Poti is normally associated with two things: its port, and its mosquitoes.

It was last on my list of cities to visit in Georgia, and honestly I’m a bit regretful that I waited so long.

Poti is exactly the kind of place I love to explore: It’s walkable, brimming with beautiful buildings and street art, with a vibrant market and a couple of great restaurants. Nicknamed ‘Little Paris’, its unique city plan and gorgeous heritage architecture makes it quite unlike anywhere else in the country.

Poti, Georgia gridded city plan.
Poti, Georgia.
A classical heritage building in Poti, Georgia.
Architecture in downtown Poti, Georgia.

Poti’s story is tied up with the Kingdom of Colchis and the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts, and it’s home to Georgia’s first lighthouse, first railway, and yes, the deepest sea port. All this makes for a completely fascinating history.

On top of that, Poti is the gateway to Kolkheti National Park, one of Georgia’s most impressive and biodiverse landscapes. Taking a boat across Paliastomi Lake and exploring the ‘Georgian Amazon’ is a must-do in this area – but as I discovered, the city itself has its own charms and is well worth spending a day strolling around.

This guide brings together the best things to do in Poti, travel tips, and everything else you need to plan a visit.

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About Poti

Poti is located on Georgia’s Black Sea Coast in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, roughly 75 km north of Batumi. The city is best known for its sea port – the deepest in Georgia, and one of the most strategically important anchorages on the Black Sea. Poti is also the headquarters of the Georgian Navy.

The best things to do in Poti, Georgia - Poti city and the river and Black Sea viewed from above.
Poti, Georgia.

This area has been an important trade and transit centre for the entirety of its long history, beginning in the 7th-6th centuries BC when the Ancient Greek colony of Phasis was located here. (The name ‘Poti’ is derived from ‘Phasis’.) If you believe the myth, this is where Jason and the Argonauts caught their first sight of Colchis. They entered the Rioni River at Poti and travelled up to Kutaisi (Aia) to claim the Golden Fleece.

In 1858, Poti was appointed a port city and in the years that followed, acquired an artificial harbour and lighthouse. The first railway in the Caucasus linking Poti and Tbilisi was constructed in 1867-1874 and carried the bulk of Georgia’s coal and manganese exports.

Between 1894 and 1912, a man named Niko Nikoladze served as city mayor and single handedly transformed Poti into the country’s most important maritime centre. He is considered the founding father of modern Poti and worshipped as such – you can find his statue by the sea port, opposite the beautiful domed corner building that is now a TBC Bank.

Statue of Niko Nikoladze at the Poti Sea Port.
Niko Nikoladze statue in Poti.

Under Nikoladze, Poti received its first oil refinery, a power station, several schools, a cathedral and a theatre. He enlisted German architect Edmund Frick to design the city centre: Poti’s parallel streets, symmetrical blocks and uniform houses come from Frick’s plans and are what gives Poti the nickname, ‘Little Paris’.

Poti has an orderly appearance and calm feel – quite unusual for a Georgian city! Even the traffic seems to flow more smoothly here thanks to the one-way encirclement that syphons cars through the centre, around the Central Park and cathedral.

Like anywhere in Georgia, Poti has lots of issues, but it also has huge potential as a tourism destination. The city itself is beautiful and fascinating, while its proximity to the sea and to Kolkheti National Park, part of the UNESCO-listed Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands, makes Poti a great base for exploring this end of the Black Sea Coast.

Best time to visit Poti

Being an industrial centre rather than a resort town, Poti is not as seasonal as places like Kobuleti. It’s more like Batumi in this regard: Businesses are open year-round, but it still feels more upbeat and lively in the warmer months.

Summer brings rain, flash floods and giant mosquitoes. Winter is anchovy fishing season and an unpleasant smell settles on some parts of the city.

I recommend visiting in late spring or early autumn, when it’s warm but not too hot and the landscape around the city is nice and green.

One thing to watch out for is strong wind: boat trips to Kolkheti National Park are cancelled if it’s gusty. We almost missed out when we visited Poti at the end of April – luckily the wind died down on the second day.

Where to stay in Poti

We spent two nights in Poti and stayed at Express Inn, a new boutique guesthouse close to the lighthouse. Rooms are very stylish and comfortable, and host Nika is easy going and helpful.

