The pleasant city of Kutaisi, the capital of Imereti region, has a long and venerable history. The region has been inhabited for at least 3 millennia, and the city may well have been the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis. More recently, Kutaisi spent a century and a half as the capital of Georgia and is today the 3rd largest city in the country.
Elegant, tree lined streets with 19th century houses stretching down to the banks of the Rioni River, along with several attractive parks surrounded by deciduous forests to the northeast and the northwest, make Kutaisi a very beautiful place to stroll around and take in the many sights.
The landmark of the city is the ruined Bagrati Cathedral built by Bagrat III, King of Georgia in the early 11th century. This church which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site was the tallest church in Georgia with the height of 57 meters 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.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kutaisi is Gelati Monastery a few kilometers east of the city. 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 center 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.
Located on a cliff above the gorge, the isolated "Church of the Martyrs" built in the 11th century offers breath-taking views of the surroundings. It was named after two saints, brothers David and Constantine. They were the Dukes of Margveti, and were martyred by Arab invaders 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!
A visit to this modest 9th century 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-story dwelling tower added in the 12th century.
Sataplia Cave is one of Georgia's finest nature reserves, known also for its fabulous cave formations and the prehistoric dinosaur footprints preserved here.
City of Vani
The antique city of Vani (7th to 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 jewelry and coins, all of which are now on display at the Georgian State Museum in Tbilisi.