Abastumani is a small Czarist-era spa town and Soviet-built astrophysical observatory in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region.
Relatively undiscovered by foreign tourists, Abastumani was a thriving spa and resort town during the last decades of the Russian czars. Today it sits quiet for most of the year waiting for the summer rush of Georgian tourists who come to breathe it's clean air and walk in the pristine forests.
Abastumani is reached by either taxi or marshutka (mini-bus) from the Akhaltsikhe bus station. The drive takes approximately 30 minutes in a taxi or around 50 minutes in the marshutka depending on how many stops it makes.
The lower town is 7 km from one end to the other and relatively flat so it is easily walkable. The observatory is 4 km above the town. To reach it you can either take a cable car which has a sporadic schedule, or walk one hour up a trail or a little longer by road.
There are many wooden, mostly abandoned, Czarist-era buildings to view and photograph. Visit the Czar's Bath that is now under renovation but the guard will probably let you look around. Ride up the cable car and walk around the surreal and seemingly abandoned astrophysical observatory complex. The Romanov palace complex was probably once a great site but it barely warrants the walk out of town to visit them. Of the three original buildings only one remains in its former state and lies fenced off, without any windows and is slowly deteriorating. Several years ago one building caught fire and is being rebuilt. The main house was sold to private owners who have altered the original appearance beyond recognition.
- Forest Walk. Walk in the dark forest surrounding the observatory and look for animals such as bear and wolves.
- Astrophysical Observatory. Visit the astrophysical observatory and look at the stars and moon through the old telescopes. The moon is best seen when it is half because you can see the shadows of the craters better.
- Hiking. Hike the Abastumani loop trail in the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.
- Czar's Bath. Visit the Czar's Bath at night and get the caretaker to let you soak in the therapeutic spring water with friends and some local wine.
- Mountain Biking. Rent mountain bikes from the Abastumani Tourism Association and ride down the mountain from observatory to the town.
- Cable Car. Ride up (or down) the Soviet-era cable car from the town to the observatory and get a bird's eye view of the surrounding region.
- Local Homestay. Stay with a local family and eat the traditional Georgian food and hospitality.
- Horseback Riding. Rent horses and have a guided ride in the forest.
- Tamara's Castle. Explore the ruins of Tamara's Castle sitting on the ridge high above the town.
There is a small bazaar on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday from 08:00-12:30 where you can buy local products such as fresh cheese, milk, vegetable, wine, and honey.