The region of Imereti is situated along the middle and upper end of the Rioni river. The main city of the region is Kutaisi. Imereti is divided into Zemo (upper) and Kvemo (lower) Imereti. It borders the Likhi Mountain Range to the east, Tskhenistskali River to the west, the Caucasus Mountains to the north and Meskheti or Persati Mountains to the south. The lowlands of Imereti are mostly covered with Colchis low brush, forests, oaks, groves, and meadows. The mountainous parts of Imereti are mainly Colchis deciduous forests. The forests of Imereti are rich with animals and birds. Zekari, Ajameti and Kharagauli forests are populated with bears, wolves, martens, foxes, jackals, badgers, deer, rabbits, squirrels and bobcats. Some of the most common birds are: jay, cuckoo, nightingale, woodcock, hoopoe as well as some rare birds.
The Imereti lowland is part of the Kolkheti Valley with a sub-tropical sea climate. Winter here is mild, while the summer is hot. The average annual temperature is 11-15 degrees Celsius. The climate of upper Imereti is humid sub-tropical, with winters that are colder and have more precipitation.
Culture and traditions:
Imereti has always been known for its highly developed spiritual and family culture, believed to be influenced by the Colchis. Imereti developed viticulture, cattle-breeding, poultry-farming, bee-keeping, production of dairy products and gardening. Some of the most important agricultural sectors were viticulture, the cultivation of corn crops, and orchards. This area of Georgia has some unique wine varieties and there is evidence that wine production here dates back to ancient times. Proof of their dedication to the craft of wine making can be seen in the ancient wine jars, grape presses, winery rules and traditions of the Georgian table in Imereti. Feasting and fun are an integral part of life for the people of Imereti, while singing is an essential element of the banquet table. The tradition of modern songs with guitar accompaniment in Georgia originated in Imereti. Even now, folk polyphonic, lyric and joyful songs are performed during festivities in Imereti. A number of folk traditions and rituals have been preserved in Imereti. People have special traditions for celebrating Giorgoba (St. George’s Day), Mariamoba (St. Mary’s Day), Barbaroba (St. Barbara’s day), New Year and Christmas, funerals and memorials, weddings, and births. The villages of Imereti are colorful and have a special charm. One example is the village of Khani, located by Zekari Cross. Archeological artifacts dating back to the second millennium were discovered in Khani. Over the centuries the village has been destroyed several times, but its inhabitants always managed to rebuild it. Of particular interest is the village of Koreti, located 16 km from Sachkhere. The village, as well as its surrounding territory, has been inhabited since ancient times. This village is especially interesting for the large number of cellars and viticulture it has. In the 19th century the village’s families united and started wine production together. The ancient part of the village still has over a dozen very old wine cellars covered with roof tiles, with presses for grapes, bread bakeries, wine jars and other inventory for wine-making. Shrosha is the ancient home of pottery in Georgia, known since ancient times for its masterpieces. Georgian red soil, useless for agriculture, is perfect for making pottery. There was a factory built in Shrosha at the beginning of the 20th century to produce ceramic items, but traditional methods passed down through generations are still popular. Kvevri (beet-shaped wine vessels made of clay) are usually stored in the ground to keep wine cool during summer and therefore increase its lifespan.
The people of Imereti are very hospitable. Guests are often welcomed with supras (large dining parties) where they are treated to a variety of dishes. Walnuts are widely used in their cuisine, which adds a wonderful flavor to local products. Most Imeretian food is prepared in clay pots and cooked with herbs. Some of the special dishes of Imereti are: khachapuri (baked cheese bread), satsivi (chicken or turkey in a spiced walnut sauce), gomi (Georgian grits), matsoni (fresh yoghurt), and pkhali (ground spinach mixed with herbs and spices).
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park: The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is one of the largest in Europe - it covers more than 76,000 hectares of native forest and sub-alpine and alpine meadows, and is home to rare species of flora and fauna. It is the first National Park in the Caucasus to meet international standards. The park was established in 1995 and officially opened in 2001. Rare and endemic species noted in Georgia’s Red Data Book (a list of endangered and protected species) can be found in the territory of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park. The fauna of Borjomi-Kharagauli is diverse. This National Park has a wonderful array of mammal inhabitants. Among the large carnivores it is possible to find gray wolves, lynx, and brown bears here. Among hoofed animals, roe deer and wild boar can frequently be seen on the national park’s territory. For native birds of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park the following rare species can be identified: the golden eagle, griffon vulture, black vulture, and Caucasian black grouse. The forests of the Kharagauli part of the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park are a combination of dark coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests. Visitors can observe amazingly different life and traditions in the territories bordering the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, due to the interesting ethnographical diversity, which is additionally impressive for visitors of the park.
Sataplia Reservation: Sataplia Reservation is located very close to Kutaisi, on Sataplia Mountain, with a total area of 354 hectares. It has mountains and hills and is almost fully covered by the Colchis Forest. There are numerous grotto caves, although the most interesting one is “Sataplia Cave”, located on Samgurali slope. It has a corridor system with branches and halls. The cave is rich with stalactites, stalagmites and mineral rock curtains. The total length of the cave measures 600 meters. It has a stream flowing inside, which has carved out this cave over the past 30 million years. Over 200 footprints from dinosaurs have been discovered here, located on the stones in two rows. To the north of Sataplia cave there is a flowering meadow on the cliff with a number of bee colonies. This was the reason for naming this area Sataplia (“the place of honey”). When you go, be sure to check out the local museum.
Ajameti Protected Area: Ajameti Managed Nature Reserve is located in the Baghdati district, 265 km from Tbilisi and 15 km from Kutaisi on the Rioni plain and consists of three districts: Ajameti, Vartsikhe and Sviri. The total area of the Managed Nature Reserve is 4848 ha, out of which 4738 ha is covered with forest. What makes Ajameti forest unique is that in the Kolkheti lowland it is nearly the only place where subtropical mixed forests have been preserved in their original conditions. Some of the trees are more than 250 years old, and the century-old oaks are frequently found. Ajameti is somewhat weak in animal and bird species. Among mammals one can see hare, red fox, jakal, squirrel, weasel, dormouse and badger here. The largest animal of Ajameti is the roe-deer. The following animals of the Red List of Georgia can be found in the Ajameti Nature Reserve: Leisler’s bat, Caucasian squirrel, common dormouse, Forest dormouse and Caucasian otter. More than 60 species of birds are registered in the Ajameti Managed Nature Reserve. Out of them only twenty-one nest in the oak forest, the others appear in Ajameti while migrating or spending winter there.