Imereti’s climate, geography, an abundance of historical and natural landmarks, and rich cultural traditions define the region’s uniqueness. The vibrant colors, misty mountains, and panoramic landscapes of Imereti draw many tourists to Georgia each year.
THE HISTORY OF IMERETI
Situated along the upper and middle reaches of the Rioni River, Imereti is a region in western Georgia country. The population mostly comprises of Imeretians, an ethnic subdivision of the Georgian people who speak the Imereti dialect.
From late antiquity through to the early Middle Ages, the ancient western Georgia kingdom of Egrisi was located on the territory of Imereti. In 523, its king declared Christianity as Egrisi’s official religion. In 975, Imereti was conquered by Giorgi the Brilliant who united it with the eastern Georgia kingdom to form the unified Kingdom of Georgia.
In the 13th century, the Mongolians conquered Georgia, fragmenting the country and forcing its governmental centers to relocate to the provinces. In 1260, David VI revolted against Mongolian rule, fleeing to Abkhazia. After this, Imereti became a separate kingdom within the Kingdom of Georgia, ruled by a branch of the Bagrationi royal family.
In 1466, the Georgian kingdom disintegrated into rival monarchies, one of which was the independent Kingdom of Imereti. In 1555, the Imeretian monarchy became a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the scene of constant battles between Georgian, Ottoman and Turkish forces.
This lasted until the early 19th century when Russia invaded and annexed Imereti. On 25 April 1804, Imeretian King Solomon II agreed for Imereti to be a Russian vassal state and was dethroned in 1810. During this time of Russian vassalage, the princedoms of Guria, Abkhazia and Mingrelia declared their independence from Imereti, establishing their own governments.
Between 1918 and 1921, Imereti was part of the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia. Within the Soviet Union, the region was part of the Transcaucasian SFSR from 1922–1936, and part of the Georgian SSR from 1936–1991. In 1991, Georgia won its independence and Imereti became one of the country’s regions, with Kutaisi as its capital.
Imereti has since distinguished itself as a beautiful historic region ideal for cultural tourism. Today, Imereti is a popular destination for tourism in Georgia.
PLACES TO VISIT IN IMERETI
Renowned for its spectacular landscapes and spa towns, Imereti also boasts an array of Georgian monuments, including UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites. The region is divided into 12 administrative units, all of which offer interesting Georgia places to visit.
Nestled on the high, rocky right bank of River Rioni, the 10th century Bagrati Cathedral provides stunning panoramas of Kutaisi. If you visit the cathedral on Sunday, you can attend the divine worship and hear traditional Georgian music and chants.
Kutaisi State Historical Museum
The Kutaisi State Historical Museum showcases over 200,000 Georgian artifacts that date from between the 9th and 7th centuries BC to the late medieval Georgia era. There are items from the Antiquity and Bronze Age periods, including old epigraphs, archaeological artifacts, and Georgian manuscripts.
Kutaisi State Opera and Ballet Theater
Visitors to Kutaisi’s Royal District can take a pleasant walk through historic sites such as the Kutaisi State Opera and Ballet Theater. The opera house was renovated with rows of classical statues that adorn its rooftop, which were inspired by the famous Vienna Opera House.
Lado Meskhishvili State Drama Theater
The Lado Meskhishvili State Drama Theater is one of the most beautiful architectural creations of the Caucasus. Here, visitors can watch performances of Georgian folk music and dance, or visit the bars, restaurants and shopping malls.
Kutaisi Botanical Garden
The Kutaisi Botanical Garden has over 700 plant species, and provide a relaxing place to rest as you admire nature and take in the fresh air. Locals come here in summer to escape the heat, watch movies at the small outdoor cinema and attend Georgian folk music concerts.
Okros Chardakhi is the former residence of the Imeretian monarchs. The palace complex consists of several buildings including the Golden Marquee throne room, the palace church of St. George, a bell-tower and towers that functioned as the imperial treasury and defense posts.
Boasting beautiful Georgian nature, the Mtsvane Kvavila neighborhood has three churches and a defensive tower. Situated on a hilltop overlooking Kutaisi’s city center, the oldest basilica dates back to 1117 and is surrounded by a pantheon in which famous citizens of Kutaisi are buried.
Rioni River is one of the best Georgian destinations for enjoying some rafting in Kutaisi. There are 2 rafting routes that depart from either Tbilisi or Kutaisi: Tvishi Canyon is 8km long, and Oni-Ambrolauri is 30km long.
Mtsvane Bazari (Green Bazaar) is one of Georgia’s biggest, most exciting and colorful produce markets. Foodies can find almost every type of food produced in the country, including fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, beans, herbs, spices, Georgian wines, sweets and cheeses.
Prometheus Cave is a karst cave named after the legendary Greek protagonist. Visitors can admire wonderful stalactites, stalagmites, mirror pools, cave pearls, hanging curtains, petrified waterfalls, high cavernous ceilings, and underground rivers and lakes.
Sataplia Nature Reserve
Sataplia Cave is a beautiful cave complex with numerous stalagmites and stalactites. There is a park with preserved dinosaur footprints and replicas of the ancient animals outside the cave. Visitors can also head to Sataplia Mountain from which you can enjoy panoramas of Kutaisi.
One of the world’s oldest resorts, Tskaltubo Resort is known for its stunning underground mineral springs that contain waters believed to have medicinal properties. The spa town also has a pleasant park with a little man-made lake and a bar with a terrace.
Gelati Monastery is a Byzantine monastic complex that consists of three churches. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the monastery features a wide collection of mosaics, frescoes and manuscripts that date from between the 12th and 17th centuries.
