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Sulfur Baths in Tbilisi: A Local’s Guide for First Time Visitors

Visiting sulfur baths in Tbilisi is a must for anyone on vacation in Georgia. Their health benefits and the cultural immersion (if visiting a public bath) are a unique experience that you don’t want to miss! These historic hot springs, brimming with toasty warm and healing minerals, have been a part of Tbilisi’s identity since the very begining. I’ve visited almost every bathhouse in Tbilisi (I just love them!) so I present to you this straightforward guide to cut through the clutter to present you with what truly matters: advice on selecting the best bath experience for your stay in Tbilisi.

Key Takeaways

  • Tbilisi sulfur baths have provided therapeutic and social benefits since the 5th century, becoming a core part of local culture and heritage with a host of healing properties.

  • The sulfur baths in Tbilisi offer a range of experiences, from public communal baths to private luxurious rooms, catering to different preferences, comfort levels, and budgets, with various additional amenities such as massages and scrubs.

  • Visitor tips like arriving early, knowing what essentials to bring (soap, flip-flops, a water bottle, etc.), and understanding bathhouse etiquette to ensure a fully enjoyable sulfur bath experience.

The Allure of Sulfur Baths in Tbilisi

sulfur baths in Tbilisi
sulfur baths in Tbilisi

Tbilisi’s sulphur baths offer a unique spa experience that goes beyond relaxation. Nestled in the oldest part of Tbilisi, these sulfur-rich hot springs have been central to Georgian culture for centuries, playing roles in relaxation, socialization, business, and even matchmaking.

More than just therapeutic spots, a sulphur bath is a key cultural experience, making them a must-visit destination in Georgia. The mineral-rich waters are believed to have healing properties, thanks to a mix of sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. This blend not only soothes the body but also enriches the soul.

It’s here that you can experience the authentic charm of these thermal baths in Tbilisi’s ancient Abanotubani district, where Tbilisi’s historic bath scene is alive and well, offering visitors an immersive and memorable Georgian spa experience.

Sulfur Baths in Tbilisi: History and Culture

The history of Tbilisi’s sulfur baths dates back to the 5th century when King Vakhtang Gorgasali discovered these natural hot springs. The story goes: the king went hunting in the densely wooded region that is now the old town of Tbilisi. During this hunting trip, a pheasant was shot down and it fell into a warm spring. When the bird was retrieved, it was found perfectly cooked by the heat of the waters.

King Vakhtang was so excited about finding the natural hot springs in this area that he decided to build a city here, naming it Tbilisi, which comes from the Old Georgian word “Tpili”, meaning warm place. And thus was the beginning of Tbilisi’s long-standing tradition of loving a nice hot bath!

The historic district of Abanotubani, where these baths are located, is famed for its quaint cobblestone streets and picturesque architecture. Landmarks like Chreli-Abano, known as Orbeliani Baths, in itself has a rich history and have hosted important historical figures like Alexandre Dumas and Alexander Pushkin.

Health Benefits

A dip in Tbilisi’s hot sulfur water is more than just a relaxing soak. These baths are known to:

  • Aid in the treatment of skin conditions

  • Soothe aching muscles and joints

  • Enhance blood circulation

  • Improve the immune system

The warm water of a sulphur bath, enriched with hydrogen sulfide, (or hydrogen sulphide depending on where you’re from), causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to an increase in heartbeat and metabolism. This enhances blood circulation and better absorption of oxygen and minerals, effectively providing pain relief.

Research shows that sulfur baths, can positively affect blood properties, including making red blood cells more flexible. Also visiting a sulphur bath can lead to:

  • Better red blood cell flexibility

  • Improved blood cell clustering behaviors

  • Faster recovery from blood cell clustering

  • Reduced tendency for blood cells to stick together

This is all very sciency and I honestly don’t know what most of this means – but it sounds good right? And let’s be honest, everyone just loves a nice warm bath!

How to Choose the Perfect Sulfur Bath Experience

Choosing the perfect sulphur bath experience is like choosing the perfect bottle of wine. It all depends on your personal preferences, budget, and what you want included.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional local experience or a private, luxurious soak, Tbilisi’s bathhouse’s have you covered. And just like picking wine, your budget plays a crucial role when selecting a bathhouse. Prices vary quite significantly, and it’s important to find an experience that aligns with how much bling you have in the bank.

But honestly, in Tbilisi prices are much more affordable than in many spas around the world – they are still a pretty good deal.

Public vs. Private Baths

Stepping into a public bath in Tbilisi you can find yourself in a space bustling with locals and tourists alike. It’s THE budget-friendly option with prices starting from 5-10 GEL. Public sulphur baths offer a more authentic local experience, but note that they’re gender-segregated and involve communal nudity, which might make some people uncomfortable – or you might be all for it!

