July 2015 and June 2016
If you happen to find yourself in the Republic of Georgia (you absolutely should!), make sure to see the mountains. I've seen mountains in North America as well as in the Europe so far, but nothing has compared to the Caucasus, particularly the section in Georgia. The way I can describe it is like this: image the Alps but bigger and without tourists, just locals and a few backpackers. They still feel wild and untamed, and are surrounded only by small Georgian farms and villages, not hotels, shopping centers, or other 'wonders' of the modern world.
Two of the most popular mountain destinations in the country are Mt. Kazbek (the one I unsuccessfully attempted to climb)* and a three-to-four day trek from the towns Mestia to Ushguli in the Svaneti region. Of the two, Kazbek is the easier one to get to, being just about three hours north of Tbilisi and with Marshrutkas going nearly every hour for 10 Lari ($4). If you do go here, most people just climb or take a car up to an old church overlooking the small town below, but I recommend definitely going further. If you climb, the church will take about an hour (maybe a little more depending on the weather) to get to, and for most people (lazy fools) that is enough, but if you have the adventure spirit, go higher! The tree line stops shortly after and there you can get incredible views of the surrounding mountains and valleys below. Plus, the crowd of people becomes exponentially smaller after the church, giving the romantic feel that you have the mountain all to yourself. That said, MAKE SURE TO CHECK THE WEATHER BEFORE YOU CLIMB! I was an idiot who didn't and got stuck in the cold rain for hours and was nearly struck by lighting on several occasions.
I recently made it up to Svaneti in the end of September/beginning of October, with the initial intention of doing the 3-4 day trek, but since everyone there seemed to be doing it, I decided to make something a bit different (climbing up a random mountain and hiking to different, lesser known villages in the area) which was awesome and entirely deserted. But if you're not as weird as me, the main trek is supposed to be really nice too. If you spread it out over the full four days, it is set up so you can stop in a different village each night, all the while being surrounded by 4000-5000 meter peaks. Some people prefer to camp, but I recommend staying with a family or at a guesthouse if you can. Sure it will cost a little more, but it is still cheap, and you just might be treated to one of the best dinners and breakfasts you've ever had. Georgians have a well deserved reputation for being incredibly hospitable, and I have never once been disappointed. That said, if you're an experienced trekker or in pretty good shape, you can complete the whole thing in three days, and I even met two guys who did it in two 10-hour days. Challenge perhaps?
There are a few other regions that are supposed to be pretty gorgeous and mountainous like Shatili and Tusheti, but I have not yet gotten to visit yet. They're much more rural and harder to get to, usually requiring a hired car. But if you can, you'll get a much more realistic picture of Georgia country mountain life without the distraction of tourism. Once I do go there, I'll update this page to include it.