Borjomi is a small resort town in Georgia, known for its mineral water springs. In Soviet times, the resort was one of the most popular destinations for those with health problems. Today, it struggles to return its popularity with new high-class hotels and renovated infrastructure. So, here are my recommendations on top things to do in Borjomi in 48 hours.
How to get to Borjomi
There are different ways to get to Borjomi – a minibus, train, and car. If you are looking for the cheapest, yet the fastest option, minibus should be your choice. From Tbilisi to Borjomi you can catch a minibus at 8:00 a.m, 8:40 a.m, and from 10:00 a.m every forty minutes until 7:00 p.m every day. The ticket costs 7-8 GEL one way. It takes around two hours to get here. The final minibus from Borjomi to Tbilisi leaves at 5:45 p.m but make sure to be there a couple of minutes early.
The Tbilisi Borjomi train leaves at 6:40 a.m and 4:15 p.m every day and costs 2 GEL. You can purchase tickets in the passenger car. The trains are not fancy, they are old, Soviet trains and take 4:30 hrs to read the destination. However, it’s a nice and adventurous experience.
On the way back, you can take the Borjomi Tbilisi train which leaves either at 7:05 a.m or 4:45 p.m. You just need to show up at Borjomi Park train station (near the Borjomi Central Park) on time and buy tickets at the cashier. The ticket costs 2 GEL.
You can also get from Gori to Borjomi with a minibus. They depart at 12:40 p.m and 16:20 pm. The travel time is around 1:40 hours.
A small history lesson of Borjomi resort town
The resort town lays in the magnificent gorge with slopes covered with wide deciduous and pine forests. The main wealth of the town is its mineral water of volcanic origin that is known for its therapeutic properties. According to an archeological discovery of seven baths made of cut stone that dates back to ancient times, our ancestors enjoyed the benefits of Borjomi mineral waters for centuries.
When Georgia was a target of many invasions in the Middle Ages, the settlement in Borjomi gorge fled to other parts of the country, resulting in an almost deserted town.
The heyday of Borjomi starts at the end of the 1820s when Grenadier Regiment from Kherson (Kherson is a city in Ukraine) was placed in the suburbs of Borjomi. On the bank of the river, soldiers found sour water spring and told their commander who had a stomach ulcer. The Borjomi water helped him treat the pain, who ordered the construction of a bathhouse nearby. Soon after, the stories of this miraculous sour water had spread and reached the Viceroy of the Caucasus, Yevgeni Golovin who had an ill daughter. The girl was also cured.
In 1844, the new Viceroy of the Caucasus Mikhail Vorontsov developed a project of Borjomi, according to which, the administration of Borjomi mineral waters was set in the town, along with the construction of new bathhouses, hotels, and a park. This all resulted in the tourism boom from all over Georgia and nearby countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia.
In 1862 when Mikhail Romanov, the brother of the Russian Emperor became the new Viceroy and replaced Vorontsov, he decided to turn Borjomi into an estate of crown prince and summer residence of the Royal dynasty of the Romanov’s. Very soon, Borjomi became the first-class health center which provided the same quality health services as its European counterparts.
During the Soviet reign, tens of sanatoriums and boarding houses were built here, from which most of them are demolished and abandoned today.
The start of the bottled Borjomi water
A pharmacist of a military field hospital Zakharov was the first one to package the drinking Borjomi mineral water into half-liter bottles and sold them in Tbilisi in 1850.
A couple of decades later, in 1894, Mikhail Romanov built a water bottling facility in the Borjomi mineral water park, followed by a glass factory on the outskirts of the town.
Borjomi water is one of the most favorite spring, carbonated, drink for many Georgians. It’s not only popular here, but since 1900 it has been imported to Russia and slowly expanded its horizon and now is sold in 30 countries.
8 Best things to do in Borjomi in 48 hours
As I already mentioned, the town is slowly gaining popularity back, so there are not many things to do in Borjomi. It’s a great place for a weekend getaway from Tbilisi to have a relaxing holiday. Two days are more than enough, however, you can also stop there for a day.
Stroll down the streets of Borjomi
The town is quite small so you can pretty much walk around its central park within an hour or an hour and a half. Admire old buildings and Soviet mosaics that adorn buildings or parks. Then continue your way towards the Borjomi Park along the river. Here, you’ll find some restaurants and souvenir stalls, along with locals selling honey, jams, and other homemade goodies.
Just before going to the park, you’ll notice a gorgeous turquoise building that now is a Tulip Hotel. It used to be a summer residence of Iranian consul Riza-Mirza-Khan built-in 1892. He called it Piruza and you’ll even notice the engravings near the roof. The ceiling of the balcony is adorned with different turquoise stones.
Walk around Borjomi Central Park
One of the best things to do in Borjomi is to walk endlessly in its central park. The somewhat newly renovated park is home to the main water source, so anyone can come and enjoy it during the day. You need to pay 2 GEL for entrance which is valid for a whole day. Come here to relax, people-watch, or enjoy some of the amusement rides.
Drink the Borjomi water straight from the source
This is one of the must-do things to do in Borjomi. When you walk into the park, you’ll notice a tourquise gazebo-like structure that is the main source of mineral water Borjomi. The water is a bit warm and has a sulfur taste to it. You can also fill up a bottle to take it with you.
Take a bath in hot springs
At the end of the park, there’s an open-air public hot sulfur springs bathhouse open from 6 am to 8 pm and costs 5 GEL. For children under 8, it’s free of charge. You pay at the entrance of the bathhouse, so make sure you bring all the necessary items when you come to explore the park.
