Samegrelo region, located in the west of Georgia, is known for its untouched natural beauty, fairy-tale-like castle, delicious cuisine, Black Sea coastal towns, and ancient ruin town to name a few. Things to do in Zugdidi, the capital of the region, is very limited but serves as a base town to explore the region or travel to Svaneti, one of the most remote mountainous regions of the country.
How to get to Zugdidi
Getting to Zugdidi from Tbilisi or from other towns of the country is no problem at all. There are daily marshrutkas and trains between the cities, so here are the most useful means of public transport to take.
Tbilisi Zugdidi Train
The train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi runs daily. There are night and day trains that run twice per day. Note that night trains takes longer compared to fast and ordinary day trains. The price varies and depends on which train you take. The ticket cost is between 16-35₾. You can check the prices, timetable and buy the ticket online at the Georgian Railway website.
Tbilisi Zugdidi Marshrutka
Similar to the train, marshrutka from Tbilisi to Zugdidi runs daily, but are more frequent then trains. If you happen to choose traveling with a minibus, you’ll need to get to the Didube Bus station at Didube Metro stop and ask around where vehicles to Zugdidi stand. Once you find it, you’ll secure your seat, pay the driver and will be ready to go.
Kutaisi Zugdidi Marshrutka
As we were on a route already, we traveled from Kutaisi to Zugdidi by marshrutka. We went to the Central Bus Station near the McDonald’s and asked for directions where the vehicles to Zugdidi parked. The price for one way ticket costs 7₾. The journey takes around two hours.
Things to do in Zugdidi: Dadiani Palace
This fairytale-like castle belonged to the rulers of the Samegrelo region – the Dadian dynasty. The current building was built at the beginning of the 19th century. The complex consists of this castle, a church, and a botanical garden.
Ekaterine Chavchavadze-Dadiani, the wife of Samegrelo ruler David Dadiani decided to reconstruct the original palace in the 60s of the 19th century. German architect decided to include Gothic style elements to the palace, which resulted in a present look of the building.
Today, the palace hosts a museum showcasing the personal belongings of the dynasty as well as some of the rare finds of art, culture, and weaponry from Georgia and abroad. Unfortunately, only the second floor of the palace is accessible for the visitors, while the rest of it is closed.
Here, you’ll find more than 4,000 items, including archeological finds, a numismatic collection of the family, statues, historical death masks, handwritten documents and books, and various paintings done by local and international artists to name a few. The museum houses two most important items – a seamless robe of Virgin Mary and Napoleon I death mask, brought to Georgia by Achille Murat, the son-in-law of David Daidiani.
- Opening Hours: Every day except Monday. 10am – 6pm
- Entrance Fee: 5₾ for adults, 1₾ for students
Zugdidi Botanical Garden
Zugdidi Botanical Garden is located right next to the Dadiani Palace. It is open any time of the day and you can walk around free of charge. The garden spans along 65 ha of land and consists of various plants, trees, and bushes brought from all over the world. During our visit, the garden was under construction, therefore we were unable to visit and admire those rare plants.
David Dadiani created the garden for his wife, Ekaterine, and invited that time famous gardener and florist Joseph Baban, together with Italian specialists. Ekaterine has ordered the seeds and young plants from France, specifically from the gardens of Versailles. Sadly, the garden was destroyed in 1856 by the order of Ottoman Commander Omar Pasha. The princess managed to revive the first look of the garden, where plants and trees from India, Japan, and Italy are still preserved even today.
Rukhi Castle, located very close to Zugdidi, dates back to the middle of the 17th century built by the Dadiani family. It used to be an important fortification of Samegrelo as it is built near the Patara Enguri river and a border of Abkhazia.
The castle was surrounded by 10-12 meters high wall. However, what you see today is far from its original state. Even though the majority of the remains of the castle are covered with a plant, it still is an interesting historical landmark to see near Zugdidi.
