Zugdidi is the capital of Samegrelo. The city serves as a shuttle for the increasing traffic of travelers going to Svaneti and the few adventurers who enter the territory of Abkhazia. It is the closest city to the secessionist province and it took many of the Georgian refugees who fled the war in the nineties.
Although it is not a very tourist-friendly city, the surroundings hide many treasures that attract people to it. The best way to discover them is through the excursions organized by the owners of the old Hostel Zugdidi.
The province of Samegrelo was one of the most important territories that made up the old Kingdom of Colchis and it has an overwhelming cultural and natural legacy.
Its inhabitants form a distinct subgroup of Georgians who speak a different language: Megrelian. In Georgia, Mingrelians have the reputation of being good traders and they have great negotiating skills. Zugdidi is 65 miles from Kutaisi, 211 miles from Tbilisi, and 86 miles from Batumi.
The climate is humid and the temperatures much milder than in the east of the country. It usually rains a lot, so do not forget to bring your umbrella just in case you need it.
What to See in Zugdidi?
Dadiani Palace Museum
Address: 2 Zviad Gamsakhurdia Street
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
It is a museum that occupies the former residence of the most important family of Samegrelo: The Dadiani. The palace was built in the 19th century by architect Edvick Rise and it has a collection of objects from the dynasty governing the province since the 11th century such as paintings, weapons, antique books, French-style furniture, and lamps.
They were related to Napoleon and the most important piece is one of the three bronze effigies that existed in the world of the Emperor.
- Zugdidi-Tbilisi. 9:55 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.
- Zugdidi-Kutaisi. 7:40 a.m
They leave the bus station, just outside the train station.
- Zugdidi-Tbilisi: every hour and twenty minutes from 7:00 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. Price: 15 GEL.
- Zugdidi-Kutaisi: 7:15, 7:45, 8:10, 8:30, 9:00, 9:15, 9:30, 9:45, 10:20, 10:40 a.m. Price: 7 GEL
- Zugdidi-Batumi. 6:50, 9:00, 10:00, 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, 4:30, 5:30 p.m. Price: 12 GEL.
- Zugdidi-Poti. 8:45, 9:00, 9:45, 11:00, 11:40, 12:15, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. Price: 6 GEL.
- Zugdidi-Borjomi: at 10:00 a.m. Price: 15 GEL.
- Zugdidi-Jvari: every thirty minutes from 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Price: 2 GEL.
My Moon Hostel
Address: 67 Rustaveli Street
Phone: +995 595 901590
It occupies an old house near the downtown of Zugdidi and it is a meeting point for backpackers who travel around the country. Good atmosphere, super friendly staff, location in a quiet area 1 mile from the downtown, good prices, and a good standard of cleanliness. They offer double rooms (45-60 GEL) and beds in shared rooms (21 GEL).
Medium Price Lodging
Green House Guesthouse
Address: 64 Rustaveli Avenue
Phone: +995 5 99 51 51 29
Double and triple rooms, with or without private bathroom (the price of rooms with breakfast included: 50-105 GEL). They are exquisitely decorated, bright, and spacious. This is a nice greenhouse located just a short distance from downtown. It is usually the place chosen by the staff of the international organizations assigned to the area. Tika, the owner, speaks some English. For more information: www.greenhouse.info-tbilisi.com
The Hidden Gems of Samegrelo
The province of Samegrelo conceals wonderful places that most travelers are unaware of. The region is poorly developed for tourists and it is difficult to get to these places with public transport. However, there are some local companies that have proposed to show their charms and organize day tours.
The Agricultural Market in Senaki
We really liked the agricultural market in Senaki. The humid and warm climate of Samegrelo makes it a real garden and all its delicatessen are gathered in the bazaar of this town. Getting lost in this place is a visual spectacle, with its perfectly ordered multicolored fruits, homemade wine, aromatic herbs, and its famous Sulguni cheese.
Sulfurous Springs of Nokalakevi
You cannot miss the sulfurous springs of Nokalakevi. The water streams at high temperatures and the smell of sulfur invade everything in an environment dominated by forests and the Tekhura River. A short distance from here is the ruins of the Nokalakevi Fortress, one of the oldest and the most powerful cities of the ancient Kingdom of Colchis, which occupies about 20 hectares.
One of the spiritual centers of Western Georgia is the Martvili-Chkhondidi Monastery (7th century). Its interior is full of murals and they say that the place was already sacred in the pre-Christian era. As they say, there was an old oak tree that was venerated by the locals as a symbol of fertility a long time ago. With the arrival of the doctrine of Jesus, it was cut down and they built a new temple on its roots.
When in the region, it is highly recommended to visit the Salkhino Monastery. Here you can find the patriarch’s residence and they say that one of the best Georgian wines is produced here in the traditional way.
The sanctuary is surrounded by vineyards and mountains. Hopefully, the religious people will invite you to their 18th-century winery where they will give you a taste of some of their sacred elixirs. By the way, the wines here are not for sale.
The Rachkha Canyon
The Rachkha Canyon is an ideal place that little by little is becoming more fashionable among the Georgians. It is surrounded by vegetation, waterfalls, and a narrow gorge through which a river of crystalline waters flows through.
Tours Zugdidi Hostel
Phone: +995 558 10 26 88/ +995 599 23 65 69.
The staff of the old Zugdidi Hostel has been offering the most interesting tours for the province of Samegrelo for years. Today, they focus more on this facet and they want to help travelers discover the secrets of this region in Georgia that is filled with history.
They offer a one-day car tour that will allow you to visit a mix of natural and cultural spots. You can start with a visit to the springs of the Dedamoka Canyon. After that, if the day is good, how about going for a swim in the Tekhura River? The tour continues to the Nokalakevi Fortress, one of the mythical cities of the ancient kingdom of Colchis.
You should not miss visiting the Martvili Monastery en route. There you will find one of the most impressive interiors we have seen in Georgia and the spiritual symbol for the Mingrelians. Then, the itinerary continues towards the canyon and the Gachedili Waterfalls.
And to top it off, you can visit a winery in an abbey where you will try ojaleshi wine, a wine that is only available to the friars who make it in the traditional way. This is not a bad plan, right? In total, there are more than 124 miles of touring to cover for only 100 GEL (for groups of between one to three people) shared among passengers. For groups of between 4 and 6 people, the cost of the tour is 140 GEL. It is a quite affordable price divided between all of you.
Zugdidi Tourist Office
Address: 87 Rustaveli Avenue
Opening Hours: from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
It is a good starting point for you to sort out all of your accommodation needs, transport issues, and any questions you might have.