2 Gorgeous Days; A Perfect Solo Trip to Kutaisi
I hadn’t even heard of Kutaisi before I started looking for tickets to Georgia. Wizzair flies directly from London to Kutaisi and it got on my itinerary. A solo gay trip to Kutaisi was on. It is a city of historic importance and one of the oldest cities in the world and a former capital of Georgia. The city has always competed with Tbilisi for prestige and money and things seem to be improving especially when the parliament of Georgia moved here.
Check my country guide about Georgia for all your travelling related questions.
Getting to Kutaisi
Kutaisi has an international airport (KUT) which is 23 km away from the city centre. It takes 30 minutes on the taxi or you can take the bus which is aligned to the arriving flights. You can check the schedule on the Georgian Bus website. I arrived very late in the night and there was no bus so ended up getting a taxi.
I remember negotiating the fare because they were asking for a lot of money. Eventually, we settled at 20 GEL which was still a lot more but I have had no other option. On the way back, I took the bus from Tbilisi which arrived at the airport a little too early. The airport is also very small with very limited amenities. There is an ATM there though.
Getting Around in Kutaisi
The centre of Kutaisi is very small but generally getting around to most sites around Kutaisi on public transport is tough unless you speak Georgian or Russian at least. Someone told me about marshrutka line 1 which goes in a circle in the city but with no timetables and no idea of routes, I decided to take a taxi around. I walked around, in the centre which was fine in the day but not so great in the night as there are barely any street lights apart from the very central square. I wouldn’t recommend walking around in the night here, not just yet.
Food in Kutaisi
Kutaisi is much smaller than Tbilisi which has two effects; there are fewer places to eat but the food is much close to the heart of Georgian cuisine. I absolutely loved Baraqa Restaurant near Colchis fountain in the centre; it was the best restaurant I found during my stay and in the evening the atmosphere was also very lively.
Georgian food is a class of its own. It is perhaps the most popular cuisine from all the former Soviet republics. The variety of food is crazy and there’s food to match everyone’s taste.
My two ultimate favourites are Khinkali and Khachapuri and both offer a huge variety in the offering.
Khinkali are steamed or fried dumplings which are filled with either meat or cheese or potatoes and broth, they are absolutely delicious. Khachapuri is over baked thick bread which is either stuffed with different items or it comes in the shape of a boat filled with melting cheese and eggs. (I am drooling honestly).
Borscht is the cold beetroot soup which is quite delicious as well and while it isn’t strictly Georgian cuisine, it is widely available.
Badrijani is another must-try; it is made up of fried aubergine slices stuffed with crushed walnut sauce and pomegranates, foodgasmic!
Another weird thing I liked was the garlic milk chicken which is exactly what the name says but, despite its weird mix of ingredients, it was absolutely delicious.
Georgia is blessed with great weather and fruits here are absolutely delicious especially Fresh watermelons and melons as well as cherries. I found locals set up small stalls on main roads to sell these items. A single watermelon weighed in around 5-6 kg and lasted me almost 3-4 days and I am a hog for fruit.
Georgia is the oldest wine producer in the world with some great wines to its name. Wineries are aplenty and arranging visits is quite easy. Another must-try here. Every restaurant has a good selection of wine, don’t be shy. Spirits are also quite cheap and available at most shops.
Where to Stay in Kutaisi
The city centre is the best place to stay in Kutaisi. Like I mentioned, the city gets dark and it would be a bit weird to walk home in complete darkness. People also go indoors apart from the few bars and even those stay open till late. I stayed next to the synagogue at a walking distance from Colchis fountain. there are some hotels and hostels but I got a place through Airbnb which was more interesting because I got to stay in the spare room of a family.
Best Time to Visit Kutaisi
I’d recommend the end of summer or autumn as the best time to visit. Spring is also a good time but it could be a bit chilly. I visited towards the end of summer in early September which was the perfect time with moderate temperature.
How Many Days for Kutaisi
You can run around and see everything in a single day but it will be very stretched. I spent two days here which was the perfect amount of time to see everything with peace and calm. The monasteries especially deserve some attention and time. I’d recommend 2 days.
There are no Gay or LGBT establishments in Kutaisi at all. Older people are conservative and even a mention of LGBT subjects is a taboo but the younger generation seems to be tolerant. I opened Grindr and barely found 4 or 5 profiles, none with any face photos and guys were very cagey about meeting up. I didn’t meet anyone but at the same time, I didn’t feel unsafe or threatened. If you smile, everyone will be pleasant. It will be a long time before Kutaisi sees an openly gay establishment or open acceptance of LGBT people and culture. I got the ball by telling my Airbnb host who was surprisingly very curious and sweet.
How to Explore Kutaisi
The city of Kutaisi can be easily explored in half a day and I did it on foot. There isn’t much to see but the main things around the city including Bagrati cathedral, monasteries and the canyon all require some travel. I met someone outside the tourism office who took me around to the monasteries and canyon in a single day for 60 GEL, it worked out perfectly and just took a taxi to Begrati cathedral and walked back to the city.
Top Things To Do In Kutaisi
These things are in order of proximity and not in order of preference.
The synagogue of Kutaisi is the first synagogue I got to visit in my life and it was an experience for me. The building is cubic in shape and quite grand. the interior is blue and golden and while not the most impressive, it is quite something for a town like Kutaisi. The staff there was also very cordial and welcomed me inside and didn’t mind me taking photos. I stayed right next to it and it was an easy 15 minutes visit. It is quite old and has been serving the Jewish community of Kutaisi since the late 1800s.
