This is Samegrelo… This is Big Georgia.
Where to start? It is difficult to find the beginning or determine the pattern to endless beauty that reigns here in Samegrelo. Therefore, there is no need to look for anything because everything here was created by God and accordingly, everything is unique and exceptional. Here, natural and manmade wonders compete with each other. It is as if the boundary between myths and reality, past and present is completely wiped out. Follow us along any road and you will see miracles. The walls of Rukhi Fortress are real enough but if you notice the shadow of Medea, do not think your eyes are deceiving you – just believe it. Did you notice the feast at Nokalakevi? It is King Parnavaz who is visiting Kuji and discussing the unification of Georgia. This was the case in the past and this is the case today as well.
It is a different life – sad and sweet, like a Megrelian lullaby, like a religious gospel, where the love of the homeland can be felt. This is Georgia – the real, big Georgia.
Samegrelo (Samargalo in Migrelian language and sometimes also called Megrelia or mingrelia) is a historical and geographical province in western Georgia, surrounded by Rioni, Tskhenistskali and Enguri rivers, as well as the black Sea. The name originated from the historic of Egrisi. Georgian written sources first mention the name Samegrelo in 12th century. Initially the province was identified with the whole of western Georgia (much like Abkhazeti or Imereti), but in 13th-15th centuries, it assumed a narrower meaning. The province is populated by anethnic subgroup of Georgians – Megrels (Megrelians), largely concentrated between the rivers of Psirtskha (Anakodiis Tskali) and Tskhenistskali. The central city of the province is Zugdidi.
In the late Middle Ages, Odishi principality was created on this area and the province was often mentioned by that name, although various foreign sources often used variations of the name Samegrelo. From the beginning of the 19th century though, Samegrelo was once again and finally established as the only reference to the province. In the beginning of the 17th century, as a result of Abkhaz feudals growing influence, the borders of the principality were first moved to Kelasuri River, later to Galidzga River and finally to Enguri River.
According to the current administrative-territorial division, Samegrelo is a part of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region and includes Abasha, Zugdidi, Martvili, Senaki, Chkhorotsku, Tsalenjkha and Khobi municipalties, as well as the city of Poti.
Samegrelo is rich in architectural and historical monuments.
Location: begins from Rukhi and ends in the village of Khurcha where both branches of inguri river merge (Zugdidi municipality).
Access road: the islands begins on the left stream of the river Inguri, from the crossing bridge, on the eastern periphery of the village of Shamgona, to the west of the village of Kakhati; distance from Tbilisi – 350 km, from Zugdidi – 12 km.
A good example of this wonder of nature is a village of Shamgona in Zugdidi which has been developed on the silted river island. Todays Shamgona used to be covered with forest in times immemorial. There grew fruitless variety of wine – Shamgu which became extinct but its name has survived and branded the island.
Location: Tsalehjikha municipality, 1800 meters above sea level.
Access road: natural monument can be approached from the village of Chkvareli in Tsalehjikha district, first with a car, then by horse or on foot; distance from Tbilisi – 360 km, from Tsalehjikha – 35 km.
Limestone boulder Kuakantsalia `sits` on the peak of the elevated site on the territory free of forests, and weighs approximately 10-12 tones. Its dimensions are 1,8x2x1,6 meters. Its surface was ground by water. This monument of nature stands out because if one lightly touches one of its ribs, a huge mass of the boulder starts swinging and utters a voice of a knock. It has four points of support, of which one is always in the air causing movement.
Location: Tsalehjikha municipality, southern periphery of the river karst massif, basin of river Morosha, 250 meters above sea level.
Access road: on the territory of the village of Chkvaleri flows river Intsra in the upper bodies of which there are interesting monuments of nature, using the walking trail, from the village up to the Intsra waterfall the distance runs to 3 km; distance from Tbilisi – 370 km, from Zugdidi – 40 km, from Tsalehjikha – 20 km, and from settlement Jvari – 8 km.
Tsalehjikha municipality is situated on the border of Samegrelo and Zemo Svaneti, in the gorge of rivers Enguri and Chahiststskali.
The source of river Instra is in Tsalehjikha municipality. In the deep gorge of the river there are numerous sites interesting for tourists, lake caves, waterfalls, underground river. Instra cave developed in the massive lime stones.
Location: Chkorotsku municipality, environs of the village of Akhuti; left slope of river Zani gorge; 290 m above sea level.
