According to local legend, when God was distributing the land amongst nations, Georgians were late because they had been busy feasting at their own banquet. When they finally arrived God said that there was no more land available to give them. The Georgians told God that they had arrived late because they had been toasting to His health, and they invited Him to join the banquet. God enjoyed himself so much in the Georgian’s company that he decided to give the Georgians the land that he had kept for Himself. Indeed, Georgia is a divine country!
The northern area of Georgia is covered by the Greater Caucasus mountain range with heights of up to 5000m above sea level. The highest peak is that of Mount Shkara at 5,068m. The second highest is Mount Kazbek at 5,047m. The Caucasus range is relatively young and is the result of tectonic movements that are still in process. The largest part of Georgia has a slow gradient incline, with sea levels rising over the lower plains of Kolkhida at an average of 13cm each century. The country observes high levels of seismic activity with earthquakes reaching up to 7 on the Richter scale in the eastern regions.
In the highlands ice-flows are typical. The western regions a made up of a Karst topography whilst in the east younger volcanic forms make up the landscape.
Georgia is home to the deepest cave in the former USSR; Snow Linn is 1,370m deep and lies in the Bzybski Mountains. Currently, this area is buried beneath 200m of snow. Another well-known cave is New Aphon in the Abkhazia region and prior to the Georgia-Abkhazia war was a popular tourist destination in Georgia. It is both the longest cave (3,285m) and holds the largest area of 49,565m2. Overall, there are around 500 known caves in the Greater Caucasus.
Lying between the Greater and Lesser Caucasus is the Kolkhida plain. It is triangular in shape with its base facing towards the Black Sea. Across the eastern plain the Kura River forms a valley. The Kholkhida plain is historically known as the place where the Argonauts were sent to find the Golden Fleece and was later described by the writer Konstantin Paustovski in his novel.
Rivers and Lakes
Georgia’s rivers flow into the Black Sea in the west and the Caspian Sea in the east. The Kura (Mtkvari in Georgian) River’s estuary flows out to the Caspian Sea and is the largest river in the Transcaucasia. The Mingechauri water dam is on this river. There are several estuaries across the Black sea coast, the main one being that of the Riono River which flows through the Kolkhida Valley. Georgia is home to a small number of lakes, most of which lie in the highlands of Dzhavakheti. Georgia’s most famous lake is Lake Ritsa, located in the Abkhazia region. It is 116m in depth, covers an area of 1.4km2 and is 882m above sea level.
Flora and Fauna
Georgia boasts a wide variety of flora, having 4,500 species of plant. The most common plants are Dioskeria, Pontic and Caucasus Rhododendron, Boxwood and Persimmons. More than a third of the country is covered by forest, and meadows stretch across 3,500m of non-forested areas. The main forests in Georgia are the Kolkhida broadleaf evergreen forest and the enormous pine tree forests of Pitsunda, Borjomi and Eastern Georgia.
Around 200,000 hectares of the Kolkhida Valley are covered by swamps. There are 15 nature reserves in the country, the most famous of which are Lagodekhski, Borjomi and Ritsinski.
There are over one hundred species of mammal in Georgia, 330 species of bird and 160 species of fish, with Eastern Georgia being home to many of these.
Until recently it was possible to sight the Persian gazelle in the area of the Shirak hills. Amongst Georgia’s predatory birds are recorded the lammergeyer, golden eagle, griffon and black vulture. In some areas of Kolkhida and Kakheti pheasants can also be sighted. The fauna in the highlands is protected by the Main Caucasus chain. In the western areas are found Caucasian sheep (whose horns are often used as wine vessels by merry-makers) and in the east, Dagestani sheep.
Georgia is rich in natural resources, such as oil, coal, peat, ore, copper, zinc, mercury, onyx, granite and limestone. Above all, its main natural resource comes from its mineral and thermal springs in Borjomi, Utsera, Dzau, Nabeglavi, Sairme, Zvare and Nunisi. Fifty resorts have been built around these springs, the most famous being Borjomi and Tskhaltubo.
Native land of Borjomi: