Hidden in the shadows of the more popular capital Tbilisi, Kutaisi is a city of historical significance and geographical advantages which is often overlooked by visitors.
Rich with religious history, medieval architecture, lush canyons, centuries-old karst caves, Soviet relics, dinosaur footprints and legends that will amuse you, this is a city you shouldn’t think about skipping when visiting Georgia.
Here are what Kutaisi and the surroundings have to offer.
Marvel at the Medieval Masterpiece of Bagrati Cathedral
Sitting on the top of the hill overlooking Kutaisi, Bagrati Cathedral is an ancient cathedral dating back to the 11th century. It was severely damaged throughout centuries, especially in 1692, when Ottoman troops exploded the building causing the ceiling and roof to collapse.
Restoration works started in the 1950s and reconstruction in recent years, which included a glass lift, has sparked controversy and debate.
Visit the Former Parliament Building
Looking like a futuristic spaceship, this massive six-story glass-domed building used to be a second Parliament building in Georgia after Tbilisi, though for only about a year since its inauguration on Georgia’s Independence Day in 2012.
It hosted parliamentary committee hearings and was home to four government departments until 2013 when the ruling party changed and decided to move everything back to the capital. Today, the fate of Kutaisi’s Parliament building is still undecided.
Shop for Fresh Produce at the Green Bazaar
Characterized by the massive Soviet-era bas-relief, Green Bazaar is a go-to place for buying fresh products, vegetables, and fruits from local farmers. Wander through the stalls of the market to load up your grocery bag while having a glance of the locals in their natural element.
Admire Ancient Frescoes at Gelati and Motsameta Monasteries
Gelati Monastery, located 9km from Kutaisi, dates back to the beginning of the 12th century during the Golden Age of Georgia. This medieval monastery was one of the first establishments of its kind in the country, adding particular importance to Georgian Christian Orthodox religion and culture in general.
Just as significant is the Motsameta Monastery, perching on a nearby cliff top overlooking the river valley. The name of this secluded monastery translates as “the place of martyrs”, which refers to the brothers from a noble family who organized a rebellion against invading Arabs in the 8th century.
Explore the Neon-lit Prometheus Cave
Located around 22km from Kutaisi, Prometheus Cave is a part of the extensive cave system united with one river. The total area of the cave is somewhat 11km long and has around 22 rooms. However, only 1060m and six halls are open to visitors.
A one-hour tourist route takes you through colorful illuminated rooms with a guide who tells you the story of the cave in English and Russian. For variety of experience, you can choose to finish the trail by a 15-minute boat ride on an underground river Kumi and exit the cave.
See Dinosaur Footprints at Sataplia Nature Reserve
Sataplia Nature Reserve, situated about 12km from Kutaisi, is home to the several footprints of Herbivorous and Raptor dinosaurs that date back to the different eras. The name Sataplia translates as a “place of honey,” referring to bees who made honey in holes and caves that later were harvested by locals.
The easy pedestrian route takes you to the conservation building of dinosaur footprints, unique karst cave, exhibition hall, wild bee habitat area and the glass observation deck.
Get Your Adrenaline Going at Okatse Canyon and Kinchkha Waterfall
Okatse canyon is a relatively new addition to the natural landmarks of the country. Located around 50km from Kutaisi, the gorge features 780m long suspension trail and a panoramic viewing platform. The pedestrian route is a 2-3 hour pleasant walk to the gorge and back, through the beautiful Dadiani historical forest.
Around 6km away lies one of the tallest waterfalls in Georgia – Kinchkha. This 88m long waterfall cascades down from a massive limestone cliff and passes through Satsiskvilos Valley. A trek goes through small canyons by the Okatse river and meadows. Once at The viewpoint of the waterfall, you’ll be treated with stunning views of the surroundings.
Getting to these sites is quite a challenge as it’s not conveniently accessible by public transport.
But our Karavanly passes have this painful affair taken care of (even with admission fees included.) Visit these magnificent landmarks hassle-free along your ride with us!
Soak In the Emerald Beauty of Martvili Canyon
Martvili Canyon is another jewel of Georgia, situated about one hour drive from Kutaisi. Distinguished with its picturesque landscape, the main attraction here is taking a short, 300m long, boat ride through the canyon where furrowed cliffs rise high overhead arrayed in a dense cluster of moss-covered trees.
Afterward, you can walk on a 700 m long stone-paved circular route to enjoy a postcard-perfect landscape with two bridges, three viewing platforms, and a 30-step staircase made from limestone boulders.
Trace the Extinct Glory of Chiatura
If you are looking for the unique towns to visit, Chiatura located about 70km from Kutaisi is precisely that. This former manganese mining town is known for its Soviet-era cable car system and popular among tourists looking for an extreme ride (currently shut down for an upgrade.)
Fans of Soviet relics will find the Soviet architecture, mosaics and structures in and around the town well worth exploring.
At the eastern edge of Chiatura, lies the Mghvimevi Monastery which is partly carved into rock. Accessible only through a long cliffside stairway, the complex beautifully blends in with the cliff and offers a nice view of the mountain valley.
Visible afar on the way to or from Chiatura is Katskhi Pillar, a 40-meter high natural limestone monolith with a monastery on top of it, as known as the stairway to heaven. Archeological studies have found the ruins of an old church that dates back to the 9th or 10th century. The current monastery was restored in 2009.
Discover Abandoned Soviet Sanatoriums in Tskaltubo
Tskaltubo used to be a famous balneological town of Georgia full of grand and impressive sanatoriums. It was frequented by locals and citizens of the Soviet Union. Today, those buildings are crumbling, while a big part of them are inhabited by IPDs of the civil war.
Nineteen sanatoriums are dispersed around a massive park, but only several are worth visiting for its architectural grandeur and intricate mosaics. The town is also home to several public bathhouses, one of which is known as Stalin’s bath, where he had his private room.
With the sanitoriums scattered across town and hidden behind over-grown foliage, it can leave you going in circles if you don’t know where to look.
Save yourself the logistics headache and let our guide take you to explore these magnificent architectural jewels. All covered in your Karavanly pass!