Sat at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Georgian region of Ajara is blossoming into one of 2023’s top tourism destinations.
Georgia was the host country of this year’s Berlin ITB (Europe’s largest travel fair) and the Adjarian region in particular is establishing itself as one of Europe’s most exciting destinations.
Boasting 21 kilometres of Black Sea coastline, overlooked by the splendour of the mountains which border the capital of Batumi, the region has a lot to offer and is heavily investing in sustainable development, as Tinatin Zoidze, Head of Visit Batumi explains.
“In Ajara we are building the touristic infrastructure to guarantee the sustainable development of the region and the sustainable development of the economy.
“Batumi, in particular, is establishing itself as the leading emerging tourist destination of Europe. It offers distinctive biodiversity and recently the four national parks of Georgia gained UNESCO natural heritage status.”
What is Batumi, Georgia famous for?
The capital of the Ajara region, Batumi has cemented its reputation as Georgia’s party capital in recent years, with sleek hotels, restaurants, and bars sitting alongside the Black Sea beach resorts.
The region's subtropical climate means that relaxing by the sea is one of the best ways to pass your time in the summer, while the surrounding mountains offer a welcome escape from the midday heat.
“40 minutes from Batumi you have the possibility to travel into beautiful mountains and waterfalls and the national parks,” says Zoidze. “And the sustainable development of tourism and the economy is the main strategy in the region.”
Where can I go hiking in Batumi?
Clearly visible on a sunny day, the mountains of Ajara are always on the horizon, ready to tempt you out of the hot city centre and into the fresh, cool air.
During the pandemic, Ajara created 25 new tourist trails in the mountain regions, and with 13 per cent of the territory of Ajara made up of protected areas and national parks, there is plenty to explore here.
An hour’s drive outside of Batumi lies Gobroneti village, one of the oldest mountain villages in the region. From here, you can set off on a 12 kilometre trek along a forest hiking trail where you can expect to see waterfalls, chestnut trees and abundant wildlife. Gobroneti has local guesthouses if you want to spend the night and learn more about local life. And if you’re lucky you might even get to hear a bit of polyphonic singing, something the region is famous for.
Which country is hosting the UEFA Under 21 Championships 2023?
If you’re thinking of visiting Ajara in the summer months, there are a few major events you should look out for. The UEFA Under 21 Championship will be co-hosted by Georgia and Romania this summer, with the Batumi Arena hosting three Group C games as well as the semi-final and final.
If football isn’t your thing, you might be interested in the Batumi Birdwatching Festival instead.
“Batumi is third in the world when it comes to the number of raptors, because Batumi is on the migration route,” explains Zoidze. “This year we have a big festival of birdwatching and we will host a large number of ornithologists and birdwatchers in our region.”
Taking place in the first week of September, in the middle of Batumi’s birdwatching season which lasts from 16 August until 16 October, the festival is a celebration of our feathered friends. The Batumi Migration Corridor and the Eastern Black Sea Migration Corridor bring a myriad of species to the region. If you bring your binoculars you can expect to see Black Kites, European Honey Buzzards and Eastern Imperial Eagles.
While birdwatching is a relatively new pastime in Georgia - with the festival dating back to 2012 - winemaking is its most ancient. With records dating back over 8,000 years, the country is the oldest wine producing region in the world.
Where can I find the best wine in Georgia?
While Kakheti is Georgia’s most famous wine region, there are some delicious wines on offer in Ajara too.
“In Georgia each family is proud of the wine,” says Zoidze. “We make wine in February, in a clay pot in the ground. How we make wine is part of our UNESCO Heritage Status.”
If you want to try some wines while staying in the Ajarian region, you should head to Ajaristskali village in the municipality of Keda, 18 kilometres outside of Batumi. Here you’ll be able to try two famous Ajarian wines, Tsolikauri and Chkhaveri.
“There are special grapes and species of wine in the Ajarian region and we harvest our grapes in late autumn when the snow comes and this gives natural sweetness to the grapes so we don’t add sugar to the wine,” says Zoidze.