Kutaisi Travel Guide
Kutaisi has long been a rival to bigger Tbilisi. It may be the second-largest city in Georgia, but lacks the wealth of its bigger cousin.
However, it is close by to age-old monasteries, churches, and some of the biggest caverns in the country. As such, it is worth a stop on a visit to Georgia.
Come check out our Kutaisi travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Kutaisi, Georgia.
Soon after arriving in the Kutaisi area, make a trip out to see Gelati Monastery. King David IV commissioned the creation of this church in the 12th century. The ruler adored his creation so much, he made arrangements to be buried here upon his death.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is as photogenic from the inside as it is on the outside. Its creators covered its walls and ceilings with decorative frescoes, and on its floor, you’ll see a mosaic. Before leaving, climb its bell tower to gain sweeping views of the surrounding area. Entrance is free, but note that authorities enforce a dress code. Sarongs may be available for those in shorts, but don’t count on it.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of Gelati, move on to Motsameta Monastery. A tragic story defines this place. More than 1,200 years ago, Muslim conquerors invaded the Kutaisi area. Konstantin and Davit Mkheidze, dukes of the region, refused to convert to Islam.
For their defiance, the invaders executed and cast them in the river. Further down, lions dragged their bodies to where the monastery sits today. The creators of this holy place interred their bones in an altar. According to local superstition, if you crawl underneath it three times and make a wish, it will come true.
A 45-minute walk separates both monasteries. If you are fit, this path makes for a beautiful hike, with no shortage of mountain vistas along the way. If not, transport between the two is available.
Back in the city of Kutaisi, make sure to drop by Bagrati Cathedral. While it dates back to the 11th century, it is only recently it became a viable church. Since the late 17th century, the cathedral had lain in ruins, thanks to an attack by invading Ottomans.
Renovations that started with the aim of restoring the church to its former glory began in the 1950s. It was a UNESCO World Heritage Site up to 2017, but additional reconstruction led to its delisting. In the opinion of the United Nations, further renovations had compromised its integrity and authenticity.
Despite this, the church still boasts spectacular Georgian architecture. Like other major Georgian Orthodox religious sites, a dress code is in effect. This edict includes head coverings for women, which church officials provide to tourists.
Learn more about the history of this corner of Georgia by spending time at the Kutaisi Historical Museum. Its curators established it in 1922 in a building that formerly housed the National Bank of Georgia. Everything you could want to know about the area is inside, as it contains over 150,000 artifacts.
While the weapons and crosses on display are especially interesting, very few captions are in English. As such, we recommend hiring a guide, which only costs a few Lari extra.
Spelunkers visiting the Kutaisi area will be in luck, as two quality caverns are within easy reach. Start by checking out Prometheus Cave. Shortly after its discovery in the 1990s, explorers confirmed that it was the largest cave in all of Georgia.
In total, the cavern boasts 11 kilometres of caverns and 22 halls. However, only the first kilometre and six halls are open to the public. The cavern’s managers have lit up this space spectacularly – with easy-to-access pathways, first-time explorers needn’t fear getting dirty.
Those looking to explore other caverns will want to head over to Sataplia Cave and Nature Reserve. These attractions are also developed, with lighting and established paths throughout each cave. Above ground, you’ll find fossilized dinosaur footprints. They are well-protected, as archaeologists have dated these imprints at over 120 million years old. Once you have finished with these attractions, go for a walk in the woods. Keep your eyes peeled, and you may get to see a wolf or a roe deer.
Outdoor lovers will also want to add Okatse Canyon to their itinerary. In places, it is only three to six metres wide but is over 100 metres deep. From a walkway, you can capture incredible shots of waterfalls. However, if heights spook you, you may want to reconsider a visit to this attraction.
Lastly, get a sample of everyday local life by spending some time at Kutaisi Market. Here, you’ll find local vendors selling fresh produce, fruit, cheese, and beef from regional farms. Take your time and soak it all in – it’s one of Georgia’s most interesting places.