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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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 Plaza Hotel (9.0/10 on Booking) – I stayed there shortly when my flight was delayed and can definitely recommend it
- Tskaltubo Spa Resort (8.2/10 on Booking)
- Tskaltubo Hotel Prometheus (9.0/10 on Booking)
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!
For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:
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- 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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