Unique and charming, Guria is a beautiful, mountainous region scattered with traditional villages filled with friendly people. A day in Guria means a day full of culture and tradition, with insights into Georgian hospitality at its finest.
THE HISTORY OF GURIA
Guria is a region in western Georgia country, bordered by the eastern end of the Black Sea. It is mostly populated by the Gurians, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgian people.
As to the origin of its name, the word “Guria” is said to refer to restlessness, and as such Guria means “the land of the restless.” This restlessness is attributed to events of the 8th and 9th centuries when the Gurian people refused to obey the Odzrakho ruler, ended their vassal relations with Adarnase and Ashot Bagrationi, instead uniting with King Leon of Abkhazeti.
Another explanation for the origin of the name is that in the times of prosperity, when Georgia’s borders stretched from “Daruband to Nikopsia”, Guria was located at the heart of the Georgian territory. In the Mingrelian language, “guri” translates to “heart”.
The area of Guria was first mentioned around 800 AD in the Pseudo-Juansher chronicles. In 1352, Guria was a fief of the House of Vardanidze-Dadiani. In 1463, it became a principality independent of the Georgian Kingdom under the Gurieli branch of the noble Dadiani family.
The principality, consisting of modern Guria and most of Adjara with Batumi city, was devastated and reduced in size by conflicts with the Ottomans.
In 1810, a treaty concluded between the Russian Empire and Mamia V Gurieli established Guria as a Russian protectorate. In 1829, during the reign of David Gurieli, Guria’s last prince, Russia annexed the principality, leading to several rebellions against Tsarist rule. In 1840, Guria was given county status and renamed Ozurgeti. In 1846, it was incorporated into the new Kutais Governorate.
In 1902, the peasants of Guria started a protest movement that culminated in open insurrection against the government during the 1905 Russian Revolution. This was the most organized and effective peasant movement in the empire. It established the Gurian Republic, a self-government that survived until 1906 when it was crushed and Guria devastated by the Cossack punitive expedition.
The region of Guria was a native powerbase for the Georgian Social Democratic Party which dominated the Democratic Republic of Georgia between 1918 and 1921. Early in the 1920s, Guria was a site of guerrilla resistance to the militarily-imposed Soviet rule, which saw the region divided into 3 districts.
The post-independence Georgian government established Guria as a region in 1995 and restored its historical name. Since then, efforts have been made to transform Guria into a top tourist destination in Georgia.
THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF GURIA
Among the regions of Georgia, Guria is unique with amazingly hospitable people renowned for their humor and quick wit.
Gurian villages have a special charm, and are especially beautifully amid the autumn colors. The traditional wooden houses have balconies, fireplaces and tiled roofs, often with yards of green trees. Inside, visitors are offered delicious Georgian food specialties such as mchadi, lobio and janjukha.
The cultivation of vineyards in Guria dates from antiquity. As such, invitations by locals to taste local Georgian wine and chacha (Georgian brandy) made from wild vines growing high in the mountains and forests, will add a special flavor to your trip.
Time your visit to Guria during Easter to witness Lelo Burti, a traditional type of Georgian rugby team sport. Gurians are also famous for their horseback riding skills that are best witnessed in horseback mounted team sports. Four of these Georgian sports are included on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Georgia list:
- Isindi: An exciting horse game that simulates a military battle with spears.
- Tskhen Burti: A game in which riders use rackets to shoot a ball into the opponent’s goal.
- Kabakhi: A mounted archery game in which riders try to hit a target located on a high pole.
- Marula: An equestrian jumping sport in which riders get their horses to jump over obstacles.
PLACES TO VISIT IN GURIA
Although it is the country’s smallest region, Guria offers plenty of things to do in Georgia. Guria is divided into the City of Ozurgeti – the regional capital, and the 3 municipalities of Ozurgeti, Chokhatauri and Lanchkhuti, all with an array of tourist places.
Ureki Sea Resort
Ureki Sea Resort is a coastal town along the Black Sea where the riches of nature – the sun, the sea and fine magnetic sands with healing properties, come together to create a unique destination ideal for a healthy retreat.
Shekvetili Sea Resort
Shekvetili Sea Resort is one of the top resorts along Georgia’s Black Sea coast where visitors flock for the healing properties of magnetic black sands. This combined with the fresh air, calm seas and abundant sunshine make Shekvetili a fantastic health retreat.
Gomismta is a summer mountain resort located in the River Bzhuzhi Gorge. Surrounded by softwood forest and mineral springs, the resort is famous for its panoramic vistas of pine forests, yellow azalea bushes, breathtaking mountains and summer cottages.
Once the wealthiest monastery in the country, Shemokmedi Monastery was famous for its large library. Dating from the 12th century, the main temple of the medieval monastery complex was built on top of a mountain. On one side of the mountain were monk cells and on the other, a nunnery.
Ekvtime Takaishvili Archaeological Museum-Reserve
Located in Likhauri Village, the Ekvtime Takaishvili Archaeological Museum-Reserve has a collection of archaeological artifacts, in addition to an exhibition on the life of Georgian historian and archaeologist, Ekvtime Takaishvili. On display are Takaishvili’s books, photos and other personal belongings.
A place of extraordinary charm, Bakhmaro is the highest alpine resort in Georgia. In summer, holidaymakers come for hiking and horse-riding amid the gorgeous, pristine wilderness. And in winter, the remote village comes to life with skiers and snowboarders navigating the snowy mountain slopes.
Located on the road that links Chokhatauri and Bakhmaro, Nabeglavi is a health resort famous for its carbonated mineral water, which is similar in composition to Georgia’s other famous mineral water sourced from Borjomi. Because of the rich mineral content, the water is said to have healing properties.