Enjoy views over Borjomi
When you are done with exploring the park, go back to the entrance and go on the Borjomi cable car to have panoramic views of the city and surrounding pine-covered forests. The ride takes a couple of minutes only and costs 5 GEL one way. There’s a restaurant at the top of the funicular and a Ferris Wheel behind it. The ride costs 1 GEL.
You can purchase the return ticket at the box office before you take the ride, or you can also hike down the hill, which will take around 30 minutes or so and will end up in Borjomi Central Park.
Hunt down abandoned Soviet sanatoriums in Likani
Likani, a small townlet next to Borjomi, is one of the three operational sections of mineral water in Borjomi after the town itself and Vashlovani-Kvibisi. Along with Borjomi, Likani was full of sanatoriums and hotels during Soviet times. There are around 9 operative springs in sections which are 1200-1500 meter deep. The major characteristic of warm (28-33C) mineral water spring in Likani is a unique combination of hydro-carbonates magnesium and calcium, and high quantities of natural carbonic acid gas.
There is a Likani Park where Romanov’s built their palace. The park features centennial oaks and pine trees along with decorative plants and small gardens within the territory. Unfortunately, the Palace is under construction and renovation in order to be open for visitors, so you can’t get inside or look at it from the distance.
The construction of this palace also stimulated building the first hydro-power plant in the Russian Empire in order to supply the summer mansion of the Royal Family with electric power.
The complex consists of seven buildings, from which the main building is built in Mauritanian style and has very unique architectural features – the construction has different forms from all sides.
During the Soviet times, a lot of first leaders of the countries used to come here for holidays and stay at the mansion including Joseph Stalin in 1951. They say Stalin stuck two nails in the Romanov study room, one on the desk to hang a cap and another on the wall for his tunic.
As we couldn’t visit the Romanov Palace, we decided to hunt down old Soviet sanatoriums in Likani. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty much the whole day, with only one or two hours of sun, so we managed to see only one with breathtaking mosaic which still holds intact.
How to get to Likani: You can take a minibus that stands near the bus stop at Meskheti street number 3. The price for one way ticket is 0.40 GEL and runs every 30 minutes. The also is a green bus to Likani that costs 0.20 GEL.
You will notice the building from the road, but in order to get to it, you need to follow both public transports to the final stop or until you see a bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the road, it’s quite easy to find.
There are IDPs currently living in the sanatorium, but no one will tell you anything for coming and admiring the Soviet piece of art.
And if interested in other abandoned sanatoriums, you can follow this map.
Go on a day trip to Bakuriani
Borjomi is also very close to one of the ski resorts of Georgia – Bakuriani. The snow-covered coniferous forests are absolutely stunning in winter. In summer months you can escape the hot days as a day trip from Borjomi and still enjoy those stunning mountain views.
An electrified narrow-gauge railway, we call Kukushka, connects Borjomi to Bakuriani. The train leaves from Borjomi railway station at 7:15 a.m and 10:55 a.m. On your way back, the Bakuriani Borjomi train leaves at 10 a.m and 2:15 p.m. It arrives in Borjomi at 1:20 p.m and 4:30 p.m. So it’s better to wake up early and catch the first one.
Visit old churches in Borjomi area
There are two important religious buildings within the Borjomi territory – Timotesubani and Mtsvane (Green) Monastery. The best way to visit those churches is by a taxi, otherwise, you’ll end up hiking a lot and won’t fit them in a half or one day tour.
Village Timotesubani is home to a well-preserved monument of Georgian architecture that dates back to the 12-13th centuries – Church of the Assumption. The church is 28 meters tall including the cross on its top. The church has unique murals and frescos inside that were painted in the 13th century and refers to the Golden Age of Queen Tamar’s reign.
The Green Monastery is nestled into the forest creating beautiful and tranquil scenery. The monastery complex includes a single-nave church and a bell tower of 15-16th centuries.
Hiking opportunity in Borjomi
Borjomi is home to a huge Borjom-Kharagauli National Park that spans around 851 sq. kilometers and features all the different trails for hiking and camping lovers who are either beginners or professionals. For detailed information about the trails and their length, check out their page. You will be treated with gorgeous nature with unique flora and fauna along the way.
Where to eat in Borjomi
During our stay in Borjomi, we managed to try to cafes for late lunch and dinner. Most of the time we ate at home. For a cheap bargain and tasty food, go to restaurant Borjomi located at Kostava square. There’s a lightbox that says Borjomi. You’ll need to go downstairs and it’s pretty much deserted.
We have noticed that the meals were not pre-made, even Khinkali, the chef started preparations the moment we ordered so it took a bit more time than expected but at least we got freshly cooked meals. For 20 pieces of Khinkali, a plate of spinach and eggplant Pkhali, french fries, and a bottle of coca-cola, we paid 28GEL.
Another cafe that we tried is called My Home and according to the Internet, it was supposed to be a cheap, budget-friendly place as well. We found that the meals were of average price and not cheap at all. For two burgers, mushroom cream soup, a salad, and a homemade kompot, we paid 42.90 GEL.
To freshen up a little bit during the hot summer days, we loved walking around with milkshakes from Rio, located on the way to the central park. Besides milkshakes, they have slushes, lemonade, mojito, and cold and warm coffees. The price of the small milkshake was 2.40 GEL and of the big 2.90 GEL and you could choose all the different flavors.
Once in Borjomi, definitely try a local delicacy – cone honey sold by the locals at different stalls all around the city. It surely has a very interesting taste.
Borjomi boasts with plenty of accommodation options starting from cheap guesthouses to four-star hotels. If you are up for a luxurious stay, try Crown Plaza Borjomi or Golden Tulip Borjomi hotels, but if you are after a budget-friendly place, try Guest House Khatuna. The owner is a super nice lady, friendly, and welcoming.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments down below, or connect with me on my social media channels. I will be happy to assist you as much as possible.