WHAT TO DO IN THE IMERETI REGION
Imereti offers a number of tourist opportunities including: cultural-educational and eco-tourism, religious and archaeological tours; and the use of 4X4 vehicles for adventure tours in Zekari and Sairme.
Tourist Potential: horse-riding, water, fishing, photo-video and environmental tours; speleological tours in Tskaltubo and Katskhi; bird watching and botanical tours in the national parks of Imereti (Sataplia, Ajameti), ethnological, artistic and wine tours in the villages of Zemo Imereti.
IMERETI CAVES PROTECTED AREA
Complex of Imereti caves is located at a distance of 10 km from the town of Kutaisi. The area of the complex of Imereti caves is about 354 hectares. The Sataplia itself is located at 500 m above sea level. Sataplia Strict Nature Reserve is located in the subtropical zone. 98 % of its territory is covered with subtropical young forest.
AJAMETI PROTECTED AREA
Ajameti Managed Nature Reserve is located in Baghdati district at 265 km distance from Tbilisi and at 15 km distance from Kutaisi, on the Rioni plain and consists of three districts: Ajameti, Vartsikhe and Sviri. Total area of the Managed Nature Reserve is 4848 ha, out of which 4738 ha is covered with forest.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE IMERETI REGION
There are numerous castles, churches, monasteries, museums, examples of folk housing and wall paintings in Imereti, but a visitor does not have to travel far to see examples of the region's fascinating past. There is at least one significant monument close to every village - and some of villages themselves are worth a trip. Villages of Imereti have special charm and colour. One example is the village of Khani, located by Zekari Cross. Archeological artifacts dating back to the second millennium were discovered in Khani. Over the centuries the village has been destroyed several times, but it always managed to rebuild itself.
The village of Koreti is located 16 km from Sachkhere. The village, as well as its surrounding territory, has been
inhabited since ancient times. This village is especially interesting for its large number of cellars and viticulture. In the 19th century the village's families united and started wine production together. The ancient part of the village still has over a dozen very old wine cellars covered with roof tiles, with presses for grapes, bread bakeries, wine jars and other inventory for wine-making.
Shrosha is the ancient home of pottery in Georgia, known since ancient times for its masterpieces. Red soil, useless for agriculture, is perfect for making pottery. There was a factory built in Shrosha at the beginning of the 20th century to produce ceramic items, but traditional methods, passed on by ancestors, are still popular. Kvevri (wine jars made of clay) are usually stored in the ground to keep wine cool during summer and therefore increase its lifespan.
Ubisa Temple is one of the most important examples of Georgian monumental painting. The complex consists of a basilica and a tower. Ruins of the monastery buildings are also present. St. George Basilica was built in the 9th century.
GELATI MONASTERY COMPLEX
Gelati Academy and Monastery was founded by King David IV the Builder in 1106. During the 12-13th centuries Gelati was one of the biggest religious, educational, scientific and philosophy centers of Georgia.
The founding of Gelati is tied to the cultural renaissance of Georgia. The complex includes the main cathedral of the Virgin, the church of St. George, belfry, gates and the building of the academy. In 1510 the temple was burned by the Turks, but it was repainted during the same century. The group portrait of rulers is of the same period, which also includes an image of David the Builder himself. At the southern end of the cathedral, at the main entrance, is the grave of David the Builder. The king wanted to be buried in a place where all people coming to the monastery would step on his grave. According to legend, the gravestone is the same height as the king himself was.
Bagrati Cathedral proudly watches over Kutaisi and the Rioni River and has been the home of Colchis kings since antiquity. Since 1994 the Cathedral has been under the UNESCO protection. Currently there are regular religious services held in the cathedral under the open sky. Icons and other items required for holding church services are held in a small chamber at the entrance of the cathedral.
The name of the church, Motsam-eta ("place of martyrs"), is tied to the nobles of Argveti, brothers David and Constantine Mkheidzes, who organized a revolt against the Arabs. The revolt was unsuccessful and the Arabs captured both brothers, proposing forgiveness in return if the brothers converted to Islam. The brothers would not give up their religion, and they were tortured and their bodies were thrown into the river. The river turned red and has been known as Tskaltsitela ("The Red Water") ever since. People buried the bodies of David and Constan-tine on the nearby hill and the church declared both of them as saints. Later, during the 11th century, King Bagrat IV built a temple over their graves. According to legend, there used to be a secret tunnel between Motsameta and Gelati Monasteries, used by people during wars. Motsameta was a naturally unreachable place due to its location: it is surrounded by Tskaltsitela River from three sides, and walled on the fourth side.
MGHVIMEVI MONASTERY COMPLEX
Mghvimevi Monastery is located in the village of Mghvimevi. The monastery is partly carved into the side of a cliff and is difficult to access. The facade of the main temple is decorated with crosses and engravings. Painted frescos of the 13th century are still visible on the northern side of the temple, while the paintings on the southern side date back to the 16th century. The front door is a unique masterpiece of wood carving.
Vartsikhe was one of the most mportant towns in Egrisi Kingdom. Due to its geographic location, Vartsikhe was of strategic importance. A number of trade roads passed through the town. Archaeologists discovered ruins of the town surrounded by a wall with towers, dating back to the 4-6th centuries. During medieval times, Vartsikhe was one of the residences of the kings; Vartsikhe is considered the birthplace of Georgian cognac: during the 19th century the Sarajishvili family produced the first Georgian cognac here. The village of Geguti is also close to Vartsikhe, where there are ruins from an ancient 12th century palace and an old cemetery.
Katskhis Sveti is located near the town of Chiatura. There are two churches constructed on the plateau of the 40 meter high cliff, which one can reach only by climbing a hanging set of stairs. This location is not characteristic for churches in Georgia and researchers generally believe they were the home of lonely monks, who came from the Middle East. The ancient church dates back to the 5th century and was built using local stones, with the foundation built off of a cave. The second church dates back to the 6th century. Its lower floor is carved in the cave and it contains a grave that has not been researched yet.
State Historical Museum
1 Tbilisi Str. Kutaisi Tel: (+995 231) 4 56 91
The Museum-Reserve includes historical, architectural and archaeological monuments in the area of Kutaisi, Tskaltubo, and Tkibuli: tombs of Antiquity period, dwellings, castles, XVII-XVIII c.c. palace of the Imereti kings, as well as monuments of public architecture.
Niko Berdzenishvili Kutaisi Historical Museum
1 Tbilisi Str., 4600, Kutaisi, Tel: (+995 231) 4 51 91; (+995231)45677,
The museum houses more than 150 thousand items of cultural heritage of the country (from IX-VII c.c. B.C. up to late medieval times). Among them are: Bronze Age and Antiquity period monuments - archaeological discoveries, rare samples Georgian, Roman, Byzantine and Oriental history, collection of oldest epigraphic monuments and Georgian manuscripts - rare charters, ethnographic materials, significant samples of items. Museum has the "Gold Treasury" hall.
David Kakabadze Kutaisi Fine Art Gallery
8 Shota Rustaveli Str., 6400, Kutaisi Tel: (+995 231) 4 23 29
The museum houses collections of XIX-XX c.c. famous Georgian artists: painting, graphic, sculpture, and applied art samples.
Otar Lordkipanidze Vani Archaeological Museum (Georgian National Museum)
Vani museum houses the rich archaeology collection excavated in Vani. In the Gold Fund of the museum are kept unique samples of goldsmith work from Vani site. Exhibition of the museum displays cultural development of the site from VI c. up to I c. B.C. (bronze sculptures, fragments of them, gold, silver, bronze objects, samples of coins, etc.)
Akaki Tsereteli State Museum
4002, village Skhvitori, Sachkhere district Tel: (+995 235) 2 16 97
The house museum of the famous Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli (1840- 1915) has been established in thepatrimonial pallace of Tsereteli family. The museum houses personal belongings of the poet's ancestors.