Access road: the biggest populated settlement near the natural monument is the township of Chkorotsku till village Akhuta is 12,5 km, and from there to the natural monument of Hazodelavo Cave is 6,8 km; distance from Tbilisi – 355 km, from Zugdidi – 75 km, from Senaki – 40 km.
Hazodelavo is one of the largest clustery karst caves in the Caucasus. The average width of the caves main room is 4 m, height – 3m, and total length amounts to 600 meters. Through this canyon flows cold, pure underground river in the depth sometimes running up to 7-8 metres.
Location: Martvili municipality, community of the village of Gachedili, south-eastern part of Askhi limestone massif, source of the left tributary of river Abasha – Tobi, 700 m above sea level.
Access road: access to the waterfall and a cave from the village of Baldi by marked tourist walking path. Distance from Martvili to the village of Pirveli Balda – 9,4 km, from the village to Tobi Waterfall and Arsen Okojanashvili cave natural monument – 5,6 km, distance from Tbilisi – 295 km, from Zugdidi – 105 km, from Senaki – 65 km, from Martvili – 15 km.
Limestone cliff developed at the source of river Tobi is rich with waterfalls flowing from karst caves. Underground water conceives 4 lakes and creates Tobi cascade waterfall with the falling height of 234 m. unique Martvili cave consists of several `rooms` where one can see stalactites, stalagmites and columns. The cave has rather wide entrance; the cave involves several forks. Martvili cave is difficult to reach and it is not recommended to go there without special equipment.
Location: Martvili municipality, village of Gachedili, gorge of river Abasha; 210 meters above sea level
Access road: from the road Martvili-Didichkoni, there is a trail running to the entrance to Canyon, then a walking pathway; distance from Tbilisi – 280 km, from Zugdidi – 90 km, from Cenaki – 50 km, from Martvili – 6 km.
When one enters river gorge plunged in green, he/she finds himself/herself in quite different world. Water of the canyon is very cold in all seasons of the year and virtually does not get warmer. This sit was named `Gachedili`. On October 4, 2010, Gachedili (Martvili) was declared a protected territory.
Location: Martvili municipality, environs of the village Pirveli Baldi, 473 meters above sea level.
Access road: distance from village Pirveli Baldi till natural monument is 0,7 km; distance from Tbilisi – 290 km; from Zugdidi – 100 km; from Cenaki – 60 km, and from Martvili – 10 km.
The root of the name of a mountain and village in Martvili municipality – Barda, is `bala`, which in Megrelian means `a hill`. Residents of the village were named `Bardelebi` and village – Barda.
The cave consists of two big `halls` connected with each other by a narrow passage. The length of te first `hall` is 30 m, height – 24-25 m. the total length of the cave runs to 75 m.
Location: Tsalenjikha municipality; 2650 m above sea level.
Access road: The length of a motor road from the village of Mukhuri is 25 km, after that runs mountain walking route passing stony and sludge rocks of Egrisi range. Path trail in the mountains sets out at Skuri resort and follows river Magana gorge; distance from Tbilisi – 400 km, from Zugdidi – 70 km, from Senaki – 90 km, from township Chkhorotsku – 55 km.
There are several lakes on the Egrisi range originated from glaciers. Among them lake didi Tobavarchkhili is distinguished for its special beauty, space and location among glacier mountains (in Megrelian it is called `Silver Lake`) with mirror space of 0,21 sq. km and the deepest point – 35 m. water is fresh. From the lake flows out river Magana, having length of 34 km. there are six lakes of this name in the Alpine zone, to wit, around mounts of Tsahikibuli, Chitagvala, Lakurumashdudi, Dvira. Lakes under the brand of Tobavarchkhili are of glacier origin. That is why centuries ago local population branded Tobavarchkhili as a Holy Lake.
The region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti is located in the central and North-Western part of Georgia. The area covers 7,4 thousand sq. km. the region includes two historical and geographic provinces – Samegrelo and part of Svaneti – Zemo (upper) Svaneti
Bordering each other and completely different with respect of landscape during centuries these two provinces constituted one kingdom though both had covered diverse paths of historical development. Since 20-ies of the VIII c. BC in the written annals of history, under the moniker of Colkhis, Egrisi, Lasika and Odishi, Samegrelo has cave forth as a rich and strong kingdom. Looking at Svaneti, it should be pointed out that earlier it was deemed to be part of Colchis, later on – part of Egrisi, in XI-XV cc. It was one of the Saeristavo (territorial unit in medieval Georgia) of the feudal state of Georgia.
