Take a Bath; Tbilisi, Georgia
Looking for a little R & R?
Maybe you should take a bath?
If you’re in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi, escape from your hotel and visit one of the city’s many sulfur baths.
What’s a Sulfur Bath?
The sulfur bath has been a tradition in Tbilisi going back hundreds of years. The city’s abundance of sulfur springs have been harnessed and used to naturally heat the pools which bathers use to unwind, relax, and gossip about local news.
Typically built into the ground, the baths look to the passerby like brick bulbs sprouting from the Earth. When looking for one, simply follow your nose to the distinctive sulfuric odor.
Based mostly in the Abanotubani region of Tbilisi, the baths vary in terms of age, size, and condition.
One of the town’s most notable facilities is the Orbeliani Baths. With its distinctive blue mosaic exterior the inside features a pleasant aura and a reasonably welcoming atmosphere for tourists.
As a language barrier is to be expected, you’ll be responsible for communicating using various gestures and signals.
Public Vs. Private
Upon entering you’ll come to a reception desk. It’s here that you’ll choose the type of bath you’d like to take. Depending on the facilities you’ll have a choice of public or private bath.
Public baths will typically get you unlimited time for about $2 while private rooms will cost from $5-8 for an hour’s soak depending on the size of the room.
After paying your money you’ll be brought to either the male or female change area and assigned a locker where you’ll be able to store your clothes. At this point you’ll be throwing your modesty out the window and stripping naked. With a towel in hand and flip-flops on your feet you’ll be free to head into the facilities.
If you have a private room, expect to be led there by one of the staff members, at which point you’ll be left on your own (or with your bathing buddies). If you opted for the public baths you’ll make your way towards the main bathing area which will include showers, baths, and likely a sauna.
Once you’ve cleaned off in the shower, join the rest of the crowd in the pool. Take your time, close your eyes, and enjoy the experience. When the tub becomes too much you can switch over to the shower to cool off or the sauna to sweat it out. How you spend your time is up to you.
Should the urge strike you, you can also receive a massage by one of the staff members attending the specially designated area. The massage will cost an extra fee but it will be something you won’t soon forget. Ideas of the smooth, gentle massage can be thrown out the window. The massage is deep and aggressive and to some may be a little too much to bear.
Having completed your first sulfur bath experience you’ll be left feeling relaxed and revitalized. Head back out onto Tbilisi’s streets with a skip in your step.
When To Go
Baths in Tbilisi are open all year but are particularly refreshing during the cooler months.
Winter temperatures in Tbilisi can range from 29°F (-2°C) to 47°F (8°C). There is typically very little precipitation during the winter months.
Getting There & Around
The Tbilisi International Airport has service from a selection of international airlines. From the airport, a half hour train ride will get you to the city center.
Mid-range accommodations: $100-120
Take a shower before and after entering the baths.
Cycle through the bathing facilities.
Greet someone with ‘gamarjoba’ (hello).
Be modest. Nudity at the baths is no big thing.
Fear the massage. Endure the pain and your body will thank you.
Dehydrate yourself by spending too long in the pools.
Toasting with beer is considered insulting. Toasting is best saved for wines and liquors.
If impressing a Georgian girl with flowers make sure to give her an odd number. Even numbers are saved for funerals.
Georgians refer to themselves as ‘Kartvelebi’.