A former capital of the Colchis Kingdom in the Middle Ages, Kutaisi remains an important city in Georgia and an excellent base for tourists wishing to explore Western Georgia. It sits on the Rioni River which rises in the Caucasus and flows out into the Black Sea north of Poti which is one of several day trips you can take from Kutaisi.
Poti is a passenger and freight port for vessels heading across the Black Sea to Ukraine, Turkey and Bulgaria. However, the main reason for a visit is to enjoy Kolkheti National Park which is just to the south of the City. Its terrain includes extensive marshland and a beautiful small lake, Pallastomi which offers boat tours. Birdlife is abundant with 200 species recorded within the Park.
Archaeologists have found evidence of the Colchis Kingdom both within the Lake and on nearby land.
Shaori Lake, Nikortsminda and Tskhrajvari
Shaori is at its most beautiful in the autumn. It is a valuable water source within Western Georgia. An hour distant from Kutaisi in Racha, the setting is beautiful with deciduous forest offering a range of color before shedding its leaves for winter. It is located at a height of over 3,00 feet and it regularly freezes over in the winter when the road is often impassable anyway. At other times the Lake offers fishing and swimming as well as being an ideal place for a picnic.
The 11th Century Orthodox Cathedral in Nikortsminda is just a few minutes away and was repaired in the 16thCentury. The lovely frescoes were added a century later and the nearby bell tower was built in the 19thCentury.
A short distance west of Shaori is Tskhrajvari where the mountain offers wonderful views over the surrounding region.
Renegade Estate Tea Farm
Tea plantations in the region were abandoned around the time of Georgian independence but this tea farm has revived local production with plants dating back well over half a century. Tea was not a priority for newly independent Georgia yet as it failed, so the villages involved in production began to fail themselves. Recently a group of friends with no agricultural background have begun reviving the industry and you are more than welcome to see the progress they have made.
You can learn about tea and its production by visiting the 17 hectare Farm and buy some of their organic production before you leave. You are just a short drive out of Kutaisi, so access is easy. If you like what you taste, you can even buy the tea online well after you have returned home from your Georgia holiday.
You will need to be prepared for a long day if you want to see the region of Svaneti and the town of Mestia in a day trip from Kutaisi. You will enjoy the experience both because of the lovely journey north and the few hours you will able to spend in Mestia.
You will get to Mestia around lunchtime having had brief stops on the way to see the huge Enguri Dam as well as providing the opportunity to photograph the beautiful landscape including the Caucasus Mountains and attractive waterfalls.
The cable car ride up to a local ski resort is a thrill providing plenty more photo opportunities. You are above 7,000 feet so you can imagine the views on offer. The highlights of Mestia are the Svaneti Museum established between the World Wars and the Museum of Margiani where you can learn about the history of the region from the 14th Century up until the last century. The return journey in the early evening will ensure you arrive back in Kutaisi by about 2200.
Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia
Another fairly long day is a visit to Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia. You can expect a journey of around 3.5 hours each way, so it is an early start and a late return.
The highlight of Akhaltsikhe is the recently renovated Rabati Fortress which represents a range of religious and cultural ages. Georgia has suffered from regular invasions over the ages and this complex reflects those invasions, Mongol, Ottoman and Russian.
The 13th Century cave town Vardzia was built by Queen Tamar on the slopes of the Erusheti Mountain and similarly has been occupied by foreign powers over time. With13 floors and over 600 rooms, there is also a church, throne room, bell tower and wine cellars.
Katskhi Pillar is a limestone monolith standing 130 feet high, truly one of the best natural wonders in our country. It is located in Imereti Province near the town of Chiatura overlooking the Katskhura River Valley. Chiatura is just 42 miles east of Kutaisi.
On top of the pillar there is a small church that was dated from mediaeval times, the 9th or 10th Century. It was surveyed in the middle of the last century when mountaineers climbed it and it was finally restored a decade ago. The complex includes the church, three hermit cells, a wine cellar and burial vault. The church is dedicated to Maximus the Confessor and covers an area of only around 150 square feet.
It has an 13th Century inscription suggesting it was still in use then while the first mention of it in historical records is the 18th Century.
While no one is allowed to climb up these days, it is nevertheless a landmark that visitors will certainly enjoy.
This town and the immediate area surrounding it are an hour away from Kutaisi and with much to see and do, you will need a full day to see its highlights. Okatse Canyon which is at its best in the spring when the water is at its highest is probably the highlight but there are also the ruins of Dadiani Castle, the Church, the Dadiani Forest Park and hiking trails, all compelling reasons for a visit.
The panoramic views will have you reaching for your camera at regular intervals. Kinchkha Waterfall is one of our tallest and not the only one to enjoy. The Bridge over the Canyon is about 160 feet above the gushing water
Martvili is an hour north west of Kutaisi. There is plenty to see including an old monastery, but the Martvili Canyon is the main reason for a visit. It was a pagan region with an old oak tree the center of prayers, so it was felled by Christians and the monastery built in the 7th Century. The building you will see today is a 10thCentury reconstruction with the frescoes dated between the 14th and 17th Centuries.
The deep green color of the river water in the Canyon is simply stunning with boat trips available for visitors. It is said the Dadiani family who ruled this region for many centuries until towards the end of the 19th Century used the river as its personal bathing area.
Borjomi is a resort town that is largely known outside Georgia because of its mineral waters. The Soviet era saw its popularity grow and despite its early struggles after independence, Borjomi is very popular now, especially with Georgian nationals. It is located just over 2 hours south east of Kutaisi. The highlight of a visit however is the Romanov Palace, a summer residence for the Tsars which still contains the ornate furniture of the time.
Three old forts “Gogia”, “Petra”, and “Sali” overlook the town from the hills above and the area as a whole is great for those who enjoy walking and hiking.
Borjomi Gorge within the nearby National Park merits attention while the natural environment as a whole is wonderful for those with the time to enjoy it.
Accommodation in Kutaisi
There are a number of places that make an ideal base for Kutaisi and the surrounding region.
- Hotel Comfort has wi-fi, rooms with private bathrooms, satellite TV and private parking.
- Balanchine with swimming pool, bar and lovely gardens as well as rooftop terrace. There is valet parking, a tour desk and wi-fi as just some of its services.
- Chveni Qalagi in lovely grounds, has wi-fi, private parking, 24 hour front desk and airport shuttle service.
- AG’s Guest House has rooms with kitchen and bathroom. Parking is available and the garden has BBQ facilities. Airport transfers can be arranged with the 24 hour front desk.
- Memory House has free wi-fi and parking. The accommodation includes family rooms.
- Hotel Tskhumi is close to Bagrati Cathedral and offers private parking, wi-fi as well as a bar and shared lounge and kitchen.
- Black Tomato Kutaisi has a bar, 24 hour front desk, shuttle service and shared kitchen. It is set in a nice garden with a terrace.
- Hotel Green Town near Bagrati Cathedral offers a 24 hour front desk, private parking, wi-fi throughout, a bar and garden.
- One Step with wi-fi, shared kitchen and lounge has family rooms is ideally located in the heart of the city.
- Feola is in an ideal location, a hostel with wi-fi, private parking and a garden. There is a 24 hour front desk and shared lounge.