Georgia

Visit Tskaltubo, Georgia – an abandoned playground

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I remember when I found out about Tskaltubo, Georgia.

I was browsing through some travel blogs and found an article about this former spa town that is now in disrepair.

The story and the pictures enchanted me and I knew I wanted to visit Tskaltubo as soon as possible, the town itself was a good reason for me to visit Georgia.

Tskaltubo Georgia

I didn’t have to wait long to make it happen, even if the circumstances weren’t the best.

Tskaltubo is located fairly close from Kutaisi airport so when one snowy morning my flight back to Warsaw was 15 hours delayed we were taken to the hotel in Tskaltubo to wait for our departure.

While everyone around me was angry at the situation I was actually super excited – I could see Tskaltubo!

It was snowing heavily and I didn’t have all that much time but the first glimpse of the town made me assured that I want to pay a proper visit to the town.

And so when planning another trip to Georgia I included Tskaltubo in my itinerary.

Tskaltubo essentials

How to get to Tskaltubo?

The town has actually a very good location and is super easy to get it.

Tskaltubo is located some 10 kms away from Kutaisi – second biggest city in Georgia and frequent minibuses (marshrutka) connect these two places.

To get to Tskaltubo from the center of Kutaisi you should take marshrutka no 30 that between 8am and 7pm departs every 20 or so minutes from next to the bridge across the market hall (here you have the exact location, on the left side once you cross the Red Bridge), the price is 1,20 lari.

There are also marshrutkas no 34 connecting Kutaisi bus station with Tskaltubo but I didn’t use those.

The journey should take around 20 minutes and once in Tskaltubo you drive through the whole town all the way to the bus station.

On the way back when I was next to the main park I just randomly waved marshrutka that was heading to Kutaisi and I was lucky as it was the one going to the center.

Tskaltubo is located very close to the Kutaisi airport too, 22kms away, so if you wish to stay in Tskaltubo you can come here directly from the airport.

Tskaltubo Georgia

History of Tskaltubo

The healing mineral water was discovered in the area randomly by the local shepherd already in the 13th century.

Before the World War 2 few sanatoriums were built here but the real peak happened after the war.

There were daily direct trains from Moscow and other main cities in the USSR arriving to the town daily, over 100.000 people were visiting Tskaltubo every year.

The most known visitor was probably Stalin who had a private cottage nearby and could use a private bath in the Bathhouse no 6 (it is possible to visit it these days).

At that time around 20 sanatoriums and 9 bathhouses were built to cater to the needs of patients.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and new borders appeared Tskaltubo, that was visited mostly by guests from Russia, fell from grace.

The local economy problems and the civil war in Abkhazia added up to the not so good condition of the place and eventually around 9.000 IDPs (Internally Displaced Person) from Abkhazia were moved here.

Many of them still live in the semi-destroyed sanatoriums.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo now

Today the town is kind of forgotten by many.

The official statistics say that only 700 visitors come to Tskaltubo every year and my guess is the majority of them are big fans of exploring abandoned places and urban exploration like me.

Few of the sanatoriums are trying to operate again and if you’re looking for a low-key and affordable place for a treatment Tskaltubo might be your answer.

While few of the hotels and sanatoriums are abandoned and free to explore many are occupied by IDPs who try to live a more or less normal life in these poor conditions.

Keep that in mind when visiting Tskaltubo, what is an abandoned playground for you is the everyday reality for others so treat the place and the people with respect here, you are a guest after all.

Tskaltubo Georgia

The future of Tskaltubo

Even if it doesn’t look like something will change in Tskaltubo anytime soon some of the sanatoriums were bought by the investors.

The most impressive one – Hotel Shaxitori – in the past was free to visit but during my both visits in Tskaltubo it was tightly surrounded by the high fence and the premises were impossible to enter.

Yet in almost 2 years nothing really has changed there.

Apparently Hotel Iveria was bought by the investor a few years ago too but when I visited there were no signs indicating any works (or even projects) here. (Updated 2019: apparently it’s not possible to enter Hotel Iveria anymore, unfortunately)

But there are few good hotels in the town and one of the old ones – Sanatorium Meshakhte – is being renovated so hopefully future of Tskaltubo is still bright, which I keep my fingers crossed for!

Tskaltubo Georgia

Visiting Tskaltubo

The center of Tskaltubo is a large spa park where few of the bathhouses (both still operating and abandoned) are located.

Most of the former sanatoriums were built around the park so visitors will have the main attraction of the town nearby.

However the marshrutka will take you to the bus station and you will need to walk a bit to reach the park.

On the way you can already visit some of the sanatoriums, like Hotel Tbilisi (occupied by IDPs) or Sanatorium Iveria.

The second one is probably the most known sight in Tskaltubo and its picture pop up in Google every time you search the name of the town.