How to get to Rukhi Castle: You need to take a local marshrutka that stops at the Zugdidi bazaar near Rustaveli Street. Once you get there, ask around for the exact location of the marshrutkas going to Rukhi village. The cost for one way ticket is 1₾. Tell the driver you are going to the castle and they will drop you off nearby. On your way back to Zugdidi, wait for it on the same spot it dropped you off.
5 Day Trips from Zugdidi
Enguri Dam, a hydroelectric dam built on the Enguri River is the world’s second tallest concrete arch dam. The initial idea to built a hydroelectric dam belongs to the Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev, who wanted to construct it on the Bzyb River, Abkhazia, as his favorite resort was located here. The experts advised him not to, as building such massive construction on the river Bzyb would have catastrophic effects and would cause beach erosion. Therefore, they decided to build it on the Enguri River.
How to get to Enguri Dam: You’ll need to get to Rustaveli street and the bazaar in order to find marshrutka to town Jvari. This will cost you around 2-3₾ for one way. Afterward, you’ll need to take a taxi to the dam itself.
Nokalakevi Archeological Museum-Reserve
Nokalakevi Fortress is one of the brilliant examples of Georgian architecture It used to be an early medieval royal capital of Egrisi during the 4th-8th centuries and is closely linked to the history of the Kingdom and its adoption of Christianity. The complex spans on 20 ha of land and is divided into lower city and the citadel that goes along the river Tekhura. It was surrounded by high walls and included several rectangular towers of different sizes.
The first two palaces in the eastern part of the city date back to early Christian times, while the third, known as the Dadiani Palace, was built in the late Middle Ages. Here, you’ll also find early Christian civil and Roman-style royal baths. Additionally, there is a tunnel that leads to the river in case of an emergency exit.
According to some scholars, the mythical city of Aia was located on the territory of current Nokalakevi, a city from where Jason, Medea, and Argonauts stole the Golden Fleece.
Unfortunately, the studies haven’t determined the urban structure of the city, but scholars believe that there should have been streets and dwellings of the city residents. Archeological excavations have found local and imported items made of clay, bronze goods, jewelry, and gold coins to name just a few. You can see those items at the museum located right next to the ruins of the city.
How to get to Nokalakevi Archeological Museum-Reserve: You should take public transport from the bus stop at the bazaar, towards Senaki. The price of the ticket costs 3₾ one way. The driver will drop you off near the railway station. You need to cross it and find a bus stop on the right side of the station to take another marshrutka to Nokalakevi. This will cost you 1₾ one way.
- Opening Hours: Every day except Monday. 10am – 6pm
- Entrance Fee: 5₾ for adults, 1₾ for students
Anaklia and Ganmukhuri Beach
On our recent trip to Zugdidi, we haven’t managed to go to Anaklia and Ganmukhuri beach but thought to still include this in the itinerary. If you happen to travel to Zugdidi in summer and want to have a refreshing swim in the Black Sea, then visiting this part of Samegrelo is a definite must. Both are pebble beaches, located very close to Zugdidi, but in terms of swimming, Ganmukhuri is the cleanest, as the River Enguri brings a bit of dirt when it connects to the Black Sea in Anaklia.
Martvili Canyon is one of the most beautiful canyons of the country which boasts of emerald green waters. The main attraction here is to take a boat tour that lasts for a couple of minutes but treats you with breathtaking views of this natural wonder.
How to get to Martvili Canyon: Even though Martvili Canyon belongs to the Samegrelo region, getting to it from Zugdidi is a bit of hustle as there are no direct marshrutkas. So I would advise doing this only if you are traveling in Georgia by car, otherwise, you’ll end up staying overnight in Martvili village.
The best way to get to the canyon with public transport is from Kutaisi. You can check out my detailed instructions and what to expect in the canyon here.
Kolkheti National Park
Kolkheti National Park is another jewel of the Samegrelo region located close to the port city Poti. The park includes the east coastline of the Black Sea and Paliastomi Lake and was created to maintain and protect Kolkheti wetland ecosystems and preserve a place for migrating birds.
The National Park is rich in flora and fauna, swamp forests, deciduous wetland forests, and coastal marshes to name just a few.