The region resort potential is represented by climatic resorts (mountainous, sea cliamte), seaside resorts (sea water, sand, duration of sun light) and hidro-mineral resources resorts (thermal and mineral springs). Natural conditions of the region – Black sea coastline, hillocky and mountainous landscapes, high peaks and glaciers embrace many places where along with enjoing full-scale holiday it is possible to visit lots of sights created by nature or human beings.
Resort of Anaklia
Location: Zugdidi municipality
Distance: 33 km from Zugdidi, 375 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 3 m
Climate: maritime, humid subtropical, winter mild, without snow, mean temperature in January 5,4 degrees centigrade, summer very warm, mean temperature in August 22,9 degrees centigrade
Average annual precipitation: 1400-1680 mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 70%
Duration of annual sunny light: h.2200
Natural treatment factors: maritime climate, sea water, beach sand
Types of therapy: thalassotherapy, sand baths
Diseases for treatment: respiratory organs, bronchitis, functional disorders, nervous systems, endocrine obesity and diabetes mellitus
The crown jewel of the Georgian Black Sea coast – Anaklia is today a developing resort. Anaklia was a village of fishermen and a harbor. At the beginning of AD there was a settlement of the Greeks who called it the name of the Greek mythological hero – Heraklia. In the course of centuries Heraklia turned into Anaklia
Anaklia had close trade ties with neighboring countries, ships from Trabzon and Constantinople brought salt, dishware, iron and weapons while from Georgia they took maze, box tree, honey, silk, buffalo hide, marten and beaver furs. Trade of humans was also under way – Abkhazian and Megrelian nobles sold their subjects to the Ottomans. According to the legend, the name of this place – `Anaklia` is linked to the trade of captives: as it happened, a child was taken from mother and sold. A woman stood on the seaside and frenetically wailed. Having heard her moans people allegedly said: `Ana rkians` (Mother yells). Anarkia later was renamed `Anaklia`.
A lot was done during recent years to develop resort area of Anaklia. The government offered investors beneficial terms and conditions for development of the seaside. After that hotels, restaurants, aqua-park, casino, amphitheater and other items of sea resort infrastructure appeared in Anaklia. Foundation was laid to the construction of several high-ranking hotels. The seaside is adorned with boulevard linking two villages – Anaklia and Ganmukhuri.
Resort of Lebarde
Location: bifurcation of Southern slope of Samegrelo range
Distance: 340 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 1600 m
Climate: middle mountain climate, winter cold, mean temperature in January -4 degrees centigrade, summer moderately warm, mean temperature in August 15,4 degrees centigrade
Average annual precipitation: 2000-2050mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 75%
Duration of annual sunny light: 2150-2000h.
Natural treatment factors: middle mountain climate and carbonic acid and iron containing mineral waters with general mineralization 0,4-0,6 g/dm3
Types of therapy: mineral water drinking
Diseases for treatment: diseases of alimentary tract, gall-bladder and urinary system, secondary anemia, respiratory diseases.
Lebarde is a climatic and spa resort located in the very heart of Western Georgia, in Martvili municipality. Plunged in the centennial conifer forest rich with iron, mineral water springs have therapeutic features good for healing diseases of respiratory and alimentary tract systems. There are several springs with Narzan-type waters coming were discovered by shepherds.
In the 40-ies of the XX century, in spite of the fact that road leading to the resort snaked across steep gorge and was dangerous,. In 1948-50-ies when automobile road was constructed, health-care centers and resort-houses were built in the resort. In 1980-ies resort infrastructure got dismantled.
4 km away from Lebarde, river Lebarde and river Tekhuri merge. Tekhuri river rises on the elevation of 2400 m, on the Western slope of Egrisi range, near Tekhurishdudi peak. Rich fish fauna of Tekhuri is also worth mentioning. There are lots of species of fish of commercial importance, like barbell, European chub, gudgeon.. There are trout in rivers as well but trout fishing is banned by Georgian legislation.
Resort of Lugela
Location: Chkhorotsku munisipality
Distance: 55 km from Martvili, 335 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 260m
Climate: humidi subtropical, winter warm with little snow, mean temperature in January 3,5 degrees centigrade, summer warm, mean temperature in August 23 degrees centigrade
Average annual precipitation: 1400-1600mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 74%
Duration of annual sunny light: 1700-1800h.
