A journey through Adjara’s hinterland is very rewarding, offering spectacular scenery dotted with picturesque mountain villages. Add to this the seaside attractions, fantastic culture, delicious cuisine and party atmosphere, and it’s clear to see why Adjara is the destination of choice for most Georgians in search of summer fun.
THE HISTORY OF ADJARA
Nestled on the wooded foothills of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, Adjara is a mountainous region in the southwest of the Georgia country. Adjara – officially known as the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, is mainly populated by the Adjarians, a regional subgroup of the Georgian people.
Since antiquity, Adjara has been a part of Colchis and Caucasian Iberia. During the 5th century BC, the area was colonized by Greece, and then fell to the Romans in the 2nd century BC. It was briefly part of Lazica, before it was incorporated into the Abkhazian kingdom during the 8th century AD, which led to the unification of the Georgian kingdom during the 11th century.
From the start of the 11th century, Adjara was ruled by vassals of the Georgian king. In the 1460s, following the disintegration of the Georgian monarchy, the region was taken over by the kingdom of Imereti.
Adjara was conquered by the Ottomans during the 16th century, although it was recaptured severally by the Georgians. Once again, Adjara became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1614, and would remain as such for the following 250 years.
During this period of Ottoman rule, the Adjarians were converted to Islam. But Islamization was ended and reversed to a great extent after the region was returned to Imperial Russian rule following Russia’s 1877-78 war with the Turks.
In 1918, Russia gave Batumi back to the Ottomans, which led to protests followed by the return of Turkish forces. British forces then briefly occupied Adjara, but ceded the region back to the Democratic Republic of Georgia in 1920.
In 1921, following the brief military conflict, Ankara’s government ceded the region to the Soviet Union under the Treaty of Kars, on condition that Adjara be granted autonomy for the sake of its Muslim population. The Adjar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was established, which went by the name Ajaristan until 1937. As such, Adjara was still a part of Georgia, albeit with significant local autonomy.
In 1991, following the disintegration of the USSR, Adjara became part of the newly-independent but the politically-divided Republic of Georgia. The region avoided being dragged into the two-year civil war that plagued the country largely due to the authoritarian rule of Aslan Abashidze, its leader.
Although Abashidze is credited with maintaining order in Adjara and making it one of Georgia’s most prosperous regions, he was accused of being involved in organized crime – specifically smuggling to enrich himself and fund his government. During the reign of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgia’s Tbilisi-based central government had little say over the governance of Adjara.
But this changed in 2003 after the Rose Revolution. Shevardnadze was deposed in favor of Mikheil Saakashvili, the reformist opposition leader who promised to crack down on separatism in Georgia. During the spring of 2004, Georgia’s central government tried to re-impose its authority on Adjara causing a major crisis that threatened to develop into armed conflict.
Ultimately, Saakashvili’s ultimatum coupled with mass protests against the autocratic rule of Abashidze forced the Adjarian leader to resign and go into exile to Russia in May 2004. Following the ousting of Abashidze, a new constitution was introduced to redefine the terms of Adjara’s autonomy.
The post-Abashidze regime took steps to make Adjara an attractive place, with its capital Batumi as the main focus. Parts of the city were renovated, and new towers, modern hotels and casinos were built, thus transforming Adjara into one of the top Georgia tourism destinations.
THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF ADJARA
Among the regions of Georgia, Adjara stands out for its rich cultural heritage, characterized by colorful festivals, spectacular dances, delicious cuisine and more.
Each year, Adjara plays host to several traditional festivals featuring diverse cultural events to entertain visitors.
Held on 3rd July in Bako village, Khulo district, Selimoba is a festival that commemorates the life of Selim Khimshiashvili. Events include a folk handicrafts exhibition and a concert involving local amateur ensembles.
Shuamtoba is a traditional festival held during the first weekend of August on the summer mountain pastures of Shuakhevi and Khulo districts. Events include horse racing, an exhibition on folk handicrafts and a concert involving folk groups.
