The region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti is located in the central and northwestern part of Georgia. The region includes two historical and Geographic provinces- Samegrelo and part of Svaneti- Zemo (upper) Svaneti. These two provinces, which are bordering each other, have completely different respect of landscape. The region’s resort potential is represented by climatic resorts- mountainous, sea climate, seaside resorts- sea water, sand, duration of the sunlight and hydro-mineral resources resorts (thermal and mineral springs). Natural conditions of the region is the Black Sea coastline, Hillocky and mountainous landscapes, high peaks, especially popular among tourists and local travelers, as well as the hikers. Glaciers embrace many places, where along with enjoying the full-scale holiday, it is possible to visit lots of sights created by nature or human beings.
Let’s start roaming around Svaneti. Ushguli is a marginal area of Upper Svaneti, with several hamlets united. It is 1,600-2,200 meters above the sea level. By this indicator, it is one of the highest human settlements in Europe. Ushguli is placed in a cave-like and well-protected gorge. In the relief of its environs, there are both- riverside groves and terraces, as well as steep slopes. On the slopes of the northern exposition fir-tree forests are dominant, in the southern- second hand and sub-Alpine meadows. Especially effective landscapes are the landscapes of mixed forests on the lower belt of which evergreen Colchis under-bush forest is well presented.
There are many peaks in Upper Svaneti, with perpetual snow in summer and winter. Among them three peaks are prominent: Skhara, Tetnuldi and Ushba. There are fragments of the XII century fortress, several churches, more than thirty ancient fortress abodes and cult construction in Ushguli. Also, it is under protection of UNESCO World Heritage list of memorial buildings and declared a museum “Under the Sky”, where visitors can see more than 30 traditional Svaneti Towers-survive on this territory.
To the South from the hamlet a fortress of (XI-XII cc.), which is standing and overlooking all four villages of Ushguli. In the upper, Northern part of Ushguli is St. Mary (in the Svan language- “Lamaria”) Church.One of the most famous is the widespread defensive construction of Svaneti Tower, consisting 4-6 levels. The levels are connected with each other by a moving wooden staircase. On the last level of the tower is arranged on a weapons platform with gun emplacements. There is also so-called Love Tower in Svaneti.
According to the legend, a daughter of a notable Svan noble had a groom, who prepared himself for going to war. A bride vowed, that she would not marry and wait for him to return safe and sound. Unfortunately, the groom died on the battlefield. The bride didn’t believe in his death. She was waiting for him, to while away the time, during the waiting period, a father of the bride built a tower at the beginning of a road for her. So she could watch the way all day long, waiting for his man. Here she spent the whole life waiting for her beau. So, this Tower is very popular among couples, who believe in immortal love, or at least, want to gain their love.
As for Mestia, is especially known for its' ski resort- Hatsvali. Mestia is administrative and tourist center in Zemo (upper) Svaneti, located in the elevating of 1,500 meters above the sea level. It is linked between picturesque slopes of the Svaneti segment of the Kavkasioni mountain region. Cold and snowy winter is habitual in Svaneti. It is hardly accessible place, so, throughout centuries Zemo Svaneti played a function of treasury safe-keeper of Georgia. At the time of wars, Mestia was an elaborate depository of church and public items brought here from different corners of the nation for safekeeping. This is the reason, why unique icons, ancient manuscripts and Mestia’s Museum of History and Ethnology have survived in Svaneti. If you visit Upper Svaneti in the first days of February, you will the rows of fire coming out simultaneously from every house merge in the heart of the village. This is called Lamproba festival, which is one of the ancient traditions and customs still held in Svaneti.
The name comes from the Georgian word “Lampari”, which means Lantern. To this day, people make as many lanterns from birch tree, as there are men in the family. (sounds a little patriarchal). This night, the worshipers pray and ask St. George for fertile harvest, plentiful year, with the bounty and well-being of their families. It’s really worth seeing.
The crown jewel of the Black Sea coast is Anaklia, one of the most developing resorts in Georgia. At the beginning of AD there was a settlement of the Greeks, who called it the name of Greek mythological hero- Heraklia. Later, this name turned into Anaklia. From now on, it was just a village of fishermen and harbour. Nowadays, Anaklia is popular among youth, as there is held annual Gem Fest. This is an international electronic music festival.
It is located in 33 km from Zugdidi, in the Western part of Kolkheti Lowland. A lot was done during recent years to develop a resort area of Anaklia. Hotel, restaurants, aqua-park, amphitheater, casino and other items of sea resort infrastructure appeared in Anaklia. The seaside is adorned with boulevard linking two villages- Anaklia and Ganmukhuri, with the pedestrian bridge across the Inguri river. The bridge is the longest pedestrian walking bridge in Europe- 360 m. it was called “Peace Bridge”- starting point of the road leading to Abkhazia.
70 km from Zugdidi, on the Western part of Kolkheti lowland there is famous Paliastomi Lake, which has the important recreational function of the region. The Lake is a habitat of such rare species of the Georgian fish fauna, as pike perch and catfish. Why everyone loves Paliastomi is the fact. That it is a natural habitat for lots of birds. Wild swans, brown ducks, various species of wild ducks and others make their nests here. They are babbling and twittering lovely and is the best place for bird watching lovers, as the bird migration line crosses the Lake.
So, imagine, with the approaching winter, the environs of the Lake are filled with flocks of birds and one can see fluently how they are getting ready to fly away, far, far from here… Any person can go fishing on the lake with a special permit of Kolkheti National Park administration, so areas surrounding the Lake are favourite places for bird hunters. Hunters and fishermen along with hunting and fishing appliances are advised to bring marshland skis as well.
We should not forget Martvili- as there are two wonderful sightings : The Church of Martvili and Martvili Canyon. The Church of Martvili is located in the town of Martvili. It was built in the first half of the VII century and has the function of treasure keeping during enemy invasions. There was a scriptorium too. Nowadays, the collection of manuscripts created here is in the safe keeping at the National Center for Manuscripts. Since 2007 the monastery life in Martvili was revived and the monks’ monastery of St. Andrew the First-called and a Convent of St. Nino were founded.
As for Martvili Canyon, it is located in the Samegrelo region as well, and is admired as a natural wonder of Georgia. There was a time, when it belonged to Georgian Nobles- Dadiani family- they used to come here for a bath and rest in peace, which can be close to paradise on earth. Later, this place was forgotten by locals. Nowadays, million of tourists visit Martvili Canyon to enjoy the scenery, its waterfalls, to take an unforgettable boat trip on the river.
This boat trip is about 300-meters long. For foreigners, entrance costs 15 GEL, for students and pupils- 5 GEL, to take a boat trip- 13 GEL and Diving in the green mystic water-50 GEL. There are walking trips as well in the canyon, which, believe me, are not less impressive. Tourist season at Martvili canyon lasts during the whole year. The hot season is from April to October.
And one more sighting in Samegrelo is the Dadiani Palace in Zugdidi. This historical palace and now museum was the residence of Dadiani family, which I have already mentioned. The museum of Dadiani Palace is the oldest in Georgia. For more information read this article: The Museum of Dadiani Palace