So, let me guess. You radomly popped into some tiktok about the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, and were intrigued to find more about it. Or maybe you decided to visit Georgia, and want to see more than just the capital, Tbilisi.
If it has not been clear yet, this guide will take you through Gori, Georgia. Here, you’ll find everything you minght need to know about this charming city, and what makes it more than just “Stalin”.
What is Gori?
Gori is a small city located in the eastern part of Georgia. It holds a unique place in history as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, the infamous Soviet leader. Due to this, it has seen massive growth in tourism in recent years, attracting travelers eager to learn more about its intriguing, yet somewhat dark historical past.
But beyond its historical links, Gori is a taste into the real Georgia, away from the hustle and bustle of its capital, Tbilisi. As we’ll discuss later, it’s much more than the Stalin Museum, and will surely defy all your expectations.
A Little Bit of History?
Gori is believed to have been established in the early Bronze Age, and it was at its peak throughout the classical and medieval periods.
It was the Mongols’ invasion in the 13th century that brought a significant part of Gori under their rule. Afterwards, the city witnessed several more rulers, such as the Ottomans and Russians, all of them greatly influencing its historical legacy.
In its recent history, Gori is most noted for being the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, who led the Soviet Union from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953.
Today, its historical significanceand architecture make it a very popular travel destination in Georgia, if not one of the most.
What is the best time to visit Gori, Georgia?
While Gori is an all year-round destination, the ideal time for visiting largely depends on your preferences. Regardless of the season, the area offers amazing natural beauty and historical sites.
If you appreciate warm weather and like to explore outdoor attractions, late spring to early autumn (May through October) is your preferred time. The weather is generally sunny and the temperature tends to be mild, providing the best conditions for sightseeing and exploring the nature.
Summers are generally hot, but Gori’s high altitude keeps the city comparatively cooler than other regions of Georgia. I personaly believe that it is the perfect time for visiting outdoor attractions such as the Uplistsikhe Cave Town and the Gori Fortress.
On the other side, if you want to have a unique, quieter holiday experience, winter (December through February) can be a good time. Although it’s colder and has occasional snowfalls, the sight of snow-covered landscapes and fewer tourists could make your trip worth it.
Is Gori safe to visit?
Gori is a very safe place for travelers. The locals are very kind, hospitable, and willing to help if you need directions or have any questions.
One of the first things that has to come to your mind when planning a trip is insurance.
Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance is one of the best options available out there. With a maximum coverage of 365 days, they are a great option whether you are a Nomad or not! They offer very low rates, but excellent coverage and immediate support (in a few minutes!). The best part? Nomad Insurance can be purchased even if you have left your home country already.
Lastly, they also cover extreme sports, something that can come in very handy if you are an adventurous soul.
As with any location, it’s wise to keep an eye on your belongings and stay cautious at night, but generally, you will find this city safe and welcoming.
Hospitality is deeply rooted in Georgian culture, and Gori could not be any different.
Can I visit Gori on a day trip from Tbilisi?
Gori is actually a perfect location for a day trip from Tbilisi. The journey from Tbilisi to Gori is only about 86 kilometers (approximately 53 miles) and takes roughly 1.5 hours, or even less if you’re taking a fast train or private vehicle. This means you’ll have plenty of time to explore the main attractions and get a taste of the local cuisine.
What I would suggest is combining your trip from Tbilisi to Gori with a stop in Mtskheta and Uplistsikhe. It is a very common route among travelers, and (providing that you start before 10-11), you will have plenty of time to explore all 3 places. They are all quite small, so combining them is the perfect solution.
To achieve this itinerary, I recommend hiring a driver through GoTrip. It is a budget friendly and convenient option that will make your trip a lot easier. You have either the option to get back to Tbilisi by the end of the day, or stay in Gori and leave the day after with public transport. We spent the night there and did not regret it a bit!
Another way to do is is through a planned day trip through GetYourGuide, a world known online platform. Its safe, easy to use, and take all the planning away from you.
How can I get to Gori from Tbilisi?
Considering that most visitors travel to Gori from Tbilisi, that’s what we are going to cover in this piece. There are many different options available to you.
One of the most comfortable ways to travel to Gori from Tbilisi is by train. You can relax and enjoy the beautiful countryside of Georgia. Trains run regularly throughout the day from the main railway station in Tbilisi, and the journey typically takes about an hour and a half.
By Bus or Marshrutka
An alternative to the train is a bus or a Marshrutka (Georgian minibus). Buses to Gori depart from both the Didube Bus Station and Ortachala Bus Station in Tbilisi throughout the day. A Marshrutka is actually a quicker option, although it can be a bit more crowded.
By Car or Taxi
If you prefer a more private and flexible travel option, renting a car can be an excellent choice. The drive to Gori takes approximately one hour via the E60 highway. You can rent a car from many different agencies in Tbilisi. Alternatively, you can also take a taxi (I would not recommend that), but make sure to negotiate the price before the journey.