Check prices and availability here on Booking.com.

14 things to do in Poti

Here are the best things to do in Poti. You need two full days to see everything listed here at a comfortable pace.

The city is small but quite spread out. Everything mentioned here is walkable (aside from Kolkheti National Park and the War Memorial), and there are also city buses and taxis available.

1. Climb Poti Lighthouse

The red-and-white candy striped Poti Lighthouse is the most recognisable landmark and ‘top attraction’ in Poti. It was manufactured in London in 1862 and took two years to reassemble. When the lights went on in 1864, it was the first navigational facility of its kind in Georgia.

Today the lighthouse is located inside the State Hydrographic Services complex. The bottom two floors contain a small museum with archival photos, old beacons, navigational instruments and other ephemera.

A spiral iron staircase takes you 160 steps to the top of the lighthouse, where there is an open viewing deck. Here you can see the estuary formed by a canal of the Rioni River, which originates in Racha and flows through Kutaisi before joining with the Black Sea, and on the opposite side, a sprawling cemetery.

Stairway at Poti Lighthouse.
The lighthouse stairs.
View of a cemetery from Poti Lighthouse.
The view from Poti Lighthouse.

After you’ve climbed back down, walk over to the adjacent seafront. A big pod of dolphins resides here – we saw at least a dozen ducking and diving through the water. Judging from the posters and signs around the park, they are a regular fixture!

  • Location: 93 Demetre Tavdadebuli Street
  • Hours: 9am-6pm daily
  • Cost: Free

2. Visit the Poti St. Virgin Cathedral

Poti St Virgin Cathedral, a neo-Byzantine cathedral in Georgia.
Poti St. Virgin Cathedral.

Poti Cathedral has the distinction of being the only neo-Byzantine cathedral in Georgia. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was modelled off the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

The symmetrical, low dome design is the work of architects Alexander Zelenko and Robert Marfeld, who oversaw the construction of the cathedral in 1906-1907 under Niko Nikoladze’s patronage. In Soviet times, it was used as a theatre.

The cavernous interior holds 2,000 people and is decorated with tangerine-coloured marble and golden icons. The bright sanctuary at the entrance is particularly pretty.

  • Location: Rustaveli Encirclement
  • Hours: From 8am daily
  • Cost: Free

3. Admire Poti’s heritage architecture

Bristol restaurant in Poti.
A beautiful old building in Poti. Now the Bristoli restaurant.

There are around 70 buildings in Poti with Cultural Heritage status. Many of them date back to Nikoladze’s era and are located near the sea port.

My favourites include this two-storey red brick and stone manor house (currently being restored) and this Art Nouveau facade that has sadly been reduced to an empty shell.

Heritage architecture in Poti, Georgia.
My favourite house in Poti.

I also came across this intriguing house on the canal, with long open galleries and tudor-like adornments.

An old house on the canal in Poti, Georgia.
House on the canal.

More beautiful houses with European flourishes line both sides of David Aghmashenebeli, the main avenue that leads from the canal to the sea port on the western side of the city.

There are two more beautiful houses located on 9 April Avenue, hidden amongst the Soviet-era apartment blocks.

4. Learn about Poti’s history at the Kolkheti Culture Museum

A model ship at the local museum in Poti, Georgia.
A model ship at Poti Museum.

Located inside another heritage brick building on the opposite side of the canal, the Kolkheti Culture Museum – officially the Giorgi Chitaia Museum of Colchian Culture of Poti – is quite typical of local museums in Georgia. It’s crying out for a bit of TLC, but the exhibitions are interesting and the staff are passionate and welcoming.

Poti Kolkheti Culture Museum.
The Museum of Colchian Culture in Poti.

The bottom floor has several rooms full of artefacts unearthed during archaeological digs in the area. This includes clay vases, weapons and jewellery recovered from dives in Paliastomi Lake – which is believed to be the site of Ancient Phasis.

Upstairs, the second part of the exhibition explores the modern history of Poti. This section has more signage in English and was the most interesting part of the museum for me. There are wonderful archival photos showing the construction of the lighthouse and cathedral, and lots of antiques.

Museum staff speak Georgian and Russian.