In terms of the fauna, the park is home to at least 194 different bird species, from which 21 uses it as a seasonal shelter during the migration process.
Compared to the similar parks I have been, Kolkheti National Park doesn’t have walking trails and is famous for boat rides and kayaks. In order to visit the park, you need to call them first and notify the visit and what service you’ll be taking. For instance, you need to book a boat in advance, which only takes 3 people on board. For groups, they have pontoons, which is good for big groups of up to 15 people.
How to get to Kolkheti National Park: First, you need to get to Zugdidi Bus station, located near the railway station and take a marshrutka to Poti. The journey takes around 1 hour and costs 6₾ one way.
Then, you’ll need to take a local marshrutka number 20 from the center of Poti that goes to Maltakva and ask the driver to drop you off at the Visitor’s center of the park. Here, you can spend a couple of minutes learning more about the park, its ecosystem, the history.
Once you pay and they register you, they’ll give you a printed, black and white map and explain how to get from the visitor center to the entrance of the park itself, which is around 4 km away from here.
What you need to know: I booked for us a boat ride which, according to a representative and their website, should have taken us for a 2-hour ride in the park. When we were in the boat, the ranger asked us if we wanted to have a picnic at one of the shores of the park. When I refused, he answered that the 2-hour ride includes a picnic where he waits for us; otherwise, the tour was over in an hour! Guess what? NO ONE TOLD ME THIS, even though I called the center a couple of times to make sure our tour was not canceled due to weather conditions.
Generally speaking, it was a nice experience. Did I like it and think it was worth the money? Yes and no. I haven’t visited such a national park before, so I liked the ride along the swamps, but we didn’t get close to anything, except one small part of the park the ranger called ‘jungles of the Kolkheti’. Moreover, we didn’t see any birds or flowers in bloom, so I guess our timing was wrong. I bet, it’s much nicer when you know when to visit the park.
- Boat ride: 90₾ for a boat that fits 3 people
What to eat in Zugdidi
Each region of Georgia has its distinguished meals, making Georgian cuisine a very diverse one. Megrelian cuisine is known for its hot and spicy dishes, which are rich in aromas and tastes. Here’s my recommendation of those meals you need to try in Samegrelo
Ghomi is a cornmeal dish and the staple of the region. To make this simple meal more appealing, you need to put slices of sulguni cheese, a mozzarella-like dairy but saltier, inside and let it sit for a minute or so to let the cheese melt.
There are more versions of Ghomi and one comes with a mixture of nadughi (ricotta-like diary) and the mint on top of the meal. It’s called Ghomi with Puchkholia cheese.
Elarji is another verity of Ghomi and my absolute favorite! The preparation method is very similar to its original dish, but instead of putting the slices of cheese after serving, the cheese is included in the preparation process, making the meal very cheesy and stretchy! Yumminess!
This is a Georgian sausage and a very popular meal all over the country. It has a very distinctive spicy flavor. There are Imeretian and Megrelian versions of the meal. It is made either from beef, pork, or pig’s organs such as liver, lung, and spleen.
Gebzhalia is a cold cheese appetizer and another my favorite meal in the region. They make rolls from sulguni cheese filled with mint, salt, and chilies. Then, they place this rolls into a sauce made from milk, nadughi, and sour cream. It’s simply divine!
Generally, Khachapuri is a staple of Georgian cuisine. There are almost a dozen varieties of this pizza-like meal as each region makes it differently. Megrelian one is similar to the ordinary, Imeretian Khachapuri, and is topped with additional cheese. Double cheese paradise!
Usually, both Ghomi and Elarji are served as a side dish to Kharcho, meat stew. There are different varieties of Kharcho in Georgian cuisine, either made from beef or chicken, with or without walnuts. The one that goes well with Ghomi or Elarji is the one made from walnuts. All you need to do is to dip them into the hot stew and enjoy the meal. Bon Appetit!
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments down below, or connect with me on my social media channels. I will be happy to assist you as much as possible.