Imereti encompasses an area of 6,365 sq. km and has a population of 770,000. Separated from Kartli by the Likhi Range, Imereti is the first western province you'll enter driving toward the coast from Tbilisi.
Imeretians have the reputation for being great talkers and jokers, who emphasize their effusive outpourings with an abundance of hand gestures and facial repressions. The Imeretians are known as the most voluble and the most temperamental people in Georgia, and they also consider themselves the most hospitable. A fellow named Chichikia is the hero of all their jokes and tales, and they use him to make fun of others and themselves. They consider themselves the most hospitable and polite of Georgians. They also are known to be the most temperamental.
The history of Imereti is linked to the larger picture of the combined western provinces and throughout history portions of its territory belonged to both Abkhazia and Samegrelo. In the sixth century ВС it was the heart of the Kingdom ol Colchis. The history of this province is perhaps most conveniently understood from looking at the fate of its capital, Kutaisi.
Site of the ancient kingdom of Colchis, and famous as the destination of Jason and the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece, western Georgia has always acted as a conduit for influences from the west into the Caucasus, from the Greeks to St Nino to the Ottoman Turks.
For long periods ruled separately from eastern Georgia, this region was also where the great united Georgian kingdom of the 11th and 12th centuries got its start. Georgia’s two largest cities after Tbilisi – Kutaisi and Batumi – are here, and the country’s lovely semitropical Black Sea coast and the border with Turkey ensure a steady stream of visitors. The coast, especially vibrant, charming Batumi, has become a dynamic holiday and commercial area since Georgian independence. There’s still a standoff in Abkhazia, where civil war and secession have caused enormous tragedy and suffering.
The history of western Georgia often unfolded along very different lines from that of the eastern part of the country. Separated from each other by the Likhi Range, the major bridge between the mountains of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus, geographic location often proved tantamount to destiny as both parts of Georgia saw wave after wave of invaders from near and far. As you drive from Tbilisi toward the Black Sea Coast, you enter the western part of the country once you have crossed the Surami Pass and arrived at Imereti.
The four historical provinces of this region share many similarities, not the least of which are their coastal position on the Black Sea, the beneficence of a subtropical climate, their early contact with the classical world through Greek and Roman colonizers and soldiers, and the devastation suffered at the hands of the Ottoman Turks over a 300-year period. As great as the similarities, however, are the differences. The history of each province is extremely complicated. Over a 3,000- year period many boundaries shifted and kingdoms changed.
Today, Kutaisi, the second city of Georgia, is an attractive friendly city which has a few creature comforts to offer the traveller.