For travellers arriving from Turkey, Batumi makes a great introduction to Georgia, with its relaxed atmosphere, plentiful accommodation, good restaurants and nightlife.
Everyone soon finds them- selves strolling along Batumis bulvari, the park strip fronting the main beach, originally laid out in 1884 and now stretching 6km along the coast. With its trees, paths, fountains, cafes, beach bars and some quirky attractions, this is the life and soul of Batumi. You can rent bicycles (price negotiable) at a couple of spots. The beach itself is fine though stony – extremely busy in July and August, but kept clean. Near the northeast tip of the Bulvari you’ll find a large Ferris wheel (per person 2 GEL); the 145m. high Alphabet Tower, a monument to Georgian script and culture with an observation deck and revolving restaurant; and a 7m. high ethereally moving metal sculpture of a man and woman by Tamar Kvesitadze, universally known as Ali & Nino after the protagonists of Kurban Said’s marvelous novel of that name (see it after dark). Southward, on what’s known as the New Boulevard, an ornamental lake hosts the Dancing Fountains, an entertaining laser, music and water show.
Broad, attractive Europe Sq sports musical fountains which are a magnet for kids on hot summer evenings. Towering over the square is the striking Medea monument to ‘the person who brought Georgia closer to Europe’, according to Batumi’s mayor when it was unveiled in 2007. Sculpted by Davit Khmaladze, it controversially cost the Georgian government over 1 million GEL.
Nobel Technological Museum
Batumi’s newest and most interesting museum takes you back a century to when the city was in the vanguard of the international oil business, with investment from the Nobels and Rothschilds spawning technological innovations here. It also looks at the tea industry that grew up at the same time. It’s 3km from the centre, just off the road to Makhinjauri train station.
6 Maisi Park
Sixth of May Park contains a lake, a modern dolphinarium and a small zoo of Georgian and international wildlife. At the dolphinarium you can also swim with dolphins . Dolphinarium hours outside the summer season are variable.
Adjara Arts Museum
Well displayed and lit, the collection covers Georgian art including works by Pirosmani and Akhvlediani, as well as 19th and 20th century European and Russian painting.
Batumi’s only surviving mosque, built in the 1860s, is finely painted in pinks, greens and blues, with Koranic calligraphy on the walls. Friendly men often gather to socialise outside.
South of Batumi
Gonio, 11km south of Batumi, and Kvariati, 4km beyond, on the road and marshrutka route to the Turkish border at Sarpi, have pebbly beaches with generally thinner crowds and cleaner water than Batumi. Tourism is developing, with some hotels and beach bars. Densely vegetated mountains slope right down to the coast at Kvariati. Beside the main road at Gonio, Gonio Apsarus Fortress is one of the finest surviving examples of Roman-Byzantine military architecture, covering 47,000 sq. metres within an intact rectangle of high stone walls with 18 towers. Built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, it was occupied by the Byzantines in the 6th century and by the Ottomans in the 16th century. An interesting little museum sits in its midst, with a cross outside marking what’s believed to be the grave of the Apostle Matthias.
Batumi Botanical Garden
Nine kilometres north of town at Mtsvane Kontskhi, these gardens are well worth a trip. With many semitropical and foreign species, the gardens cover a hillside rising straight out of the sea. It takes about 11⁄2 hours to walk the main path at a leisurely pace. A decent, stony beach, much less busy than Batumi’s, is down to the left of the entrance, and there’s a handful of cafes and bars around there too.
Mtirala National Park
This 160-sq-km national park offers the chance to spend a day or two among unspoiled Adjaran hills and forests. The park has dense subtropical vegetation in its lower reaches and some beautiful rhododendron trees. The visitors centre is about 25km northeast of Batumi. There are two main walking routes – an easy 2.5km (each way) trail to a 12m waterfall, and a harder 15km circular route, with 1150m of ascent, to a tourist shelter where you can sleep.