  • Location: 26 May Street
  • Hours: 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays)
  • Cost: 5 GEL

5. Stroll through Central Park

Columns and arches mark the entrance to Poti Central Park.
The main entrance to Poti Central Park.

Downtown Poti is organised around the cathedral and adjacent Central Park. Inside the park there are walking paths and picnic areas, the ruins of an old Ottoman fortress, the Niko Nikoladze Tower (see #6), and a fabulous Soviet-era mosaic (see (#8).

Take a stroll through the park then walk around the outer periphery to see some of Poti’s other notable landmarks, including a statue of the French novelist Alexandre Dumas who attended the opening of Poti’s port and wrote about it in his book, Le Caucase, and the unusual Poti Theatre.

6. Stop by the Niko Nikoladze Tower

Niko Nikoladze Tower, the oldest structure in Poti, Georgia.
Niko Nikoladze Tower, the oldest building in Poti.

Located on the western side of the park, the so-called Niko Nikoladze Tower is the oldest structure in Poti. It dates to 1578 and was part of a larger fortress built by the Ottomans after they conquered Poti for the first time (Poti fell to the Ottomans again in 1723, and again in 1812).

During his tenure as Mayor of Poti, Niko Nikoladze took up residence in the tower, adding two more floors to the structure and installing a mechanical clock on the facade, which was made in Paris in 1870.

The tower contains a small museum dedicated to Nikoladze – the first Georgian to receive a doctorate from a European university – but unfortunately it was closed at the time of our visit. Nikoladze’s main house museum is located 80 km east in Didi Jikhaishi, the Imeretian village where he was born.

  • Location: Rustaveli Encirclement (opposite Carrefour)

7. Track down Poti’s street art

Medea street art in Poti.
‘Medea’ by David Samkharadze.

A more recent addition to Poti is a series of large-scale murals painted on old buildings throughout the city in 2019/2020. These were created by various local artists in cooperation with Niko Project, an inspiring initiative responsible for bringing street art to Batumi and other cities around Georgia.

There are five murals in Poti, each one connected to the city and offering commentary on some aspect of local culture or society.

My favourite is definitely ‘Medea’ by David Samkharadze (2019). Pictured above, it depicts the mythological daughter of King Aetes who fashioned botanical potions and eventually ran away with Jason.

Just around the corner, ‘Cowsquito’ depicts an elephant-sized mosquito – a jab at the giant insects that swarm Poti in the summer season. It was painted by Poti-born artist Goga Katsarava in 2020.

Mosquito street mural in Poti.
‘Cowsquito’ by Goga Katsarava.

‘Beauty Buried in a Swamp’ by Musya Qeburia (2020) is another stunning mural that shows a partially submerged woman with plastic bottles floating around her face. It’s a response to the issue of pollution and a reference to Poti’s other nickname, ‘Swamp City’ (doesn’t have quite the same right to it as Little Paris, right?).

Beauty in a Swamp street art in Poti, Georgia.
‘Beauty Buried in a Swamp’ by Musya.

I spotted another mural with characters from the Georgian alphabet on the western side of Bristol restaurant. I can’t find any information about it online though. ‘Elephant in the Air’ by Rosto (2019) is another large piece located near the bus station.

Find the locations for these murals pinned on my Poti Map, linked below.

8. Find the Soviet-era mosaics

Soviet era mosaic on an apartment building in Poti, Georgia.
A Soviet mosaic in Poti. Unfortunately this one was covered over in 2023.

I’m always on the hunt for Soviet-style mosaics. Poti has a couple of notable examples, but unfortunately they aren’t in the best condition.

The first is the huge mosaic pictured above that covers the entire end wall of an apartment complex on 9 April Park. Most of it has fallen away, but some parts are still decipherable, including a frieze of tea pickers. Update: Sadly this mosaic was plastered over in 2023 and is no longer visible.

This mosaic inside Central Park is in much better condition. It covers the inside of the curved amphitheatre and depicts musicians playing traditional instruments.

Find the locations pinned on my Poti Map, linked below.

9. Browse the Poti Market

Spices and adjika for sale at the local market in Poti, Georgia.
A spice stall at the Poti Market.

