Kutaisi is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It was founded around 4 millenniums ago. The cradle of ancient civilization in Georgia always served as a main cultural and educational center of the region. Nowadays it is the third largest city and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Georgia. Here are the reasons why:
1. Bagrati Cathedral
Bagrati Cathedral Photo credits: Grete Howard
Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi ranks among the best monuments of Georgian architecture. The cathedral was built in the 11th century during the reign of King Bagrat III, who unified Georgian regions into one kingdom. While Tbilisi was occupied by Persians for around 400 years, Kutaisi Served as a capital of Georgian kingdom. The church is situated on the high, rocky right bank of Rioni river.
Later in the 17th century a Turkish explosion left the cathedral in a ruined state until it was fully renovated between 2009 and 2012, with a mix of old and new stone and a few steel sections.The cathedral gained Unesco World Heritage listing in 1994, but the recent renovation has put it in danger to lose this status. Getting up to the Bagrati Cathedral is a must have while you’re in Kutaisi. It is visible from all places of Kutaisi, so you will not be lost in a way there, and it takes you about 15 minutes to walk from the red bridge (Tsiteli Khidi; It’s in the center of the city, there is a station for busses and minibuses for a trip around the city), visiting is free of charge. Also, from the place where the Cathedral is located, you’ll get incredible panorama of Kutaisi. Every Sunday, from 9:00 AM till 2:00 PM, there is divine worship and you will be able to listen to Georgian chant and even folk music. Also The Cathedral is the most popular place in Kutaisi for weddings and if you are lucky you will be able to track the traditional wedding ritual on the weekends.
These two caves belong to Imereti Protected Areas, and are quite close – you can easily visit both in one day. Driving through dense forests of West Georgian mountains, you’ll suddenly run into a tourist center of Prometheus cave. There is a worldwide known legend of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods, for which he was punished and chained to Khvamli Mountain, which can be seen from Prometheus Cave, one of the most adventurous places in Georgia. We may not believe in legends, but we definitely believe in a beauty of Prometheus cave. Here you can find a very special form of stalactites, stalagmites, petrified stone waterfalls and hanging curtains, underground River and lakes – all this on a nice 1.4km walk in mysterious and cool atmosphere and short boat trip if interested. Sataplia cave is another unique place you must visit while in Imereti region. It is probably best known for Dinosaur footprints alongside cave itself. Footprints are the first sightseeing of tour – guides will explain each footprint in details, so listen carefully – you may discover many interesting facts about different dinosaurs from millions of years ago! From Sataplia mountain you can have breathtaking views on Kutaisi. There is a special glass belvedereoverlooking the city. Just under that mountain you enter into mysterious, small tunnel leading to greater Sataplia cave halls. In the very center of the cave you’ll see a nice heart-shaped stalagmite. There are a restaurant and some attractions outside the cave in case you decide to enjoy the fresh scent of West Georgian Subtropical forest.
How to get there:
Prometheus Cave: Take a bus from the main station to Tskaltubo, from there are buses to the cave. Each costs 1 GEL. Entrance fee to the cave is 3USD but you need to add extra 3USD for a boat trip in Prometheus Cave.
Sataplia Cave: Mini bus N45 leaves every day except Sunday from Kutaisi Central Agricultural Market (Behind Kutaisi Lado Meskhishvili State Academic Theatre) to Sataplia (Costs is less than 1USD and the travel time is 40 min.) Entrance fee is 3 USD.
Kutaisi Botanical Garden was established in the mid-19th century and contains about 700 plant species of trees and shrubs. The most interesting plant there is a giant oak-tree; it is 400 thousand years old and has turned into a miniature chapel. The oak tree reaches a height of 45 meters, and is around 2 meters in diameter. The hollow that has been transformed into a chapel, seizes almost the quarter of the entire tree, and three people may freely fit inside. To a surprise the hollow didn’t make the oak tree dry out, but it continued to blossom. This is a really quiet a place to have a rest; you will be pleased by the nature and breathe fresh air, you can also take nice photos. During the summer locals go there to escape from the hot weather, watch movies (there is a little outdoor cinema) and Georgian folk concerts. Its costs 3USD per person to enter.
4. Gelaty Monastery
Gelati Monastery Photo credits: Paddinho
Gelati is a medieval monastic complex near Kutaisi, consisting of three churches. It was founded in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia (He is buried there) and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Gelati Monastery served as an educational center for centuries, thus there has been preserved a great number of murals and manuscripts dating back to the 12th to 17th centuries. Gelati is a beautiful huge cathedral which contains wonderful mosaics and wall paintings – called fresco. If you stay inside for a couple minutes, you’ll discover amazing quietness which gives you inner peace. There always are birds under church’s dome. Visiting is free of charge.
