Travel information, Geography, History
The Imereti Region is situated in western Georgia. The region of Imereti is situated along the middle and upper end of the Rioni river. The main city of the region is Kutaisi. Imereti is divided into Zemo (upper) and Kvemo (lower) Imereti. It borders the Likhi Mountain Range to the east, Tskhenistskali River to the west, the Caucasus Mountains to the north and Meskheti or Persati Mountains to the south.
The lowlands of Imereti are mostly covered with Colchis low brush, forests, oaks, groves, and meadows. The mountainous parts of Imereti are mainly Colchis deciduous forests. The forests of Imereti are rich with animals and birds.
The Imereti lowland is part of the Kolkheti Valley with a sub-tropical sea climate. Winter here is mild, while the summer is hot. The average annual temperature is 10-15 degrees Celsius. The climate of upper Imereti is humid sub-tropical, with winters that are colder and have more precipitation.
There are a lot of sights In Imereti, cultural – architectural monuments; many of them are included in the list of World Heritage – UNESCO.
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.
There is a large number of ancient monuments of pre-Christian and Christian culture in Imereti.
Imereti (must see) sights:
- Sataplia Cave (which means “honey” in Georgian) is a unique preserve. At the beginning of the 20th century, sinkhole caves were discovered here, in which stalactites and stalagmites of all possible shapes and sizes have been forming for millennia. There is an underground stream that runs into an underground lake, the crater of an extinct volcano, a Stone Age dwelling site, and traces of dinosaurs, which scientists say are of the Sathapliasaurus species.
- The Bagrati Church in Kutaisi was built in the 11th century during the reign of King Bagrat III. The church has a cross-shaped structure. The main entrance is adorned with an arched portico, column caps covered with stucco decorations, and walls and floors finished with mosaics. The decorations and bas-reliefs of the church can be compared to the work of jewelers in terms of their artistic precision. In Georgia, the Bagrati Church is considered not only to be a religious center of its time, but also a symbol of unity of the Georgian people: in the 11th century, David the Builder, the king who united Georgia into a centralized state, was coronated here. The church rises above Kutaisi; it can be seen from everywhere in the city. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- The Gelati Monastery was founded by King David the Builder at the beginning of the 12th century. The king intended it to be not only the country’s spiritual center, but also a large cultural and scientific center. David founded the Gelati Academy, where the best Georgian scientists gathered. There was a well-endowed library there and the most enlightened people of the time taught at it. David instructed for a sepulcher of the Georgian kings to be built in the monastery. Here repose Dmitri I, Georgy II, and, supposedly, Queen Tamar. David himself asked to be buried so that everyone entering the church would have to step on his grave. This is how the king made repentance for his arrogance. The monastery is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In addition to the main church, the monastery complex also includes the church of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin, where 12th-18th-century mosaics and frescoes have been preserved, and the churches of St. George the Victory Bearer (13th century) and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (13th century) decorated with 16th-century frescoes. The Gelati Monastery is an outstanding monument of Georgian architecture, a medieval spiritual and scientific center, and a worship site for pilgrims. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Vani was one of the most important towns of ancient Colchis in the 8th-1st centuries BC. The residential and worship buildings, work tools, household items, and ornaments found here show the high level of the region’s social and cultural development. The most well-known archeological find in Vani is a collection of 100 gold ornaments dating back to the 5th-3rd centuries BC. Analysis of the gold showed that it was excavated in the Caucasian rivers. The ornaments were made by local masters. Traditional depictions of birds and animals were used in the decorations.
A collection of Colchian gold is exhibited in the Georgian National Museum.
- Prometes Mgvime (Prometeus Cave)
- Khonis Kanioni (Khoni Canyon)
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is one of the largest in Europe – it covers more than 76,000 hectares of native forest and sub-alpine and alpine meadows, and is home to rare species of flora and fauna. It is the first National Park in the Caucasus to meet international standards. The park was established in 1995 and officially opened in 2001. Rare and endemic species noted in Georgia’s Red Data Book (a list of endangered and protected species) can be found in the territory of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. The fauna of Borjomi-Kharagauli is diverse. This National Park has a wonderful array of mammal inhabitants. Among the large carnivores it is possible to find gray wolves, lynx, and brown bears here. Among hoofed animals, roe deer and wild boar can frequently be seen on the national park’s territory. For native birds of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park the following rare species can be identified: the golden eagle, griffon vulture, black vulture, and Caucasian black grouse. The forests of the Kharagauli part of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park are a combination of dark coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests. Visitors can observe amazingly different life and traditions in the territories bordering the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, due to the interesting ethnographical diversity, which is additionally impressive for visitors of the park.
Sataplia Reservation is located very close to Kutaisi, on Sataplia Mountain, with a total area of 354 hectares. It has mountains and hills and is almost fully covered by the Colchis Forest. There are numerous grotto caves, although the most interesting one is “Sataplia Cave”, located on Samgurali slope. It has a corridor system with branches and halls. The cave is rich with stalactites, stalagmites and mineral rock curtains. The total length of the cave measures 600 meters. It has a stream flowing inside, which has carved out this cave over the past 30 million years. Over 200 footprints from dinosaurs have been discovered here, located on the stones in two rows. To the north of Sataplia cave there is a flowering meadow on the cliff with a number of bee colonies. This was the reason for naming this area Sataplia (“the place of honey”). When you go, be sure to check out the local museum.
Ajameti Protected Area
Ajameti Managed Nature Reserve is located in the Baghdati district, 265 km from Tbilisi and 15 km from Kutaisi on the Rioni plain and consists of three districts: Ajameti, Vartsikhe and Sviri. The total area of the Managed Nature Reserve is 4848 ha, out of which 4738 ha is covered with forest; what makes Ajameti forest unique is that in the Kolkheti lowland it is nearly the only place where subtropical mixed forests have been preserved in their original conditions. Some of the trees are more than 250 years old, and the century-old oaks are frequently found. Ajameti is somewhat weak in animal and bird species. Among mammals one can see hare, red fox, jakal, squirrel, weasel, dormouse and badger here. The largest animal of Ajameti is the roe-deer. The following animals of the Red List of Georgia can be found in the Ajameti Nature Reserve: Leisler’s bat, Caucasian squirrel, common dormouse, Forest dormouse and Caucasian otter. More than 60 species of birds are registered in the Ajameti Managed Nature Reserve. Out of them only twenty-one nest in the oak forest, the others appear in Ajameti while migrating or spending winter there.