About Sights – Abanotubani Sulphur Baths
The “Abanotubani” is the name given to the district in the Old Town of Tbilisi where there is a whole street (Abanos kucha) of public bathhouses that use the sulphurous waters of the many hot springs in this area.
Abanotubani is the place, where according to legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s falcon fell, leading to the discovery of the hot springs and, subsequently the founding of a new capital.
The bathhouses are located below ground level with only beehive-like domes visible on the surface.
The above-ground Orbeliani bathhouse has a Central Asian feel to its blue-tile mosaic facade.
What happens inside? This depends on whether you choose to use the communal baths or a private bathing room. If you choose to use the cheaper communal baths (separate ones for men and women) everyone will be naked so more modest bathers may prefer to take a private bathing room.
There are locker rooms for users of the communal baths. Your clothes go in a locker, which the attendant shuts with a key. Start with a shower, take a dip in the hot pool, relax in the steam room and cool down in the cold water pool. Repeat as necessary.
Massages by a Mekise (Masseur) are available but don’t expect a Turkish style massage; the massages here are more like a thorough scrubbing. The Mekise uses a special sponge full of foam and scrubs off old skin with a glove that is made of mane. It is very refreshing.
How much does it cost? At the time of writing this, prices for the communal baths were 3 lari, private rooms cost between 15-80 lari per hour (depending on size of room). A massage cost between 5-20 lari.
Any other advice? Bring your own towel and beach sandals, though these can be hired for a small fee. You should also bring your own shower gel or soap. The sulfates in the water cause rapid oxidization of metals so take care to remove jewellery.
Entrance to the Royal Baths
Sign on the wall of the Orbeliani bathhouse commemorating Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin’s visit and his quotation: “I have never encountered anything more luxurious than this Tbilisi bath”.
Sign for Bathhouse Number 5