Things to do in Kutaisi including Gelati and Motsameta Monastery
Kutaisi is a slow-paced little city half-way between Batumi and Tbilisi and is the third largest city in Georgia. There's not a great deal of things to do in Kutaisi but it's definitely worth spending a day or two in Kutaisi during your trip to Georgia. One of the highlights of Kutaisi is a day trip to Gelati Monastery and Motsameta Monastery.
This guide gives you an overview of some things to see in Kutaisi, places to eat, accommodation in Kutaisi and instructions for how to get to Gealti monastery and walk from Gelati to Motsamet monastery
Five Things to Do in Kutaisi
Wander the Market
There is a busy local market sprawling through a main bazaar and out into the surrounding streets. You can find everything from reading glasses to walnuts. There some great little bakeries (rooms with an oven and old woman with a rolling pin) where you can get a cheap snack while you wander.
Visit Bargati Cathedral
Perched on the top a hill overlooking the town this is one of the top attractions in Kutaisi and is worth a walk up to. The church itself is impressive if you’re not already suffering from church overindulgence (a real affliction in Georgia). But the views of the city also make it a top spot to enjoy the sunset.
See the Colchis Fountain
The fountain in the middle of a giant roundabout in the centre of the city. The centre piece is an armoured horse because who doesn’t need a big one of those in the middle of town. Surrounding it is an army of smaller animals chilling in the water. It also gets lit up at night.
Visit the Kutaisi Botanical Gardens
We visited the amazing ones in Batumi so were keen to see these too. Unfortunately they were ‘closed’ when we got there. By this I mean there were definitely people inside but all we could get out of the woman at the ticket office was ‘no!’. Not sure where we went wrong but if you can get yourself into this VIP zone it looks like a lovely place for a wander. There’s also supposed to be a chapel in the trunk of an ancient oak tree (this was 90% of our reason for going.)
Get Lost in the Old Town
Kutaisi has so many beautiful but rundown houses. Walking around was one of our favourite thingsto do in Kutaisi and if you have a love of house renovation this is your playground! Almost every place comes with an adorable balcony and some grape vines growing along it. We seriously considered investing in Georgian property!
Where to Eat in Kutaisi
We had a really nice meal at Papavero. This place also had an amazing interior. However, the service was poor and they mysteriously added about 6GEL to various items on our bill.
So we found a place a little more our style. A busy local place called Baraqa. No nonsense, cheap prices and good local food. They even had a picture menu for us clueless foreigners who can’t distinguish different types of Georgian food.
There weren’t many cafes in Kutaisi but the couple we did find where great. Tea House Foe Foe is a cosy café filled with books and arm chairs. They do all kids of speciality teas and a range of other drinks and food.
Our Café was just that. We spent an entire day here working, drinking Georgian wine, eating cheese, sipping coffee and enjoying the amazing décor. Definite Middle Eastern vibes with lots of tiles, carpets and lamps. Lovely staff and a very relaxed atmosphere. Bottle of wine was €4! How could we refuse?!
A Day Trip to Gelati and Mostsameta Monastery
After several days of cats and dogs kinda rain we rejoiced at the sign of a sunny day and decided to get outdoors. We opted for public transport to Gelati, walking from Gelati to Motsameta and then public transport back to Kutaisi. It’s possible to walk all of these parts but only along the main road which isn’t exactly a top hiking route.
How to get to Gelati Monastery
We started with a marshrutka (a rundown minivan used as a shared taxi) from this point. Tourist information told us they leave at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm and Max was one satisfied German when ours rolled up bang on 11am! The sign at the front of the van say ‘Gelati Monastery’ in English and in case that wasn’t clear enough, it also has a picture. The journey takes about 20 minutes and costs 1GEL (about 30c). You pay the driver as you leave.
The Gelati Monastery has been under construction for at least 18 months and doesn’t look like finishing anytime soon (we were there in Oct 2017). But as we all know ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts’ and Gelati has the insides of a super model. It’s free to enter, women need to cover their knees, shoulders and hair. There are some headscarves at the entrance.
walking from Gelati to Motsameta Monastery
The easiest option for walking from Gelati Monastery to Motsameta Monastery is to head back down to the main road and walk along to the turn off for Motsameta (around 3km). But we opted for the scenic route which went like this; as you exit the monastery grounds take an immediate right past the graveyard. There’s a signpost (in English) to some other churches, feel free to go and visit them, I’ll wait right here....
We didn’t go but if you did let us know if it was worth it! Anyway, take a right down the hill. The path the whole way is fairly obvious but if you’re ever in doubt make sure you’re heading down. At the first major split take the left path demonstrated for you by Max here.
Once you reach the houses just follow the road downwards passing a range of animals until you meet the main road. Turn left and cross the river, keep going until you reach the supermarket on your left. They have a great range (3) of ice creams from about 20 years ago. So go on, treat yourself! Take the path just past the supermarket with a sign to the hostel.
Here's what the paths looks like (minus the rainbow magic, that was something on the lens!)
Follow this path uphill until you reach the train tracks and follow them to the left. We read that the train tracks were ‘disused’ but evidence suggests otherwise…
However, you won’t see much train traffic and they give you (or more likely the neighbourhood cows) fair warning with some loud whistles. There are areas to walk on the side of the tracks but we found the ‘straight down the middle’ method most effective.
You’ll see the monastery on the left of the tracks. And, if you happen to be there on a weekend, you’ll be alerted to the path by the constant stream of wedding parties heading to the monastery, drones at the ready.
If Gelati Monastery is all beauty on the inside, Motsameta is all about the external features. No scaffolding to be seen on this baby and it has surrounding views befitting of a nature documentary. We were even treated to the sword play and singing as one of the many bridal parties entered the monastery. The walk from Gelati to Motsameta takes around 45 minutes.
Motsameta to kutaisi
To get back to Kutaisi, simply follow the road back to the main road (1.8km) and wait at the petrol station (across the road to your left) for any marshrutka. They all go to Kutaisi. We waited about four minutes for one but if it’s a slow day you could try hitchhiking.
A day trip to Gelati and Motsameta Monasteries was definitely a highlight of our time in Kutaisi and we’re glad we made the most of a sunny day as we woke to torrential rain the next day, seems to be a thing in October. We’re also glad we saw these two before being monastery and churched out. There’s a lot of them in Georgia and so far these are our two favourites.
Where to stay in Kutaisi
We had a really comfortable stay at Sun Guest House. The rooms were bright and comfortable, the balcony had great views over the river and town and is walking distance to everything we needed. Check prices here.
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