Niko Berdzenishvili Historical Museum of Chokhatauri
Established in 1958, the Niko Berdzenishvili Historical Museum of Chokhatauri houses archaeological and ethnographic artifacts, including weapons, pottery, tools, burial items and coins. There are also furniture, manuscripts, photos and personal items of Guria’s principals.
One of the most interesting exhibits is on ancient agriculture, which highlights the importance of corn in Guria. Originally from the American continent, Georgian corn is a main grain in Guria and western Georgia, and has even been included on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Georgia list.
Visitors can also see old farm tools, some of which were fashioned into illegal weapons and ammunition in the early 1900s and supplied to Georgian revolutionaries.
Niko Mari Memorial Museum
Established in 1999, the Niko Mari Memorial Museum offers exhibitions on the life of famous Georgian scientist and historian Niko Mari. Located in the Thalaczike Village, the private museum houses Niko Mari’s manuscripts, works, furniture and personal belongings.
Erketi Monastery was built in the 9th century in Erketi Village. The church’s southern wall features a fresco of Pilate washing his hands – a rare image in Georgian frescoes. To the side of the church is a monastery with a door carved out of grape tree.
Eristavi Palace & Garden
Situated in Goraberezhouli, the Eristavi Palace and Garden is a 17th century complex that comprises of a palace and garden. The garden spans 1 hectare and has rare plant species such as a pencil tree, candy tree, giant sequoia, a Japanese strawberry tree and ginkgo.
At the center of the garden are the remains of a fortified building formerly owned by the noble Eristavi family, dukes of Guria. Here you will find the remains of a 22m deep artesian well, historic furniture and a unique, preserved fireplace.
In the village of Janale, the Supsa River flows from a narrow gorge in the mountains creating natural pools. This section of the Supsa is known as Guria Lake, and is surrounded by high mountains on both sides.
Among these mountains are the ruins of an early medieval fortress tower called Bukistsikhe. Inhabited since the Late Bronze Age, Bukistsikhe rests on the site of an ancient Georgian city settlement. Today, only the remains of the northern tower dating from between the 6th-7th centuries has survived.
Located above Guria Lake, Surebi Valley mainly consists of abandoned villages. As such, there is almost nothing here but stunning Georgian nature, which makes the valley perfect for lovers of hiking and the outdoors. Trails lead to Sairme Resort, Abastumani, Adjara, Imereti and Samtskhe-Javakheti.
Nodar Dubmadze Museum
Nodar Dumbadze is one of the most beloved Georgian writers of the 20th century. Dumbadze is best known for his humorous novels mostly about Guria, its inhabitants and their character, some of which have been translated into English.
His memorial museum is located in the Khidistavi Village, next to his grandparents’ house. Here, you can see the writer’s manuscripts, personal belongings, books, photos, and other interesting documentation of his life and deeds.
Ozurgeti Dramatic Theater
Established in 1868, Ozurgeti Dramatic Theater is one of the largest theaters in the country, which overlooks the central square of Ozurgeti. In 1962, it was relocated to a 5-story Soviet Neoclassical-style building where it remains housed to this day.
Ozurgeti History Museum
Established in 1936, the Historical Museum of Ozurgeti has over 6,000 Georgian artifacts dating back to 9,000 BC to the present day. Among the historical, ethnographic and archaeological exhibits, a sword said to have belonged to Napoleon is the most prominent on display.
Palace of Dimitri Gurieli
Constructed in 1873, the Palace of Dimitri Gurieli is Ozurgeti’s oldest surviving building. The palace is the former residence of the Gurieli noble family, and currently the residence of the local Bishop of the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church.
Kolkheti National Park
Established to protect the Colchis Wetlands and Forests ecosystem, Kolkheti National Park comprises the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the Lake Paliastomi basin. Boasting rich biodiversity, the park has many swamps, bog-like rivers, scenic lakes, peat bogs, wetland forests, and sandy dunes. Common plant species include mosses, rhododendron, evergreen forests, aquatic plants and saltwater vegetation.
The park is a habitat for dolphins, as well as several endangered animal species, such as the roe deer, boar and otter. More than 194 different bird species are found here, including 21 migratory species. The park is home to the legendary Colchis pheasant, as well as endangered species such as the crane, black stork and great white egret.
Lovers of the outdoors can and enjoy boating tours on Lake Paliastomi and River Pichori, as well as diving, bird-watching, hiking and horse-riding.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT GURIA
Guria weather is generally humid across the seashore, the lowlands and the mountainous east. Winters in Guria are mild, while summers are hot. The months of May through October is the best time to visit Guria when it is pleasantly warm.
HOW TO GET TO GURIA
For Georgia flights landing in Batumi airport, you can hire a car and drive to Guria. That said, driving in the country Georgia can be difficult if you don’t understand the Georgian alphabet or speak the Georgian language. A more convenient option would be to get to Guria via private transfer.
FINAL WORDS AND TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS
Rich in untouched natural beauty, Guria brims with treasures for the discerning traveler to explore. Whether you prefer to relax on sandy beaches along the Black Sea or enjoy the crisp mountain air of the Lesser Caucasus, Guria has all the ingredients for a tantalizing Georgian vacation.
Book Guria hotels and vacation rentals ahead with our travel agency, to ensure you find one that suits your taste and budget. If you prefer to drive, we have a modern fleet of Guria rental cars available for hire. We also organize Georgia vacations to and from Guria with private transfers to and from Batumi airport.
Alternatively, create your own custom vacation package that includes the specific places you’d like to visit and things you’d like to do in Guria. Fancy a healthy getaway with fantastic sightseeing? Order your custom tour to Guria today for a vacation that will refresh your body and delight your soul!