Also known as Mingrelia or Mengrelia, the region of Samegrelo is located in Western Georgia on the Black Sea. The pretty and fertile area overflows with exotic produce from mandarin groves and tea plantations to chilies and kiwi fruit.
Samegrelo is home to the Megrelians, a distinctive sub group of Georgians who have their own language and traditions. In ancient times Samegrelo was a large part of the Kingdom of Colchis, featuring in Greek mythology as the rim of the world and the mysterious country where the Argonauts sailed in pursuit of the Golden Fleece. It was also in Colchis that the first Georgian money was minted – the Colchian tetri. In the 16th century, Samegrelo was ruled by Georgian dynasty, Dadiani, their castle-like palace can still be visited in Zugdidi.
Geography and climate
The region is divided into a low-lying land to the west around the major seaport of Poti and a hilly northern section bordering Svaneti. The main rivers are the Rioni, Enguri and Tskhenistskali. The Kolkheti National Park covers a large area of the coastal plain within the region, with more than half the park made up of significant wetlands and lakes.
Zugdidi is the main city of the region and its administrative centre. The city of Poti on the Black Sea is the main port and trade centre of the country.
The climate of Samegrelo along the Black Sea coast is subtropical, with hot summers and mild winters. The average January temperature is around 7C° while in July it commonly reaches 24C°.
What to see and do
The palace of the Dadiani family, former dukes of Samegrelo, is now a museum complex located in Zugdidi. As well as 19th-century paintings of the Caucasus region, fine furniture, crockery and other historical flotsam, the showstopper is one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s three bronze death masks. The palace garden is planted with rare trees and bushes, brought from different parts of the world and well worth a stroll.
Zugdidi is also home to some of the best food in the country. It is typically much spicier than elsewhere in Georgia and includes dishes that almost taste like curry so be sure to sample the local specialties. The bustling city also serves as an ideal stepping stone for getting to Svaneti or Abkhazia.
For outdoors enthusiasts, boating tours, notably on Lake Paliastomi and the Pichori River are offered in the enchanting Kolkheti National Park, as well as diving, bird watching, hiking and horse riding. Samegrelo is also rich in karst limestone caves and a real paradise for speleologists.
For travellers with a penchant for archaeology and architecture, there is plenty to see throughout the region. One outstanding attraction is the village and archaeological site of Nokalakevi. It is thought to be the site of the mythological city of Aia, capital of the Kingdom of Colchis. The ruins of ancient palaces, Christian churches, baths, and tunnels have all been identified and preserved.