Imereti is a region in western Georgia situated along the middle and upper reaches of the Rioni river. You get there after the passing Rikoti Pass (996 m above sea level) that divides Georgia into its eastern and western parts. The capital of Imereti, Kutaisi, is one of the oldest cities in the world - archeological evidence shows it served as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Colchis as early as the 2nd millennium BC. Kutaisi was known as Aia/Aea and only later it became Kutaisi. From Persian "Kota" means "Fort Area". In ancient times the region was rich in gold and it is believed that Jason's and the Argonauts' journey of Golden Fleece was accomplished in Georgia (Colchis). Imereti has been a place of highly sophisticated culture at least since the Bronze Age. Archeological digs confirm the presence of a rich and thriving Hellenistic culture in the region. Wine production here dates back over eight thousand years. The region's renaissance of 10-12th centuries was marked by a number of architectural masterpieces including Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery complex. This area of Georgia is also abundant in canyons, waterfalls, and caves and some of them are a must-see even for short-time visitors.
The complex extremely important religious, cultural and intellectual center of medieval Georgia. Founded at the beginning of the 12th century by the king of Georgia David Aghmashenebeli (David the Builder), who built the Church of the Virgin, the belfry and the academy building. Later (13th century) it had two more churches added - of St George and St Nicolas.
King's Grave is at the southern end of the Gelati cathedral next to the main entrance. According to the legend, the stone covering the grave is of the same height as the king was. The gates of Ganja taken as a trophy by king Demetrius I are placed near David the Builder's grave. The Academy employed most distinguished scientists, theologians, and philosophers of the times. A great number of murals and manuscripts of the 12th to 17th centuries were preserved in the Gelati Academy and Monastery complex. At the beginning of the 16th century, the complex was set on fire by Turks, but it was quickly rebuilt.
Katechis Sveti (Pillar of Katskhi) is probably one of the most bizarre religious monuments in Georgia. The Pillar of Katskhi (restored not long ago) is located on a 40m high natural rock pillar. The surface is about 150 square meters. The first archeological investigations in 1944, showed that two constructions on the top of the pillar belonged to the 5th and the 6th centuries. Nowadays, after more detailed research the Katechis Sveti structures were re-dated to the 9th-10th century. Recent studies revealed there a medieval hermitage and Georgian inscriptions. The Pillar of Katskhi complex consists of a church dedicated to Maximus the Confessor, a crypt, three hermit cells, a wine cellar, and a surrounding wall. The Pillar of Katskhi church's dimensions are 4.5x3.5 meters and it is a modern reconstruction of the medieval times. The complex can be reached by climbing metal stairs going up to the top of the pillar.
Satapali - 'the place of honey", despite the name has nothing to do with honey. It's a cave complex not far from Kutaisi with dinosaur footprints saved in solidified lava. The name Sataplia comes from the nearby mountain of the same name at which locals collected honey from the bees. The cave Sataplia was discovered in 1925 and ten years later Sataplia Natural Reserve was created here to protect the grotto. The cave Sataplia and surrounding park were seriously refurbished a few years ago - there are nice paths and viewpoints in the park, a roof over dinosaur footprints was built, the cave is well lit and pleasant to walk. The Stony Heart Hall presents a very impressive beautifully illuminated, huge stalagmite sitting on the cave's floor.
Prometheus Cave is a picturesque cave in 1060m length near Tshaltubo. The Cave of Prometheus was discovered only in 1983. Another world inside the cave is opening for visitors after having been made the necessary adjustments to lighting and safety of the cave. The route is safe and well lit. The Cave of Prometheus consists of 16 small caves and large halls (21m). The path rises, then descends, passes over underground rivers and lakes. The Temperature is more or less constant at about 15-16 degrees Celsius. You can finish the journey on the boat drifted on the underground lake (about 280 m).
Cave monastery, Mgvimevi church is deep inside the large natural cave. The monastery is quite difficult to access because it is partially carved into cliff sides. To get there one needs to climb a long and narrow staircase and pass a tunnel. The facade of the main building is decorated with ornaments around the windows. The entrance door is a masterpiece of wood carving. The wooden gates showing various episodes of Christ's life. Jesus Christ and twelve apostles are on the top of the composition. Some paintings and wall murals were also well preserved inside the church. There are 13th-century frescos presenting portraits of the founder of the monastery at the northern wall of the temple. Southern wall displays paintings of the 16th century.
Cathedral of the Dormition belongs to the early 11th-century and located in Kutaisi. The church is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. The widely known name is "Bagrati" that comes from the name of King Bagrat III, who reigned Imereti when the Cathedral was constructed. The church was heavily damaged at the end of the 17th century by the Ottoman army and for more than three centuries the ruins were the place of pilgrimage. In 2012 the renovation works aiming at returning the temple into its previous shape, were finished. Currently, the church has opened the doors for visitors and working again. Bagrati an important place of worship.
Borjomi Kharaguli Park
Borjomi Kharaguli Park the largest (76,000 hectares) National Park in Georgia situated in Lesser Caucasus. The park is a nature reserve with marked trails and some mountain shelters for the hikers, however, if choosing to stay overnight one will need a sleeping bag and some food, because there are no guesthouses on the way. The park is covered with forests and it is a paradise for birdwatchers and botanists as well as for hikers. The territory of the park is not as elevated as many other places in Georgia - the highest peak in the park is 2642 meters, so the trails can be reached all the year-round if the weather allows. More and more visitors are coming to the park for its unique landscapes, historical monuments, and rich fauna and flora. The history of the park is tightly related to the Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich Romanov, the brother of Russian Tsar Alexander II. After Georgia lost its independence and became a protectorate of Russia (Treaty of Gieorgievsk, 1783), Michael Romanov was appointed Governor-General of Transcaucasia. He found the beauty and health potential of Borjomi area so impressive, that he built his summer residence in Likani in 1895. Later a water-bottling plant was also constructed and Borjomi water became famous in Russia. Due to Governor's order also lumbering or hunting without permission was restricted, thus making the area protected from uncontrolled deforestation. A good source of information about interesting touristic trails is a book by Peter Nasmyth "Walking in the Caucasus".