The pleasant city of Kutaisi has a long and venerable history. The region has been inhabited for at least three millennia, and the city may well have been the capital of Colchis itself. More recently, Kutaisi spent a century and a half as the capital of Georgia and is today the second largest city in the country.
Bagrati Cathedral (11th century) was the tallest church in Georgia (57m) until an explosion in the 17th century reduced it to picturesque ruins. Even in its ruined state, you can’t help but admire the stately grandeur of this lofty cathedral as it gazes down upon the city of Kutaisi.
Gelati was founded in the 12th century as a monastery and academy by Georgia’s greatest king - David the Builder. In Middle Ages it was the most famous centre of enlightenment and was called “New Athos” and “New Jerusalem”. King David is buried in the monastery, not far from the great Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, whose stunning altar mosaic is one of the undoubted masterpieces of sacred art in Georgia.
Motsameta Monastery (11th century) – Located on a cliff above the gorge, the isolated “Church of the Martyrs” offers breath-taking views of the surroundings. It is named after the two brothers killed by Arabs in the 8th century. To make your dearest wish come true, simply crawl three times under the tomb of the martyrs. Locals say that it never fails!
Ubisa Church (9th century) – A visit to this modest single-nave basilica will reward you with a sight of some of the best frescoes in Georgia. They were painted in the 14th century and reveal the Byzantine influence, although they were executed by the Georgian artist Damiane. The complex also encloses a four-storey dwelling tower added in the 12th century.
Sataplia is one of Georgia’s finest nature reserves, known also for its fabulous cave formations and the prehistoric dinosaur footprints preserved here.
The antique city of Vani (7th-1st centuries BC) is again coming to light thanks to the work of archaeologists. Temples and sacrificial altars from the period before the birth of Christ have yielded up beautiful examples of gold and silver jewellery and coins, all of which are now on display at the Georgian State Museum in Tbilisi.