Centuries-old traditions are actively rooted in the Georgian culture, where locals love celebrating any occasion, from gourmet, harvest, music to heritage. Some are unique to Georgia, while others are more modern and free-spirited.
For those who are interested in experiencing what Georgia is all about, here are some of the top festivals to attend both in Tbilisi and across the country.
Lamproba, or Lantern Festival, is an annual celebration in remote mountainous region of Svaneti. The origin of the event is linked to various symbols, and according to one interpretation, it was a pagan ritual to welcome spring and ask the deities for better weather and crops. Another suggests that the lamps were used to warm up the souls of the dead.
- Where: villages of Svaneti
- When: February or March, depending on the lunar calendar
This unusual and quirky festival has roots in pagan culture and is devoted to fertility and rebirth. People put on lambskin costumes decorated with colorful ribbons and improvise masqueraded folk play, where the scenes range from political satire to social protest.
- Where: villages of Kakheti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, and other regions across the country
- When: mid-March
New Wine Festival
As the name already suggests, the festival offers an abundance of wine from different entrepreneurs, family wineries, and big companies made from the latest harvest. Kvevri, the clay-jar Georgians make wine with, are opened in springtime, so wine-makers can let locals and foreigners taste their new creations.
- Where: Mtatsminda Park, Tbilisi
- When: early or mid May
Traditional Tushetian Cheese Festival
Apart from being famous for its gorgeous mountainous landscape and ancient towers, Tusheti is known for its goat cheese, as Tush traditionally are the sheep breeders. The festival brings cheese producers from all over the region to Akhmeta to sell their produce. Also, visitors can enjoy sports activities, buy handmade accessories, and watch folk performance.
- Where: Akhmeta, Kakheti
- When: end of May
Tbilisi Open Air/AlterVision
Rock and electronic music lovers will enjoy their time at Tbilisi Open Air, an annual international music festival bringing local and foreign artists to the stage. Vast open space, several stages for different performers, merchandise shops, camping ground, and plenty of food and drink bars are what await you here for three days.
- Where: Lisi Wonderland, Tbilisi
- When: late June or early July
Black Sea Jazz Festival
Sun, sea, and international jazz artists perfectly describe the scene of the Black Sea Jazz Festival, an annual event held in the coastal town of Batumi. Apart from famous and well-known jazz performers, the organizers invite soul, R&B, funk, disco, and hip-hop artists too. Macy Gray, Hugh Masekela, Sergio Mendes, Lisa Stansfield, and Al Jarreau, to name a few, performed on the Batumi tennis court stage.
- Where: Tennis Courts, Batumi
- When: mid or late July
Aiming to promote Georgian folk music and dance, the Art-Gene festival is a perfect place to experience Georgian culture without leaving the capital. You can wander through the traditional houses of different regions, craft stalls, food and drinks stands, and have a picnic in nature while enjoying some summer breeze.
- Where: Ethnography Museum, Tbilisi
- When: late July
Shatiloba is the annual festival of the oldest village in Khevsureti, a historical-ethnographic region near Chechnya border. The traditional fair held around Khevsur stone tower houses features traditional dance and music, folk crafts, feast and sporting events such as horse racing ad Georgian wrestling.
- Where: Shatili, Khevsureti
- When: August or September
Make a trip to the mountainous landscape dominated by medieval defense towers and secluded villages, watch the brave-hearted spirit of Tushs in action, and see how locals make the traditional Khinkali. The event starts with a horse race, where the winner gets a flag and a sheep as reward since the region is famous for being sheep breeders.
- Where: Omalo, Tusheti
- When: first Saturday in August (or last in July)
A cheese festival to try all the different dairy products made in various parts of the country. Small enterprises, factories, and farms, bring out their best cheese for the public that can’t be found in supermarkets, including dambalkhacho a dried cottage cheese, or tenili a tightly woven cheese braid.
Apart from Georgian cheese producers, Armenian and Azerbaijani manufacturers also showcase their products.
- Where: venue varies, either in Tbilisi or Mtskheta
- When: varies, either in summer or spring
Held in Beshumi resort, this annual festival is based on old traditions of the village Khulo. It features horse racing, arm wrestling, display of traditional costumes, wine made from grapes of mountainous Adjara, and regional dishes. You can also enjoy traditional regional folk music and dance of local ensembles.
- Where: Beshumi, Adjara
- When: first weekend in August
EchoWaves, a multi-genre music festival, is another event held at the Black Sea coast, bringing local and international DJs. With impressive installations, food and drink stalls, beautiful sunsets, and camping ground right at the beach, EchoWaves is a favorite for many underground music lovers. During the day, you can play sports or attend various workshops held on the grounds of the festival.
- Where: Anaklia beach, Samegrelo
- When: mid or late August
The annual festival that revives Gurians’ old tradition and passion for racing. Riders from all over the region compete in a circuit horse race which leads through Bakhmaro. It is the highlight of the holiday that marks the end of high summer.
- Where: Bakmaro, Guria
- When: August 19
The annual Laz festival has deep roots in an ancient holiday of the Lazeti region which was devoted to the cult of the sea. Kolkhoba revives this prehistoric holiday, and showcases the earlier lifestyle of Lazeti inhabitants and typical human interaction in the period of ancient Greece and Colchis. It comes with various theater performances and activities.
- Where: Sarpi, Adjara
- When: end of August or beginning of September
Rtveli is the season of harvesting grapes for the wine, and is thus one of the most significant events in the country. The date varies across different regions, but typically in late September in eastern Georgia and mid-October in western Georgia. It is possible for visitors to participate in harvesting and pressing. A celebratory feast usually follows the completion of the harvest.
- Where: various wine regions
- When: late September to mid October
Tbilisoba is one of the most significant festivals in the country. This two-day celebration is packed with Georgian music and dance performances, fireworks, handmade crafts, and an abundance of local produce such as fruits, vegetables, wines, cheeses, pickles, sweets and other treats.
- Where: Tbilisi Old Town (main) and different parts of the city
- When: first weekend of October
Happen to have festivals going on when you get in town? Take advantage of optional stayovers at any of the stops along the route with your Karavanly travel pass, and enjoy some extra days of fun before continuing your ride!