Kutaisi is Georgia’s third largest metropolitan area and currently serves as the parliamentary legislative capital. It is located in the central western region of Imereti on the banks of the Rioni River. Kutaisi was the capital of the fabled Kingdom of Colchis. The myth of the Golden Fleece originates here as the waters of the Rioni were once panned for gold using sheep skin.
Kutaisi’s appeal lies in both its natural scenery and its historic and architectural monuments, particularly its unique river bridges, sacred cathedrals and monastic structures. The city is rich with regional Georgian cuisine, museums and shopping. Kutaisi also serves as a transportation hub for domestic and trans-European air travel, lending a cosmopolitan vibrancy to its small town charm.
Kutaisi was once the cultural and intellectual center of Georgia. Kutaisi residents adhere to this ideal and most can tell you the history of the city in detail. Kutaisi Garden Park near central David Agmashenabeli Square is a forum of discussion for locals who converse ritually pertaining to everything from weather to politics to football. Visitors to the park are sometimes taken aback as Kutaisians are known for their sharp yet subtle humor.
The diminutive Old City Center and its White Bridge are a must see. For those not faint of heart, ride the old soviet cable car from White Bridge to the park above which overlooks the city with stunning views.
Must See Cultural Attractions in and around Kutaisi
Bagrati Cathedral is considered by many to be one of Georgia’s most impressive and significant examples of cultural heritage and medieval architecture. Its enormous presence can be seen from almost anywhere in Kutaisi. It was built between the 10th and 11th centuries under the rule of Bagrat III of the famous royal Bagrationi family.
Motsameta Monastery is located along the banks of the Rioni River. Steeped in history, it’s tucked away in pristine foliage during the warmer months.
Gelati is a grand cathedral with a surrounding complex which used to house the renowned Gelati Academy. It is also the burial site of revered King David Agmashenabeli.
No trip to Kutaisi is authentic without a visit to the open Green Bazaar. An unbelievably eclectic array of goods is available, often at negotiable prices.
Don’t miss the many amazing natural wonders located just a short drive from the city:
Prometheus Cave, or Kumistavi, is among the largest karst formations in Georgia and walking tours amaze tourists year round.
Okalse Canyon Park has a pedestrian pathway perched along its precipice and is a favorite spot for those seeking respite or an easy hike. Be sure to check out nearby Kiinchkha Waterfall.
Satapila Cave Park features foreboding massive dinosaur footprints amidst botanical seclusion.
Martvili Canyon is located in the adjacent region of Samegrelo just a couple of hours out of the city. Boat rides on the bright blue waters of the winding canyon are a must. 7th century Martvili Monastery is located here. The ancient monastery was a pre-Christian era pagan site of worship dedicated to the fertility goddess Adgilis Deda.
Near Martvili is the fortress of Nokalakevi. The Colchian ruler Kuji once held sway here defending the kingdom from foreign invasion.
Food and Wine in Kutaisi
Imeretian cuisine is widely esteemed as some of the finest in Georgia. Imeretian katchapuri pastry stuffed with Imeruli cheese, sometimes cooked on a skewer, is a symbolic example.
Western and European food can be found near the city centre. The selection includes fast food as well as upscale dining.
As in all metropolitan areas of Georgia, quaint cafes and trendy wine houses are found in Kutaisi.
Your Kutaisi trip will not be full without trying the following IMERETIAN WINES:
Tsitska is a singular varietal dry white wine produced in the region of Imereti. It is noted for its sorted nose and is best enjoyed with salty cheeses.
Tsolikouri is a singular varietal of light golden hue with a greenish tint. Its nose implies light colored fruits to reveal an acidic vivacious palate. Its extended finish gives hints of cinnamon.
Krakhuna is another singular white varietal produced extensively in the Kvirila river valley of Imereti. This dry white wine is reputed to be of extremely high quality but is also quite affordable.
Getting around Kutaisi is safe, convenient and painless.
As in all of Georgia, tourism is welcomed and encouraged and violent crime is rare. Kutaisi is somewhat centralized and travel afoot is both fun and relatively risk free.
Same as in Tbilisi, taxis are cheap and easy to find day or night in Kutaisi. Drivers in the city center usually speak enough English to facilitate short distance travel. Kutaisians share in the typical Georgian attitude toward guests and are more than happy to translate. It’s not unheard of for one of them to accompany you on the cab ride to assure your arrival.
Bus routes are extensive enough and quite inexpensive. Mini busses, or marshrutkas, can take you just about anywhere for almost as cheap and slightly more comfortably.
Georgian Railways offers service to both Batumi and Tbilisi twice daily via express or overnight.
Kutaisi International Airport (David the Builder) offers domestic service via Service Air to Mestia and Natakhtari, and international service via low-cost carrier Wizz Air, premium airlines Ural, SCAT and seasonal service via flydubai.
As of May 2018 the following flights to the following cities are operated:
Aktau, Athens, Barcelona, Beauvais, Berlin-Schönefeld, Budapest, Dortmund, Kavala, Larnaca, London-Luton,Memmingen, Milan-Malpensa, Moscow-Domodedovo, Thessaloniki, Riga, Rome-Fiumicino, Vienna, Vilnius, Warsaw-Chopin, Wrocław.
Seasonal: Katowice, Prague, Dubai International