than stellar weather conditions, and enjoyed it. At ~6 hours, we’d recommend the church instead. 


These restaurants were incredible. We felt very very lucky to stroll in and get such delectable eats, each in a gorgeous setting. Felt like popping into a cabin on the top of a mountain or within a lil village, and simply being stunned by what lied inside. 

  • Restaurant Tiba – A gem. The view after dark is incredible, as is all of the food and house wine. You might check out the cabinas this place offers. 
  • Cafe Maisi – Another mouthwatering meal. The pork belly and eggplant were ridic tasty, as were the bubbles with a perfect dryness. The grounds are welcoming and cozy, with cabinas on site here as well. 
  • Lunch at Maia –  No frills, no English, and some of the best Georgian food we had. The kebabs, soups, and khachapuri were all to die for, and the red wine perfectly dry. You may be waiting a while, so perhaps see if you can wrangle the wine first. 
  • Sadly, I didn’t note down the name of the bar in town that served us up delish cha cha with our Napoletani friends. Perfect end to our 4th.

Runabout tips

  • Driving to and out of Kazbegi is not for the faint of heart. Why? We’re talking one road, and tons of trucks on it that will slow you down unless you pass each, which is the norm. Jon did amazing, but we didn’t love the constant attention he had to pay to keep us safe. 
  • If you do the drive, we’re not sure an SUV is necessary or helps all that much with the treacherous aspects. Our Prius did just fine. 
  • You must get to Kazbegi, one way or another. It’s an absolute gem.

KAZBEGI HOTEL REVIEW – Rooms Hotel Kazbegi

$500/2 nights, inclusive of breakfast  


  • Location. Perfectly perched for gorgeous mountain views, but also an easy drive to awesome grub and hike spots. 
  • Immaculately decorated to fit the mountain vibe.
  • Gym and sauna on site! 
  • Strong customer service. Champagne for our (fifth?) honeymoon! Such a sweet touch. 
  • Amazing spread for breakfast. Super well done. 


  • Nada!

High recommendation on this one. Tiny note that you might take a look at the lil yurt-like cabins all around for a more camp-like experience, and to be closer to nature. 

Kakheti: Wine paradise.

For the final leg of our Georgia trip, we visited its wine haven in a country that boasts wine making from the most ancient of times. While hard to top Kazbegi’s picturesque peaks and scrumptious eats, Kakheti stole our hearts all over again. 

80 degrees and sunny daily, each beautiful vineyard had a tasting room built for keeping us nice and cool, with a stunning view of the Caucasus mountains very much present to round out delectable sips and treats. 

With Georgian hospitality, the answer to whether any snacks came with a tasting was an easy, are you nuts? Of course. The insane value of these tastings and meals is sure to make this is a destination that will absolutely blow up in coming years. Stop reading and get over there!


  • Shumi Winery – Beautifully set up, this was our first stop in wine country, and our first taste of Saperavi grapes. Mm mmm. We opted for a tasting only as opposed to grub to accompany, but of course a lovely cheese & dessert plate was placed before us. At 20 GEL (less than $8 USD), the value is honestly hard to comprehend. Heyy Spencer & Wat! 
  • Shota’s Mariani – Shota is a lovely host with a lovely family to boot. She will offer you a choice of mushrooms, stuffed eggplant, and BBQ chicken or pork. All are delish, with the eggplant, pork, and sunflower olive oil that accompanies the fresh bread as the stars of the meal. The dry red wine to wash it all down is simply perfect, as is the ambiance. Setting us back a mere $40 total, you’ll start to see why this is all so hard to believe. 
  • Mosmieri – Stunning grounds, and more insane value even at this giant commercial winery. Def recommend a visit, perhaps to kick off your afternoon or evening. We opted for a simple tasting (tons of cheese to boot, compliments of the chef. How Jon pried me back to that States is a real mystery). 
  • Togonidze’s Wine Cellar – Here we go – stepping into an other world of abundant wine, treats coming out out of some magical kitchen one by one, loveable animals, and… more wine as we were ushered into multiple rooms of the home to consume all of this goodness. What could possibly make this experience better? Unexpectedly sharing it with a couple from Belgium that rocked. Wowwowwow.
  • Brother’s Khutsishvili Wine Center –  Given our limited time, we rallied (I know, such a difficult life) and had dinner with the Brothers. Of course, as is the Javanti MO, we showed up unannounced, which meant sipping many cha cha variants and drinking gobs of wine pending preparation of the meal. With a tour of the cellar to boot, this was an unforgettable experience. Altho one I can’t seem to recount. I blame the cha cha. 

