Surrounded by beautiful mountains scattered with springs and waterfalls, Gonio is a popular seaside resort located on the Black Sea coast of Georgia. Small and beautiful, Gonio is perfect for those looking to get away from the bustling city life, and escape into some peace and quiet.
At the same time, Gonio is a place with a rich history. One of the oldest inhabited areas of Georgia, Gonio delights with the impressive architecture of its ancient fortress. Here, history buffs can go on a fascinating journey back in time, walking in the very footsteps of the ancient Romans.
THE HISTORY OF GONIO
Nestled on the left bank of River Chorokhi, Gonio is a settlement within Khelvachauri district, located in the Adjara region of western Georgia country. Archaeological findings indicate that the earliest settlement in Gonio dates from the 8th to 7th centuries BC.
Over the centuries, Gonio came under the control of various regional powers: first the Romans and later the Greeks. In 1547, the Ottoman Empire conquered the settlement, holding it for the next 300 years. In 1647, Gonio was captured by a Cossack navy, but quickly recovered by Turkish forces with the help of Mingrelian militia.
Following the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War, Gonio was returned to Georgian rule when, under the Treaty of San Stefano, the whole of Adjara became a protectorate of Imperial Russia. Gonio then became a village within the district of Batumi, as well as the center for its police force.
In 1930, Soviet authorities made Gonio part of the district of Khelvachauri. In 2011, Batumi’s borders were expanded, infiltrating the administrative boundaries of Gonio. Since independence, the Georgian government has taken steps to make Gonio one of the top Black Sea resorts.
PLACES TO VISIT IN GONIO
A pearl along the Black Sea coast, Gonio boasts a combination of sea and mountain climate, crystal-clear waters and pristine nature. Its impressive ancient fortress and splendid seaside resort are the main Georgia attractions that Gonio has to offer its visitors.
Despite its close proximity to Batumi city, Gonio is not a metropolitan suburb. It is more of a quiet touristic center with few crowds, which makes it perfect for relaxation and family vacations. Visitors will appreciate the calmness of the place, the beauty of its Georgian nature, the amazingly fresh air and, most importantly, its sun-kissed beaches.
Gonio is famous for its clean beaches that are perfect for swimming. Even Georgians themselves consider the beaches of Gonio to be some of the best in the country. Set against a backdrop of beautiful forested landscapes, Gonio Beach is covered with pebbles, lapped by the warm, crystal-clear, turquoise waters of the Black Sea.
Gonio beach is divided into 2 sections. The northern part known as the “wild beach” is more remote and secluded, while the southern part comprises a modern touristic area with hotels and private beaches. Many Georgians escape the cities for a weekend getaway on the beaches of Gonio and its neighboring villages.
As you swim in Gonio, you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding green mountains. Visitors can rent sun-loungers and umbrellas to sunbathe on the beach, or even take barefoot walks at sunset. Gonio also offers opportunities for outdoors and watersports activities, where visitors can rent scooters, water bikes and sea bananas.
For more marine sports, head to the neighboring Kvariati Sea Resort located 2km from Gonio. Here, active travelers can go boating, jet-skiing, kite surfing and parasailing. Kvariati is also a popular diving spot in Georgia where divers can see old shipwrecks sunken at the bottom of the Black Sea. Lovers of the outdoors can enjoy hiking along quiet mountain trails, while spotting subtropical flora and fauna.
Gonio is also known for its wellness benefits arising from ecotherapy and natural aromatherapy. Gonio beach is surrounded by dense forest cover that cleans the air, making it fresh and filling it with oxygen. Moreover, the fresh air is saturated with tree scents emanating from the strip of eucalyptus grove that grows along the road above the beach.
This combination of sea and fresh mountain air, coupled with the healing aroma of the eucalyptus groves attracts visitors with respiratory diseases. Moreover, bathing in the pure waters of Gonio’s Black Sea also rejuvenates the body. Add to this the abundant sunshine and cool sea breeze, and you have all the ingredients for a relaxing and healing vacation in Gonio.
Although Gonio is not as active as Batumi, it does have opportunities for nighttime tourist activities in Georgia. In summer, the resort’s vibrant nightlife comes alive right on the shore, thanks to the numerous bars and clubs. Their music and the sea’s surf resonate well together to create a hip and romantic atmosphere.
Also known as Apsaros, Gonio Fortress is a well-preserved roman fortification located at the mouth of the Chorokhi River. Located on the site of one of the country’s most ancient settlements, the Gonio-Apsaros Fortress is the oldest of its kind in Georgia.
The earliest mention of the fortress was by Pliny the Elder in his 1st century AD chronicle “Natural History.” Another reference to the site’s ancient name was made in Appian’s 2nd century chronicle “Mithridatic Wars.” By this time, Gonio Fortress was a well-fortified Roman city within Colchis.
In Roman times, the fortress was the largest fort on the Black Sea coast, and one of the principal forts for the defense of the empire’s Caucasian border. During the 6th century, Procopius wrote of the remains of its public buildings, which is evidence that it was once an important place. The fortress retained its importance until the Middle Ages.
Later, the ancient Georgian fortress came under Byzantine control. The name “Gonio” was first mentioned in reference to the fortress during the 14th century by Michael Panaretos.