Tskaltubo Georgia

It was super easy to explore Sanatorium Iveria as there was no fence, no “keep away” sign and the doors were open.

The interior was pretty amazing, especially the main staircase with the distinctive hole in the ceiling / floor.

But that’s not the only beautiful feature of the building.

A further exploration showed some amazing ballrooms too – they are located on the left side of the building.

In general the building was in decent condition and I had no issues with exploring it.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Not far from Sanatorium Iveria, at the edge of park, you can find a random abandoned building, you can see it already from the road.

That’s the bathhouse no 5.

It must have been really impressive in its golden days, with inner yards and private baths hidden in the basement, now sadly it’s a rather poor condition and it’s impossible to get to some parts of the bathhouse.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Across the road, on the left side of the bathhouse no 5., you will see another fully abandoned building – Hotel Savane.

Getting it wasn’t super easy as the vegetation has already done its work here but once you get through lush bushes you can walk it through the open door.

Inside the hotel is not in the best condition and I can’t say it’s super impressive but the patio is nice and worth checking.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Before I reached the next sanatorium I wanted to see I walked along the park and passed numerous abandoned and semi-abandoned buildings that look interesting on the way but I didn’t really go in to explore.

I tried to sneak in to the Tskaltubo Spa Resort and almost managed but the security stopped me and said I can’t come in if I’m not a guest there. Too bad as I’d love to see this place too!

It’s partly renovated and ready to welcome visitors but part of the place and especially the not renovated covered passage looks promising on the pictures.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Next two sanatoriums on my list – Hotel Sakartvelo and Hotel Medea – are where IDPs live so I didn’t want to interrupt too much and only saw the abandoned parts of the buildings.

And these surely were impressive, especially at Medea with columns, inner yards (where I ate some blackberries straight from the bush, the sweet taste of the childhood) and ponds.

But I didn’t want to stay there too long and be an intruder for the inhabitants.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

My last stop in Tskaltubo where the bathhouses in the park.

Before I reached the still operating bathhouse no 6 I saw another building hidden on the left side – it turned out to be the bathhouse no 8.

This place, together with Sanatorium Iveria, was my favorite one of all the Tskaltubo abandoned buildings.

It was a bit surreal, with round shape and a hole in the ceiling, reminding me a bit of the Soviet circuses or food markets (like the one in Tashkent or Ivano-Frankivsk).

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo Georgia

I knew there are still few more buildings I could have checked in Tskaltubo but at this point I was a bit exhausted of all the walking around and being fully focused for all the time (exploring abandoned spaces, alone, is a bit challenging to be honest) and I was glad when I quickly caught a marshrutka back to Kutaisi.

But if I had more time / energy I would keep exploring Tskaltubo! I felt like in a big playground there, all these abandoned buildings made my heart beat faster and that’s not only because of the adrenaline – they were purely beautiful!

Tskaltubo Georgia

Tskaltubo safety

I spent a solid few hours exploring Tskaltubo and for the whole day I haven’t seen another tourist interested in abandoned buildings, only few patients near Bathhouse no 6.

But even if I felt a bit awkward and sometimes a bit intrusive I felt rather safe.

Of course when exploring abandoned buildings there are numerous things that can go wrong and you should be aware of them: from uneven surface and sharp objects to people or stray dogs who aren’t very happy to see you around.

You need to be even more cautious and extremely focused when you are there on your own.

But even if my level of adrenaline was high for all this time nothing happened.

The abandoned buildings in Tskaltubo are in a rather fine condition but you have to do the judgment about entering and moving around.

In the semi-abandoned, semi-inhabited hotels I stayed away from the parts where people live, to respect their privacy.

Every time when I stumbled across someone I introduced myself and said the truth, that I’m a tourist who is interested in this grand architecture.

Everyone was nice, polite and welcoming and I had no issues there. A basic knowledge of Russian, enough to communicate, was definitely a big help.

Only in one place, Hotel Savane, I stumbled across someone else – a young guy in his early 20s who I don’t know what was doing there.

I was about to leave anyway so just said hello and headed towards the exit. And all was good.

Tskaltubo Georgia

Is it worth to visit Tskaltubo?

If you like grand Soviet architecture with all its details and are a fan of abandoned spaces and urban exploration, if you visited Chernobyl and loved it then Tskaltubo is for you and you’ll enjoy the place as much as I did.

I felt like I’m in a candy store, every corner of the town was exciting for me.

However, if you are more into typical monuments and pretty buildings then I don’t think you would enjoy Tskaltubo and it would be wiser to spend your time somewhere else.

Georgia is a very interesting country and the area around Kutaisi and Tskaltubo is full of attractions: Gelati or Motsameta Monasteries, Okatse Canyon, Prometheus Cave, Kutaisi itself or Chiatura (although that’s a bit edgy too).

