What to visit in Kutaisi? When we arrived at Kutaisi we were not immediately amazed by the town, perhaps because it is a big place. To discover some of the charms of Kutaisi it is necessary to go straight to the old town, over one of the bridges on the Rioni river.
The most probable is that you chose Kutaisi as a basis to explore the Imereti region, as there are many attractions around, as you can read below. If you are exploring the region you are certainly on a longer trip through Georgia or on your way to the capital Tbilisi, only 200 kilometres away.
What to visit in Kutaisi
The central fountain in Kutaisi, the Colchis fountain, is a special monument. It was built recently and depicts copies of statues from the Kolkhida bronze culture, found during archaeological excavations. One of the statues is a homage to the important figure of the Tamada, the toastmaster of the supra ceremonies in Georgia (see Food in Georgia).
A supra ceremony is the time to be with friends, celebrating life and drinking wine or chacha. Because Georgians relish these ceremonies so much, it is not surprising that the nightlife of Kutaisi is very lively. Restaurants, wine bars and pubs are open until late at night, and the famous Khashi soup (to cure hang-overs) is found in small places, from very early in the morning (see Food in Georgia).
Orthodox Cathedral of Bagrati
But it is the religious monuments that are the main attraction of Kutaisi. The Orthodox Cathedral of Bagrati has once been a masterpiece of medieval architecture. The cathedral was constructed in the 11th century but has been severely damaged throughout the years. The UNESCO has considered it as World Heritage Site, in order to preserve it, but considered the work of reconstruction as detrimental to its authenticity and removed it from the list. Still, it is a beautiful building and worth to spend a couple of hours there and watch the sunset over Kutaisi with the locals.
The Gelati Monastery
A short trip from Kutaisi, the Gelati Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No wonder! Its impressive 12th-century murals and mosaics are in themselves what makes a visit to this monastery imperative. We were fascinated when visiting this construction, built during the Georgian Golden Age. The monastery’s privileged position, on top of a hill, is representative of what it stands for: a means to be closer to God.
The Motsameta Monastery
More than picturesque, the setting of the Motsameta monastery on top of a cliff overseeing a luxuriant canyon seems to be inspired by a fairy tale. It is worth to combine and visit both monasteries on the same day as the Gelati monastery is less than two kilometres away from Motsamenta. The monks live on the premises and with some luck, you will get the chance to witness a baptism or wedding…
The Martvili canyon was once used as the summer refuge of the noble Dadiani family, who enjoyed using its natural green pools to bath. Nowadays, it is exploited by tourism and wooden catwalks have been built so that the canyon can be visited up and down the river gorge. To go closer to the waterfalls it is necessary to get a boat trip that takes us close to the waterfalls, through the limestone canyons.
The Okatse is another impressive canyon, and not far from Kutaisi. There is a visitor centre displaying photos and a small replica of the canyon. From here, the path until the slope of the canyon is made through a lovely forest. When you reach the edge, you will walk for around two kilometres on a platform which was recently built over the canyon and that culminates in an observation deck. This structure offers amazing views, not for the faint-hearted though, because it is situated high above the river and its canyon.
Prometheus is a complex of caves but for the moment it is only possible to visit a small part of it. Even though small, the internal trail is more than 1,000 kilometres long. They have only recently been discovered and converted into tourism. A visit here is indeed impressive as part of the visit include some of the tallest halls beautifully decorated with very long stalactites.
Need a tip for a hotel?
While in Kutaisi we stayed at a very awesome and inexpensive hostel. We stayed in one double room for the ridiculous price of 5 EUR! They even have a swimming pool! It is the Golden Fleece Hotel. The hotel serves both as hotel and hostel, having several dorms besides the double rooms, and it is a soviet-styled building with long corridors painted in pink… check the photos! 🙂