Sairme is a mountain resort nestled in the foothills of the Lesser Caucasus, just over an hour’s drive south of Kutaisi. Having risen to fame during Soviet times, Sairme is best known for its natural thermal pools and mineral waters.
Sairme is a bit like Georgia’s more popular resort, Borjomi, but much smaller, less developed, and more peaceful as a result. The setting amongst high forested mountains and rambling streams is even more beautiful than Borjomi in my opinion.
One of Georgia’s most popular mineral water brands – appropriately called Sairme – is bottled here.
For an alternative day trip or overnight getaway from Kutaisi, you can easily combine a visit to Sairme with a stop in Baghdati, a small town you pass through on the way.
Baghdati is one of the oldest settlements in Imereti region. The name has Persian roots, roughly translating to ‘God’s gift’. (And yes, it shares the same origins as Baghdad, the capital of Iraq!)
As well as hot springs, this area is home to dozens of small vineyards that make up the Imereti Wine Route, a fantastic local museum, and plenty of hiking trails that showcase the surrounding nature.
Here are the best things to do in Sairme and Baghdati, plus my travel tips.
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Things to do in Sairme & Baghdati
Sairme thermal pools & mineral springs
Sairme’s mineral waters were probably discovered in the early 19th century, but it wasn’t until Soviet times that the area was developed into a balneological resort.
The resort fell into disrepair in the 1990s but has since been refurbished. Today, it attracts visitors from across Georgia and tourists (mostly from the former USSR countries) who come to soak in and sip on the healing waters.
Numbered concrete buvettes dot the edge of the Bostania river in the centre of town, each dispensing a different kind of mineral water with unique properties. People fill up bottles and concoct different mixtures as a salve for various ailments.
Sairme waters are supposedly good for a bunch of things, including gallstones, gastrointestinal diseases and metabolic disorders. You’re advised to see the local doctor and get a prescription before consuming large volumes of water – but it probably won’t hurt to try a little sip from one of the springs.
The waters are also good for soaking in. Sairme’s indoor and outdoor thermal baths are just up the road from the main resort area and are a great place to relax.
The complex is newly renovated and quite swish, with a large swimming pool, saunas and massage facilities. I love the ‘Oriental’ style facade with its stained glass and central dome.
Outside, the open-air pool has more of a party atmosphere with bars around the water’s edge. Imagine floating in the warm water gazing up at the snowy mountains during winter.
Unfortunately the outdoor pool had already been drained at the time of our visit, but we swam in the warm indoor pool.
The Sairme pools are open from 9am until around 8pm daily. Entrance costs 10 GEL.
Sairme is a great destination for active travellers. One of the most popular attractions is the 800-metre zipline, which starts from behind the Best Western and runs over the valley, giving you spectacular views of the river and the entire resort.
There’s also a ropes course and shooting range. These are only open in the summer months though, roughly from the end of April until October.
There are several marked hiking trails that start from Sairme Resort, including the ‘Air Temple’ trail. More hiking opportunities can be found in the surrounding forests.
On the way to Sairme from Kutaisi, you’ll pass through Sagoria Forest, ‘the king’s forest’, where royal parties used to do their hunting (the ruins of Geguti Palace, the royal residence, can be seen across the river).
This is a beautiful area with easy walking trails. In the autumn months you’ll see people foraging for Caesar’s mushrooms – this is one of the few places in Georgia where the precious orange fungi grow.
Ajameti Managed Reserve near Baghdati is a 20-hectare park in the Rioni river valley. It’s mostly flat, with gorgeous oak and Japanese zelkova trees – some of them more than 250 years old. The Vartsikhe circular trail is an easy 7km loop through the forest, and the Saimedo trail is a more strenuous 13km loop. Both are signposted and have campsites as well.
South of Sairme, the Zekari mountain pass offers more rugged trails and offroading opportunities. I haven’t been on this unpaved road yet, but I hear the views are simply stunning.
The Vladimir Mayakovski House Museum in Baghdati
On the way to or from Sairme from Kutaisi, be sure to stop off in Baghdati for the Vladimir Mayakovski House Museum. This is a charming small museum dedicated to the poet-playwright-artist who was born in Baghdati village in 1893, but lived most of his life in Moscow.
Mayakovski (or Mayakovsky as he’s more commonly known) was a member of the Russian Futurist movement. The museum has a wonderful collection of Futurist-style posters and artworks (most of them reproductions) as well as photographs and documents from Vladimir’s childhood.
There is not much English and staff only speak Georgian/Russian – but even so, it’s still worth a walk around as most materials are visual and speak for themselves. Do read up on Mayakovski before you visit so you have some context.
The museum is open every day from 10am until 5pm. Entrance costs 2 GEL.
Tskaltashua fish restaurant
Just down the road from the museum, Tskaltashua is a popular outdoor restaurant that serves fresh-caught river trout. The little dining cabins and terraces along the water are very quaint and offer some reprieve from the heat during the warmer months.
Unfortunately Tskaltashua was already closed for the winter when we visited in late November – we’ll be back!
Wineries near Baghdati
The Imereti Wine Route, a much smaller version of Georgia’s main wine route in Kakheti region, runs through Baghdati and the surrounding villages to the west. Imeretian wines are made from different grapes but use the same qvevri technology, only here the clay vessels are called churis.
Tsitska-Tsolikouri is by far the most famous Imeretian wine. Otskhanuri-Sapere red is also popular, and in Vani, you can try pink wines made from Aladasturi grapes. Along with Kartli region, Imereti is famous for its sparkling wines, so be sure to try an effervescent Tsitska when you’re in the area.
