Adjara is a mountainous region in Georgia’s southwestern corner. The region lies solidly in the Meskheti Range. The western slopes of the Meskheti Range are semi-tropical and heavily forested, while inland Adjara tends to be cooler and drier, more closely resembling the climate and topography of Samtskhe-Javakheti. The Adjaran coast is known as Georgia’s riviera, complete with the country’s most well-known beaches and seaside resorts.
Adjara has long been inhabited by humans. During the 7th-3rd Centuries B.C.E. Adjara was a part of the Kolkheti Kingdom, with Batumi’s precursor city having grown to a major regional port, so much so that it was eventually colonized by the Greeks and later came under Roman influence. During the Roman Era, Adjara was in the Empire’s easternmost reaches.
The region, like the rest of Georgia, was ravaged by the Mongols in the 11th Century and later fell to Ottoman rule during the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries until it was annexed by Russia. It was made an autonomous republic during Georgia’s time in the Soviet Union. Following the dissolution of the USSR, Adjara fell under the rule of Aslan Abashidze, who ruled the region as if it were his own personal fiefdom, going so far as to threaten independence from Georgia. In 2004, Georgia’s president Mikheil Saak’ashvili dejected Abashidze and turned Batumi into a so-called “Georgian Miracle,” with Batumi becoming a regional destination.
The first known written source on Batumi comes from the 4th Century B.C.E. philosopher, Aristotle, who wrote of a city named “Batusi” on the Black Sea coast which belonged to the Colchis Kingdom. During the time of Roman Emperor Adrian, a garrison was placed in Batumi. The city was later incorporated into the Georgian Kingdom under King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th Century C.E. The city remained under Georgian control until the 15th Century, when western Georgia came under Ottoman control.
After the death of local nobleman Rostom Gurieli, who controlled much of the territory of modern-day Adjara and Guria, Batumi fell to the Ottomans, who controlled the entire Lazeti region. Batumi was placed under the governor of Trabzon. During this time, many Muslims migrated to the region, and Batumi became Georgia’s predominant Islamic city.
Following the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877, Batumi was returned to Georgia (then under the Russian Empire). In 1883, Batumi was incorporated into the Kutaisi governorate, but that was later rescinded in 1903. During the time of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921), Adjara was granted autonomy within Georgia, with Batumi serving as the region’s capital. This remained so throughout Georgia’s time in the Soviet Union.
Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Batumi’s fate was tied to the leader of Adjara--Aslan Abashidze--who ruled the region like it was his personal fiefdom. Batumi slowly turned into a militia-controlled city which was run by Abashidze. It wasn’t until 2004 that Abashidze was deposed by Georgian President Mikheil Saak’asvhili.
During this time, Batumi became a pet-project for Saak’asvhili, who wanted to use the city as an example of his reform policies. Throughout the following decade, Batumi went from a sleepy port town on the Black Sea to one of the foremost regional summer destinations, with many well-known international hotels opening up along its promenade. The city has seen some results of this success, such it being one of the only cities in Georgia with a growing population, but much of that has come at a cost, largely to the character of the city, which has been lost to modern highrise hotels, casinos, and condos.
Batumi Boulevard is a 6 km/3.5 mile long promenade which follows the city’s pebble beach. The promenade and adjoining beach run from the Batumi Ferris Wheel to Kartvelishvili Airport (Batumi’s airport). There are many umbrella and chair rental stands along the beach. The promenade itself is paved and has a pedestrian and bicycle path. The main portion of Batumi Boulevard is located in central Batumi and has many spectacular fountains, quirky sculptures, and an extensive park to stroll through.
Batumi’s city center is an eclectic mix of ultra-modern highrises, old traditional Georgian buildings, and renovated traditional Georgian buildings, the most notable ones being Batumi Piazza and Europe Square. In the northern end of central Batumi is the Ali and Nino statue, which is based on the novel of the same name and the Alphabet Tower. The statue is composed of two statues (one for Ali and one for Nino) which are composed of disks. They two statues pass through each other as a symbol of their everlasting love for each other--even though they may be separated, they are still one. The Alphabet Tower is a large cylindrical tower with two strands in a double-helix form with the Georgian alphabet on them coming down the tower. This represents that the Georgian language is the DNA of Georgia. Also in central Batumi is the Mary Mother of God Cathedral, which is the best neo-Gothic cathedral in the Caucasus. The church was originally built as a Catholic church but was later converted to a Georgian Orthodox Cathedral.
Kobuleti is a small resort town located north of Batumi on the border with Guria. Many Georgians view Kobuleti is a quieter, calmer, and more authentic alternative to Batumi since Kobuleti has a similar pebble beach to Batumi but lacks the large numbers of tourists.
Khulo is a small village located in mountainous Adjara, about halfway between Batumi and Akhaltsikhe. The village is known for its Muslim identity, and is one of the best places to witness Islamic Adjara. Additionally, Khulo is known for being an excellent place to see what highland Adjara is like. There is also a Soviet-era cable car in Khulo.
Petra Fortress was built in the 6th Century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I as a means of ensuring the Byzantine Empire’s trade and political ties to Georgia (then the Egrisi Kingdom). The fortress was considered to be impenetrable and is thought to be the inspiration for a major castle in Shota Rustaveli’s work “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.” After Adjara’s occupation by the Ottoman Empire, the fort began to fall into disuse. During the Russo-Turkish War, numerous battles took place close to the fort, furthering the damage of the fort. The fort is located in the village Tsikhisdziri on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea just south of Kobuleti.
Kintrishi Protected Area
Kintrishi Protected Area is on the slopes of the Meskheti Range in the Kobuleti municipality. The area helps protect some of Adjara’s upland forests. Located in the park are numerous hiking trails and horse riding trails along with picnic and camping areas. The administrative center is located in Kobuleti.
Photo by the Kintrishi Protected Area.
Mtirala National Park
Mtirala National Park is located in the Meskheti Range and was created to protect and preserve one of Georgia’s only subtropical forests. There are numerous hiking trails that take tourists through adventure rope courses, ziplines, and waterfalls. There are also adequate camping and picnic areas. The administrative center is located in the village of Chakvi.
Photo by the National Parks of Georgia..
One way for tourists to reach Batumi is by air. Alexander Kartvelishvhili Batumi International Airport (BUS) is mostly a seasonal airport, however, there are flights from Batumi to Turkey, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
There are frequent marshrutkas from Tbilisi, Akhaltsikhe, Poti, and Kutaisi that go to Batumi.
From Tbilisi, there are 3 or four "fast trains" that leave daily for Batumi (which also stop in Kobuleti).
The ს-2/E-70 goes from Poti through to Turkey. The ს-12 runs from Samtredia (ს-1/E-60) to Ureki. The შ-1/Batumi-Akhaltsikhe Road runs from Batumi to Akhaltsikhe.
3: Kintrishi Protected Area
4:: Mtirala National Park
6 Petra Fortress