9 Traditional Festivals Unique to Georgia
Georgia is a country of rich, century-old traditions that actively root in the local culture. Here, you’ll find all the different festivals that are unique to the state. And as Georgians love celebrating everything from the birthday of Tbilisi to the harvesting of the grapes, festivals always feature food, music and good wine. There’s no way to experience the culture better than taking part in these celebrations.
New Wine Festival
A relatively new addition to the Georgian festival scene, New Wine Festival focuses on the wine made from the latest harvests. Spring is considered the time to unseal vessels of wine and bring them out for everyone to taste. The venue of the festival is changeable, as are the companies or family wineries who bring out their products. The festival fast gained popularity with increasing numbers of participants each year. Here, you can taste more than 60 varieties of Georgian wine, some of which are not even sold in the markets.
And as Georgians are obsessed with drinking and eating, there’s always a venue which serves mtsvadi (Georgian sashlik), fresh bread or other meals to keep you sober.
It’s not entirely a festival, more of a one-day celebration. But Mtskhetoba-Svetitskhovloba is one of the most important public holidays in the country. Marked
on October 14 each year, the event takes places in Mtskheta, and the origin can be traced back to the miraculous acquisition of Jesus Christ’s tunic – Georgia’s most significant relic.
Besides religious services held in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, the city marks the day with different festive events.
Even though the official day of the foundation of Tbilisi isn’t known, Georgians still celebrate it with the most significant events. The first Tbilisoba was held on October 28, 1979, and has been marked every last weekend of October ever since. It’s the time when harvest time is over, nature is changing color, and the weather is still warm. But for the past couple of years, the government has decided to move the celebrations to September, and the dates vary each time.
The central districts of the city are full of different vendors selling locally made products such as cheese, wine, spirits, vegetables, fruits, handmade clothes and accessories, honey, dried fruits, Churchkhela; everything you can ever think of. But the celebration is not all about food; you will experience theatrical performances from the country’s historical past, and dance and folk music shows, which end with a gala concert and fireworks.
Traditional Tushetian Cheese Festival
Besides medieval towers and gorgeous landscapes, the region of Tusheti is famous for its goat cheese. The festival is marked on the last week of May in Akhemta and attracts cheese producers from the nearby municipalities. Moreover, you can watch various sports activities, horse-race, handmade crafts and listen to local folk.
Held since 2003, Art-Gene is a traditional music festival held at the Ethnography Museum in Tbilisi. The festival features musicians specializing in traditional folk music, contemporary Georgian artists, and traditional dance troupes. Held in summer months, unlike other festivals in Georgia, Art-Gene is a week or more-day long celebration where locals come to enjoy nature, the evening summer breeze, and great music. During the day, you can wander through the stalls of handmade crafts, taste various meals and drink local wine or beer. There are plenty of possibilities to have a picnic with pleasant melodies in the background.
Held in the region of Tusheti, the festival celebrates the region’s cultural heritage. Traditionally, a horse race opens the event, and the winner gets a flag, and a sheep – locals are the main sheep breeders in the country. The region is a UNESCO World Heritage site distinguished by medieval towers, untouched villages and gorgeous landscapes. One of the best reasons to come to Tushetoba is to see how locals make the original Khinkali, the famous Georgian meat dumpling. And you might even want to try to make it yourself.
This religious and folk celebration held in Kakheti is also linked to the harvest festival. The festival name comes from the Alaverdi Cathedral where the whole ceremony takes place. The festivity lasts for several days and culminates on September 28, the day of the feast of St. Joseph Alaverdi, who was one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers and a founder of the 6th-century cathedral of his name.
A vintage and harvest holiday in Georgia is called Rtveli and usually starts in late September and ends in mid-October. Georgia has been producing wine for 8,000 years already and the tradition of Rtveli dates back to that time as well. Like in many other countries, wine producers used to crush the grapes by foot, and with today’s technology everything is easier, some of the winemakers try to preserve the tradition and let their grandkids press the small amount. And when the harvest is over, the Georgian’s sit down and have a feast to celebrate the mid-Autumn abundance.
