REGIONS OF GEORGIA

Adjara is the beautiful Southern corner of coastline in the European Georgia. Region retained its former soviet name – Autonomous republic of Adjara. Once part of the Kolkheti Kingdom – Colchis Kingdom (The kingdom of Colchis, Kolkhis or Qulha existed from the 6th to the 1st cc BC ) had close relations with Ancient Greece and Rome. We can trace the lyres of these cultures in the monuments of Gonio and Petre forts. Adjara, today bordering Turkey, was occupied by Turks, and then returned to Georgia 300 years later. Batumi, the major city of Adjara, is one of the loveliest cities in Georgia. It was built at the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th centuries in a grand, elegant style as a resort for the Russian emperors. There are fine classical buildings designed and built by Italian and German architects, lots of palm trees, exotic flowers – the jewel of the Georgian Riviera. Batumi is a major port and resort city. Batumi Boulevard, the main promenade with fountains and cafes, attracts numerous holidaymakers with its greenery and location. The Batumi Botanical Garden in Chakvi, 9km north of town at Mtsvane Kontskhi (Green Cape), cover 113 hectares along the Black sea coastline and is well worth of the pleasant walk. Botanical Garden homes unique species of plants from various parts of the world.

Adjarian national resorts are known all over the world. Kobuleti is another delightful vacation spot of Adjara where the sea, forest and abundant places for entertainment create the best conditions for holidaymakers.

Summer tourism is very well-developed in Kvariati and Chakvi resorts. The National Parks has quite good potential for development of bird-watching and ecotourism. Development of ethnographical tourism is possible in the nearby mountain villages as well.

Guria is a Black Sea coastline province famous for its inexhaustibly witty people. The most typical subject of their talk is certainly world politics. You shouldn’t argue with them because you will almost certainly lose! This small region of Georgia is rich in polyphonic Gurian songs. The Gurian song, “Krimanchuli” is the highest pitch in the unique and complex polyphonic songs of Guria that consistently dazzle and fascinate the world. Guria region in western Georgia is distinguished by its natural diversity and it is said, that Guria is home to the happy and numerous. Its landscapes range from the Black Sea coast, lowlands, plateaus, up to mountains of about 2800 m above sea level. More than 40% is covered by forest. Guria is plentiful in nuts, citrus fruit and tea. And, as is the case all over Georgia, guests are greeted with open arms and generous tables. Ureki, a famous sea resort is known for its medicinal magnetic sands to treat children’s physical ailments.

The historic region of Imereti in western Georgia is the region of the legendary Golden Fleece – this is where the long quest for the Golden Fleece took Jason and the Argonauts. Even though the Golden Fleece has been taken to Greece, visitors today will find something else of worth other than the Golden Fleece.

The Imereti region is known for its remarkable location extending from the humid subtropical, ending 2850m high up with alpine meadows, numerous health spas and a large number of mineral water springs. Among its numerous historical sites Gelati Monastery and Bagrati Cathedral near Kutaisi, the capital of historic Colchis, have been declared Unesco World Heritage sites.

Imereti is a region, where the witty and optimistic people, the Imeretians live. Khachapuri (cheese pie), a staple of Georgian cuisine which is like an Italian pizza, is very tasty.

The population of Imereti is cheerful, industrious and creative. While driving to Imereti, at the village of Shrosha, you can see people along the motorway selling beautiful articles made of clay. This is one of the oldest and most popular handicrafts in Georgia.

The main cities are Kutaisi and Tskaltubo, Zetaphoni and Samtredia.

The Heart of GeorgiaKartli is the central, the biggest and the most important region of Georgia. Even the Georgian name for our country (Sakartvelo) is derived from this region and both the ancient and the new capitals of Georgia – Mtskheta and Tbilisi – are located here.

It was in Mtskheta that Georgians became Christians in the 4th century through the activities of St. Nino, who worked miracles here. Mtskheta is popular with its original architectural monuments: Svetitskhoveli Cathedral 11th c built by architect Konstantine Arsakidze is also the burial place of Kings Gorgasali and Erekle II; At the turn of the 6th-8th century Jvari church was built on the mountain, which for 14 centuries has been overlooking the ancient city and is considered to be a masterpiece of Georgian early Christian architecture. Mtskheta is a museum city and is on the list of the world sights of UNESCO, and is only twenty minutes from Tbilisi.

In the ravine beyond the Caucasian mountain range, in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, lies the historical province of Georgia, Stephantsminda. In this charming alpine zone rises the majestic snowcapped mountain Kazbegi (5047 meter height). The legend goes that Prometheus was chained here by the Greek gods for stealing their knowledge.