David Agmashenebeli Square and Colchis (Kolkha) Fountain
This is the centre of Kutaisi with a beautiful statue in the middle with fountains and frills. It is a grand square and most of the fancy stuff that comes to Kutaisi open around here (Mcdonalds is a good example). I loved spending time here especially in the evenings after all the sightseeing was done and there was nothing to do but to relax with a good meal.
The fountain is made up of 30 different statues of beasts and animals of varying sizes that were dug from the Colchis area.
The building behind the fountain is the Opera of Kutaisi. It is nicely lit in the evenings. There is also a park called Kutaisi Park which is good to relax after walking. A lot of people come there in the evenings to enjoy the atmosphere including the younger generation. This is an area to people watch!
Kutaisi Holy Annunciation Church
It is a small church with quite an average interior but it is interesting especially the facade and pillars. This was on my way to the Bagrati Cathedral and I stopped to look around because of its peaceful garden. I stepped inside but the blue interior was nothing exciting. The pillars and garden were worth checking though.
The Chain Bridge
It is one of many bridges over River Rioni but I liked it because it shows the views of the city and the river flowing under it creates nice scenery. It was early afternoon and a lot of people were crossing it including kids returning home from schools. The houses on the banks of the river belong to poor people. I laughed imagining how they’d react how much people pay in London for river view apartments of the filthy Thames.
The next stop for me was the Begrati cathedral. It is a bit of a steep walk and I was not in the mood so I took a taxi. Bagrati Cathedral is the symbol of Kutaisi. The cathedral is perched on top of the Ukimerioni Hill and offers a splendid view of the city including the perfect sunsets. I was really lucky because I arrived at the perfect time to see the cathedral and the view of the city followed by a beautiful sunset.
Fun Fact: Bagrati Cathedral used to be on the UNESCO World Heritage list but due to its reconstruction and restoration, it was removed from the list.
The reconstruction and restoration are still ongoing. The interior is quite spacious and rather simple. The building outside is also in line for some more renovation but it was a pleasant experience. It is a beautiful building in perfect settings. There is a giant cross in front of the main building. It weirdly felt exciting like the segregation between man and God, how very apt!
My first day in Kutaisi ended beautifully and I headed down to the city to grab some food and get some rest because the second day involved some travelling.
It was my second day in Kutaisi. I slept like a baby with absolutely no noise around. I got ready and headed down where my host had prepared a nice breakfast for me. I had met a guy outside the tourist information centre who offered to take me to my three other spots for the day much cheaper than all other options. I introduced him to my host and gave him his number as well (Safety first!) and we were on our way to our first stop; Motsameta Monastery.
It took us some 30 minutes to arrive at the monastery. We took a turn on the right-hand side and arrived at the beautiful monastery after some 2km further drive. I was amazed to see the location. The monastery is located with valleys on both sides with gorgeous views. Weirdly, it was empty and there was no one except me there. Oh, I loved this place, it was like a little piece of heaven.
I specifically remember this little wooden corridor with stunning views of the valley, the lush mountains and the tiny sliver of water flowing down in the valley. I had a great feeling about this trip already. After an hour, I got up to head to the next monastery in Gelati.
Note: There is an unused train track which you can follow to get back to Kutaisi, not sure how long it would take you to arrive in Kutaisi though.
It took us 15 minutes to go from Motsameta to Gelati monastery. This is another beautiful monastery in a beautiful location. Sadly a big part of it was covered in scaffolding but even in this condition, it was grand. There are some very interesting ceilings here including the one of the smaller building outside. As usual, the views were gorgeous and you can see the greenery. No wonder the monks chose such beautiful locations to meditate and refresh their minds.
I walked around for a bit and then headed to the interior. Perhaps of all churches, I went to in Georgia, this one had the most beautiful paintings. Gelati is also famous for its Triptychs (a three panelled icon/painting).
It was almost time for lunch and there was still the canyon adventure left so I headed back to town to grab lunch and then head over to Martvili Canyon.
I was still digesting the khachapuri during an interesting lunch. My guide cum driver cum travel companion didn’t speak any English but he was being very sweet by asking me questions about my travels especially what I was doing there on my own. It was hard to describe but he was happy, nonetheless. We left for Martvili after lunch, it was a beautiful day.
We almost left the town when I saw a round-shaped building in the middle of seemingly nowhere, it turned out to be the parliament of Georgia. It has recently been moved here. the area around has slowly started to lift up as well with a weird high rise but the area around was pretty dead. Not sure how the Georgian parliamentarians feel about this but the building looked cool especially in the middle of nowhere.
Official Website – https://nationalparks.ge/en/site/martvilicanyon
It took us an hour to get there but the drive was a great experience. I got to see rural Georgia, the interesting houses, the way people lived and interacted. A lot of women were selling cherries and fruits. I grabbed some cherries and some melon, it was absolutely divine. Throughout my Caucuses trip, I did not get enough of melons and watermelons honestly, they are the best here. I paid extra for the ticket being a foreigner (absolutely hate this policy) and also got the ticket for the boat ride.
The canyon is incredibly beautiful with its turquoise water. The first stop was the boat ride which took 20 minutes and took us through the canyon. The turquoise water, the rugged mountains, the sun shining through the trees and the peace and quiet around was absolutely mesmerising.
Sadly, it ended too quickly but the rest of the area was open for discovery. I walked around on the wooden pathways and went as far as I could. The water falling through the canyon was my favourite part. Soon enough it started to get late.
I was being mindful of my travel buddy waiting outside so I wrapped it up and headed back to Kutaisi. It turned out to be a great decision because I got to see the beautiful countryside in the golden hour again.
Kutaisi is still far from a perfect tourist destination which in my opinion makes it the perfect destination to explore. With great food, cheap prices and plenty to see and do, why wouldn’t you want to explore Kutaisi?