Ajara is one of the most beautiful parts of Georgia with extraordinary nature, the historic Black Sea and mild warm sun as well as warm and friendly people, rich folklore traditions and cultural heritage. The diverse nature of Ajara includes picturesque mountainous landscapes, seascapes, parks and reserves. A distinctive and delicious cuisine and original traditions equally attract Georgian and foreign visitors alike.
Ajara is the site of a distinguished Botanic Gardens where a diverse range of plant species from various climatic and landscape zones around the world grow together. The richness of natural resources is also evident by the great number of protected areas. Mtirala National Park, Ispani mire, Kintrishi Reserve and Machakhela Transboundary Protected Area are the best places for ecotourism lovers.
Visitors can taste the wines prepared from the unique varieties of grapes in Ajara, get acquainted with Ajarian cuisine and folklore, visit the “Chkhaveri” vineyard, purchase items of local trade and participate in vintage. The unique Roman fortress in Gonio dating from the first century connects the region to the Antique and Byzantine ages. A few kilometers away is located the historical Petra fortress that connected Western Georgia to the Byzantine provinces, Iran and Armenia.
Batumi, one of the most beautiful cities in Georgia, is located in Ajara. The city is represents modern Georgia in the best way with its old and new architecture and seaside boulevard.
Kintrishi and Mtirala protected territories are located on the territory of Ajara, 320-340 km from Tbilisi, on the Western slopes of Ajara-Imereti mountain range, in the gorge of river Kintrishi and in the vicinity of the town of Kobuleti. It includes two parts – Kintrishi sanctuary and Mtirala national park. Kintrishi sanctuary was founded in 1959 and Mtirala national park – nearly half a century later, in 2006.
Protected territories stretch on the slopes lying perpendicular to the wind masses blown from Black sea. Here, in the vicinity of Mtirala mountain, precipitation exceeds 4 thousand mm that is the highest parameter not only in the Caucasus but also in Europe. Proximity of Black sea and big volume of precipitation determine formation of moist subtropical climate and forceful Kolkheti forests.
Mountain relief of protected territories includes several hypsometric stages and has an outstanding relative height that determines vertical belt and, accordingly, natural variety.
Protected territories are known for unheard of diversity of Kolkheti vegetation. By occupied space in forests predominant are beech, chestnut and hornbeam groves. From the relicts it is worth mentioning pontine oak (Quercus pontica), birch tree (Betula medwedewii), rhododendron (Rhododendron ungernii), yew, ruscus (Ruscus ponticus), Caucasian persimmon (Diospyros lotus), sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), et al. In the forests powerful underbushes are dispersed where several species of liana, Kolkheti misletow, holly and cherry laurel dominate.
The fauna of perotected territories is rich with birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, et al. From predators there are such species as bear, wolf, lynx, fox, small eagle, hawk, falcon, horned owl, scops-owl, owl, et al.
Protected territories are located near Georgia’s biggest sea and spa tourism centers (Kvariati, Batumi, Chakvi, Kobuleti). Region is rich with historic and archeological monuments. Among them are ancient Gonio (Apsarunt) Fortress and ruins, many medieval churches, mosques and fortresses
Beshumi is a mountain resort which is located on the eastern knees of Arsiani mountain range, 1900 meters above the sea level. Here is a mixture of windy masses blowing from Black sea, high-mountain meadows and medium-size dark coniferous forests. Within the borders of a resort there are several mineral water springs of medicinal value actively used for curing alimentary tract.
Beshumi’s importance as a resort is linked to comfortable climate, pure and sound air. Holiday season continues several months – from June to September. Air is very effective for treatment of respiratory tracts and chronic diseases of children.
In the environs of Beshumi tourist infrastructure is swiftly developing. This is true especially for skiing and mountain climbing. Every year powerful, dry and long-standing snow blanket shapes up here which along with the smooth forms of relief is a good precondition for paving routes for skiing.
The Ortajame mosque was built in 1886. Like other religious shrines, the mosque ceased existence in 1930 during the Soviet rule. The service was resumed in 1990s. Restorations were also made in the yard, square and nearby territory.
The Kvirike mosque is located in the center of a village by the same name. It was built sometime between 1860-1866 (reports vary) by a Laz master from Arhavi. The mosque is included on the list of Georgian cultural monuments. It is a wooden building erected over a stone foundation. The poles, rails and banisters are richly ornamented. The building is surrounded with an open balcony on the ground floor. The Kvirike Mosque is an excellent example of the architectural diversity of Ajarian architecture.
Historically Batumi Sea Port has always functioned as a logistics center in the Caucasus. It was the first port granting the transit country status to Georgia. The announcement of Batumi Port as “Porto Franco” in 1878 contributed to its further development. Oil was the most decisive factor of the development. At the beginning of the 20th century Batumi Port held a leading position along the Black Sea littoral according to its significance and turnover. It became an international transporting corridor in oil transfer.
Batumi started to become a popular cruise destination in the second half of the 20th century. Cruise tourism has recently regained its popularity. Consequently the interest towards Batumi as the Black Sea Cruise destination is steadily increasing resulting in growing number of cruise ships entering our region. At present Batumi Sea port hosts several big cruise ships such as:
“Spirit of Advernture”,
Europe Square is one of the most beautiful sites in the center of Batumi, surrounded with central streets and exquisite buildings. After joining the Assembly of European Regions the square was named Europe Square. The fact once more points to the Georgians’ aspiration towards Europe. The statue of “Medea” erected in the square in 2007 reminds us about the ancient connections of the Georgians with the European world and proximity of our culture to the ancient civilizations. The square is a favorite place for relaxation not only for tourists but the local people as well. Exquisite mixture of restored facades and modern constructions is especially beautiful at night. The square hosted a number of international concerts and became an inseparable part for Georgians at New Year celebrations with its concerts and festive mood. The concerts of Jose Carreras, Andrea Bocelli, Bueno Vistas and other foreign and Georgian celebrities were held here. The most distinguished show was performed by Enrique Iglesias in the frames of MTV live concert Georgia with more than 50 thousand viewers.