How to get there:
Minibuses/Marshutkas (20mins) leave from the State Theatre daily at 11.00, 14.00 and 17.00, returning at 11.30, 14.30 and 17.30. A taxi from Kutaisi to Gelati and back should cost about 7 USD.
5. Okatse Canyon and Kinchkha Waterfall
These are two places on Okatse river. To get to Okatse canyon you should follow the path across the Dadian’s garden, which is in the village called Gordi. At the end of the footpath there is a checkpoint where starts Okatse canyon, entrance fee is 5 Gel. Metal construction pathway with length of 800 meters is attached to the rock about 50 meters above canyon and while you are walking you can enjoy the nature and beautiful views of Okatse River. Kinchkha waterfall is almost 70 meters high and while it flows down it makes little oases in the river valley. From Okatse canyon its 5 km and takes about 15 minutes by car, you can also take a Taxi for 20 USD. You can go further and visit Lomina Lake; it’s about 2 km to walk from the waterfall, but it’s really worth to see. The Lake is located in the heart of the forest, where you can swim and enjoy the sounds of the nature. This is a nice place for camping and night stay too.
How to get there:
From Kutaisi central station (Ilia Chavchavadze avenue, next to Macdonald’s) there are minibuses/Marshutkas to city Khoni, it costs 1 USD and takes 40 minutes. In Khoni at 11.00, 12.00 and 2.00 there is another Marshutka to Gordi (0.5 USD / 30 mints). However, during summer many locals visit these places and auto stop is the best choice. This is amazing to see if you love walking in the wild nature, perfect for one day trip 🙂
Kutaisi central park Photo credits: Natty Mamardashvili
Everyone in Georgia will tell you that citizens from Kutaisi are the most welcoming and cheerful people. Every evening when the sun goes down and summer heat evades, locals of all age gather and discuss everything in laud and artistic manner. To feel the city vibe, you must visit one of many local parks, one of them is called “Gora Park” located on the top of the hill (near Bagrati Cathedral) and is visible from the center of the city. You can get there by ropeway (1 Gel), it’s really old but don’t be afraid, locals use it everyday. In the park there are great attractions for kids and Georgian restaurant where you will be able to taste traditional imeretian cuisine. The other one is called “Pioneers Park”; located on the other side of the city (Ilia Chavchavadze avenue). The place is full of fir-trees; you can go there for a nice picnic, jogging, to walk a dog or just to breathe fresh air. In summer, circuses from different countries are visiting this park.
7. Niko Berdzenishvili Kutaisi State History Museum
Kutaisi State History Museum Photo Source: facetravel.ge
The museum, established in 1921, keeps more than 150 thousand items of Georgian cultural heritage (from IX-VII c.c. B.C. up to late medieval times). Bronze Age and Antiquity period monuments – archaeological discoveries from western Georgia, rare samples Georgian, Roman, Byzantine and Oriental history, everyday life and cultural rare objects, collection of oldest epigraphs and Georgian manuscripts – rare charters, ethnographic materials. Permanent exhibitions are displayed in 10 spaces on two floors.
Tskaltubo Photo Source: nasp.gov.ge
Tskaltubois one of the oldest resorts of the world. It is famous with its magnificent underground water spas. This unique nature gift is called “live water”, and is used for treatment, prevention and general improvement for many diseases. It’s usually recommended to take 14-21 days holiday-treatment in Tskaltubo. There is a nice park with small man-made lake and a bar with terrace, where you can enjoy a cool day in a hot weather.
How to get there: From red bridge (tsiteli khidi) there are Marshutkas (0.50 Gel / 15 minutes); By Taxi about 6 Gel
9. City Walk
Kutaisi City Walk Photo Source: vk.com
During the past decade old town was renovated which brought a new life to Kutaisi. It’ll take not more than 30 minutes to walk through historic sites. Don’t forget to visit: Opera Theater with its outstanding statues on top of the roof; Lado Meskhishvili State Drama Theater – maybe the most beautiful architectural creation in the region;
Imereti King’s residence (Okros Chardakhi) – located on one of the squares (located between two bridges Rustaveli and White Bridge), now is under construction. Stairs just next to residence lead to Rioni river. If you’re lucky and river-bed is low, you can hop on famous white rocks in the middle of river. If you get tired of wandering around, then nice little shopping malls, bars, beer pubs and restaurants are right place for you sit back and enjoy. You can also visit State Theatre to enjoy national dancing and folk songs.