Thirty kilometres up a winding road through pine-clad hills southeast of Borjomi, Bakuriani is the cheaper, and more locally popular, of Georgia’s two main ski resorts (the other being Gudauri in the Caucasus).
Established in 1932 at 1,700m, Bakuriani is still largely a traditional village, subsisting on grazing and logging, with large hotels built in the last two or three decades set at a respectful distance across the subalpine meadows. There's snow from November to March, or even May, with the heaviest falls in December; in January the average temperature is -7.2°C, but in August it's a pleasant 15°C, making it ideal for walking.
Developed in Soviet times as a training centre for Olympic skiers, its facilities declined after the Soviet collapse but are now being improved again. The Bakuriani area is also good for picturesque walks in summer. The climate here is subalpine, with snow usually falling from December to the end of March, but it also has long, warm summers and high ultraviolet radiation.
There’s a Tourist Information Centre (bakuriani.cenn.ge; Aghmashenebeli 1; 10am-6pm Mon-Fri) at this corner, where you can find out about good summer walking routes.
There's a 1.3km run (very difficult at the top) on Kochta Gora (Pretty Hill; 2,255m) and also ski jumps; an old lift takes you to a restaurant and the radio masts on top. Behind, on the next peak south, is the 'Tatra-Poma' lift (owned and renovated by the Kazbegi brewery) by the Trialeti Palace Hotel, which has a good restaurant. You can also take a 3.5km run from the top of Mount Tskhra-Tskharo (2,711m) and from Mount Imerlebi (2,500m). The new Didveli slope is 3km to the southwest at the end of Davit Aghmashenebelis. It's owned by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili (who became a prime minister in October 2012 and is due to become the next president after Saakashvili a year later), who provided free skiing for the first season (when the lift was not yet open to the top). There's an eight-person Leitner gondola and a quad Doppelmayr chairlift here, and four interconnecting pistes, between 1,200 and 2,200m long. It's also possible to skate on a natural pond in January and February.
Unusually for a ski resort, Bakuriani also has a fine alpine Botanical Garden, founded in 1910 and reached through the green gates opposite house No 50 at km25.9 on the road to Borjomi; in an area of 17ha they have over 800 subalpine species of flowering plants, including around 100 trees and shrubs.
Getting There & Away
Buses from Borjomi take under an hour, while the trains, covering 37km, take much longer. Marshrutkas leave at one- to two-hour intervals through the day; the last one back from Bakuriani is at 17.00. The train journey is a fascinating and very cheap alternative but very slow, taking around 2,5 hours in either direction compared with the 40-50 minutes of the marshrutka. Departures are at 07.15 and 11.15 from Borjomi, returning at 10.10 and 14.10, although there may be seasonal variations on these times. Fares are collected on board and you are more or less guaranteed a seat. Direct buses and marshrutkas from Tbilisi's Didube station take between 2,5 and 3 hours. A taxi from Borjomi to Bakuriani or vice versa costs 20 GEL to 25 GEL.