Mingrelia (Samegrelo) is a historic province in the western part of Georgia, formerly also known as Odishi. It is inhabited by the Mingrelians, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians, who have their own language. Mingrelia is bordered by the secessionist region of Abkhazia to the north-west, Svaneti to the north, Imereti to the east, Guria to the south and located between several rivers: Tshenisttskali, Rioni, Tekhura and also borders the Black Sea to the west. The north side of Samegrelo is landlocked by the region of Svaneti and the Caucasus Mountains.
The region’s administrative centre is Zugdidi. Mingrelia – one of the richest and most beautiful regions of Georgia. Its ancient history is made even more attractive this region. The region’s most outstanding unique identity is its cuisine, and everyone should taste Megrelian food at least once in their lifetime. Ranging from the spicy to the exotic, visitors will discover many mouthwatering dishes.
Zugdidi the capital of Mingrelia region, is a city with population about 76 000 in the Western Georgian historical province of Samegrelo (Mingrelia). It is situated in the north-west of that province. The city is located 318 km west of Tbilisi, 30 km. from Black sea coast (where recently are built modern sea resorts – Anaklia and Ganmukhuri) and 30 km. from Egrisi range. The name “Zugdidi” means “big/great hill” in Laz-Mingrelian (Colchian) language.
Anaklia – Anaklia is a new resort, located on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea, on the left side of the Enguri River where it flows into the Black Sea, in the central part of the Colchis lowland. Coast of Anaklia is about 8 km in length, and in the distance of more than 1 km, there’s the resort promenade, and some comfortable hotels are placed along it. At the western end of the promenade begins the 540-meter pedestrian bridge that connects the resort to the village Ganmukhuri, located on the opposite side of the Enguri River.
Dadiani Palace – Located in Zugdidi, belonged to the former Dukes of Mingrlia. In 1850 Prince David Dadiani, opened a museum in the palace. It housed a collection of ancient stone-age items, European military weapons of the Middle Ages, paintings, and fine works of art. Today more than 50,000 rare exhibits are on display at the museum. Among its collection of relics of European monarchs and imperial families there is a death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte. The museum also houses the relics of Christian saints, including the Shroud of St. Mary, which was brought to Georgia in 1453. The protected arm of St. Marine, parts of St. Kvirike, St. George and John the Baptist are also housed here.
Kolkheti National Park – It includes east coast line of Black Sea and Lake Paliastomi basin. In the lake archaeologists have found part of the settlement, inhabited at least since the II. BC to VIII. BC. National Park is created in order to protect and maintain Kolkheti wetland ecosystems of International importance. Kolkheti National Park Administration offers boat tours on Lake Paliastomi and river Pichori gorge, as well as sport fishing, bird watching and eco-educational tours. Tours are carried out throughout the year Visitors center of the national park will help you to organize a tour.
Lebarde –With a season lasting from June to October, Lebarde is a thermal spa resort located on the Egrisi mountain range at 1,600 metres above sea level. Winters are mild and summers are quite cool with an average temperature of around 16°C in August. The mountain air and health restoring properties of the mineral waters are good for locals and visitors alike.
Martvili Monastery – The 7th century the monastery named in honour of Saint Andrew was built in the village of Martvili. Its foundation is a huge oak tree that for centuries served as a pagan idol. People used to worship this tree as a God of fertility, fruitfulness and prosperity. In the 1st century one of Christ’s Apostles – Andrew the First, converted the natives to Christianity who then cut down the oak tree and in its place built a church. The church is cross-domed, and paintings on the walls date back to the 6th and 7th century. A two-storey cathedral was built next to the church in the 10th century. In the Middle Ages the Martvili Monastery was a centre of culture and education, attracting many writers, translators and philosophers.
Martvili canyons used to be a bath place for Dadiani family. Now people visit it to enjoy the scenery, its waterfalls and take a boat trip in the river with deep green color. Walking routes are must and not less impressive than boat trip. Taking walking or boat tours at Martvili Canyon you can explore the Dadianis’ Path, mountain river gorge, limestone natural bridges, overview platforms, waterfalls, XIX century water mill, fossil shells of nautiluses and sea urchins. Tourist season at Martvili Canyon lasts all year around, hot season is from April to October.
Menji – Thermal spa resort is situated in the Tsivi River gorge and has a subtropical climate, with mild snowless winters and warm, humid summers. Menji is a Megrelian word and means ‘sour water’. Earlier, famous venues in Samegrelo known for their therapeutic waters were called menji Skuri, menji Lugela, menji Lebarde… That is why resort in Senaki municipality widely known for its curing mineral water was given the name of Menji. However, due to the miraculous qualities, the local residents gave the resort a second name as well – ‘Grave of Crutches’.The resort is open all year round and boasts a special mineral water that is said to help cure many diseases and conditions.
