For those of you who would love to discover Georgia on your own path and see both hidden and top attractions of the country, the Karavanly travel company offers exactly that. With a wide range of possibilities and experiences tailored to your taste, a trip with them guarantees memories you’ll cherish for a long time. As I don’t share anything that I have not experienced myself unless otherwise stated, here’s my review of Karavanly and what it offers as part of their press trip organized this August.
Disclaimer: I was part of the media tour organized by the organization, but all opinions are, as always, my own.
Not your typical travel agency
Karavanly travel company offers organized tour packages to discover Georgia and the Caucasus with a novel method and hassle-free. They cater to travelers who like to be in charge of their itineraries and routes they’d prefer to explore.
The strategy is simple: imagine a ‘hop on hop off’ bus ride to the top attractions and hidden gems with the flexibility to go with your own schedule and desire. Therefore, you are free to make last-minute changes whenever you feel you’d like to explore more. Once you are ready to continue the journey, the next scheduled bus will pick you up at a designated spot.
One more fact that differentiates Karavanly from other travel companies is introducing you to the local communities of small towns and villages of remote areas, artisanal workers, and small enterprises to give back to the community. Most of those cultural visits might be hard to organize yourself due to the logistics. To some places, our public transportation system is not well established, or there is no information about them on the internet.
As a Georgian, I did learn a lot from these visits and met incredible people that I didn’t know about. Such visits enable us to learn more about these communities, what difficulties they face, and what their every day looks like.
A way to meet new travelers
Tours of Karavanly are characterized as group tours, but not in a traditional way. Their group size is small, around 8-10 people, and constantly changing due to their nature of being a ‘hop on hop off’ approach. So whenever you board on a bus, you might meet a new person, which adds more fun to the experience and expands your network of like-minded people.
Currently, they have five packages or ‘travel passes’ as they call it:
- Georgia Kaleidoscope
- Black Sea Express
- Highland Essential
- Getaways Connect
- A Brief Glimpse
Due to the nature of Karavanly, the passes include comfortable transportation, lunch at a local family, entrance fees to the attractions, paid activities such as visiting various workshops, and a tour guide. You have the flexibility to book your own accommodation – be it vibrant hostels, homey guesthouses, or boutique hotels – along the way and have the chance to savor local restaurant fare of your choice as you arrange other meals of the day except for lunch.
The passes are somewhat similar in terms of the attractions. Still, they are tailored according to where you want to start and end the journey, Tbilisi, Batumi, or Kutaisi, what experiences you want to have, and how many days you can spend traveling in Georgia.
Which pass should you choose?
As mentioned above, the biggest advantage of Karavanly is its travel passes and itineraries tailored to your taste and schedule, so you are absolutely free to customize them to your liking before or during your trip.
Unlike many Georgian companies’ websites, Karavanly’s site has all the information you’ll need to create the itinerary. It’s very user-friendly and provides full information of the day with landmarks without giving out too many details.
For the full experience to discover Georgia with them, I would suggest the Georgia Kaleidoscope Itinerary that spans for a minimum of 9 days but can be extended depending on your schedule. It includes visits to more than 36 attractions, experiences, and scenic spots all across the country, showing you less traveled Samtskhe Javakheti, Meskheti, Upper Adjara, Racha, abandoned Sanatoriums in Tskaltubo, and Kist community in Kakheti’s far east, to name just a few.
If you have a few days to spare in Georgia, you can take a Highland Essentials Pass that lasts for 5-6 days driving through the mountainous areas of Stepantsminda, Racha, and Pankisi Gorge while stopping at notable attractions along the way.
Alternatively, there’s a 3-4 day pass called A Brief Glimpse taking you on a short trip outside of Tbilisi exploring mountains and tasting wine while visiting around 12 exciting spots along the way.
I also noticed that the bus drives through less-traveled roads when possible compared to the popular highways to maximize your experience and see the truly unseen side of Georgia.
How to buy the pass?
Buying the pass on the website is pretty straightforward. All the instructions are provided as you choose and customize your tour.
Once you decide which travel pass you want to buy, the fun process of customizing the tour starts. You add the rides on your preferred date to the cart as if you are shopping for something online. Every ride has detailed information provided right there with departure time and location, as well as a brief list of stops and places to visit.
Afterward, you are asked to fill out all the necessary personal information for the trip, such as contact email, date of birth, passport number, etc. Then, you choose from the drop-down menu which location you would like to be picked up. Once done with all the steps, review your purchase, sit back, and wait for the trip to start.
Note that, during the trip, you will get email notifications about the following departure and meetup points so that you can stay informed and organized.
Meeting local entrepreneurs and artisanal workers
The incorporation of local communities is truly an advantage of Karavanly travel company to take you to the best source of Georgian culture, history, and traditions. During your trip, you’ll meet exceptional people that take part in shaping their communities for the better, work to revive lost and forgotten meals of Georgia, and follow family traditions for five generations.
At family lunches, you’ll experience true Georgian hospitality the country is famous for with an abundance of delicious, homemade meals native to the region and ethnic group that is very hard to find in Tbilisi or other bigger cities, big smiles, and open hearts.
To give you a short spoiler alert, you’ll meet a family who revives almost lost Meskhetian hand-pulled string cheese called Tenili (my absolute favorite, btw), learn how tea came to Georgia and it’s production scope during the Soviet Union, watch how qvevri, the clay vessel to ferment our traditional wine, is being made and what process it undergoes before selling to winemakers, make your own Khinkali, etc. The possibilities and experiences are endless.
Karavanly abides by COVID regulations
2020 is a strange year so far; we live in one of the craziest times of the 21st century. With the new regulations imposed on traveling companies and everyone in the tourism and hospitality industry, Karavanly takes these measures seriously.
Every time you board the bus, your temperature will be measured and monitored. Wearing a mask during your trip inside the bus is mandatory. And as it’s not allowed to turn on the air-conditioning, all the windows will be open during the trip. The transport is run at 50% passenger capacity with frequent contact surfaces of the interior regularly sanitized.
In terms of cultural visits, overnight stays, and family lunches, Karavanly adapts and offers those places that comply with the governmental regulations and the company’s own added measures to keep travelers and local communities as safe as possible.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Georgia travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
- Book affordable flights on Skyscanner, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
- Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Georgia, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
- Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda, or find a cool apartment on Airbnb!
- Pre-book a private car transfer from Tbilisi Airport to your hotel
- Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
- Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here