Tskaltubo - urbex at its best! The complete travel guide to visit the forgotten Sanatoriums of the Soviet Union
Key information at a glance
|Daily budget:||None, other than transport. We recomment to stay in Kutaisi. A night in one of the Spas start at 230GEL if you want to treat yourself|
|How long to stay:||1 day is enough to explore; add more days to get treated in one of the Spas|
|Best time to travel:||Anytime, Tskaltubo has mild climate in winter and warm summers|
|Top sights:||The Sanatoriums! Which one depends on accessibility and your risk-bearing abilities|
|How to get there:||Short drive from Kutaisi with your own car, a mini bus or a taxi; there’s a train from Tbilisi to Kutaisi as well|
What to do: Must sees in Tskaltubo
Explore the town center to get a first impression
Many of the Sanatoriums are situated next to or close to the Rustaveli Street which encloses the Central Park. It is both worth walking through the park and around it on Rustaveli Street. In the middle of it is the famous Spring No. 6, also known as “Stalin’s Bathhouse”. It was restored and is open and running as of today. To whet your appetite for what is yet to come, make sure to visit the ruins of Bathhouse No. 5 in the north-east corner of the park. Do be careful though, many of the abandoned bath houses pose a risk of falling debris or are in danger of collapsing altogether, especially if you attempt to climb up to the upper floors.
Head over to Sanatorium Savane
This ruin is located right on the other side of Rustaveli Street, when coming from Bathhouse No. 5. Savane is one of the lesser impressive bath houses and due to the use of materials that don’t stand the test of time very well, in quite a bad shape. It nonetheless immediately sparks your imagination and pull you back to the time when it was a frequented and impressive place for people to recover and recuperate. You can definitely walk through the bottom floor, but be very careful: especially in the outside hallway, where there are several cutouts to the basement.
For the adventurous: Shakhtior and Iveria
If you are feeling a little adventurous, there are two places that will definitely leave you speechless - if you are able to enter them.
The first one is Sanatorium Shakhtior, an incredible place whose stark contrast between mouldering, crumbling staircases and impeccable marble pillars that seem to resist any amount of time passing them, is the perfect scenery for wonderful photographs. Most blogs will tell you that it is impossible to enter, due to the metal fences around the property and the guards protecting it. While this is true, we got lucky that day. Upon sneaking around the entrance, we were approached by a nice Georgian who insisted we can come inside. He called for the guard who let us in. We had to pay a little fee of 20GEL pP for a “history tour” (which was 10min and in Russian). It nonetheless gave us the opportunity to explore the hotel on our own for several hours (which we think were very well spent). The building stretches over several floors, all of which are completely safe to enter from our perspective.
The most remarkable places are the big hall with the marble pillars at the south-west corner on the second floor as well as the ball room right next to it to the north. If you are really up for a challenge you can climb the “observation tower” at the very north-east corner of the building. We strongly recommend you to put on a FFP2-Mask as the room with the metal spiral stair that leads through an opening to the roof is covered in black mould. The views, however, are very rewarding featuring an excellent view over the area and Iveria, which is right next to it.
In case you are wondering about the Sanatorium’s name: Shakhter (шахтер) means “Miner” in Russian. It was common in Soviet times to build dedicated Sanatoriums for different professions, so this particularly glorious palace was built primarily for the Soviet miners.
The second one is Sanatorium Iveria which is located right next to Shakhtior. To our mind it is not as impressive as its neighbour, but still remarkably beautiful and unlike anything you have seen before. You will find many picture of this place on the internet, as it used to be easy to access. We read, however, that the property was recently bought and might not be accessible anymore. But as you know, there is only one sure-fire way to find out :)
Relax in one of the re-opened Spas
After all the Urban Exploring, you can definitely take the opportunity to relax in one of the re-opened Spas in Tskaltubo. A good overview of the different options can be found on the official page for balneological resorts in Tskaltubo. The prices are very affordable and the treatments in the Radon-Carbonate mineraled springs might help your imagination going back in time, when workers of the Soviet union flocked to famous city to recover.
Where to eat and drink: The best places in the area
While Tskaltubo is definitely better known for its Sanatoriums than for its cuisine, all the adventures in the town might have gotten you hungry. We therefore recommend you to go back to Kutaisi for food - its very close and offers great cafes and restaurants:
Restaurants / Cafes
- Tea House Foe-Foe: We spent most of our time there when we were in Kutaisi. It it cosy, affordable and has excellent WiFi (for Georgian standards)
- Cafe fleur: Nice little restaurant/ cafe for a snack or a coffee
- Lilestan ლილესთან: If you want it a little more fancy, Lilestan has excellent food. Make sure to have dinner there once
- ღვინის ბარი საფერე Sapere: Lovely atmosphere in their outside area, perfect for a cocktail
- Bikentia's Kebabery: Hungry and little time? Go for a Kebab at Bikentia’s
- Our Cafe: Their cakes are to die for - don’t miss out on them
- Georgian Cuisine Magnolia/ქართული სამზარეულო მაგნოლია: Authentic Georgian cuisine with a view on the river. We loved it there
Where to stay: Beautiful places for every budget
Unless you are planning to stay for a few days in one of the renovated Sanatoriums, we recommend again to just stay in Kutaisi. Being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, it is a beautiful place to explore on its own and has many good accommodations to offer as well.
- Nana's Home: 14-19EUR/night
- Peradia: 20-25EUR/night
- Hotel Tskhumi: 20-30EUR/night
- Gala Boutique Hotel: 35-45EUR/night
- Newport Hotel Kutaisi: 60-85EUR/night
- Grand Opera Hotel: 70-120EUR/night