Kvemo Kartli

Kvemo Kartli is historically on the furthest frontiers of Georgia. That’s why it was the first point of attack for numerous invaders. The historical monuments here are plentiful, for example, Bolnisi bishopric is one of the oldest in Georgia. Bolnisi Sioni was built in the 5th century during Vakhtang Gorgasali’s reign. Bishop David and the cathedral construction date, 478-493 are both mentioned in the inscription on the walls.

The ruins of the town of Dmanisi are world famous. In 1990, during archaeological excavations, Scientists discovered the oldest remains of a Eurasian man, dated 1,700,000 years old. The archaeologists have dug only a small portion, where dwellings were discovered. There is Dmanisi Sioni basilica of the 9th century, and some small churches and other buildings. Bethania monastery, founded in the 12th -13th centuries during the epoch of Queen Tamar, is located in the valley of the river Vere. There are masterfully painted frescos on the walls and on one of them Queen Tamar is represented. One can get to the Monastery through the scenic Tbilisi-Kojori motorway. There are trails here for those fond of horseback tours.

Southern districts of the Shida Kartli region are situated along the main motor and railway arteries of the country. Gori is the administrative centre of the region.

The industrial activity of the region is mainly concentrated in Kareli, Gori and Kaspi districts.

The main agricultural activity of the region is fruit and vegetable growing, while in northern zones – animal farming. Besides, Shida Kartli is suitable for beet growing.

Kakheti is known as the region of vine for a reason. Unique and awards winning premium wines and brandies are produced here. It is also believed that the very first wines were made in Georgia thousands of years ago and now worldwide acknowledged by the scholars that Georgia is a cradle of wine producing. Main towns: Telavi, Sighnaghi, Gurjaani, Napareuli, villages Manavi, Napareuli and more and more carry the names of local wines.

Kakheti is situated on the plains of the rivers Alazani and Iori and is surrounded by the Caucasian mountain ranges. When visiting the Kakheti region, at jovial and hospitable feast tables, you can listen to delightful polyphonic Kakhetian songs. It should be mentioned that the song “Chakrulo”, can be listened to by creatures from alien planets, if they actually exist. This recorded song, along with other sound signals, was sent into space, to assist alien civilizations to have an impression of life on our planet.

Kakheti is an ancient region rich in historical monuments: the residence of Kakheti King Levan  at Gremi , the monastery from the 4th century Nekresi, a complex of the David Gareji monastery caves 6th cc, the monastery Shuamta  6th-7th cc., and Alaverdi , built in the 11th century. There is also Ikalto monastery, where, in the 12th century, one of the world’s oldest higher education institutions Ikalto Academy was founded by the King David Aghmashenebeli (the builder).

One of the most important towns of Kakheti is Telavi. It was founded in ancient times, and was mentioned by the Greek geographer Claudius in the 2nd century B.C. There are interesting museums there and some medieval churches and three castles have been preserved in Telavi.

In Kakheti, there is a small, but one of the most beautiful towns, Sighnaghi, with its unusually peculiar architecture and spectacular views of the Caucasus range. You will be much impressed with the Rtveli, i.e. harvest, in Kakheti. It is the period of grape gathering, and wine producing. Farmers finish every season with feasts and merrymaking. All guests are welcomed with great respect during this period.

Khevsureti is another beautiful highland region of Georgia. Its villages Shatili, Arkhoti and Mutso were defensive towns, which is obvious by their impressive towers. Khevsurians are expert cattle-breeders, so their main diet is meat. Their most delicious meal is ‘Khinkali’, a boiled meat dumpling, which is now popular in all the regions of Georgia.

On the rocky slopes of Khevsureti, aurochs still wander. To hunt them takes a great deal of skill, since they are most difficult to chase. If one does manage to catch them, their meat is most delicious and rare. Khevsureti is also famous for its poetry lovers. Poetry festivals are frequently held, and, most of the participants can create the finest poetic samples spontaneously. Georgians are not the only people interested in preserving this prettiest of regions in its primordial form. The World Bank financed a major project to protect and preserve historical Shatili buildings, for future generations of Georgians and their guests.

The road to Khevsureti turns northeast off the Georgian Military Highway shortly before the Zhinvali Reservoir and runs up the Pshavis Aragvi valley towards the mountain gavel road. You need jeep 4x4WD to drive to Barisakho and Shatili. There are simple local guesthouses providing overnight accommodation and fresh local food.

Meskheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti

In the south of Georgia you will find the provinces of Meskheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti – a land of forested mountains and steep river valleys, gushing rivers and clear lakes. Meskheti and Samtskhe-Javakheti on the very furthest reaches of Georgia were the first to clash with the numerous enemies coming to Georgia. The region is dotted with castles and fortresses from different periods – a legacy of frequent invasions thanks to its geographic location – but the jewel in the crown of this fascinating region is surely the cave town of Vardzia. Shota Rustaveli, the great Georgian poet and philosopher of the feudal time, is said to be from this part of Georgia. His famous poem, ‘The Knight in the Panther’s Skin’, has established its place in the world literature treasury. There are historical monuments in abundance here: Khertvisi Fortress 10th c, Sapara 13th c Monastery, Borjomi mineral-spa town, Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Bakuriani Ski Resort, The Town of Akhaltsikhe, Zarzma Monastery, Vanis Kvabebi Cave Complex(8th century), and The Abastumani Observatory.

Meskheti, the southern part of Georgia in the 9th and 10th centuries was the most highly developed region culturally and economically. Because of sharing a border with Islamic world, self-defense was the main issue of local people.

Nowadays there are ruins of various defensive fortresses and castles – like Atskhuri fortress, Khertvisi and TmogviCastles, Vani cave city and other historical monuments along picturesque valley of the Kura River leading us to the region.

Borjomi spa-resort town is famous for its mineral waters with curative power, the Russian Emperor – Romanov’s summer palace in Likani and Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is the first National Park in the Caucasus region implemented according to international standards. Visitors experience the stunning variety of blossoming plants, breathtaking views and magical forests via parks wide network. In addition to this the National Park lies on the migration route of many birds and thus it is a good place for bird watching. Plus the Park is a home to brown bear, wolf, lynx, red deer and chamois. In spring the Park offers many pleasant surprises including encounters with alpine meadows full of flowers.

Khertvisi  fortress is one of the oldest fortresses in Georgia and was functional throughout the Georgian feudal period. Situated on the high rocky hill in the narrow canyon at the confluence of the Kura and Paravani Rivers, the fortress was first built in the 2nd century BC and was renewed several times throughout the history.

In the 10-11th centuries it was the center of Meskheti region and during the 12th century it became a town. The fortress was attacked several times by different conquerors, like Mongols and Ottomans. At the end of the 19th century the Georgian and Russian army returned the lost territories and Khertvisi became the military base for Russian and Georgian troops.

Vardzia cave city, which is the fabulous example of combined architecture and landscape, was constructed in the 12thcentury by King George the III. It is one of the biggest defensive town-fortresses in this region. King George did not succeed in completing the building and the construction was brought to an end by his daughter King Tamar. During the reign of Tamar the importance of Vardzia considerably increased. Historians tell us about the Queen’s rich contributions to the monastery and the luxury of its caves. After 2 earthquakes now Vardzia cave complex consists of approximately 600 rooms, which are all cut in rock. Most of them were intended for residence and others included stables, barracks, bakeries, wine presses and stores.

Vardzia is best known for the paintings of the main church. The images of King George the III and Queen Tamar are found in the Assumption temple, created by the master George in 1180. This is one of the four images of the great queen of such an ancient origin.

Mtskheta – Mtianeti region spans quite diverse terrains from the historic capital of Georgia, Mtskheta, up north to the mountain regions of Khevsureti in the Great Caucasus mountain range. Following the route of the original Georgian Military Highway northward up toward Russia, one can see a magnitude of regional highlights: the Jvari and Svetiskhovelichurches in Mtskheta at the confluence of Aragvi and Mtkvari Rivers, the Ananuri fortification and, after the road winding up through spectacular mountain scenery, the ski resort of Gudauri. Further up crossing over the Jvari (Cross) Pass on the Main Range of the Caucasian Mountains the road leads down to the village of Stepantsminda ( former Kazbegi), dominated by the majestic Mt Kazbegi  (5047m). On a hill above Gergeti, Sameba Church is dreamlike – cradled in a spectacular environment – situated on the hill, overlooking the area and providing splendid views of Mt. Kazbek. The whole region is a paradise for hikers and mountain climbers alike, in all classes, from recreational to challenging. Here on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Range is situated the ski resorts Gudauri.

The town Mtskheta is the administrative center of the Mtskheta – Mtianeti region and is one of the oldest cities of Eastern Georgia and the former capital of the Kingdom Iberia (3d c BC – 5th c AD).  It represents   one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Historical Monuments of Mtskheta became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Mtskheta was declared as the Holy City in 2014 by Georgian Orthodox Church.