Natural treatment factors: mineral water lugelas springs
Types of therapy: mineral water drinking
Diseases for treatment: respiratory organs and lymphatic gland functional, skin and gynecological diseases
Lugela is a mineral water where consistency of chloride and calcium reaches 9,5%. Water is transparent, odorless, has a bit hot taste; due to high mineralization It is preserved for a long time while bottling does not need input of carbon dioxide, it do not freeze up to-25 degrees. If drinking other mineral waters is recommended 6-8 times per day, Lugela should be taken only 3 times per day with prescription of a doctor. It should not be surprising that a lot of legends are spoken about such unique contents water, like Lugela being able to resuscitate deceased person or turn sparrow into an eagle..
Scientific study of Lugela waters in the 20ies of the XX century. Unique therapeutic qualities of this water were acknouleged there and then, and it was proved that its use in medicine was possible instead of 10% calcium-chloride solution. In 1947 bottling of water started for pharmacies, besides, after the Second World War country was short of medications. Later on this water was also used on cosmetology. Therapeutic dental cream Lugela is produced from this water.
Lugela gorge from the North is bordered by Migartia limestone massif rich with various relief cave of Potoltsvena (leaf fall) (length 2,5 km, depth 340 m), Khaverdovana abyss (length 1,5 km, depth 400 m), Zesinakhe cave (length 1,5 km, depth 300 m), Mukhuri cave (length 960 m). the territory of the village of Mukhuri is crossed by Shurubumi (Breathholding) canyon rich with the most beautiful cascades of waterfalls. The local population used Shurubumi cave for curing asthma, and in Kalichoni and Letsurtsume klastokarst caves dwellings of primitive hominids were discovered.
Resort of Menji
Location: central part of Kolkheti lowland
Distance: 5 km from Senaki, 50 km from Zugdidi, 295 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 29 m
Climate: humid subtropical, winter mild, mean temperature in January 5,2 degrees centigrade, summer very warm, mean temperature in August 23 degrees centigrade
Average annual precipitation: 1480mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 73%
Duration of annual sunny light: 2160-2200h.
Natural treatment factors: sulfide, silicon, chloride-sodium mineral waters with general mineralization of 5,2-7,4 g/dm3
Types of therapy: mineral water baths
Diseases for treatment: musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, pheripheral nervous system and gynecological diseases
`Menji` is a Megrelian word and means `sour water`. Earlier, famous venues in Samegrelo known for their therapeutic waters were called menji Skuri, menji Lugela, menji Lebarde… that is why resort in Senaki municipality widely known for its curing mineral water was given the name of Menji. However, due to the miraculous qualities, the local residents gave the resort a second name as well – `Grave of Crutches`
Since the 30-ies of the XX century therapeutic potential of the resort has been developed. Famous Latvian scientist, Robert Kupzis, who made great construction in the scientific research of mineral waters in Georgia, studied waters therapeutic qualities and called Menji `Georgias Matsesta`. In 1938 Menji was pronounced the resort of republican importance and necessary infrastructure was constructed on its territory. As early as 1940 Menji hosted ten thousand visitors. Specialists assume that as a result of drilling, it is possible to get water of high temperature, though this opportunity has not been fulfilled yet.
Resort of Paliastomi lake
Location: Black Sea side, Western part of Kolkheti lowland
Distance: 70 km from Zugdidi, 320 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 1-2 m
Climate: humid subtropical, winter mild, without snow, mean temperature in January 5,7 degrees centigrade, summer very warm, mean temperature in August 23,5 degrees centigrade
Average annual precipitation: 1780-1850 mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 78%
Duration of annual sunny light: 2100-2180 h.
Natural treatment factors: maritime mild humid climate, sea and beach
Types of therapy: thalassotherapy, sand baths
Diseases for treatment: functional disorders of musculoskeletal system, nervous system, respiratory organs and respiratory tracts
About 10 million years ago, in Kainozoic age, on the whole continent of Eurasia, a non-stop zone of tropical and subtropical landscape was spread. Vegetation distributed in the Kolkheti lowland is the remnant of this very landscape. Kolkheti National Park was established in 1999 engulfing part of two historical provinces of Georgia – Samegrelo and Guria.
The main object of the park is Lake Paliastomi having important recreational function for the region. Maximum depth of the lake is no more than 3 m while its floor is covered with peat. Up to the 20-ies of XX century a lake 3 meters below sea level was a fresh water lake. It was home to more than forty species of fish. In 1924 Lake Paliastomi was connected with Black Sea by a channel. In course of time as a result of surf, the channel was widened and lake water became salty. Because of this many poplations of fish disppeared. In spite of this, even toady the lake is habitat of such rare species of the Georgian fish fauna as pile perch and black cat-fish. There are a lot of pickerel, bream, common carp, European chub and others. Any person can go fishing on the lake with a special permit of Park Administration.