Many wineries near Baghdati and Sairme offer wine tastings, tours and sit-down meals for guests. Advance bookings are essential. Popular vineyards in the area include:
- Baia’s Wine (Meore Obcha) – read more about them here
- Gaioz Sopromadze Wine Cellar (Baghdati)
- Father Timothy’s Cellar (Baghdati)
- Mshvenieradze Winery (Tskhentaro)
Vani Archaeological Museum & hot springs
The town of Vani is around 30 minutes’ drive west of Baghdati. It’s a worthwhile day trip from Kutaisi in its own right, but if you have some extra time on your way back to the city, you can quite easily make a quick detour.
Vani is one of the oldest settlements in Georgia (older than Kutaisi even), dating back to the Kingdom of Colchis and the days of Jason and the Argonauts. One of my favourite Georgian novels, A Man Was Going Down the Road by Otar Chiladze, is set in a fictionalised Vani.
These days Vani is famous for its world-class Archaeological Museum, which reopened in late 2020 after extensive renovations. The collection of gold and other treasures from nearby Colchic burial grounds is outstanding, as is the museum building, the exhibit set-up, and the guides. It’s one of my favourite museums in Georgia and a must-see.
The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am until 6pm (closed Mondays). Entrance costs 10 GEL.
Also near Vani, the Dikhashkho sulfur geyser is another mineral water pool with similar origins to the ones in Sairme – although this time the hot springs appear out of nowhere in the middle of a farmer’s field! It’s quite a sight to behold and lots of fun if you happen to be the only visitors around. We went last summer – here are more photos and tips for visiting.
How to get to Baghdati & Sairme from Kutaisi
Sairme Resort is around 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Kutaisi. Baghdati and the other points of interest mentioned here are located along the way or to the west.
Marshrutka vans to Baghdati depart from Kutaisi Central Bus Station throughout the day, taking around 1.5 hours to reach the town and costing a couple of GEL per person. There is no public transport to Sairme, so you’ll need to take a local taxi the rest of the way.
An easier option is to hire a driver for the day through GoTrip. This is what we did on our recent visit. Prices start from around 110 GEL per car one-way or return (the rate is the same either way) and you can stop as many times as you like. Book here.
There are tour operators that run day trips to Sairme from Kutaisi, but the ones I’ve seen are all priced at around 120 GEL per person. GoTrip is a bit cheaper and far more flexible – and if you can team up with a few other people, it’s going to be even more affordable.
It would be very pleasant to hire a car and drive yourself down to Sairme. The road from Kutaisi is fully paved and easy to navigate. It’s open year-road. I personally use Local Rent to rent from local agents in Georgia. Read up on my driving tips before you go.
The road after the resort between Sairme and Abastumani to the south is unpaved and very rough. Don’t attempt it unless you have a 4WD or a car with high undercarriage clearance.
The Zekari Pass is a high mountain pass and is normally closed during the winter months when there is heavy snow (roughly December through to March). Always check road conditions locally before you set off.
Where to stay in Sairme
If you have room in your Georgia itinerary, I highly recommend staying the night in Sairme. One night is plenty of time to relax a bit and enjoy the atmosphere. Medical tourists who come here for health treatments typically stay for 2 weeks!
Sairme Hotel & Resort is far and away the best accommodation in town. Managed by Best Western, it’s located inside a fully refurbished Soviet sanatorium that was built in the 1950s. Rooms are compact but very comfortable, and the buffet breakfast is one of the best I’ve had anywhere in Georgia.
There are several restaurants, cafes and bars within walking distance, including a surprisingly good Italian bistro that uses real pancetta (who would have thought).
If you stay at the resort, you can use the free shuttle bus to get to the thermal pools which are around 10 minutes back up the road towards Kutaisi.
Sairme is a unique place in Georgia and somewhere I hadn’t considered visiting until I moved to Kutaisi. Knowing there is such spectacular nature and so many great wineries right on my doorstep, I know I’ll be back to revisit this area and stay at the resort again in spring or summer.
Have you been to Sairme? What is your favourite mountain area in Georgia?
Here are the websites and services I personally use and recommend for Georgia. Check out my full list of travel resources for more tips.
FLIGHTS: Search for affordable flights to Tbilisi, Batumi or Kutaisi on Skyscanner.
TRAVEL INSURANCE: Insure your trip with HeyMondo, my preferred provider for single-trip and annual travel insurance (get 5% off when you book with my link).
SIM CARD: Magti is my preferred provider, with prices starting from 9 GEL/week for unlimited data. See this guide for all the details about buying a Georgian SIM card.
AIRPORT TRANSFERS: Most flights into Georgia arrive in the early hours. For ease, pre-book a private transfer from Tbilisi Airport to your hotel (from $17) or from Kutaisi Airport to Tbilisi (from $90) with my partners at GoTrip.ge.
ACCOMMODATION: Booking.com is the most widely used platform in Georgia. Use it to find family guesthouses, private apartments, hostels and hotels around the country.
CAR HIRE: Find a great deal on a rental car in Georgia – use the Local Rent website to book through a local agent (prices start from $20/day).
DAY TRIPS & CITY TOURS: Use Viator or Get Your Guide to browse a range of day trips and city tours. For off-beat programs, I recommend Friendly.ge (use the promocode wanderlush for 10% off). For in-depth day trips to Georgia’s wine regions, I recommend Eat This! Tours (use the promo code wanderlush for 5% off).
PRIVATE TRANSFERS: GoTrip.ge is a terrific service for booking a private professional driver and car for the day. Use it for A-to-B transfers, a customised round-trip itinerary, or a multi-day trip. You can stop wherever you like for as long as you like without the fixed price going up.
NEED SOME HELP?: Need feedback on your itinerary or personalised travel tips? I offer a one-on-one consultation call service for Tbilisi and Georgia. More information and bookings here.