10 Best Places to Visit in Samegrelo
There are countless reasons to travel to Samegrelo. This part of western Georgia is distinguished with its strategically important coastline, exceptional cuisine, and oldest settlements. Samegrelo has the status of an ancient, historical place. Once you visit this region, you will notice the properly arranged houses of locals, you will feel the humid climate typical to the West and you enjoy its rich nature. Do not miss the chance to experience the tradition of hospitality and taste the ancient dishes with modern elements made by Megrelian families, such as Elarji, Ghomi, Gebzhalia, and Kharcho, famous spicy ajika with grilled meat.
Samegrelo is full of cultural and natural monuments, and various sights or nature - Colchis Lowland, Paliastomi lake, not to mention Tobavarchkhili lake, which you should visit first when you get to Samegrelo. Therefore, it is not easy to select specific places to visit.
However, in this article, we will discuss the top 10 places you must see in Samegrelo.
1. Tobavarchkhili - Silver Lake
Tobavarchkhili (Silver Lake), the same as Didi Toba is located at 2650 meters above sea level on the Egrisi ridge, Tsalenjikha municipality, in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. It is divided into two parts - Didi (big) and Patara (small) Tobavarchkhil.
Tobavarchkhili is the largest and freshest lake on the Egrisi ridge. It is surrounded by the rivers of Didgalish Toba, Kalalish Toba, and Tsakatskarish Toba. Before reaching Tobavarchkhil Lake, you have to cross the Khobistskali River valley, waterfalls, caves, and alpine lakes. As the altitude increases, the environment gradually becomes greener and more picturesque.
According to legend, whoever disturbs the peace of Lake Toba and bathes in its water, the wrath of the black clouds will fall on him and he won't escape the torrential rain and the terrible thunderstorm.
GTG describes in detail the route on how to get to Tobavarchkhil and see its subsidiary, beautiful lakes as well.
2. Rukhi Fortress
Fortified buildings occupy an important place in Georgia. One such example is Rukhi Fortress, on the territory of the village of Rukhi, on the left bank of the river Enguri, Samegrelo. According to Vakhushti Bagrationi, it was built by Levan II Dadiani in 1647. In the Late Middle Ages, it was an important and well-fortified fortress of the Principality of Mingrelia, partially due to its location. The main purpose of building the Rukhi Fortress was to develop trade in Samegrelo and to have a strong stronghold in the country against the Ottomans.
The castle lost its significance in the early 19th century. Rukhi Fortress is a large-scale building with a maximum internal length of 100 meters and a width of 80 meters. Its inner area is divided into two parts - the lower section to the south and the citadel to the north. The entrance is only in the lower courtyard, which is arranged at the bottom of the tower of about ten meters in height. The lower part of the castle is guarded by another tower too, which stands in the southwest corner. The citadel is located in the northern part. Its shape resembles an ellipse and the ends are fortified with towers. The main tower of the citadel is to the north. It must have considerable importance in the protection of the castle. It controls a fairly large area to the north - the vicinity of the Enguri River and the river basin itself. Only four floors and a part of the fifth floor of the tower have survived to this day. Fireplaces and gun ports can be found on each floor. The fence has no windows at 8-10 meters, and above it has a 3-5 meter wide combat trail. The fortress is built of cobblestone. There was also a spring in the castle, which must have been in the west corner. Nowadays only a small recessed place is on this spot.
Nokalakevi was the political center of Colchis, or Egrisi, of ancient and pre-Christian times and the capital of the Kingdom of Lazika (IV-III centuries). Traces found here, show that life in this area starts from the beginning of the I millennium. Nokalakevi (Tsikhegoji) is located near the village of Jikha, Senaki Municipality, Samegrelo.
Nokalakevi was a strategically important Georgian city. Roman and Byzantine historians refer to the city as Archaeopolis (Georgian: "Old City" or Nakalakari, Nokalakevi), although in earlier Georgian historical sources it is called Tsikhegoji (Kuji Fortress) because it was built by Kuji, the Eristavi of Egrisi (IV-III centuries BC) and is connected with his name.
Tsikhegoji was the capital of the Kingdom of Egrisi in the IV-VII centuries. The Battle of Archaeopolis took place here. The Persians attacked the fort three times and managed to capture it only a third time. Although, soon, the city fell into the hands of Byzantine-Laz forces again.
In 737-738, the city was destroyed by the Marwan II. After that, Tsikhegoji turned into a small village. In the XVI century, after building the main palace of Samegrelo, the village became stronger. In the XVI-XIX centuries, Nokalakevi was the residence of the princes of Odishi. Nokalakevi is surrounded by a 3 km long fence, covers an area of 19 hectares, and consists of 3 parts: the lower town, the middle fortress, and the citadel. The urban settlement was located at the riverbank, the garrison was camped on a slope, and the citadel of the fortress was on a hill.