Held during the second half of September, Machakhloba is a traditional holiday celebrated in Machakhela Gorge of Khelvachauri district. Festivities begin at the Machakhela rifle monument (at the confluence of the Machakhela and Chorokhi rivers), continue in Machakhispiri village and concludes in Zeda Chkhutuneti village.
Kolkhoba is an ancient Laz festival held in late August or early September in Sarpi village of Khelvachauri District. The festival traces its roots to an ancient holiday related to the cult of the sea during which Lazeti residents would gather on the coast and swim in the sea. During the festival, the myth about the Argonauts is performed.
Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian dish of cheese-filled bread. To make khachapuri, leavened bread is left to rise and is then shaped in different ways, before being filled with cheese (aged or fresh, most commonly sulguni), eggs, butter and other ingredients.
Khachapuri comes in various forms depending on the region, with the boat-shaped Adjaruli (Adjarian) khachapuri being one of the most popular. Believed to have originated from the Laz people who were sailors, Adjaruli khachapuri is in fact a representation of a boat, the sea and the sun.
Khorumi is a traditional war dance that originated in the Adjara region. The dance brings to life the historical Georgian army by incorporating themes of search, war, the celebration of victory, as well as the courage and glory of Georgian warriors. Originally, the dance was performed only by a few men, but over time it grew in scale with the present-day version featuring 30-40 dancers.
To begin, a few men searching the area for an enemy campsite perform the prelude to the dance. They then call the army onto the battlefield. The army exits in a breathtaking spectacle. Its strength, simple yet distinct movements and the precision of its lines create a sense of awe on stage.
Unlike most traditional Georgian dances that are typically accompanied by Georgian polyphonic singing and clapping, khorumi is only accompanied by instruments without clapping. Doli (drums) and chiboni (bagpipes) are the 2 main instruments that accompany this dance. Another unique feature of the Khorumi is that it has a specific rhythm, based on 5-beat meter.
PLACES TO VISIT IN ADJARA
The pristine beaches of the Black Sea Coast stretch out against a dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains to provide proof that Adjara is one of Georgia’s most beautiful regions. But still, there is so much more to Adjara than a seaside destination. Adjara is divided into one city – Batumi, and 5 districts, all of which offer a host of diverse Georgia attractions worth exploring.
Batumi Botanical Garden
Home to more than 5,000 varieties of plants from around the world, Batumi Botanical Garden boasts one of the world’s richest diversities of flora. Nature lovers can admire Asian trees, South American flowers, bamboo forests, evergreen gardens and titanium trees. The gardens are located within the splendid Mtsvane Kontskhi, a green oasis in which you can sunbathe or have a swim.
Dating back to 1884, Batumi Boulevard is a 7km seaside promenade that stretches from the Dancing Fountains the seaport. Wrapped around the city center, the boulevard is scattered with bungalows, cafés, restaurants, family attractions, benches, sculptures and other points of interest.
Old Batumi is the delightful historic center of Batumi that stretches from the seaport to the boulevard. A walking tour of Old Batumi is a great way to discover the distinct architectural style of this coastal city. Visitors can admire the regal balconies merchant mansions from the 19th century, along with the unique pastel-colored facades of Soviet-era buildings.
Known locally as Evropas Moedani, Europe Square is a wide square lined by gorgeous belle-époque buildings. Most of the buildings are renovations of survivors from Batumi’s heydays, along with several new buildings in a similar architectural style.
Batumi Archeological Museum
One of the oldest museums in Georgia, Batumi Archaeological Museum has a large collection of Georgian artifacts from various periods. The collection features more than 22,800 exhibits, the majority of which are findings from excavations done in Adjara.
Piazza Square is one of the most beautiful squares in Georgia which has cafes, restaurants and hotels. The square is also a popular international entertainment venue that has hosted concerts by famous foreign and Georgian musicians such as Sting and Placido Domingo.
Argo Entertainment Center & Batumi Cable Car
A 2km cable car links the Batumi waterfront with the Argo Entertainment Center on Anuria Mountain. The center has cafes, restaurants, shops and roof terraces that provide amazing panoramas of the city, the Black Sea and the surrounding mountains.