Gonio Fortress is an impressive example of Roman-Byzantine military architecture. Built using neatly-hewn blocks of stone, the fortress has survived almost intact. Measuring 245m long and 195m wide, the rectangular fortress covers an area of 4.78 ha. It has stone walls rising 5m high, with a total wall length of 900m.
Initially, there were 22 towers standing 7m high built along its massive perimeter, some of which were destroyed over time. Today, the fort only has 18 towers which are mostly in ruins, including 4 main towers at each corner. Previously, the fortress had four gates but today only the main gate situated on the western side facing the sea is open.
In its time, Gonio Fortress was an important strategic stronghold. Its key function was to protect the entrances to the Chorokhi and Acharistskali river gorges that connected Georgia’s inner regions with the Black Sea coast.
Gonio Fortress was located on the territory of the Roman Empire’s eastern border. This made it not only militarily important, but also a political, economic and cultural center of the eastern Roman frontier. This is evident in the remains of a Roman theatre and hippodrome found during archeological excavations on the site, which are believed to date from the 1st – 3rd centuries AD.
The fortress is also regarded as a founding place for the first Georgian associations, having hosted a Genoese trade factory in the Byzantine era.
The fortress’ strategic location made it a supporting citadel first for the Romans and later the Greeks and Ottomans. Respectively, Gonio Fortress has several architectural layers: the Roman layer (3rd – 4th centuries BC), the Byzantine layer (6th – 7th centuries) and the Ottoman layer (16th century).
Archaeological excavations conducted on the site of the fortress have unearthed the remains of a Roman bathhouse, a 1st century AD water supply system, roads and pavements, as well as amphorae, red gloss ceramics and coins. Other Roman structures discovered include a barracks, cisterns, wells, water pipes and sewage systems.
Urban public buildings from the Hellenistic period have also been found. These contained relics such as pottery, gold, silver and bronze items, and Justinian I coins.
A buried treasure known as the “Gonio Hoard” dating from the 5th century AD, was uncovered near the fortress’ southern wall. This includes unique jewels that are currently displayed in a collection at the Adjara State Museum.
Numerous Georgian artifacts discovered during excavations in the fortress and its environs are on the display in the on-site museum located at the center of the fortress grounds. Other artifacts from Gonio can be seen at the Batumi Archaeological Museum.
Gonio Fortress is associated with many myths and legends. According to the myth of the Argonauts, this is where King Aeetes buried his son Apsaros, after his body was dismembered and thrown into the sea by Jason. Apsaros’ tomb was once the main shrine of the citadel during its heydays.
The grave of St. Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles, is also said to be situated within the fortress. Matthew is said to have come to the citadel following the death of Christ and preached his teachings for a long time. According to the 14th century chronicle “Historia Ecclesiastica” by Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos, Matthew was crucified and buried inside the fortress.
Built as a base citadel for Roman troops, Gonio Fortress had an area known as the Praetorium (Latin for “General’s Tent”) allocated as residence of the garrison commander. Today, what remains of the Praetorium are massive stone pedestals in the form of a cross, presumably standing over the tomb of Matthew.
A monument to the Roman period of Adjarian history, Gonio Fortress has undergone several stages of construction and repair. Construction layers date back to the time of Emperor Justinian (most towers) and the 16th century Ottoman occupation (battlements, walkways, a hammam and a mosque opposite St. Matthew’s grave).
Other than this, the general layout and architecture of the Georgian monument has remained almost unchanged over the centuries, and is the same as it was 2,000 years ago under Roman rule.
Due to its important historical and cultural significance, the Georgian government declared the Gonio-Apsaros Fortress to be a museum-reserve in 1994.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT GONIO
Gonio weather is characterized by a humid, subtropical climate due to its proximity to the Black Sea. The best time to visit Gonio is during the resort season between June and August. By mid-September, most places in Gonio are closed until the next tourism season.
WHERE TO STAY IN GONIO
Gonio has a selection of comfy hotels and guesthouses with all you need for an enjoyable stay. Accommodation in Gonio hotels can be rented near the beach where you are guaranteed panoramic views with unforgettable sunsets and sunrises.
WHERE TO EAT IN GONIO
In summer, many cafes and restaurants open along Gonio’s beach, offering superb Adjarian cuisine and fresh seafood. Dishes in most Gonio restaurants are simple, no-frills but delicious. Fine Georgian wine is also available.
HOW TO GET TO GONIO
For Georgia flights landing in Batumi airport, you may hire a car and drive 20 minutes to Gonio (15km). But driving in Georgia can be a challenge if you don’t speak the Georgian language or understand the Georgian alphabet. The best option is to travel to Gonio via private transfer.
FINAL WORDS AND TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS
Tourists are drawn to Gonio by its wonderful mix of sea and mountain climate, crystal clear waters and incredibly beautiful nature. Visitors can sunbathe under lush green mountain slopes, soak up the fresh air and feel the caress of the cool sea breeze. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city to truly relax and rejuvenate, look no further than Gonio!
If traveling in summer, be sure to book Gonio hotels and vacation rentals in advance with our travel service. If you prefer to drive, we have a modern fleet of Gonio rental cars available for hire. We also arrange Georgia holidays from Gonio with private transfers to and from Batumi airport.
Even better, create your own custom vacation package that includes the places you want to visit and things you want to do in Gonio. Need to escape the bustle of city life? Order your custom tour to Gonio today and make it a summer vacation to remember!