Important archeological material has been found in Nokalakevi and its surroundings. On the territory of the fort, there were found both local and imported pottery, bronze items, jewelry, copper, and gold coins. Two baths are also discovered here. One of them for the king and nobles, and the other one, for the citizens and the garrison. The baths were heated by the central heating system.
4. Dadiani Palace
Dadiani Palace, which was the residence of the princes of Mingrelia, is one of the famous places that you must have heard about. However, we will tell you the history of its establishment once again. The museum complex, located in the center of Zugdidi, consists of the palaces of queen Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani and Niko Dadiani, church, and the Botanical Garden planted by Dadiani. The museum was founded in 1921, based on the precious old items of Dadiani, the son of the prince of Mingrelia, and the Georgian antiquities were taken from the churches and monasteries of Samegrelo. David Dadiani founded the personal museum in 1839, with archeological, numismatic, military, and ethnographic sections. However, the residence was originally built by Levan II Dadiani (1611-1657), the prince of Odishi.
The Dadiani Palace - the State Historical-Ethnographic Museum at present. One of its parts, the Queen's Palace, was reconstructed in the 60s of the XIX century, by the German architect Reiss, who used elements of Gothic architecture in the renovation. As for Niko Dadiani's two-story palace, it was built in the 80s of the XIX century by the Russian architect Vasilyev. The museum is decorated with a forest park, planted by the Dadiani family, on 67 hectares, which is full of unique perennial trees and shrubs brought from different parts of the world.
The temple is located northeast of the Dadiani Palace. Its construction took place in 1825-1830. The church belonged to the prince of Mingrelia and his family and was painted in the 50s of the XIX century. As for the Church of the Savior, or the Church of the Door, it is built on a high hill northeast of the city. There used to be a city gate and the name is associated with it. The temple was built in the first half of the 17th century, by the order of Levan Dadiani. It was painted in the 60-the 70s of the 17th century. The frescoes of Demetrius and Theodore and the statue of St. George are preserved here. The frescoes belong to the metropolitan of Tsaishi-Bedia, Kirill Juanidze. The church was damaged by Turkish invasions in 1855 but was later rebuilt by the order of Ekaterine Chavchavadze.
Currently, more than 40,000 exhibits are kept in the Dadiani Palace Museum. The robe of the Virgin Mary, the mask of Napoleon Bonaparte, the sword of Shamil, the collections of European and Georgian artists of the XVIII-XX centuries are kept here. The Gold Fund of the museum preserves antique and medieval goldsmiths: national (including memorial items from Bronze Age to the late 19th century) and European cultural heritage samples.
5. Botanical Garden
After visiting the Dadiani Museum, you can visit the Zugdidi Botanical Garden near to it, completely free of charge. it was built in the XIX century As a decorative garden of Dadiani Palace, by the initiative of David Dadiani and his wife, Ekaterine Chachavadze-Dadiani. Today the garden consists of more than five hundred species of plants. Some of them are already two hundred years old. Including six species of magnolia, various species of oak, Atlas and Himalayan cedar, Canary poplar, relict, and endemic plants imported from Asia, including India, Japan, the Mediterranean, the Americas, and elsewhere. Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani ordered selective seedlings for the garden especially from the Palace of Versailles. Unfortunately, during the Russo-Ottoman War of 1853-1856, the vandalism of the Ottoman Iskander-Pasha and other circumstances almost destroyed the Zugdidi Botanical Garden. However, after the armistice with the Ottomans, as a result of Catherine's insistence, restoration work was carried out in the garden, and its full restoration became possible after 1869. The complete rehabilitation of the Botanical Garden is currently completed and ready to fascinate the visitors with its unique arrangement. While visiting and relaxing in Zugdidi, you can enjoy the rehabilitated garden, take a boat ride, see old as well as 300 new trees, paths, outdoor lighting, a renovated administration building, and a greenhouse.
Reconstruction works of the garden were carried out by the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia.
6. Kolkheti National Park
The Colchis Lowland is the wealth of the whole of western Georgia, and most of all - Samegrelo. It plays an important part in the development of ecotourism. The reserve is located on the Black Sea coast, in the surroundings of Lake Paliastomi. To the east, it is bordered by the river Etseri, to the south by the river Pichori. The national park is located on the territory of 5 municipalities - Zugdidi, Khobi, Senaki, Abasha, and Lanchkhuti.