Ethnographic Museum Borjghalo
The Ethnographic Museum Borjghalo is a cultural center that lets visitors experience the bygone era of Adjara. The museum was founded by Kemal Turmanidze who built and equipped all its buildings. The museum’s creations provide visitors with the chance to experience a real Adjarian village.
Orta Jame Mosque
Orta Jame mosque has a white minaret that stands out over Batumi’s skyline. Its interiors are decorated with gorgeous woodcarvings painted in vibrant pastels, while the ceiling features stunning details. A popular meeting spot for Batumi’s 30% Muslim population, the mosque is also open to visitors.
To really see Batumi from a local’s perspective you must visit its Fish Market. Situated close to the port, Batumi’s fish market is the go-to place for the freshest fish in town, caught that very morning or even just a few minutes before you buy it. You can even get the onsite restaurant to cook it for you!
Kobuleti Sea Resort
Kobuleti Sea Resort draws visitors with its fantastic climate, warm seas and cool ocean breeze. It has a unique sandy beach that offers splendid views of tall and beautiful trees of pine, cypress, bamboo and eucalyptus. Visitors can enjoy swimming and sunbathing at Kobuleti Sea Resort.
Mtirala National Park
Mtirala National Park is a protected area that includes the municipalities of Keda, Kobuleti and Khelvachauri. Nature enthusiasts can admire the wide diversity of flora, fauna and birdlife, while active travelers can enjoy hiking and zip lining.
Kintrishi Protected Areas
The Kintrishi Protected Areas were established to preserve Adjara’s unique flora and fauna, in particular its famous Colchian willow trees. The protected areas include the Kintrishi Strict Nature Reserve and the Kintrishi Protected Landscape.
Goderdzi Ski Resort
Khulo is the highest and most mountainous area in Adjara and is home to Goderdzi Ski Resort. A winter wonderland, the skiing resort boasts impressive nature and beautiful landscapes. Winter sports fans can enjoy fantastic skiing and snowboarding on the well-equipped snow tracks.
History buffs can explore one of Adjara’s most important monuments – the 13th century Khikhani Fortress. Situated 2,200m above sea level, the fortress offers a proper challenge to those who try to reach it, with rewards of panoramic views.
Like something out of a summer dream, Beshumi is a charming mountain resort. It’s a unique place scattered with small houses and café-bars, with the fresh breeze bringing in the scent of spruces nearby. Beshumi is the best place to experience the Shuamtoba Festival.
Visitors to Beshumi can also explore Mtsvane Tba. Surrounded by pine forest and magnificent mountains, Mtsvane Tba is a beautiful lake famous for its emerald green waters. If you love hiking, you will enjoy the picturesque trails located around the lake.
Skhalta Cathedral is a monastic complex whose main building is the Skhalta Church of the Virgin. It is believed to date back to the mid-13th century because of its unique style and artistry. The church has some remarkable frescoes that date from between the 14th and 15th centuries.
Gonio Sea Resort
Khelvachauri has some of the best beaches in Adjara which are perfect for swimming. These are found in the Gonio, Sarpi and Kvariati settlements. At Gonio Sea Resort, you can enjoy the amazing seaside on clean and calm beaches.
Gonio Fortress is located on the site of one of Georgia’s most ancient settlements. Its strategic location made the fortress a supporting citadel for the Byzantines, Romans and Ottomans, which is evident in its layers of architecture.
Machakhela National Park
Most of Machakhela Park’s area is covered in forest that harbors unique flora and fauna. Nature and wildlife enthusiasts can admire Interesting plants, mammals and bird species. Or choose from 2 hiking trails leading up the mountains where you can enjoy panoramic views.
The village of Kvariati boasts a gorgeous seaside resort. During summer, Georgians flock the beautiful beaches of Kvariati Sea Resort to enjoy the fresh air, ocean breeze and amazing scenery. The beaches are situated on a coastline surrounded by towering mountains, stunning nature and clear, warm waters.
Adjara is one of the oldest wine-making regions in Georgia, and Keda is its center of winemaking. Private cellars and wine houses are scattered throughout Keda, offering wine enthusiasts the opportunity to sample fine Georgian wine.