Tskaltubo Georgia

How much time do you need for exploring Tskaltubo?

I spent 6 hours in Tskaltubo, walked around a lot, exhausted myself way too much (the super humid day didn’t help either) and saw only maybe half of interesting buildings.

There are more old sanatoriums a bit away from the center as well as abandoned Stalin’s cottage.

You can visit most of Tskaltubo in one day but if you can spend more time there – do it, even if to avoid the fear of missing out that I still have after not giving enough time to Tskaltubo.

To save the time on commuting to/from Kutaisi you can spend the night in Tskaltubo at one of the available hotels. Actually staying there overnight could be an interesting experience too!

Here are some of the recommended places to stay in Tskaltubo:

Tskaltubo Georgia

Where to find abandoned buildings in Tskaltubo

I prepared a map with all the abandoned buildings I went to in Tskaltubo so you can download it (.kml file) and use offline during your visit.

However, I didn’t mark on it any hotels that are inhabited by IDPs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about it but out of respect for these people I’ve decided not to include their homes on the map.

If you really want to visit these hotels too you can easily find them – some of them are marked on maps.me (and I’ve mentioned those names here), others you will just find randomly when walking around.

But no matter which places you visit you’re in for a treat as Tskaltubo is such a gem!


When planning my trip to Tskaltubo I got a big help and thumbs up from my friends Kirsty and Mark who blog at Kathmandu & Beyond. They are fellow fans of concrete, urban exploration and obscure destinations so if you don’t know them yet make sure to give their blog a follow!


Travel Resources

You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Georgia

Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Georgia here.

I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.

Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.


For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • Sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Bloglovin to get updates about the new posts
  • Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Georgia too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!

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Tskaltubo Georgia


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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Nancy Gray
    15/01/2019 at 22:27

    All I can say is wow! These photos are fabulous. And I enjoyed your commentary. I felt like I was there. It looks like a pretty magical place despite its condition. Great blog! Thanks.

    • Reply
      kami
      27/01/2019 at 15:47

      Thank you for your nice comment Nancy, it means a lot to me!

  • Reply
    John
    17/01/2019 at 20:32

    Fascinating insight. And I really like how well you prioritise the need to be respectful to locals, as well as safe and aware of your surroundings – really responsible.

    • Reply
      kami
      27/01/2019 at 15:48

      Thank you John!

  • Reply
    Keri | Ladies What Travel
    21/01/2019 at 17:19

    Such an interesting post! There’s something so beautiful about abandoned buildings! I’d love to explore these…

    • Reply
      kami
      27/01/2019 at 15:48

      Thank you! I hope you will be able to visit Tskaltubo one day, it’s such a gem!

  • Reply
    chris
    24/05/2019 at 13:41

    hello, this article is very helpful. Thanks for this.
    I’me going to Georgia this summer, and i’ve read a lot about an abandonned train station in Tskalbuto. Is this hard to find ?
    Regards

    • Reply
      kami
      26/06/2019 at 01:35

      To be honest I don’t know as I didn’t even try to look for it, there were just so many other attractions for me to visit. But even if you don’t make it there you will enjoy Tskaltubo for sure, it’s such a fascinating place!

  • Reply
    Erik Boers
    13/06/2019 at 12:59

    Looks like an interesting and fascinating place. I like abandoned buildings and next week I’m going to Armenia and Georgia so I may pay a visit to Tskalbuto. How do I download the .kml file?

    • Reply
      kami
      26/06/2019 at 01:36

      I might be late with my answer, hope you enjoyed your trip! To download the file you just open the map in the new window and then click on the three dots on the upper left side, the option to download the file should be there.

  • Reply
    Sar.
    17/06/2019 at 14:30

    I was in Tsakltubo a few days ago, and unfortunately Sanatorium Iveria was completely fenced off

    • Reply
      kami
      26/06/2019 at 01:38

      really? That’s a terrible news for the explorers. But hopefully they will renovate it then!

      • Reply
        Tofu
        02/07/2019 at 13:38

        I can confirm this. Ivaria is closed and guarded by security.

        • Reply
          kami
          20/07/2019 at 12:08

          Oh no. But at the same time I hope they will finally renovate it!

  • Reply
    Ann
    09/07/2019 at 09:53

    Thanks Kami for your interesting post with lots of details, we will try to explore Tskaltubo within 2 weeks.

    • Reply
      kami
      20/07/2019 at 12:29

      Hope you will enjoy it as much as I did! Have a great trip!

  • Reply
    Bouke
    25/07/2019 at 13:36

    Amazing post, very helpful when exploring Tskaltubo! I have explored some abandoned spa’s today and was very delighted to see the gate to the Iveria Spa was opened. We went in. Amazing spa and, I was surprised once more, at the end of the empty building restoration works were underway! Finally!

