In the months between December and April, the world’s slopes come alive as thousands descend for snow pursuits, fresh mountain air and cosy alpine vibes. In Europe, the most lauded resorts include France’s Courchevel and Switzerland’s Verbier, Zermatt and St Moritz, and while popular from the GCC, there’s one underrated ski resort that’s much closer to – Gudauri.
Nestled in Georgia‘s Caucasus Mountains, Gudauri ski resort is the largest, most famous and most developed ski resort in the Balkans – around a two-hour drive from the capital Tbilisi (an affordable 3.5-hour flight direct from Dubai). The resort lies 2,200 metres above sea level on the south-facing plateau of the Greater Caucasus Mountains (a range home to the highest peak in Europe) and offers beautiful sweeping views of snow-carpeted valleys, making it a year-round destination in itself, though the ski season is its most popular.
Once a small and sleepy village catering almost entirely to the domestic market, Gudauri ski resort has grown in recent years thanks to a new wave of modern hotels, restaurants and a growing nightlife scene attracting keen alpinists and partygoers alike. Though still small and growing, it’s a fantastic place for affordable skiing and can also be combined with a night or two in Tbilisi for a charming city break. Snow sports-wise, there are 34.8 km of slopes (largely intermediate) and 15 lifts, plus ample spots to hire equipment. Due to Gudauri’s geographical position, snowfall isn’t as guaranteed as the more northerly alpine resorts, so make sure to check the weather before planning a trip for December or January – February onwards is a safe bet.
Where to stay in Gudauri
Gudauri Lodge is one of the ski resort’s most modern and universally premium ski resorts, nestled in the mountainside and ski slopes and within walking distance to restaurants, shops and bars. The ski-in/ski-out hotel beautifully blends modern architecture with Georgian design, and highlights include soaring windows offering frame views of the mountain, a cosy public space with fireplace and clean and minimalist rooms with wooden floors and modern furniture. There’s an indoor swimming pool and spa – framed by the same floor-to-ceiling windows, plus a bubbling warm outdoor pool for more mountain views. A Georgian restaurant serves elevated traditional cuisine and boasts a remarkable Georgian wine selection, while a cool concept store and fully-stocked ski rental shop service all your snow-sport needs.
Monte Hotel is another fantastic option for lovers of minimalist, squeaky-clean, hygge-style hotels. The property is one of the highest rated in Guadauri ski resort, with a sprawling outdoor terrace, beautiful mountain views and neutral rooms with slippers and TVs with satellite channels (dental kits and cosy bathrobes are also available, on request). There’s no pool, but a jacuzzi and Scandi-style sauna with views of the slopes are available for an extra charge. Guests will also love the games room with billiards, table tennis, table football, darts and more, a restaurant serving Georgian and international fare and a continental breakfast cosy bar. This isn’t a ski-in ski-out hotel, but there’s a scheduled shuttle service to the nearby ski lift.
For a premium, minimalist, clean and modern resort, complete with all the necessary facilities and an affordable price tag, look no further than Gudauri Loft. The popular ski-in ski-out hotel sits on the slopes and is just 450 metres from the nearest ski life, with its own on-site ski rental outlet. Interiors are modern but quirky – reminiscent of an upmarket hostel in the likes of Berlin or Paris – and rooms are available with additional bunk and sofa beds – perfect for families. The property is one of the most well-equipped in Gudauri and has a large indoor swimming pool and spa, framed by loungers and floor-to-ceiling glass offering beautiful mountain views, a sauna, steam room, large, canteen-like restaurants and a slick wine bar.
Where to eat and drink in Gudauri
Gudauri’s dining scene is on the up, with the standards in recent years significantly improving. There are plenty of restaurants and bars dotted across the mountainside and town, largely serving Georgian cuisine – though lots of international options are available. Traditional comfort food includes khachapuri (cheese-stuffed bread) and khinkali (Georgian dumplings) – both must tries – and dishes typically feature the likes of matsoni (yoghurt) and herbs like tarragon, parsley, dill and coriander, along with rich fillings of walnuts and garlic.
For Georgian cuisine, head to Magi Style Restaurant, a cosy traditional restaurant serving khinkali, lobio and local trout in a cosy dining room and terrace with friendly service and a cosy atmosphere. Gamarjoba is another favourite for Georgian fare – its 25 Georgian lari (about AED35) breakfast buffet is incredibly popular, and there’s a great vibe at both lunch and dinner time, plus it makes a fantastic gluhwein. For more Western-style cuisine, there’s Powder Bar Gudauri, described as the ‘first craft bar‘ in Gudauri and drawing crowds with lively music and friendly service, plus a great cocktail and wine menu – heavily featuring Georgian wines.
Gudauri is popular with a younger crowd, with young Georgian pilin gin in their droves for fun weekend escapes on the slopes, and as a result, the apres and nightlife scene is on the rise. For a lively apres, head to Gudauri Travel Bar, the town’s after-ski spot with a warm and lively indoor bar. Other apres spots include Cafe Vitamin Gudauri – which has a large group of tables out in the snow and a lively and infectious atmosphere. Gudauri’s most famous dining and nightlife spot, however, is the Drunk Cherry, which serves pizzas, salads and burgers (including vegan options) in its dark and alpine dining room and out on its mountainside terrace.
Prices at Gudauri ski resort
Gudauri is one of the most affordable spots to ski in the world, with four-star hotels averaging around AED365 a night and ski passes from about AED100 a day. There are plenty of ski companies and tour operators who also work to organise exceptionally attractive packages from the UAE, including flights, transfers from Tbilisi, accommodation and ski rental, such as Ski Georgia (with late season deals being as low as US$419 per person for five night’s accommodation, private transfers and ski/equipment hire). Dining out is also extremely affordable in Gudauri ski resort, and eating lunch or dinner in one of the resort’s casual restaurants will cost about 30-40 Georgian Lari (about AED55), while a three-course meal in an upmarket restaurant will cost around GEL100 (about AED140).