Like the city of Batumi, Kutaisi has some backstory to it. It served as the capital of various significant kingdoms within Georgia throughout history. Unlike Batumi, much of its charm remains. When arriving in the city, it’s hard to miss Bagrati Cathedral, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city, but the city has some hidden gems too.
Our favorite? Kvavila Monastery, beautifully perched on a hilltop overlooking the center of Kutaisi. It’s a modest church surrounded by a cemetery filled with all kinds of tombstones. Some are beautiful, and some are straight up bizarre: we saw one with a full body portrait of a guy flashing his Nike Airs, with cigarette in hand. We almost fell asleep by the ruins at the edge of the cemetery–they look over the river, and were cloaked with sunshine just so.
Obviously, there are more churches–have we told you that Georgia is very religious yet? What is the difference between these and the churches Batumi, you ask? Two of the churches in Kutaisi are UNESCO World Heritage listed. Other differences include the lack of ugly skyscrapers as a backdrop, and we only saw one casino in Kutaisi.
Kutaisi is also perfect for those who wish to mingle with the locals. It has two universities so many young people to talk to. The girls are beautiful too, so make an effort to approach them and help them practice their English 😉
The main event
The main attraction in Kutaisi, besides its relaxed atmosphere, beautiful surroundings, and gorgeous girls, is Gelati monastery. The monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is beautifully perched on a hilltop. The interior isn’t too shabby either (alas, the exterior is currently under construction). Definitely worth your while.
Gelati is about 10 kilometers out of town, so you have to take a marshrukta to get there. They leave every two hours or so, starting around 8:00. Ask your guesthouse for directions to the marshrutka stop. It’s located on a side street behind the opera house. The driver will likely see you wandering around, and yell at you to see if you’re looking for the marshrutka to Gelati.
Relax, relax and relax some more
I love relaxing (some people might call me lazy, I prefer “masterfully inactive”), so I loved Kutaisi. The relaxing flow of the river, the atmosphere of a student town, the beautiful view from Gelati, it all came perfectly together. Definitely worth your while.
Sleeping in Kutaisi
To relax you need a good place to sleep, and we couldn’t recommend Sun Hostel (Guest house) more. The place beautifully overlooks the river, it’s five minutes walking from Bagrati Cathedral, ten minutes from the city center, and has a very homely atmosphere. The rooms are extremely spacious, the owner and his son (who speaks English very well) are very friendly and the wine flows freely. Oh yeah, we also only paid 25 GEL a night. I almost felt bad paying so little and getting so much.
Transport to and from Kutaisi
Kutaisi is well serviced by marshrutky. These arrive a bit out of town, either at the bus station behind a McDonalds or about 100m up the road from there (pictured below). Take bus 1 from across the street where you are dropped off, and get out once you are on a big bridge over a river to get to the city center. Lots of other people will likely be getting off there as well. The bus costs 0.30 GEL. The city itself is completely walkable.
So there you have it. Two places, two completely different experiences. Our next stop: Mestia, up in the mountains, where I went hiking/exercised for the first time in years while guided by spirit dogs.