Sunday, September 22nd 2019

Borjomi: Mineral water & The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

Borjomi is a small resort town in south-central Georgia very often overlooked by visitors to Georgia. Alternatively people spend only one night here. Just few come here to explore the town and the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

Borjomi is very famous for its mineral waters all over ex-Soviet Union. During Soviet time the town was a popular resort among communist party leaders.

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The Borjomi springs were discovered by the Imperial Russian military in the 1820s. They were made famous throughout the Russian Empire, making Borjomi a popular tourist destination. The history of the brand is closely associated with the Russian imperial dynasty of Romanov. By the 1890s, Borjomi was bottled in the Georgian estates of Grand Duke Mikhail of Russia. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent Soviet takeover of Georgia, the Borjomi enterprise was nationalized and the water was made into a top Soviet export.

Borjomi is a naturally carbonated mineral water from springs in the Borjomi Gorge. It is a water of volcanic origin which is over 1,500 years old. It is pushed up to the surface from 1500m below ground by natural carbon dioxide pressure.

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Unlike many other people we spent 3 nights in Borjomi on transit from Svaneti to Tbilisi.

There are two main attractions in Borjomi:

  1. Borjomi water park
  2. Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

Borjomi water park is located close to the central park and the railway station. The entrance to the park is 1Lari.

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The park combines mineral water springs and entertainment facilities. Plus there is a swimming pool where drinking water is used for swimming (entrance – 11Lari for a whole day).

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If you continue walking along the river till the end of the entertainment park and further, in about 2km you will come to a hot spring pool. It is actually not that hot, rather warm. Good news: you can have a dip in the water for free.

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Besides the roller-coasters and the pools the main attraction of this park is the mineral water springs. Local people come here to get their drinking water. The water in the main spring (photo below) is warm and a bit salty. There are other springs with fresh water which has no strong taste. Close to the entrance and on the way to the park plenty of stalls sell empty plastic bottles of various volumes.

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On the right from the entrance there is a cable car station. You can have a ride for 1,5Lari up to the cliffs hanging above the Borjomi park. The cable cabin is quite and during ascent & descent produces sounds from similar to those of first minutes of a horror film. I am usually not very paranoid but was happy to reach the top station, and later the bottom one.

There is nothing much on top of the hills besides a restaurant and a small Ferris Wheel, which I would not risk to ride ;-)) due to the same age as the cable car system.  At least you will get a good view from the cable car or viewpoint platform over the town.

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The area between the mineral water park and the central park along the river is nice place for an evening stroll. There are some renovation works at the moment (summer 2012) but this part of the town will look really great once they are over.

If you have an extra day to fill with something you can take a ride on an old school train to Bakuriani. Although there is nothing much to do there locals say that the way there and back is very spectacular.

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If you are into hikes you will be pleasantly surprised by the great hiking opportunities of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

According to the park’s website the Borjomi-Kharagauli National park is one of the largest in Europe – it covers more than 85,000 hectares of native forest and sub-alpine and alpine meadows, home to rare species of flora and fauna. A network of trails invites you to experience the stunning variety of blossoming plants, breathtaking views and a magical atmosphere.

The park offers 9 hiking trails; a network of which allows hiking trips ranging from one day up to one week. Along the trails, there are four tourist shelters with basic facilities and furnishings. You will need a sleeping bag and possibly a tourist mat. There are no indoor cooking facilities only fireplaces. 

The National Park administration centers are located in Borjomi and Kharagauli. You should visit one of them to get your entrance permit and a free hiking map. To reach the center in Borjomi follow the main road from the bus station in the direction of Akhaltsihke (opposite to Khashuri). The personnel in the center is helpful and will answer all your questions. I was actually quite surprised that this park is the least famous hiking area as opposed to Kazbegi and Svaneti, and has the best information system with the tourist office, great web-site and quality maps. Svaneti info point’s personnel seemed a bit grim, and maps provide very little details. In Kazbegi there is not info point and you can buy a hiking map of the area from a tour agency for 10-14Lari.

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We have done the easiest and the shortest hike but I am sure that the park offers gorgeous landscapes to those who love hiking.

What to do in Borjomi if you stay for several days:

  1. Visit the mineral water park and drink Borjomi water
  2. Dip yourself in hot spring pool
  3. Swim in the big swimming pool
  4. Take the cable car to Borjomi Eye
  5. Take a scenic train ride to Bakuriani
  6. Hike in the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park

If you go hiking to the park please share with us your impressions and pictures, as I still think of going back to the park for some proper hiking. Enjoy!

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