One thing about Tskaltubo in Georgia, it will keep you busy visiting and exploring for ages, this place! A lot of travelers say you should visit Tskaltubo to experience exploring the old abandoned sanatoriums and hotels there that were part of the Soviet-occupation era – Soviets would flock to the spas to become reenergized; because it was reckoned that if the workers were healthy, they would be more productive to support the regime.
The buildings display magnificent Soviet architectural designs, a fusion of classical Stalinist designs and blended with ethnic Georgian décor; even some Gothic and Roman features. Another reason why it is recommended you visit Tskaltubo is the exquisite nature and nature’s provision – the natural springs that emanate from the limestone massifs way underneath the ground. The water is rich in healing properties, consisting of touted radon-carbonate and minerals. Today the famed Tskaltubo Spa is there as proof of the amazing health benefits that still stand true today – you just have to get there to experience it!
HOW TO GET THERE
Tskaltubo is situated about 10 km away from Kutaisi which is the second biggest city in Georgia. Mini-buses called marshrutkas connect the two places. If you want to get to Tskaltubo if you are staying in Kutaisi, from the city center, you will take one of the marshrutkas, no. 30 – it leaves every 20 minutes from next to the bridge across the market hall – you will pay 1.20 Lari. Marshrutka no. 34 connects the Kutaisi bus station with Tskaltubo as well.
EXPERIENCE THE RICH HISTORY
Tskaltubo was once a small little village that became a major epicenter for Soviet Union health retreats. Right in the center of the village, they designed a massive lush park, teeming with life. Why there? Because underneath the park, powerful, healing mineral springs ran, and still do today; running throughout the village. During the Soviet Union times, bath-houses were built over these springs for people to benefit from their healing powers – it was so popular that eventually, the little village turned into a thriving metropolis, welcoming over 130,000 Soviet people each year for treatment. These thousands who visited there would be housed in the more than twenty hotels and sanitariums around the spas. Legends say that the mineral springs contained radon-carbonate, capable of curing up to sixty types of diseases from A to Z.
The healing waters of Tskaltubo had actually been discovered by chance, really, by local shepherds, centuries ago – the 13th century to be more precise. There weren’t many sanatoriums around before World War 2, but after the war, there was a sudden demand for these medical facilities where diseases mostly associated with the treatment of tuberculosis were treated – this was before antibiotics were discovered. Because there were no antibiotics, strict rest and good nutrition were the order of the day, in high altitudes that offered plenty of fresh air. As one of the patrons to the sanatoriums, Stalin even had a private cottage close by which he would use for his own private bath and use. His cottage is no. 6, and it is also available for you to visit and view.
ABANDONED SANATORIUMS LEFT OVER
Unfortunately, though, this frantic feverish business was not to last forever. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it dragged the sprawling town down with it. It would not take long before the sanatoriums, the hotels, bathhouses; they all became overrun by nature in the form of bushes, weeds, trees, and vines, taking over the pillared hallways right into the bathrooms!
There are IDPs left over too
Years later, in 1992, a nasty conflict arose between separatists and government forces. The conflict was all about these groups fighting for the independence of Abkhazia – this was an autonomous republic in northwestern Georgia, under much dispute. When Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia fell, hundreds, if not thousands of Georgian people were forced to flee from the city. These people; IDPs (internally displaced persons) found shelter in the deserted hallways and corridors of the sanatoriums and hotels. To this day, many are still there. They just grew to adapt to their life there and made makeshift homes.
If you come over to Tskaltubo to bring history alive to you, you will find, in the center of Tskaltubo, remnants of the old spa surrounded by the over twenty sanatoriums, bathhouses, and hotels. You will notice some of the IDPs occupying some of the buildings. According to government figures, around 6,000 IDPs still remain in Tskaltubo; eking out a living in the old sanatoriums that consist of broken pipes, little water, and electricity. They have adapted to their circumstances over the years. Bear in mind that while you are viewing and exclaiming and taking pictures of what you might label as an abandoned playground, remember the reality is still there for many of the IDPs, so you should try and be sensitive when ‘intruding’ into their lives. Apparently there are plans to rehouse them by 2021.
It’s the ideal place to relive the past before they disappear
In recent years, the government sold a few of the sanatorium complexes to private companies that want to convert them into hotels; many have dreams of turning some of them back into the resort destination of days gone by. But for now the deserted hotels, sanatoriums, and bathhouses are a great attraction for people who want to go and “relive” the past, get the feel of that golden era – that means there is plenty of exploring to do for visitors coming to Tskaltubo. If you fancy the grand designs of the Soviet architects; a real adventure to discover abandoned buildings and spaces, like Chernobyl for example, then Tskaltubo will prove to be just as exciting and adventurous for you. If you are someone, though, who is more into typical monuments and intact, pretty buildings, then you might not enjoy Tskaltubo that much – maybe it would be wiser to keep your explorations to some other places.
Actually, if you want to explore Tskaltubo, you can come straight from the airport seeing as it is located very close to the Kutaisi airport, only 22 km’s. away.