What I would recommend, as I wrote above, is hiring a driver through GoTrip. You can easily book a driver through the GoTrip platform and the cost, while varying based on duration and route, can be as affordable as $30 for a full day.
Furtermore, you can choose the itinerary, so you can combine your trip from Tbilisi with a stop to the ancient city of Mtskheta and the Cave town of Uplitsikhe!
To pick the right driver, you can read their reviews and choose what’s best for you. Amazing, isn’t it?
Good news: Contrary to larger cities, Gori is highly walkable. All the main attractions and best hotels are nearby, so you don’t have to get any other means of transportation to move around.
However, if you’re traveling beyond the city center or wish to save time, both taxis and public transportation are readily available and affordable. During our trip to Georgia, Bolt was our go-to app for transportation. Through it, taxi ride rates are fixed and extremely cheap. However, if you decide to take a taxi the traditional way, make sure to negotiate the fare before starting the ride.
If, on the other hand, you’re driving, keep in mind that free parking spaces are available near most major attractions.
Where is the BEST place to stay in Gori?
If you’re in search of the best place to stay in Gori, Georgia Gold Hotel proves to be an excellent choice. Located in the centre of the city (Outside the Stalin Museum), this place has everything you could’ve asked for.
The rooms are big, luxurious, and equipped with air conditioning, wifi, and flat screen TVs. They also offer bath robes to make your stay even more comfortable! The hotel also has a pool and a gym.
The hotel staff was kind and always helpful. The best part? We only paid $35/night for a king size bed room! Believe me, I cannot recommend this hotel enough!
What are the Must Things to do in Gori?
When you’re in Gori, there’s no shortage of exciting sights and activities to immerse yourself in. Here are few must-see attractions that will give you a memorable experience:
No visit to Gori is successful without visiting the Stalin Museum, the city’s main attraction. As intriguing as it is controversial, this museum is housed in a beautiful neo-classical building that draws your attention immediately.
Opened in 1957, it was originally constructed as a tribute to the city’s famous son, Joseph Stalin. A highlight of the building is surely the marble sculpture of Stalin in the entrance, offering you a small taste of what awaits inside.
The museum offers a unique view of Stalin’s life and also describes the Soviet Era in Georgia. It includes three sections, the museum itself, Stalin’s birth house enclosed within a temple-like structure, and the train carriage, used by Stalin from 1941 until his death in 1953.
The various exhibits inside the museum tell a chronological story of Stalin’s life, from his early days to his rise and rule as the Soviet Union leader. Notable exhibits include personal objects, gifts received from other important figures of the era, and a massive collection of paintings and photos.
Upon entering the museum, you’ll need to purchase a ticket, with entry fee being approximately 10 GEL. There is an option for a guided tour at an additional charge. English speaking guides are usually available, and they can offer a deeper understanding of the complex historical issues presented by the museum.
The Stalin museum is definitely an exploration into a controversial slice of history that never fails to provoke thought and discussion among its visitors. I had an amazing time there and I would surely recommend it.
The Gori Fortress is an impressive medieval castle that stands above Gori, overseeing the city below. Its origins date back to the 13th century, though it has been rebuilt numerous times due to military invasions and natural disasters. The location was strategically chosen as the fortress controls important local trade routes from east to west.
Right below the fortress stands the Memorial of Georgian War Heroes, designed by the renowned Georgian sculptor, Giorgi Ochiauri. This beautiful monument is a tribute to the brave Georgian soldiers who fought and sacrificed their lives for their country.
The memorial features eight giant soldier figures in a circle, all seated on their own stone blocks. You might notice that some figures are missing limbs – This serves as a representation of the brutal reality of war. Interestingly enough, some of the soldier figures are also faceless. The sculptures are the perfect stop before heading to the Gori Fortress!
When you visit the fortress, there’s a steep but relatively short walk to the top. Once there, you’ll be able to enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the peaceful Mtkvari rive. Despite much of its original structure being in ruins, the walls and remaining parts of this monument provide a great taste of Georgia’s past. A visit to the Fortress during the golden hour should be your go-to!
The Gori old town
Walking through the old town of Gori is like taking a step back in time. Unlike the modernization that many other cities in Georgia have experienced, Gori’s old town has managed to maintain its authentic style and beauty.
The old town of Gori is home to many historically significant buildings, including the Gori Cathedral and the Great Synagogue. The Cathedral, built in the 19th century, is a beautiful example of classical Georgian architecture, while the Synagogue serves as an important symbol of Gori’s Jewish community.
While exploring the old town, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Gori Market. This-packed with people- local market will give you a taste of everyday life in Gori. Gori Market is the perfect place to try fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade cheeses and wines.
Passing outside of the Gori Town Hall is another must. This impressive building is a great example of the classic Soviet architecture. Take some time to admire it, before you continue your walk.
What you are certainly not ready for, are the tens of dogs ready to follow you. They are (mostly) very friendly, and they make an amazing companion. In fact, two dogs spent the most of the day with us- They even followed us till the top of the Gori Fortress!