Runabout tips

  • Where you can, call ahead and let the good folks at the family wine cellars know when you’d like to arrive. We’ve noticed that our hosts like to have the first round of snacks ready with wine, so you may not have wine to sip on while waiting a solid hour or so to kick off. The thirst is real, people. 
  • We’d recommend checking out a commercial/larger winery or two, as these offer true tasting without a forced full meal, then hopping over to a family hosted meal fit for a king. 
  • The roads are… questionable. Without a Jeff Gordon that this lucky gal is able to call her better half, you might get a driver and/or even book a tour. Not our style, but we absolutely saw plenty of that, and it’s likely the hard norm v. taking your own vehicle around. 
  • There are tons of spots to try. Tons. Very Valle de Guadalupe-esq [Google Maps], particularly with those roads. Tee up your Google Maps and hit the vineyards! We had planned to hit at least 2-3 more, and Togonidze simply got the best of us. We’re thrilled that he did. 

While Georgian hospitality probably dictates against this, if you feel most comfortable – or perhaps simply to ensure you have the funds, in cash – ask up front about the price at the family owned spots. Trust us from experience, stating  you simply want a tasting may not go much of anywhere, i.e. a full meal is coming, and I mean full.

Kakheti HOTEL REVIEW – Schuchmann Wine Chateau

$200/2 nights, inclusive of breakfast. 


  • What a steal. Gorgeous grounds to boot, boasting two pools, and one with a full bar.
  • Gym! On site and perfectly did the trick.
  • Breakfast was solid.


  • Linens, robes, pillow (singular) were wanting. Not a huge deal, but odd for a resort that boasts a spa. 

All in all, for the price, an incredible value. We’d shop around a bit to see what’s out there, but you know these gyms speak to a girl.

Bring on… final night in Turkey!

To avoid flight issues with our early AM Saturday flight back to ORD, we opted to stay near IST for the final night of the trip. Turns out Treekos was in a quiet, fairly local waterside village perched on the Black Sea, in Karaburun.

A seaside run and workout, and wala, Javanti was ready for date night numero doce in this foreign land. We caught some (friendly) inquiries when dining seaside at Haimeli Balik but quickly became one with the locals on our dinner crawl adventure.

One in particular – a 4 legged super fast pup – took us around town, waited for us while in any restaurant, and we sadly parted ways with Hansel as we approached our hotel for the final time. 

One (the only, thank goodness) torrential downpour later, by 4am, we were off to IST Chi-bound! 

Runabout tips:

ISTANBUL HOTEL (#2) REVIEW – Treekos Suite

$117(1) night 


  • Great for being near the airport, at a 20 nin ride that you can easily catch on Bitaksi.
  • Clean rooms, spacious, and a pool.
  • The woman on staff was oh so nice. 


  • Sauna is an extra 25 euros. 

All in all, we’d simply do our flight plan a bit differently if circumstances allowed, to avoid getting into IST, leaving for a night, and coming right back. If an airport hotel is a must, this is a solid option.

El Fin.

Two weeks of adventure, bliss, and balancing work with life. Javanti strikes again. 

This trip felt special in that we were again exploring total unchartered territory after having largely opted for places we had been but wanted to explore a bit further during COVID. Of course, the Balkans the prior year were also new to us, but this felt farther (it was) and a bigger departure from the culture(s) we’re accustomed to. Always an awesome perk of traveling, and seems to teach us a lot about being good humans. 

Cappadocia, Kazbegi, and Kakheti carried experiences, sights, and tastes we will never forget, and I suspect we’ll be back with some of our favorites. Until then, many thanks for the hospitality, untouched beauty, and friends we encountered along the way.

One Comment

  1. Cindy Drews

    The detailed information that you provided touches on everything! The photos are amazing. It makes me want to book a trip to Turkey!!

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