Makhuntseti is a village located near the town of Keda, which has a beautiful waterfall and picnic spots close by. Visitors can also explore other tourist attractions such as the ancient arched stone Makhuntseti Bridge.
Khabelashvili village is home to a 25 meter long wooden bridge that is 300 years old. The bridge was built to connect 3 villages using box-tree, chestnut and lime, and is covered with shingles. In the 1970s, the shingles were replaced with tin due to damage.
THINGS TO DO IN ADJARA
A medley of Georgian nature, sports and adventure opportunities make Adjara the perfect seaside getaway. From watching breathtaking bird migrations to diving in magical underworlds, Adjara offers plenty of tourist activities to enjoy.
Go scuba diving in the Black Sea and be dazzled by the breathtaking underwater scenery. Swim through a magical underworld teeming with colorful marine life. Instructors are on hand to provide training for beginners.
Batumi is one of Georgia’s premier bird watching destinations. Every autumn in September, birders from around the world gather to attend the Batumi Bird Watching Festival, which signals the beginning of the mass migration of birds.
Biking in Batumi is the best way to get around the seaside resort and see its sights. Hire a bike and cycle across Batumi Boulevard towards the Dancing Fountains and back to the Ferris wheel. Stop by the beautiful Ali & Nino statue for a rest while taking in the views.
Have you ever dreamed of flying just like a bird? If so, then you cannot afford to miss out on paragliding in Adjara. Soar like an eagle as you enjoy spectacular aerial views of beautiful beaches and lush mountains. Tandem takeoffs are available for beginners.
Have fun with friends in the competitive team shooting sport of paintball. Enjoy some thrills hitting opponents with paintballs to eliminate them. You can play indoor or outdoor with natural or artificial terrain for tactical cover.
Batumi has several bowling clubs where you can lace up for some fun. Compete against your friends on professional bowling lanes and climb up the leaderboard. Beginners can get training from bowling instructors who are available onsite.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ADJARA
Adjara weather is characterized by a humid subtropical climate largely influenced by its proximity to the Black Sea. This results in significant rainfall for most of the year, which makes Adjara the wettest region in both Georgia and the entire Caucasus. The best time to visit Adjara is in summer when there is plenty of sunshine.
WHERE TO STAY IN ADJARA
In addition to the numerous Adjara hotels and hostels, the construction of new apartment buildings in Batumi has given rise to many affordable vacation rentals. To get a feel for local life, consider staying in a guesthouse at one of the small towns or villages of Adjara.
WHERE TO EAT IN ADJARA
Foodies can sample Adjara’s unique cuisine at a host of Adjara restaurants scattered across the region. In addition to serving up traditional Adjarian food and fresh seafood, Batumi also boasts Georgia’s best international eateries outside Tbilisi.
HOW TO GET TO ADJARA
The fastest way to get to Adjara is via plane. Georgia Airways operates daily domestic flights to Batumi from Tbilisi landing at the Alexander Kartveli Batumi International Airport. Batumi airport also connects the country with major hubs in Europe and beyond.
Adjara is also accessible by road from Tbilisi and other Georgian destinations like Kutaisi and Mestia. Our travel agency offers modern cars for hire if you would rather drive yourself to Adjara. We also provide private roundtrip transfers to the region.
FINAL WORDS AND TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS
A sublime subtropical climate, rich and diverse nature and abundant Georgian monuments are just some of the treasures that Adjara has to offer as Georgia’s coastal holiday hotspot. No visit to Georgia is complete without a detour to the beautiful region of Adjara.
If traveling during the peak season, be sure to book Adjara hotels ahead with our travel service. If you would like to drive to Adjara, choose from our modern fleet of rental cars available for hire. We also offer Georgia tours to and from Adjara with private transfers to and from Batumi airport.
You could even create your own custom vacation package that includes the specific places you want to see and things you want to do in Adjara. Ready for your next beach holiday? Order your custom tour package to Adjara today and enjoy a summer vacation to remember!