Nokalakevi – Truly fascinating place. Literally meaning “the place where a town was”, Nokalakevi was called Tsikhegoji. According to Georgian history, the fortress was built by Kuji – Duke of Egrisi and Svaneti in the 3rd Century BC. It is thought to be the mythological city of Aia, capital of the Kingdom of Colchis, and home of the fabled Golden Fleece. Archaeological excavations have found several different layers of civilization in the Nokalakevi territory. The oldest layer dates back to the 8th-7th century BC. Various valuable items have been unearthed here, including wine vessels, golden, silver, bronze and glass adornments, diverse pottery and ceramic objects. The ruins of ancient palaces, Christian churches, baths, and tunnels have also been identified and preserved.
Otsindale is a populated place in Chkhorotsqu. It is located at an elevation of 823 meters above sea level . At Taia village, a few kilometres southeast of Mukhuri and 15km north of Chkhorotsku. Its church dates back to the 11th century: a solar disc on its ceiling and the nearby ‘phallus stone’ are survivors from pre-Christian rites here.The complex combines a tower, which was constructed around the 8th century. The 80th years, church has been restored and handicraftsmen left some stones which it is stored in the museum Chkhorotsqu. The monastery of Otsidale is on a superbly panoramic hill With in full view on all Region of Samegrelo, on mountains of Gourie and zone of Black Sea of Abkhazia. We stay here to see «the nicest sunset in the world»
Rukhi Castle – located in the village of Rukhi, on the left bank of the Enguri River. It was built in the 17th century by the duke of Mingrelia, Levan Dadiani II, and served as the major fortification for the Dukes of Samegrelo. The castle consists of a citadel and an inner courtyard with two impressive towers.
Salkhino – The summer residence of Dadiani in the village Salkhino is truly distinguished. The palace is situated near the home of Ojaleshi (variety of wine grape) on the bank of river Tsachkhura, which is famed for its fine trout. The plan of palace, with its ground-floor wine vessel, oaken posts, and handsomely ornamented arch, fully justifies the name of palace Salkhino, which means “Festive”. The idea of building a palace of this kind, on this spot, could only have come to a Prince such as Levan Dadiani, who spent all his life in feasting and singing. The garden was designed by an Italian designer Zeb Lambert. In the end of the garden there is a wine cellar built in the 18th century.
Shurubumu –The territory of the village of Mukhuri (Chkhorotsqu) is crossed by Shurubumu canyon rich with the most beautiful cascades of waterfalls. The local population used Shurubumu cavefor curing asthma, and in Kalichoni and Letsurtsume klastokarst caves dwellings of primitive hominids were discovered. Among the caves of Mingaria massif the Shurubumu karst Cave is notable. Entrance of the Shurubumu Cave (“shurubumu” means “silent” in Mengrelian dialect) is blocked by the stone avalanche. The Cave is adorned with almost all kinds of melted forms – stalactites and helictites as well. Walls are decorated with “stone waterfalls”. Water flow passes through the cave. Shurubumu Cave is one of the interesting objects of nature.
Tobavarchkhili – Georgia’s Tobavarchkhili Lake that translates from Megrelian language to “Silver Lake” lies at the heart of Egrisi Mountains, which separate the Svaneti region from lowlands. The lake is also known as “Crystal Lake” due to its clear, transparent water. It was formed by a glacier eroding the rock and then melting, filling in the space it created. Tobavarchkhili lakes, is one of the most beautiful and remote natural monuments of our country. At an altitude of 2643 m. above sea level, Tobavarchkhili is certainly one of Georgia’s most outstanding natural beauties.
Tsaishi – The Tsaishi Cathedral Church of St. Mary is administered by the Zugdidi and Tsaishi Eparchy of the Georgian Orthodox Church. The domed church was built in the 12th-14th centuries but was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt in the 17th century. The oldest building of the church complex is located outside the wall and judging by its interior dates back to the 11th century.
Tsalendjikha Cathedral – The Tsalenjikha Cathedral Church stands on a hill outside Tsalenjikha. A bilingual Greek-Georgian inscription on the South-Western pillar of the church reveals that the interior of the church was frescoed by Cyrus Emanuel Eugenicus, a Byzantine artist from Constantinople. The Megrelian Prince Levan Dadiani II and his wife Nestan-Darejani are buried in the Western area of the church.
Zugdidi Botanical Garden was built in the late 19th century by the prince of Samegrelo David Dadiani, near his residence. The garden now has over eighty genus of exotic plants introduced from southeast Asia, India, Japan, Mediterranean and the Americas. David Dadiani ruler of Samegrelo began the construction of a decorative garden in 1840. Soon care and its management of the estate passed to his wife, Ekaterina Chavchavadze-Dadiani. Ekaterina was enthusiastic about her work, and in a short time had stocked the garden with a great variety of native and exotic plants.
Zugdidi Church – The Zugdidi Church this church was built especially for an icon of the Virgin Mary of Vlakerni. The icon, as well as the waistband of the Virgin Mary, was regarded as the most sacred items of Samegrelo. The icon was taken to Russia and given to Alexander I with the hope that the Emperor would one day return this relic to Georgia. Later, the Emperor did return the icon along with the finances for building a church to Levan Dadiani.