One of Georgia’s most famous churches, Motsameta Monastery dates back to the 11th century. The monastery is named after 2 saints, David and Constantine, the dukes of Margveti who were martyred in the 8th century by Arab invaders.
Okatse Canyon is a 100m deep canyon situated near Zeda Gordi village. An exciting 700m long walkway projects from the canyon’s edge and culminates in a viewing platform that hangs out over the middle. From here, visitors can enjoy stunning panoramas of the Okatse River and scenic Georgian nature.
Rising to a height of 70m, Kinchkha is one of Georgia’s tallest waterfalls. It is particularly beautiful in spring when water levels are high and the surrounding nature is in full bloom. As it flows downwards, the waterfall creates tiny oases within the river valley.
Chiatura is a manganese mining town with an abandoned industrial area that is pleasant to explore. It is also popular for its Soviet era tramway that is more than 50 years ago. Surprisingly, the tramway still works perfectly and provides riders a fantastic adrenaline rush.
Rising 40m high, Katskhi Pillar is a natural limestone monolith with a small church and clergy house built on top. Constructed in 2009, the buildings overlook the surrounding river valley. Although the church does not allow visitors, the place is amazing even from below.
One of Georgia’s most distinctive monasteries, Mgvimevi Monastery boasts a unique location near Mgvimevi village. The monastery is accessible only via many narrow stairs leading from Chiatura and a long man-made tunnel.
Stretching 800m long, the zip-line at Sairme Resort is the longest in the country of Georgia. The zip line has a steel rope cable hung with a pulley that enables thrill-seekers to slide between two remote points. Visitors to Sairme Resort can also enjoy the spa facilities of the resort.
Vani Archeological Museum
Vani Archeological Museum holds most of the artifacts uncovered at Vani, an ancient temple city that served as the political, economic and spiritual center of the ancient Colchians. Vani has been included on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Vani (7th – 1st centuries BC) is located in the Colchis Lowlands at the confluence of the rivers Sulori and Rioni. Nestled on a hill bordered by 2 ravines, it overlooks the plains through which River Rioni flows. There are panoramic vistas of the Sulori River Valley with its surrounding hills and the Meskhetian Mountain Range in the background.
Evidence of Greek influence at Vani includes stone structures and other elements of Greek architecture, the use of Greek burial customs and Greek techniques in gold fabrication. However, roof tiles, pottery and coins from Sinop, as well as Cappadocian signet rings indicate trade with other areas.
On display at the museum are exquisite gold and silver jewelry and coins, bronze sculptures, funerary pieces and clay animal offerings. There is also imported Greek painted pottery and pottery for storing oil, honey and cereals, as well as wine.
Galaktion and Titsian Tabidze House-Museum
The ancestor palaces of famous Georgian poets Titsian (1893–1937) and Galaktion Tabidze (1891–1959) are located in Tchvishi Village. Here, visitors can admire their personal memorabilia including clothes, trinkets, accessories, embroidery samples and paintings by Georgian artists.
Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is famous for its historical monuments, diversity of landscapes and rich flora and fauna. Visitors can enjoy an array of outdoor activities including hiking, horse-riding, bird-watching, and soaking in mineral springs.
Shrosha Village in Zestafoni is popular for its production of clay pottery. Here, visitors can find almost anything made out of clay, from little cups to large kvevri used to produce Georgia’s famous traditional wine.
Akaki Tsereteli House-Museum
The house-museum of Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli (1840–1915) is located in the Tsereteli patrimonial palace in Skhvitori Village. The museum showcases memorabilia of the poet and his ancestors, including 19th century French, German and Italian furniture, utensils, a library and manuscripts.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT IMERETI
Lower Imereti has a humid, subtropical climate that makes it a comfortable place to vacation year-round. The other half of the region has cold winters and is best visited in the summer when Imereti weather is more favorable.
The best time to visit Imereti and get acquainted with the region’s culture is in early September when Rtveli, the traditional Georgian harvest feast is underway. Visitors can enjoy a cheerful atmosphere with great food, wine and amazing performances by Georgian folk groups.
WHERE TO STAY IN IMERETI
Imereti has a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets. Visitors can chose from sleek hotels to homely vacation rentals. Thanks to the fierce competition, accommodation prices at Imereti are affordably low.
WHERE TO EAT IN IMERETI
Imeretian cuisine is regarded as one of the best in the country – even by Georgians themselves. Because Kutaisi was one of the cities located along the historic Silk Road, the region developed its own unique Georgian food. Kutaisi restaurants are therefore the best place to sample delicious Imeretian cuisine.
Various regions of Georgia produce different types of wine, with Imereti growing the most delicate and unique grapes. Georgian wine from Imereti is made using the ancient UNESCO-listed wine-making technique. The most popular Imeretian wines are Tsolikouri, Tsitska and Otskhanuri Sapere.
HOW TO GET TO IMERETI
For flights to Georgia landing at Kutaisi airport, you can hire a car and drive yourself around Imereti. However, driving in Georgia can be challenging if you don’t speak the Georgian language or understand the Georgian alphabet. The best option would be to get to and around Imereti via private transfer.
FINAL WORDS AND TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS
For the discerning traveler, a visit to Imereti will long be cherished as a fascinating journey into both ancient and modern Georgia. The impressions that this breathtakingly beautiful region makes are certain to remain with you for years to come.
You can book Imereti hotels in advance with our travel agency. If you prefer to drive yourself around the region, we have a modern fleet of rental cars in Kutaisi available for hire. We also organize Georgia tours to and from Imereti with private transfers to and from Kutaisi airport.
Even better, create your own custom vacation package that includes the places you want to see and things you want to do in Imereti. Craving a taste of the old and the new? Order your custom tour to Imereti today and be dazzled by ancient and modern Georgia!