The Kolkheti National Park, the total area of which is 44,308.5-hectares, is designed to protect and conserve wetlands ecosystems of international importance. Belongs to the Second Category of Protected Areas (IUCN). Since 1997, it has been protected by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental agreement aimed at protecting habitats for migratory and waterfowl birds. Here you will find endangered Colchis pheasants, yellow poppies, and sea lilies - listed in the Red Book. 194 species of birds live in Kolkheti National Park
Since 2007, the Colchis Ecosystem has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
7. Paliastomi Lake
If you are visiting Kolkheti National Park, you must start your visit with Paliastomi Lake. The lake is located on the Black Sea coast, in the Colchis lowlands. With an area of 18.2 km2, it is the third-largest lake in Georgia.
Lake Paliastomi is fed by rainwater and tributaries. The river Phichori joins it, while the river Kaparchina flows out of it. Water levels rise in spring, summer, and autumn, but decrease in winter. In July-August the water is warm (25.1° C), in January (5.2° C) - cold. Due to strong winds, the lake is often homothermic and shelf ice appears on its surface in cold winters.
The name of Lake Paliastomi is of Greek origin and means "ancient shore".
From its shores, you can see great views of the high impassable meadows of Scirpus, wetland meadows, and dense layer of royal ferns. You can enjoy a boat tour during your visit to Kolkheti National Park to explore more about the lake ecosystem.
You may not know, but once. Lake Paliastom belonged to the Black Sea. Then it got separated from it and became a lake. After some time, however, it was filled as the sea bay and became a closed lake. In 1924, the lake got connected directly to the sea by the canal cut from the southwestern shore of the lake. In December 1933, as a result of strong sea turbulence, the canal widened and became a strait. The water of the lake is salty and rich in a variety of fish.
There is also a legend about the lake, told by Egnate Ninoshvili in the 1891 story "Paliastomi Lake":
"On the site, where now is a lake, turns out to be land in the past. People were walking on it, and they were called the Pavlia tribe. One day the land lowered, the ground broke in one place, suddenly water fell from the ground and covered the whole village. Everyone drowned, beside one deacon, who took the icon of the Archangel and carried it to Mount Jumati. Later the church was built for this icon on the mount. The deacon, whose last name was Darchia, was appointed as archpriest. "
8. Lugela-Mukhuri Gorge
This is a Lugela gorge, located in Chkhorotsku Municipality. From the beginning of it, the river Khobistskali flows. Lugela is distinguished by its mineral water, which flows in the lower part of the Samegrelo ridge, at 560 meters above sea level, in the gorge of the river Khobistskali. The water has a 10% calcium chloride ratio, it is transparent, precipitated, and non-carbonated.
The famous resort Mukhuri is 3 km away from the territory of Lugela mineral water and is divided by the river Khobistskali. The absolute humidity of the air is 65-70%.
At a distance of 5 km from Mukhuri is situated the resort "Skuri" famous for carbonate waters. It is an ideal place for the treatment of intestinal disorders.
Lugela water has many uses. Mostly it is used for healing purposes: bleeding, rickets, insufficiency of parathyroid glands, loss of calcium from the body, skin parenchymal hepatitis, nephritis, stomatitis, conjunctivitis.
9. Martvili Canyon
The total length of the canyon is 2400 m, the depth of the cut is 20-30m, and is followed by a 700 m long circular hiking trail built of stone.
The modernized viewing platform on the trail may not seem like a spectacular place, but you will be amazed by the 12-15 m long waterfalls, in the middle of the canyon. This section is called Iputskhole and is known as the secret bathing place for the Dadiani family.
While visiting Martvili Canyon you will also have the opportunity to take a boat ride on the 300-meter (one way) section of the Abasha River and enjoy the beautiful views of the Mountain River Canyon.
10. Anaklia and Ganmukhuri Beaches
Before leaving Zugdidi you can walk on the Black Sea coast in Anaklia and Ganmukhuri. These resorts are connected by a 552 m pedestrian bridge. Anaklia is distinguished by the sandy beach, while Ganmukhuri is distinguished by the rocky shore. The beaches are also distinguished by the clear water and safety.
In recent years, many locals and tourists visit Anaklia-Ganmukhuri resorts. This is a special place for those willing to relax and have fun on the Black Sea coast. There is a sports and recreation complex, six sand volleyball courts, various hotels, and local guesthouses. It should be noted that the electronic music festival - Echowaves also had a positive effect on the increase of the number of tourists in Anaklia. It will be returned as soon as the restrictions are lifted.
In ancient times Anaklia was a fishing village and port. At the beginning of the Common Era, the Greeks have settled in this area and have named it after the Greek mythical hero - Heracles. Over the centuries, Heraclia was transformed into Anaklia.
If this list is not enough for you, you can browse the website for other beautiful places and have a look at the sites you should visit before leaving.
We wish you an interesting trip to Samegrelo!