After leaving by ferry from Odessa in Ukraine, I arrived in Poti, close to Batumi. After six long days on sea, I was thrilled to finally be in Georgia. The green mountains and palm trees along the streets made a warm welcome to this subtropical part of the country. It was a short ride to the center of Batumi, where I instantly felt very happy. I was definitely going to enjoy my stay here. Batumi has a lively vibe with its busy and noisy streets. It feels like stepping into a different continent, giving more meaning to Georgia as gateway to both Europe and Asia. It was a breeze to find a hotel, the center's back streets are packed with hotels of all sizes. After unpacking, I could not wait to explore more of Batumi. I headed to its stunning boulevard and the seaside park. With a singing fountain, bamboo bushes and tall palm trees, it became clear why Batumi is famed for its climate. The Caucasus mountains shed the city from cold winds and the Black Sea gives it a breeze coming right from Turkey. This explains the tropical vegetation - of which there is plenty in southern Georgia.
At night, every building and even the trees are lit up in spectacular ways. The central streets are all renovated and extraordinarily clean. Architectural styles in Batumi vary, there are some classy Renaissance examples mixed with elegant houses and now and then an old apartment block. Batumi is absolutely a nice place to use as a base for discovering western and southern Georgia. One thing no one should miss when in Batumi is the botanical garden. This vast park is green all year round and boasts many wonderful examples of flora, even Asian vegetation is included. After walking for about an hour, taking some time to admire the nature, there is a spectacular viewpoint over the Black Sea and the steep, green mountains rising right out of it. A train might chug by down there and you see it cross a couple of tunnels. The viewpoint gives opportunity to make some very scenic pictures. There is a train service from Batumi but there are buses as well, which are more convenient. Taxis are plentiful in Batumi and should get you there for a small fee.
From Batumi, buses leave to many other towns in southern Georgia. Breathtaking sceneries are all around so getting on any bus with an adventurous spirit will certainly get you to some spots. The Mtirala National Park is relatively close to Batumi. Its meaning Mtirala = 'to cry' derives from it being one of the wettest and most humid places of the former Soviet Union. The park's pristine, mixed forests house brown bears, booted eagles, the eagle owl, Roe deer and wild boar. Another interesting excursion goes south along the coast - to Gonio to be precise. Gonio is a small town with a roman fortification only 15 kilometres of Batumi and 4 from the Turkish border. The fortress is situated on the main road and the beach is only a short walk away. The pebble beach is beautiful and you have a wide view of the most northern Turkish mountains along the coast. Turkey itself can easily be visited from Batumi in a day trip. From Batumi, look for buses with the sign 'Sarp', the border town on the Turkish side. All buses from Batumi to Sarp pass Gonio. On the page 'Day trip from Batumi to Turkey', you can read more about this excursion.