Driving distance from Tbilisi is 20 km (15 min)

Along with the geographical location, rich and diverse flora and fauna makes the Racha-Lechkhumi region original and unique. Mountain range of the region, snowy peaks of Kavkasioni, rivers and falls, huge forests and animals and birds, natural caves, passes, alpine mowing and pastures, gorgeous roads and paths, Shaori and Lajani lakes and other wonderful sites surprise the sightseers. Meeting and contacts with the local population make unforgettable impression. Rich historical past, life, culture, folklore have impressed Greek, Roman, Persian, Turk and European researchers and travellers.

There are numerous interesting and unique historical-ethnographical, archaeological-architect monuments in the region. Among those are churches of Nikortsminda, Patara Oni, Ghebi, Kviriketsminda, and Oni Synagogue that goes back to centuries, etc.

he main sector of agriculture is viniculture, fruit-growing and cereals, apiarist and cattle-breeding. It is a well-known fact in the world that Georgia’s historical and cultural past is connected with the wine and vineyard. One can immediately feel this while visiting these beautiful regions and tasting the wines Khvanchkara, Alexandreuli, Ojaleshi, Usakhelauri, and Tetra that are produced on the spot. Out of 600 species spread in Georgia, 300 species of grapes are grown in the region.

The geographical- historical peculiarities, traditions and habits of local society create real grounds for development all kinds of tourism in the region. There is every possibility for the revival and activating the mountainous and alpine tourism, family adventuring, agro and eco-tourisms, fishing, hunting and riding as well as cultural tourism. In order to help local people and development of tourism in this region “Elkana” has selected 5 village houses in Racha-Lechkhumi. Each house has 2-7 bedrooms and essential indoor facilities and all of them meet EuroGite (the European Federation for Farm and Village Tourism) standard.

Samegrelo, in the west, is one of the oldest regions of Georgia, where the Megrelians live. These people are vivacious and talented; Samegrelo has produced many outstanding scientists and cultural representatives. It was one of the oldest principalities of Georgia belonging to the illustrious Dadiani family. The ‘Dadianis’ estate in Zugdidi is a historical monument now.

The Megrelian cuisine is considered to be some of the best, though it is very spicy for those used to more bland food. Near the town of Senaki, the ruins of the Acropolis of the former capital of the Egrisi Kingdom were discovered. It was known in the ancient world, and remained a large trading center until the Arabs’ raids. Today, there is an interesting open-air museum there.

Poti is known from ancient scriptures as being the important trading center on the Silk Road of ‘Phasis’. Directly behind Poti, on the Lake Paliastomi, begins the birdwatcher’s paradise of the KOLKHETI NATIONAL PARK. The common pheasant, found across Europe and North America, is indigenous to the region. It originates from the Caucasian Phasianus Colchicus, named after the Phasis River — today’s Rioni River.

Dating back to the 17th century, the regional centre Zugdidi was residency to Megrelian princes. At the outset of the 19th century, the Dadianis constructed a magnificent garden around its palace, which Princess Ekaterina Chavchavadzefurther expanded upon.

Svaneti, one of the timeless and lovely provinces of Georgia, is situated at the mouth of the river Enguri among awe-inspiring Caucasus Mountains. There are amazing, beautiful towers that once defended the region. One could see an enemy approaching from them, and they were built quite strong to protect people. They were also used to communicate, as fire was lit on them to send messages from tower to tower. One can peek into the past’s ancient, patriarchal mode of life, as the traditions, customs and habits continue in Svaneti even today. Christian holidays have some pagan qualities to this day. The Svaneti Mountain peaks Ushba (4710 m & 4690 m), Tetnuldi (4858m), Shkhara (5193 m), and Shkhelda (4368 m) are extremely challenging to climb. So they attract many expert mountaineers and the majority of them are from this region.

The village cluster of Ushguli with its distinctive ancient towers, is the highest populated place in Europe (at 2200 meters above sea level). It is the most difficult to access as it is the most isolated region of Georgia. Ushguli is declared as the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1994.

Svaneti is the most populated highland region. Mestia is a small town on the altitude 1500 m and is regarded as chief community of Zemo – Upper – Svaneti province. The former name of the townlet is Seti. It was an important center of Georgian culture for centuries and contains a number of medieval monuments – churches and forts.  The best time to visit Svaneti is between May and October.

On the other hand, Mestia is a new winter resort situated on the North-Western slopes of the Great Caucasus Mountains. Three ski routes have been built on Hatsvali Mount: a 2600 meter long red ski run for professional skiers;  a 2670 meter long blue run for less experienced skiers; and a 300 meter long run for amateur skiers.