Georgia produces a wide selection of cheese, and the best place to try all the different types is the Cheese Festival held in Tbilisi. Since 2015, Armenian and Azerbaijani cheese producers started to participate in the festival offering more cheese varieties to its visitors! You can try dambal-khacho (a soaked cottage cheese that is dried afterwards), goat’s cheese called Guda, tenili – tightly woven into a braid, or cheese dipped in oils, spices, wine, honey, flowers and much more
5 Music Festivals You Must Visit in Georgia
Summertime in Georgia means lots of sun, parties, and music festivals. Even though there are not many music festivals held in Georgia, every weekend there’s a party somewhere in Tbilisi. The best part is that there is such a variety, everyone can find a music festival of their taste. So here’s a list for you to consider when planning a summer trip to Georgia.
Black Sea Jazz Festival
As the title suggests, the Black Sea’s coastal city of Batumi is home to an international annual jazz festival, traditionally held in July. Founded in 2007, the scope of the festival broadens each year and now includes R&B, disco, hip-hop, sou,l and funk.
In previous years, the festival has brought such legendary artists as Lisa Stansfield, Macy Grey, Hugh Masekela & Band, Mike Stern Band, Jamiroquai, Sergio Mendes, Al Jarreau, Kool and the Gang, George Clinton, Lauren Hill, Snoop Dogg, and The Prodigy, to name a few.
Tickets sell out quickly, so be ready to purchase as soon as the organizers announce the lineup.
Tbilisi Open Air
Tbilisi Open Air is an annual international festival with an emphasis on rock and electronica. It was first held in 2009 and since then has continued to attract famous artists all over the world, including Air, Placebo, Morcheeba, Adriatique, Akvarium, Beth Hart, Stephan Bodzin, Archive, and Infected Mushrooms. The festival is usually three to four days long and is held somewhere in the great outdoors outside Tbilisi.
The event starts in the late afternoon and continues until morning. There are several stages in the area, each playing a different style of music before the main guest of the day takes over at the main stage. The area is full of food stalls, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops.
You can also camp here, as there’s a particular area designated for tents.
A relatively new addition to Georgia’s music scene, GEM Fest was first held in 2015. The name stands for Georgian Electronic Music Festival, and it is held in the Black Sea coastal town of Anaklia.
The first year of the festival brought in 123 international and Georgian artists, and 10,000 guests during the span of nine days. David August, Luciano, Ellen Allien, Boka Shade, M.A.N.D.Y, Armin Van Buuren, Who Made Who, Dubfire, and Tale of Us were among the artists. Next year, the festival scope will increase in size, bringing Paul Van Dyk, Mano Le Tough, Paul Kalkbrenner, Petre Insporescu, dOP, GusGus, Fedde Le Grand, and Dub FX to the stage.
If you’d like to listen to traditional and contemporary folk songs, watch the national dance ensemble and experience traditional culture, then Art-Gene festival is for you. Held since 2003, the festival traditionally takes place during the summer months at the Ethnography Museum in Tbilisi, located near Kust (Turtle) Lake. Unlike other festivals, Art-Gene lasts at least a week. It has become a place where locals and Tbilisi visitors come to escape hot summer days and enjoy local beverages in nature.
Tbilisi Jazz Festival
When the hot summer days are over, Tbilisi will prepare for another international jazz festival. Even though the festival has run continuously since 2000, the start of the new century was not the first time Tbilisi held a similar event. The first jazz festival here was held in 1978 and was called the “All-Soviet Jazz Festival.” It brought in 23 bands from 13 Soviet states and 30,000 audience members. Considered the biggest jazz event held in the USSR, the festival was held twice more in 1986 and again in 1989.
Since 2000, the festival has broadened its scope and now hosts soul, blues, and rock artists. The festival organizers are also responsible for the Black Sea Jazz Festival in Batumi. And similar to the Black Sea Jazz Festival, the tickets for Tbilisi Jazz Festival sell out fast, so be prepared.