However, you always have to be careful, as they are not domesticated and might not be vaccinated andn therefore, germ-free. By taking some basic precautions, you’ll enjoy an amazing company. The toughest part is saying goodbye, as it might be hard for them to leave you.
Lastly, walking around the old town offers a unique opportunity to interact with the local people of Gori. Known for their kindness and hospitality, the locals are always willing to share their stories and give you a true taste of their culture. So, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with them!
The Great Patriotic War Museum
The Great Patriotic War Museum is a less-known museum that deserves a spot on your Gori itinerary. This war museum concentrates on the events of the Second World War, also known as the Great Patriotic War (This is actually the name it got on the Eastern Front where Georgian soldiers predominantly fought).
While visiting the museum, you’ll get to see an extensive collection of war memorabilia. From military uniforms and weapons to photographs and personal letters from soldiers, the collection aims to provide an in-depth view of the war’s impact on Georgia.
Aside from the main exhibits, the museum also features a beautiful monument dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the Great Patriotic War outside.
Whilst smaller and (architectually) less impressive than the Stalin Museum, I enjoyed it equally. It is surely something not to be missed.
The Uplistsikhe Cave Town
Uplistsikhe (which actually translates to ‘the Lord’s Fortress’), is an ancient rock town near Gori. It dates back to the Late Bronze Age and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the Iron Age, it was established as a place for pagan worship, and remained so until the adoption of Christianity in the 4th century AD. Uplistsikhe went through many ups and downs in its history, particularly due to invasions and natural disasters. The city suffered significant damage following the invasion by the Mongols in the 13th century.
Something impressive that is not heard enough (I was shocked to find out) is that Uplistsikhe was one of the key stops on the Silk Road. It was later largely abandoned and only rediscovered in the 19th century.
Archeologists have since discovered many treasures, including plenty of ancient artifacts. An on-site museum offers you the chance to see most of them, and learn more about the life and culture of the people who lived there thousands of years ago.
This will actually also be the first part of your tour. After you get some basic knowledge about the site, you are ready to start exploring. The town’s many sights include giant rock-cut structures (like cave homes), a pagan temple, a Christian basilica from the 9th-10th centuries, secret tunnels, and even wine cellars!
Expect to spend around 1-2 hours for the visit, but do keep in mind that the site is exposed, and it can get quite hot in the summer months, so make sure to bring a hat and some water.
For wine enthusiasts, there’s an exciting option to upgrade your experience at Uplistsikhe with a wine tour. This additional feature gives you a unique opportunity to try the delicious local wine of the region. The ticket for this includes both entrance to the Cave Town and the wine tour, priced at 30 GEL per adult.
This should be the ticket of your choice, as you’ll get to experience many different types of wine and combine them with some local cheese. I had a wonderful experience there and I’d definitely do it again.
The opening hours for Uplistsikhe are from 10 am to 6 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. The Cave Town remains closed on Mondays. If you plan your visit during the summer (May to September), you can enjoy extended hours from 10 am to 7 pm. The entrance fee is 15 GEL for adults and 5 GEL for students, while children under the age of 6 can enter for free.
To visit Uplistsikhe (if you have no car available), you can either take a taxi or get to it as part of your GoTrip.
Where to eat in Gori
If you only have one day in Gori, this restaurant should be your go-to. Shin Da Gori is home to some of the best traditional Georgian dishes I’ve ever had.
The restaurant offers a very traditional and cozy interior, and a beautiful courtyard for the summer Months. For me, they are home to some of the best Adjarian Khachapuri in the country! Their Pkhali and vegetable stew are also delicious. Don’t forget to try the Apple with walnut sauce desert, it’s godly!
While the restaurant’s location is not the nearest to the center, it is worth every step. From there, you can start your walk to the Gori Fortress with your batteries full.
What are the traditional dishes to try in Gori?
When traveling to Gori, you must not miss the opportunity to taste some of its traditional Georgian dishes.
A popular delicacy to start with is the ‘Gori Lobiani’. It’s a delicious bean-filled bread, famous in all of Georgia but each region putting their unique spin on it – Gori’s version is known for its special spicew and flaky crust.
If you have a sweet tooth, ‘Churchkhela’, a traditional Georgian candy often also called the Georgian ‘Snickers’, is a must-try. It made from nuts, flour, and grape juice, and is quite unique to this region.
Another dish exclusive to Gori is ‘Gomi’, a dish usually paired with cheese and sometimes various meats. It is made from white cornmeal, slowly stirred until it achieves a thick, creamy consistency. The texture can be likened to Italian polenta or American grits. It’s typically served with a side of sulguni cheese, which melts and creates a perfect result.
Final Thoughts – Is Gori Worth Visiting?
Gori is definitely a very interesting place to visit. When coming here I had little-to-no expectations (well, despite the Stalin Muserum). However, I was pleasantly surprised by this little georgian city.
Gori is rich in both history and culture, offering a plethora of attractions for every type of traveler, and let’s not forget the delicious local cuisine. Watching the locals go out in the parks with their families in the afternoon created so many beautiful emotions. I had a wonderful time there and I would surely consider spending more days next time.