Nature, Air, People

Best Attractions in & Around Kutaisi

Written by Anat Levi​

Kutaisi, the capital of Imereti province, is the third-largest city in Georgia after Batumi overtook it in recent years. The city is located on the west side of the country, about 220 km from Tbilisi, on the banks of the Rioni River. The city housed the largest Jewish community in Georgia. From 2012 to 2018, the city served as the seat of the Georgian parliament thanks to the efforts of the Saakashvili administration to decentralize the Georgian government.

Kutaisi and its surroundings are especially suitable for those who are nature lovers but at the same time not looking for serious or extreme hiking trails that require special equipment like the trails you will find around Mestia (Svaneti region). Kutaisi is full of impressive architecture with beautiful buildings, monasteries, and churches that are world heritage sites of UNESCO. There are many great parks and reserves around the city (up to 40 Min drive) that you must visit before you leave the city.

To make it easy for you to prepare your trip to Kutaisi and even learn something along the way, we have gathered the best attractions in Kutaisi and its surroundings.

Bagrati Cathedral

The cathedral was built in the 11th century, during the reign of King Bagrat III who united all provinces of the country into a kingdom while the Persians ruled Georgia and Kutaisi served as the state capital. His son, Georgi I, is buried here. The cathedral was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 and was renovated between 2009-2012. The cathedral can be seen from anywhere in the city and it takes about a 15-minute walk to reach it from the Red Bridge. Admission to the site is free and it is recommended to get here on Sunday between 09:00-14:00 because there is a religious ceremony worth seeing. The Bagrati Cathedral is especially beautiful during the sunset.

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Gelati Monastery

Gelati Monastery is very easy to reach, located 11 km west of Kutaisi, the monastery was built in 1106 (and continued to change until the 17th century) by King David IV and served as the educational, spiritual, and cultural center of the entire area. the monastery is nicknamed the "Golden Age of Georgia" and was influenced by Byzantine architecture. King David, one of Georgia's most loved and glorious kings, is buried in the monastery courtyard.

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Motsameta Monastery

For those of you who are into churches and monasteries, another option is Motsameta Monastery which is about 6 km from Kutaisi and was built in the 11th century. The monastery attracts lots of tourists each year due to a secret legend. The legend says that if you would ask a wish while crossing the arc 3 times, it may come true.

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 Niko Berdzenishvili

The museum contains over 150,000 exhibits found by archaeologists and art collectors. The first part presents personal items, photos, and other exhibits of significant figures throughout Georgian history. In the second part, in the ethnographic area, there are exhibits of wood, metal, ceramics, glass, textiles, leather, and more. The museum reveals the history of the western part of Georgia. The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 18:00.

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Nature activities around Kutaisi

Sataplia Nature Reserve​

Sataplia Nature Reserve is located 12 km northwest of Kutaisi and means "honey place" due to the honey made by the bees that can be found here. This stunning reserve, founded in 1935, contains geological, paleontological, zoological, and botanical monuments. Sataplia reserve offers 3 main attractions. The first attraction you will encounter is a dinosaur footprint building where you will get a comprehensive explanation of the footprint and the world of dinosaurs. The second attraction is 900 meters long stalactite cave with 10 meters in height. The main attraction (and the most amazing in my mind!) Is the view that overlooks Kutaisi, the forest, and the mountains around the reserve, which is a kind of transparent terrace that provides an unbelievable panoramic view. In the reserve, you will also find a visitor center, souvenir shop, cafe, and more. Open between 10:00-17:00 Tuesday-Sunday.

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Prometheus Caves​

The largest stalactite caves in Georgia, Prometheus caves, are located 23 km northwest of Kutaisi. It got its name from the Caucasian myth of Amirani who like Prometheus, angered the gods to make him imprisoned in a cave where he was tortured by eagles. The cave, located 40 meters below sea level, reveals thousands of years of stalactites, an underground river called Kumi, fossil waterfalls, and wonderful lighting. The length of the tunnel is more than 1km with 22 "rooms" while 6 of them are open for exploring purpose. As of 2012, you can end your tour with a boat cruise on an underground river (the cruise only lasts a few minutes) or simply walk out. The entire tour lasts about an hour, depends on the pace. keep in mind that the tour is not accessible to people with walking difficulties as the route requires passing slippery places and​ many stairs.

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 Okatse Canyon and Kinchkha Waterfall

This is simply one of the most recommended canyons and nature sites in Georgia. Located about 50 km northwest of Kutaisi (further down the road leading to Prometheus Cave). The uniqueness of this amazing place is in a metal bridge that leans on a high cliff above the creek and provides a wonderful view in all directions with observation cameras along the trail. There is a balcony hanging just above the canyon that will make you feel something special (highly recommended!). The route is about 7 km while the road from the visitor center (where you buy tickets) to the canyon entrance 2.5 km long and the length of the suspension bridge is about 800 meters. You can use a taxi driver that will take you to the entrance from the visitor canter(they usually very expensive here so keep that in mind). Note that entrance for children under 120 cm won't be allowed and the place is closed on rainy days.

Kinchkha Waterfall, a separate site, which is not included in Okatsa Canyon. The 70-meter waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in Georgia. The waterfall is located only 5 km from the canyon (definitely worth the drive). Another advantage for those who choose to reach the waterfall lake Lomina (2 km away from the waterfall), which looks like you're in a movie. The place is open every day except Mondays.

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Martvili Canyon​

Martbili Canyon located 53km north of Kutaisi. The canyon is a natural wonder, formerly used as a bathing place for the Georgian elite, the Dadiani family. The route runs along the Abasha River which starts at the visitor center in the village of Inchkhuri and continues with 700 meters of paved road along the Dadiani trail. During this small trek, you will pass 2 bridges, 3 observation decks, waterfalls, clear water with amazing colors and 30 historic steps. You can add a short cruise of about 300 meters in boats of 6 people along The river for extra charge. Entry and boating involve a fee when children under a meter height will not be able to participate. The canyon is open to visitors all year round, all days of the week except Monday and opening hours are 10:00-18:00. Keep in mind that the boats are not available on rainy days and during the winter season.

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Kutaisi Botanical Garden

Kutaisi Botanical Garden as it looks today was established in 1969 in the city center after many modifications throughout the years, starting at 1820. The garden contains over 700 species of plants and trees brought from all over Georgia, the Soviet Union, and the rest of the world. Inside the garden, there is a huge oak tree of about 35m high and around 2m in diameter that has been turned into a miniature church and can accommodate up to 3 people. To the surprise of many, even when the tree became hollow it continued to bloom. During the summer season, people come to watch movies at the cinema located outside or folk concerts that taking place around this area. The garden is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00.

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