Paliastomi is a natural habitat for lots of birds. Wild swans, brown ducks, various species of wild ducks – mallards, cormorants, cranes, herons, purple swamphen, marshland whitethroat eagle made here their nests…. Bird migration line crosses the lake, therefore with approaching winter the environs of the lake are filled with flocks of birds creating unique conditions for birdwatching lovers. Areas surrounding the lake are favorite places for birds hunters.
In the South-Western part of the park, in 4 km from downtown Poti, between the Sea and the Lake, on the small peninsula is located a climate resort of Maltakva. Having mild humid seaside climate and magnetite containing beach sand, as well as low floor seaside, Maltakva is used for prevention of diverse diseases.
Resort of Skuri
Location: foot-hill of Egrisi
Distance: 14 km from Tsalenjikha, 36 km from Zugdidi, 355 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 450-500 m
Climate: low mountain zone of subtropical belt, winter mild, with no snow, summer very warm
Average annual precipitation: 1800-200mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 74%
Duration of annual sunny light: 1943-2316h.
Natural treatment factors: low mountain climate and chloride-sulpur-calcium-sodium mineral waters with general mineralization – 1,7 g/dm3
Types of therapy: mineral water baths and application/drinking
Diseases for treatment: peripheral nervous system disorders chronic diseases, urinary systems
Tsalenjikha munisipalty is situated on the border os Samegrelo and Zemo Svaneti, in the gorge of rivers Enguri and Chanistskali. The moniker `Tsalenjikha` derives from the name of ancient Colchis tribe – Chans (in local Megrelian language Chanis jikha, Chanis dikha` means fortress of Chans, Land of Chans). The territory of municipality appears to be inhabited from times immemorial. In Middle Ages here was located the residents of Samegrelo rulers, the Dadiani Family, their palace.
From recreational resources, resort area of Skuri situated 15 km away from Tsalejikha, in the gorge of river Abanosgeli is important. Historically, this place appears t be a well-known passage. When enemies approached Tsalenjikha, population found refuge in the fortress of Skuri. There are several ruins of fortified structures in the territory of the gorge – fortress and lookout tower surviving up to the present.
Skuri mineral waters were discovered by shepherds in 70-80ies of the XIX century. Therapeutic properties of the water still became known to the people later on and Skuri was turned into a famous spa resort. In the course of the years thousands of people underwear rehabilitation treatment here. Water was bottled in the factory producing 5 million bottles of mineral water `Skuri` per year. Nowadays resort infrastructure here is dismantled.
Resort of Tsaishi
Location: Zugdidi municipality
Distance: 15 km from Zugdidi, 310 km from Tbilisi
Sea level: 120-150 m
Climate: subtropical, winter mild, without snow, mean temperature in January 4.9 degrees centigrade, summer very warm, mean temperature in August 22,725 degrees centigrade
Average annual precipitation: 1616-1720mm
Average comparative annual humidity: 76%
Duration of annual sunny light: 2340-2400h.
Natural treatment factors: two-types of mineral water – sulfide, chloride, sodium water with free hydrogen sulfide with general mineralization of 1,6-2 g/dm3
Types of therapy: mineral water baths
Diseases for treatment: musculoskeletal function disorders, peripheral nervous system, skin and gynecological diseases.
Tsaishi is famous with hyper-thermal mineral waters therapeutic qualities of which were described as far back as by Vakhushti Bagrationi. He mentions Tsaihi as the place of wonderful location and time-hored therapeutic water springs. On the place of one of the springs, in the depth of 5-6 meters, a water pool was discovered which was used in the age before Christ and was constructed with cut stone.
Today 18 Tsaishi mineral springs have been studied. Tsaishi hypo-thermal mineral water has unique contents. It contains big amount of silicon acid. For such mineral water anti-toxic, anti-septic properties are typical, it arranges metabolism process, improves the state of bone and cartilage and also skin tissues. On the water outlets area there are 25-m high, 500-year old nettle trees. However, special popularity Tsaishi gained in 1956, after discovery of hyper-thermal (82,5 degrees) water. Part of hot water is used today for heating of greenhouses and apartments, but most of it is lost in the ground.
Samegrelo cuisine is famous for its cheese – Sulguni. Many dishes are made of it. Traditional dishes are: Ghomi (mush), Elarji (sulguni mashed in ghomi), Gebzhalia (cheese roll seasoned with mint), Jurjani (seasoned guts), roasted pig seasoned with Ajika, Megrelian Khachapuri, etc.