OTHER THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN TODAY TSKALTHUBO
The Tskalthubo Spa
Today’s Tskaltubo Spa Resort hotel is a reminder of those bygone days; impressive and fantastic, saved from neglect and further decay. The old grandeur is still there when you walk through the halls and rooms.
In fact, it has been touted to become the second-largest spa resort in the world because of its unique water features. It is a world-renowned spa resort. Winters are mild and usually snowless and the summers are warm and even humid. Rainy and overcast weather is not an uncommon experience. The famous mineral springs have temperatures that vary between 33-35°C, and the warm waters are known for curing illnesses such as cardiovascular system disease, locomotive system disorder, endocrine and skin disease, gynecological disorders and metabolic disorders. If you have any of these types of disorders, you could expect your duration of your treatment to be around 14-21 days. The Tskaltubo Resort is a foundation for highly effective treatment coming from natural remedies, and radon therapy is cheaper and yet more effective than traditional clinical medications.
Visitors arriving at the Tskaltubo Spa Resort hotel don’t stay at outside hotels and come in for treatments like in the past. Besides, none of the hotels have access to the mineral springs. It is said that the healing properties get lost in around 4 minutes after being released from the source – that’s why all procedures at the spa occur in refreshed and flowing mineral waters.
Feeling run down, tired, exhausted, and stressed and long for a tranquil environment to bring rejuvenation to your body and soul? Book your place today.
Prometheus Cave Natural Monument
Kumistavi is only about 12 km from Tskaltubo, so this cave is also known as Kumistavi Cave. It’s about 1.8 km long and located 40 meters below sea level. You pass through many fascinating exquisite halls, with the trail finishing with a pedestrian or boating tour of the underground river Kumi. There are different prices for different circumstances.
Sataplia Nature Reserve
This 3.3-sq-km reserve displays fossilized dinosaur footprints and there is also a 300 m cave with an underground river in it. Visitors love the thick subtropical forests with the lookout points. It’s an intriguing world of magnificent geological formations, impressive stalagmites and stalactites, dramatically lit up, and there is one that is supposed to look like the shape of a huge human heart!
Stalin’s Dacha (Holiday Cottage)
The house appears pretty modest considering it was the leader of the Soviet Union who was using it, but it will really interest you to see some leftover signs of the grandeur back then. Near the cottage, you will also discover a small bunker in the garden and even a workshop that houses some strange-looking electrical stuff. Your mind can kind of get carried away a bit here wondering what all the electrical stuff was used for but hopefully, it was for mechanical purposes!
The Tskaltubo’s railway station used to be abandoned, but restoration has started and the upper floor has been converted into a makeshift bar. The downstairs gets used as a community center and you will also find a tourist information desk there for some advice and information. There are even daily trains to Kutaisi (but they don’t go to Moscow!). Apparently, if you really ask nicely at the information desk, they might allow you to look at the abandoned soviet train station.
It’s beautiful here to go and relax and have a meal and enjoy nature, sitting on the terrace, enjoying the views. You can have a party there or a romantic dinner.
All these places hereunder are less than 20 km’s. away from Tskaltubo for you to visit
Colchis Fountain – 10 km. This attention-grabbing fountain is not to be missed. The fixtures used to be made from gold and can be seen in the Tbilisi national museum today. See the fountain in the central ’round-about’ in the main square of Kutaisi.
Gelati Monastery – 13.9 km. This medieval monastic complex is a masterpiece of the Georgian Golden Age. The monastery is now recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Okatse Canyon – 15 km. The canyon stretches about 2 km long and considered a masterpiece of nature.
Kinchkha Waterfall – 18 km. Situated in the Satsiskvilos Valley, the waterfall flows from a huge limestone mountain; magnificent for picnicking and camping.
You could spend a solid few hours exploring Tskaltubo’s abandoned buildings and you might not see another visitor around. Some of the derelict buildings are actually still in quite good condition but you will need to judge for yourself about entering them and moving around and taking photographs, etc. Because as mentioned above, there are still IDP’s living in some of these semi-abandoned, semi-inhabited hotels and you need to respect their privacy. Perhaps when you do encounter them on your trips, you could just let them know you are tourists who are interested in the grand architecture of bygone days. Just a basic knowledge of Russian will help you quite a bit when communicating with them as you explore and delve into the past.
ABANDON YOURSELF IN TANTALIZING TSKALTUBO
Georgia has proved to be a very fascinating country for those who have come to visit around the Kutaisi and Tskaltubo areas – these areas are packed full of attractions. It could take around 6 hours to explore Tskaltubo, walking around, and then you still might not have been able to see all the old buildings and architecture. In order to save time on commuting all the time from Kutaisi, there are fantastic places to spend the night in Tskaltubo at one of the available hotels. Here are a couple of good ideas of places to stay in Tskaltubo – just pick the one which suits you the most:
Tskaltubo Hotel Prometheus
Chill Out Hotel
Imereti Health Resort
No matter which places you visit or where you lay your head, or where you taste of the wonderful fare and hospitality of Tskaltubo, Georgia, you will find it a magical world of glorious bygone days – you would have discovered a gem, a hidden pearl that you won’t easily forget.