I was expecting Poti Market to be dominated by seafood, but the covered hall is much like any other market in Georgia: brimming with fresh produce, churchkhela and honey. This being Samegrelo, you’ll also see lots and lots of different kinds of adjika in all shades of red, orange and green.

The market has a mezzanine so you can look directly down over the stalls. There is a great retro painting outside the manager’s office on the upper level – it shows a woman swimming in a bounty of produce, with the Caucasus mountains in the background.

An artwork depicts a woman surrounded by fruit and vegetables inside the agricultural market in Poti.
Retro art at the market in Poti.

Stalls spill out onto the streets around the market, selling more food products plus clothing and hardware. This is an interesting area to walk around if you’re curious about local life in Poti.

  • Location: Giorgi Chanturia Street
  • Hours: From 10am daily

10. Eat Megrelian cuisine – things to do in Poti for foodies

Kharcho at a restaurant in Poti, traditional Megrelian food.
Megrelian kharcho at Beer House.

Megrelian food is my favourite regional cuisine in Georgia, so I was pretty pumped to gorge on kharcho and elarji in Poti. Diaroni in Zugdidi remains my favourite Megrelian restaurant, but there are a couple of great places in Poti that come close.

The first, Bristoli, is located inside a historic corner building and has a beautiful interior, with framed archival photos and booth seating. They put spicy adjika and chilli in their ojakhuri (meat with potatoes and onions) – it’s absolutely delicious. They also do a great Rachan-style lobiani with ham.

The interior of Bristoli, one of the best restaurants in Poti, Georgia.
Restaurant Bristoli.

I saved my kharcho and elarji feast for Beer House, another popular restaurant on the same street. The walnut sauce is rich and spicy and was everything I needed. Two more items on the menu caught my eye: Colchian Ostri, and their signature dish, the Ghomi Board – a huge platter of cornmeal and kharcho to share.

11. Visit the curious WWII Memorial

WWII Memorial in Poti, Georgia.
The War Memorial in Poti.

We spotted this curious sculpture on our way into Poti and drove back down the highway for a closer look before visiting the national park. It’s located near the entrance to the visitors centre, so you can easily pop in for a quick look.

A memorial to fallen soldiers from WWII, it depicts a golden David-like figure atop a column. Three huge white sculptures – crashing waves or crashing fists, depending how you look at it – loom behind him. I read somewhere that the official title for the monument is ‘Dead in the Sea’. In front of the sculpture, large stone slabs carry the names of those who perished.

Behind the monument there is a small leafy park. Work was being done to tidy up the area at the time of our visit.

  • Location: E70 highway

12. Take a boat across Paliastomi Lake to Kolkheti National Park

The Pichori River running through Kolkheti National Park, a protected area and UNESCO Site in Poti, Georgia.
Kolkheti National Park near Poti.

Kolkheti National Park is one of the coolest national parks in Georgia and a must-see when in Poti. A visit includes a boat trip across Paliastomi Lake to the Pichori River, where you follow the snaking waterway deep into the maze of forests and wetlands in search of nesting birds and wild horses.

Reservations for the boat trip are mandatory and must be organised by phone in advance. See my detailed guide to visiting Kolkheti National Park for info and more travel tips.

13. Walk along Poti Beach

An abandoned grandstand with blue plastic chairs on Poti Beach.
Poti Beach.

The coastline near Poti Lighthouse is all rocks. To the south, there are several large beaches with fine, dark, magnetic sands. Unfortunately there is also a lot of trash in this area, which completely detracts from its beauty.

On the beaches in front of Golden Lake there are bars, cafes and other infrastructure (including lifeguard towers) – but since it was not the season, everything was shuttered at the time of our visit. I’m sure it has a different feel in summer but in spring, it was quite desolate and dystopian in a wonderful way… I mean, just look at that half-buried grandstand on the beach.

If you want to swim in Poti, I highly recommend you go further south to Maltakhva, an outer suburb where there are nicer magnetic beaches, or go to Grigoleti. If you have a car, it’s only a short drive to Ureki and Shekvetili where you’ll find better-kept swimming beaches. Note that the sand gets more coarse the further south you go before eventually turning to pebbles and then large stones.

14. Watch the sunset at Okros Tba ‘Golden Lake’

The bridge over Okros Tba, Golden Lake in Poti.
Okros Tba, Golden Lake in Poti.

