Where: Adjaran Province, Southwest Georgia, Central Asia
When: May to October
Activities: Amazing array of trees, pretty cobbled streets and great nightlife
Remember to bring: Your walking shoes and your dancing shoes
Where It’s At
Although the Black Sea Coast is not usually the first place you might consider when planning a beach getaway, the sub-tropical attractive sea-side resort and port town of Batumi in the far southwest of Georgia, 12 miles from the Turkish border, is steadily growing in popularity. Further north, Abkhazia’s coast was once known to boast Georgia’s best beaches, but is now out of bounds since it has been scarred with the reality of war and the danger of landmines.
The Black Sea was coined Pontus Euxinus (Hospitable Sea) over 2500 years ago by the renowned Argonauts, and if the local Georgian hospitality is anything to go by, it still lives up to its name today.
Batumi is the capital of the picturesque ancient Adjaran Province of Georgia, and is significant as a port town and terminus to the Trans-Caucasian Railway. Its close proximity to Turkey gives it an evident Turkish influence and sets it apart from other Georgian areas.
Bordered by mountain ranges, Batumi is surrounded by an exotic array of palm trees, bamboo forests, wild azaleas, cypresses, magnolias, oleanders, fruit trees, and great bird life. If you are traveling to Batumi from Tbilisi, the scenic trail will take you via tea plantations and century old mature Eucalyptus trees rivaling any specimens found in Australia.
Things to See and Do
Weather permitting, a great way to start the day is with a wake up dip in the sea by Batumi Beach. During the summer months, locals can often be spotted soaking up the sun on the beach’s white pebbles or sipping Batumi’s famous coffee in the outdoor cafés alongGogebashvili Street in front of the fishing port, where old sailors often congregate to swap anecdotes. Beachfront restaurants provide a good vantage point to kick back and enjoy well-priced kebabs, chips, salad, and beer.
The town centre, easily covered on foot, has a mixture of architecture ranging from facades of iron filigree, stucco and aged brick. Horse-drawn carriages work the tree-covered parks and the restaurant-lined promenades, with various shopping areas, markets, and sights to check out. There is a ‘new rich’ development in Batumi which is evident from the some of the flashy BMWs, yachts, and modern apartments in the area.
The locals are particularly proud of Batumi’s main attractions, including a Dolphinarium housing dolphins and the stunning Botanical Garden. It’s also quite popular to rent out paddle boatsat Batumi Beach, ride beachfront funfair rides, and play tennis.
The kitsch night life around Batumi buzzes after dark. In nearby Ninoshvili, you’ll be sure to spot DianaLand – a glitzy night club often misquoted as being a shrine to the Princess of Wales, but is apparently really just named after the club’s owner, who also happens to be the daughter of the Ajarian leader, Aslan Abashidze.
Where to Stay
Good news for visiting tourists is that many new hotels have sprung up in Batumi offering competitive rates, which is a welcome relief compared to the prices in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Some of the large seaside hotels are now full of refugees from the war in Abkhazia. Generally there are plenty of good modern places to stay, but be wary of hotels with heavily made up women in evening dresses loitering around the foyer, run by heavies wearing dark sunglasses, as several hotels offer certain services to businessmen and expect their guests to comprehend.
Batumi can easily be reached by road from Turkey, and is one hour by air from Tbilisi. For budget travelers there is also an overnight sleeper train, or if you find it difficult to sleep on trains and prefer a scenic route, you can travel by marshrutka (inexpensive vans that travel between cities) which takes about eight hours including a stop for food. Be prepared for bus drivers that decide not to take you all the way to the final bus stop, and if traveling to and from Turkey, politely refuse customs officials if they ask for a tip.
By Marlene Palmeiro