Piazza Batumi is one of the most beautiful squares in Georgia. It is built around 5700 sq/m area and is distinguished by wonderful samples of decoration, mosaic and stained-glass art. The construction of Piazza Square was completed in 2010. The chief architect of the square is Vazha Orbeladze and the author of the stained-glass windows – Estonian artist Dolores Hoffman. There are several hotels and café restaurants located on Piazza Batumi. The square has already gained a status of entertaining place. In recent years it has hosted concerts of famous Georgian as well as foreign stars such as: Placido Domingo, Chris Botti, Sting, Macy Grey, Michel Legrand and Tamar Gverdtsiteli.
Construction of Batumi Boulevard began in 1881 and it is connected with the name of the famous Prussian gardener Ressler and the French Michael D’alfons. Recently a new part of the Boulevard has been constructed with modern standards by the Spanish architect. Thus the territory of the boulevard has been enlarged reaching 7 km nowadays. The coastal line of the Boulevard has been beatified with bungalows, café-lounges, restaurants, children’s attractions, modern-design benches, sculptures, dancing fountains and it has become one of the most attractive places for the city visitors. Famous colonnades were constructed on the territory of the Boulevard in 1934 and since then they represent one of the visit cards of Batumi.
The French Fountains were installed on Ardagani Lake on the territory of a new boulevard in 2009. Every evening the fountain turns into a theatrical curtain presenting a beautiful laser show.
Colonnades represent one of the visit cards of Batumi. The idea belongs to a doctor from Batumi – Ivane Mchedlidze. He brought the project from the city of Sorrento while being on a business trip in Italy. The project was accomplished under the supervision of Bogdan Kirakosyan, an architect from Batumi. The colonnades played the role of a gate to the beach. At that time the beach was considerably closer. Later the shore retreated and the sea became more distant from the colonnades. Similar colonnades beautify the central entrance to the 6 May Park in Batumi.
The history of the Batumi lighthouse begins from 1863, during the Ottoman rule when the Ottoman lighthouse department built the first lighthouse near the Turkish fortress on the cape. The second lighthouse was built after the transfer of Batumi to the Russian sovereignty in 1878. A 21-meter-high lighthouse was constructed by a French (Parisian) firm in 1882. A year later an optic apparatus was installed on the lighthouse. The tower of the lighthouse is an octagon stone building resembling a residential house in shape.
The astronomical clock is equipped with a special mechanism and placed on an exquisite architectural construction. Apart from showing ordinary time it allows to find out astronomical information too, namely the location of the sun, the moon, constellations and even planets. It also shows meridian, horizon, rise and set of the sun, the moon’s age and its real movement round the earth. The moon plays an essential role in the earth’s vital cycle. Therefore, the information gained from the astronomical clock is interesting and useful as well.
This statue of eternal love and understanding between nations has become one of the most beautiful symbols of Batumi. Eight-meter-high moving statue of a man and a woman is a work of a Georgian artist and sculptor Tamar Kvesitadze. The sculptor bears the name after a famous novel by Kurban Said “Ali and Nino”. It was created in 2010 and at once became the symbol of love as well as Europe and Asia crossroads.
The fortress belonging to the Antique and Middle-Age era is situated 12 km south of the city of Batumi, on the left bank of river Chorokhi. The fortress of Gonio-Apsarosi had a unque strategic importance: it defended entrances to the Chorokhi and Ajaristskali gorges which connected internal regions of south-west Georgia with the Black sea coast. Thanks to this location the fortress of Gonio was turned into one of the backbone citadels of first Rome and later Byzantine Empires in the area of Black sea. First reference of the fortress of Gonio in the historical sources under the name of Apsarunt belongs to author Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder) (I c.). The Apsarunt fortress used to be a well reinforced and conveniently fortified town where 5 Roman cohorts (3 000 warriors) had a station. Due to strategic location, it always was a focal point for Rome, Byzantine and Genoa republics. In 1547-1878 it fell under control of the Ottoman empire.
From XII century on the fortress is referred to as the Gonio fortress. It is a stone-made big rectangle (195m x 245m). The fence is reinforced with 18 towers. Each side has one gate. There are several construction layers on the fortress (III-IV cc., VI-VII cc., XVI c.). Today the fortress is renovated and is the biggest fortified facility in the whole of Georgia.
As the reference goes, this is the place where king Ayeti laid to rest his son, Aphsaros, killed by escaped Jason who dismembered the corpse and scattered its parts over the sea. As the legend goes, one of the prophets of Christ – Matata is also buried in Gonio.
The center of Skhalta Eparchy – the church of Skhalta is located in Upper Ajara, in Khulo region. It was built in XIII century. It is built on the slope, has no dome and is covered by a gable roof. Interior of the church and outer casing are made with cut stone. The eastern façade is decorated with ornamented crosses. The church of Skhalta is a formidable monument in southern Georgia.
Batumi Botanical Garden is one of the richest botanical gardens in the world. Nowadays, it is the most visited place in Ajara. It offers the best relaxation for the nature lovers. (For more detailed information please refer to the page 21)