Those who like to wonder and shoot night-sky photography, will love to visit two distinct places in Georgia: Abastumani and Bazaleti. Apart from the old Soviet architecture and beautiful nature, one can easily find dark enough skies to practice astrophotography in Georgia, while enjoying the surroundings.
As an astrophotographer, it is very important to consider the amount of light-pollution one will receive from a big city. Even though Bazaleti is located approximately twenty minutes away from the capital of Georgia in Tbilisi, the sky is decent and sometimes even better and darker than other solitary places. The only downside is that sometimes the weather is not very good in Abastumani or Bazaleti.
There are perks to both locations. Abastumani is a very calm town of less than 1,400 people, located an hour and half away from Tbilisi. With amazing nature, it is a wonderful place to let some fresh air circulate in your lungs. The town in its early days was famous for the fresh air and thermal waters, but the wonders happen when the night comes. The sky is amazing (if you get lucky and it is clear) in terms of visibility. The center of the milky way is so clear and distinct, you don’t need anything but your own eyes to see the core of our galaxy. Because of Tsar Nicholas II’s brother Georgy Romanov, this place was also in the forefront of astronomical development. It was always a hub for not just the social, but the scientific elite too. For these reasons, the observatory has 14 telescopes (out of which only two work) in very soviet-style buildings. There are some hotels around there where you can stay and have some tours around the observatory. Apart from that, there is nothing much to do except for enjoying the surrounding pine forest and the dark sky (if you get lucky).
On the other hand, Bazaleti is not as fresh and beautiful nature-wise as Abastumani. However, no matter how weird it might sound, it has a better sky during the night. The place was not found by a royal person, but a group of local, Georgian, amateur astrophotographers. We were searching for a location for so long and after a tiring astro-odyssey, we finally found the place. There is a special device with which you can find out how dark is the sky after pointing at it on a cloud-free night. It appeared that Bazaleti was the best option out of all we had tried and now the first private observatory in Georgia is being built there which will have the best equipment in the country so far. Sometimes we get agitated when we see weather turning in the area; we gather together, bring all the equipment and put it in our cars and head towards Bazaleti as fast as we can, so that we capture every bit of the sky we have left during the night. Clouds can be our enemies. They suddenly appear and ruin everything. Because of this reason, sometimes the only thing we do is eat all the snacks we had prepared for the night. The best thing about Bazaleti is that it is very close to the capital, so no matter what happens, you can always go back to your hotel and enjoy the night, go to a pub, or do something that interests you, as opposed to Abastumani, where you are locked up in the pine woods and can’t do anything else at night if you don’t get lucky.
No matter what one prefers – fresh and minty air of a pine forest or a little bit smoggy air and pubs everywhere, Georgia still leaves you a chance to do astrophotography.