Poti’s answer to the Golden Gate Bridge – the Golden Lake Bridge. Okros Tba (‘Golden Lake’) is a long, narrow lake squished between Paliastomi and the coast. It’s more built up with a few bars and a resort on the shore.

This place must have been a tourist magnet back in the day. There is an old abandoned hotel on the lake’s edge and a huge abandoned above-ground pool. I spotted an amazing artwork depicting the Argo boat painted above the deep end, but unfortunately the complex is fenced off with barbed wire and I couldn’t get my camera in at the right angle.

A jetty and boats on Okros Tba lake in Poti.
Okros Tba.

Take a stroll around the lake and across the bridge – it’s quite beautiful at sunset.

Poti map

Find all the locations mentioned above and other helpful pins on this Poti Map.

Click here to open the map.

How to get to Poti

Driving to Poti

We drove to Poti from Kutaisi and found that having a car in the city was really handy. There is plenty of street parking in Poti, and the traffic is not bad at all compared to other cities.

The drive through Guria and Samegrelo to reach Poti is very beautiful. For ideas of what to see along the way, see this regional guide.

As always, I recommend hiring a car from a local agent using the Local Rent website. See my tips for driving in Georgia here.

Batumi to Poti

Marshrutka vans to Poti depart from Batumi’s old bus station throughout the day. Travel time is just over one hour, and the fare is 8 GEL.

There is no train to Poti from Batumi.

A taxi waits in front of the grand Poti Railway Station.
Poti Railway Station.

Kutaisi to Poti

Marshrutka vans to Poti depart from Kutaisi’s Central Bus Station approximately every hour between 8am and 6pm. Travel time is 1.75 hours and the fare is 7 GEL.

If you prefer to travel by rail, you can pick up the Tbilisi-Poti train at Rioni Station, 20 minutes south from the centre of Kutaisi by taxi or city bus #3. The train takes 2 hours and arrives in Poti at midnight. Tickets cost 12-39 GEL and can be purchased online through TKT.GE.

Tbilisi to Poti

Vans to Poti depart from Didube Bus Terminal in Tbilisi at least once an hour from 8am onwards. For safety reasons, I do not recommend travelling such a long distance after dark. Vans use the new Kutaisi bypass highway and arrive on the coast at Grigoleti before turning north. Travel time is just over 5 hours, and the fare is 30 GEL.

There is a daily train to Poti that departs Tbilisi at around 6pm and takes 6 hours. Tickets cost 16-43 GEL.

Leaving Poti

To travel onward from Poti to Batumi, Zugdidi, Kutaisi or Tbilisi, you can either take a van from Poti Bus Station or a train from the Railway Station. Both are located on the opposite side of the canal from the market. Shared taxis to various destinations around Georgia are also available from this area.

Poti travel tips

  • Don’t forget to call ahead and book your boat trip to Kolkheti National Park – reservations are mandatory and should be made in advance by phone
  • If wind/heavy rain is forecast, boat trips will not go ahead – it’s a good idea to stay in Poti for a couple of days to hedge your bets
  • Bring mosquito repellent, especially if you’re travelling in summer

Have you been to Poti? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Questions or comments? Please share your thoughts below.

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  1. Hello!
    I am amazed at how wonderfully written this article is! I am Georgian and I stumbled across this article by coincidence while searching for Poti Map. Thank you for telling the story of Poti in interesting and compelling way.
    I will definitely check out your other articles.

  2. Hi Emily, wow what a great guide for Poti. I was looking at adding it to my itinerary for next year and after seeing this I have penciled in 2 -3 night stop here. Hopefully we will be able to do the boat out to the NP too.

    Would I be able to do transport from Poti to Mestia in one day? or best to stop in Zugdidi?

    Really enjoying your blog, page and FB entries.

    1. Thanks so much, Cindy!

      Pretty much all transport to Mestia goes through Zugdidi – you could definitely do the trip in one day, changing vans in Zugdidi (the first driver will help you out with that). Just make sure you get an early start from Poti and you should be good to go!

      Very glad to hear you’re planning to visit Poti, it’s a very interesting city and definitely deserves more attention! Don’t miss Kolkheti NP either!

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