One of those resorts, which are not very known outside of Georgia, Abastumani is a place, where the Georgians come to heal the lungs diseases: its climate fights even tuberculosis pretty well. I went there in the end of August 2015, and I can highly recommend it as a place for a small retreat.
Breathing is so much easier there! Even though my travel companions were smoking all the time, I managed to gasp that wonderful air saturated with scent of pines and fir trees. Actually, pines and mineral springs are the major natural attraction of the place. There are old cheap bath houses there – you can go improve your health in sulfur waters for 5 lari or so (but be prepared that it won’t be a five star service, of course). There are also some other kinds of thermal waters, their average temperature is around 42 C. Having a bath there is highly recommended for those who have some issues with nervous system or muscles. I didn’t try it yet, because I didn’t stay overnight, but the locals say, that the hotels offer the treatment with those waters. You should remember one thing: Abastumani village and resort of Abastumani are a bit different things. The resort is a bit wider: it means, there are also guest houses in the villages around. First you have to get to the village (there are marshrutkas from Didube in Tbilisi, one way ticket costs 12 lari, and also you can catch a marshrutka from Akhaltsikhe for 2 lari). Then it is better to get a taxi or walk another 2-4 kilometer: depends on where you want to.
By the way, that is also how to get out of Abastumani (as far as I know for now; the info is being updated rarely):
In Abastumani itself there are several guest houses and small “central park”, where the locals gather for coffee, beer, talks, walking, playing football and even horse riding. The infrastructure is sufficient, as for the remote village at 1350 meter above sea level. For example, they have mini markets – and they are better than in Anaklia, which is yearning to become a famous resort…
Useful link: Abastumani Resort in Facebook.
Now a bit of history. The climatic conditions attracted the Russian Prince George, brother of Tsar Nicholas II, to Abastumani. Actually he loved the sea, but as his lungs were very weak, the doctors prescribed him a long term stay in Abastumani. This kicked up the level of resort to kind of a fashionable one: Russian officers and noble people came to improve their health there. The house of Prince George is still there – though, it was damaged by fire several years ago, and no proper restoration has been conducted, so it looks a bit sad. Russian Empire’s influence is reflected in the exterior details: the windows and terraces of many houses are carved in Russian style.
Prince George liked the Georgian style though, so as there was planned a church construction (now called Akhali Zarzma; it is still there), he wanted it to look Georgian. Later on, a famous Russian painter Mikhail Nesterov has completed several frescoes of this church.
In the times of Prince George, a known professor from St. Petersburgh, Sergei Glasenap visited Abastumani. He brought his telescope, and discovered that the air of the resort is perfectly clear for observing the stars. Maybe it was one of the reasons to establish an observatory and an astrophysical research center there. It started working in 1932, and works till now. Ilia University helps this center now, and they also maintain a decent hotel near the Observatory.
You can go up to the Observatory with a car, on foot, or using an old cable car (which costs 1 lari, but doesn’t have a fixed operation schedule). People who work there, are very kind, they made an excursion for us, even if it was not scheduled. If the weather is good, after midnight it is possible to gaze at stars through the bigger telescope. I wasn’t lucky this time, so I am planning to go another time – and then I will bomb you with pictures of Saturn, Mars and some other old Roman gods 🙂
I might have forgotten something, so ask me in case of need! I am available in FB as Dariko.