    • Reply
      kami
      31/07/2019 at 11:44

      That’s great to hear! I can only imagine how exceptional this place will be when they restore it! I’m glad you could sneak in and take a look inside!

  • Reply
    Jan
    01/08/2019 at 09:05

    Hi kami,

    We explored today the abandoned bath houses in Tskaltubo, thanks to your blog of course. it is very impressive what they have builded here. Gate was open and we entered the sanatorium to Walk around. Amazing. These places you can’t find them in tourist guides. Overall Georgia is a great country to visit Mountains are really the place to hike.
    All the best,
    Jan & Nicky (Belgium)

    • Reply
      kami
      11/08/2019 at 09:58

      I’m really glad you enjoyed Tskaltubo and that I could help you a bit in discovering the place. All the best and happy travels!

  • Reply
    Jantine Swagerman
    23/08/2019 at 09:44

    Hi Kami
    We stayed in Tskaltubo in august 2019 and loved the place. A very special moment was when we were allowed to enter the private appartement of Stalin, part of the Legends Tskaltubo Spa Hotel. I felt as if time stood still there. As a history teacher this was an absolute highlight. Although I kept thinking: 20 milion victims. So it is good it is not a museum in his “honour” like Gori.
    Thank you for your information and enthousiasm.

    • Reply
      kami
      15/09/2019 at 15:17

      This sounds amazing, Jantine! I’m glad you enjoyed Tskaltubo too!

  • Reply
    Candia Visser
    02/09/2019 at 09:15

    Hi Kami
    I visited these abandoned sanatoriums also last year and was excited as you are. The tourist information office in Tskaltubo ( not the one in Kutaisi) was very helpfull ( a bit further in the street on the right when you enter Tskaltubo) and drawed me all the abandoned places on a citymap, also where the refugees live. They also gave me a vague direction where to find the Dacha of Stalin which I really wanted to find. It took me a long walk upside the hills from a street on the left , nobody could give me the exact information but I finally found it, that was rather amazing also, my only company in this enormous complex was a cow!

    • Reply
      kami
      15/09/2019 at 15:18

      Wow, that sounds incredible! I will make sure to visit the tourist information next time I’m in Tskaltubo (as I’m sure I will end up there again) and I will try to visit Stalin’s dacha too! Thanks for this info!

  • Reply
    kris
    28/11/2019 at 01:32

    Kami: Hi as the above comments al say Tskaltubo is a great place to visit. I was there at the end of October and had no trouble finding the buildings thanks to your amazing photos. Even got to chat with some of the people living in the buildings who were lovely. Also it was a Public Holiday for the autumn and there was a festival on. Dancing, and a lot of food tasting stalls. It was a brilliant day. AND thanks to your superb blogs I had a Great time in Georgia. Kris

    • Reply
      kami
      02/12/2019 at 08:46

      I’m so happy to hear that Kris! Tskaltubo is such a special place!

  • Reply
    nano
    16/12/2019 at 23:59

    Tskaltubo, my small and beautiful city, eagerly await visitors , thank you for this article ?❤

    • Reply
      kami
      17/12/2019 at 09:59

      Thank you for your comment. Tskaltubo is such a great place, I really do hope more and more people will visit the city!

  • Reply
    Gerasimos
    03/08/2021 at 13:01

    This poat is so helpful! Especially the map you provided. I can’t wait to visit these places

    Thank you

    • Reply
      kami
      25/11/2021 at 17:09

      I’m glad you found it useful! All the best!

  • Reply
    Cma
    03/02/2022 at 10:11

    Wow! This doubled my enthusiasm as I am going there in two weeks.I was reluctant to include this in my itinerary due to safety concerns but as a lover of abandoned places I had to do it too.I m planning yo stay at Tskaltubo spa resort and spend a full day there.Thanks for the map too!

    • Reply
      kami
      03/02/2022 at 20:03

      You will enjoy Tskaltubo for sure, this is such a great place to visit and all the abandoned places are really incredible. Enjoy your time there!

  • Reply
    Global Treats
    27/05/2022 at 22:13

    i’m heading there in a couple of days. i’ve been travelling around europe for 10 months and used your site a lot. great work. thanks!

    • Reply
      kami
      08/06/2022 at 09:54

      Thank you, that’s really kind of you! I hope you enjoyed Tskaltubo!

  • Reply
    Ogerpina
    02/07/2022 at 16:33

    Hi Kami,

    Thank you for your post! Your article is a big contribution to have more tourists/enthusiasts visit Tskaltubo! Thank you!
    I am currently staying here @ my husband’s relatives house and planning to go around the town to explore more. I found your recommendations very insightful.
    From my side – I would highly recommend to visit the radon mineral water baths and therapy. Springs #6 in particular.
    You will not regret.

    • Reply
      kami
      05/07/2022 at 08:46

      Thank you so much for your nice comment and for the recommendation! All the best!

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