Sprawling across the left bank of the Rioni River, Kutaisi is a sensory overload in the best way possible. Boasting some of Georgia’s most ancient architecture, you’ll be bowled over by spectacular churches, tantalising aromas and winding, pebbly streets that’ll transport you back in time. Here’s five things to see when you visit Kutaisi.
Built in the 11th century, this jewel of medieval gothic architecture is a real sight for sore eyes. Looming over the city, the domed cathedral sits on top of Ulkimerioni Hill and is one of the biggest religious sites in Georgia. Resting on four free standing pillars, the structure earned itself a UNESCO Wold Heritage listing and was ordered by King Bagrat III after whom it takes its name. Wander up the cobbled streets from the Jachris Khidi chain bridge and spend a few hours passing through its many rooms each adorned with fantastic frescoes that’ll thrill even the harshest of critics. A must-see when visiting the city, this truly is one of the best attractions in Kutaisi.
Go back to basics and spend the day enjoying the Georgian fresh air at the Sataplia Nature Reserve. Famed for its well-preserved dinosaur fossils and underground cave, this is an activity that the whole family will enjoy. Meaning ‘place of honey’ in English, for centuries it has been the site of honey collection in the area with the main production line taking place in the nearby Tskaltubo. Venture below ground and take a tour of the dimly lit cave with its stalagmites and tites which stretches for 900 metres. Surrounded on all sides by the thick Colchic forest, the park has many viewing points as well as an impressive observation deck with transparent bottom for panoramas of the stunning natural site below.
A stone’s throw from Bagrati, the monastery was built in 1106 and is not to be missed when visiting Kutaisi. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site alongside Bagrati, the monastery is located on a picturesque wooded hillside and has been the burial site of many Georgian monarchs for centuries. A cultural hub for Georgia’s medieval ‘golden age’, the interior of the complex is among the brightest and most colourful in all of Georgia. Whether you’re a history buff or simply enjoy taking snaps of amazing architecture, this site is worth a visit, if only for its fascinating frescoes. Created in the 12th and 18th centuries, the ornate walls of Gelati guarantee it to be one of the best attractions in Kutaisi.
Located 20 kilometres outside of the city centre in neighbouring Tsklatubo, this natural feat is well worth the small bit of travel. Also known as Kumistavi Cave, this underground site was discovered in 1984 and is one of Georgia’s natural wonders. Featuring spellbinding, age-old cave pearls, stalagmites, underground lakes, stalactites and petrified waterfalls you’ll be left awestruck. Spend the guts of an hour and a half meandering along the 1,060 metre concrete path through six of the 22 halls open to the public. Take a boat ride through the underground lake and enjoy the sounds of classical music that echo through the brightly lit tunnels of one of the best things to see when you visit Georgia’s second city.
After working up an appetite sight-seeing all day long, take a trip to one of the liveliest and largest indoor markets in Western Georgia. Bursting with colourful flavour that hits you the moment you walk through the front door, the centrally located food hall is the place to shop for local produce. Browse never ending stalls packed high with spices, herbs, meat, walnuts churchkhela (candle-shaped sweets), beans and homemade Georgian wine. The market is the ideal place to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and experience a taste of day-to-day life in Kutaisi.
Planning a break away to Kutaisi? Make sure to tag us in your photos of things to see in Kutaisi using the hashtag #ryanairstories for the chance to be featured on Ryanair’s social media channels.
Flights to Kutaisi
- Lucy Norris