On the other hand, private baths offer more comfort and privacy. And therefore they come with a higher price tag, ranging from 70-400+ GEL for a private room. This is the total price for a room per hour and not per person, higher priced rooms tend to fit more people fyi which then brings down the per-person price overall.

If you’re seeking a quiet, private environment, a private bath could be more to your liking. Ultimately, the choice between public and private baths depends on your comfort level, budget, and desired experience.

Amenities and Services

Visiting a sulphur bath in Tbilisi is not just about the soak alone; it’s also about the amenities and services. These range from:

  • the traditional kisi scrub

  • a variety of massages, from basic to fanicer ones like chocolate and candle massages in fancier places.

  • unique treatments like sea salt procedures and a snow room experience.

Prices for these services can vary greatly, with establishments like Chreli Abano and Gulo’s Thermal Spa offering treatments ranging from 10 to 600 GEL, depending on the treatment and the luxury of the facility.

Example of kisi scrub i found online - i can't be bothered taking a picture of me getting one!
Example of kisi scrub i found online – i can’t be bothered taking a picture of me getting one!

The standard treatment is the kisi scrub, a traditional exfoliation with a textured mitt. This is an essential part of the sulfur bath experience in my oppinion. It enhances the skin’s condition and overall wellness, with an average price between 10 to 20 GEL (paid in cash direct to the person). I also love to follow up a scrub with a massage where they fill a pillow case with soap suds and sud you up for a bubbly rub down – love it! Oh! be prepard to to have loads of hot water poured over you at the end which is tingly and exhilarating all at the same time.

When choosing a sulphur bath to go to, remember to consider not just the bath itself but also the range of amenities and services on offer.

Our Top 5 Sulfur Baths in Tbilisi to Visit

Best Sulphur Baths Georgia
Best Sulphur Baths Georgia

Tbilisi is dotted with numerous sulfur baths, and picking the right one can be a bit daunting. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of our top 5 sulfur baths to visit in Tbilisi to help you out a bit with making your own decision. Each offers a unique experience and ambiance so see which one fits your style best.

You can choose from the luxurious Chreli-Abano and King Erekle’s Bath for a piece of tranquil luxury, or Gulo’s Thermal Spa, also there’s the historic No. 5 Sulfur Bathhouse. Here’s a closer look at what each of these highly recommended sulfur baths offers.

Chreli-Abano (Orbeliani Baths)

Chreli-Abano, (Orbeliani Baths). One of the best sulfur baths in Tbilisi

Chreli-Abano, also known as Orbeliani Baths, is like a grand tearoom, known for its Persian-inspired architecture and storied history. Frequented by notable historical figures like Alexander Pushkin and Alexandre Dumas, a visit to Chreli-Abano offers a luxurious dip into history.

The bathhouse has a variety of rooms tailored for different group sizes, with prices ranging from 100 to 600 GEL per hour.

We usually just book the N1 room as it has a hot and cold bath, sauna and a lovely atmosphere for 200 gel per hour.

However if you’re going BIG then their Royal and VIP Apartments are like exclusive lounges, accommodating up to 12 and 9 guests respectively, with amenities including large hot and cold pools, a bar, massage room, and both Finnish and Turkish saunas. A unique feature of the Royal appartment is the ‘Snow Room,’ simulating natural snow, fog, and blizzard conditions (extra cost). I haven’t visited the Royal apartment yet but I have booked the VIP apartment a few times and it’s always a lovely option for large groups of friends.

N1 Bath - Orbeliani Sulfur Bath Tbilisi
N1 Bath – Orbeliani Sulfur Bath Tbilisi

Advance reservations are a must! and can be easily made through their website or you can call speak with someone who knows English to help with you booking.

In addition to bathing facilities, Chreli-Abano provides a variety of massage services, including chocolate massage, candle massage, and traditional peeling known as kisi.

Gulo’s Thermal Spa

Gulo’s Thermal Spa offers a genuine spa experience with its traditional Georgian architecture, characterized by iconic domed roofs. The spa features authentic wall mosaics and faux-marble pools, combining beautiful aesthetics with cleanliness (just remember with all of the thermal baths – some of them are old – but that doesn’t mean they are not clean!).

At Gulo’s Thermal Spa, you are welcomed by friendly staff (most of the time) and you can of course book a high-quality kisi scrub.

With its authentic atmosphere, Gulo’s Thermal Spa provides a tranquil getaway right in the center of Tbilisi. Calling to make a reservation is a must – they are pretty useless replying on Facebook messenger.

No. 5 Sulfur Bathhouse

Offering public baths at 10 GEL for men and 6 GEL for women, No.5 provides a cost-effective way to enjoy Tbilisi’s sulphur baths. For a more private experience, prices range from 70 to 110 GEL.

I have to admit I haven’t actually visited the pubic baths here, but I have booked a private room quite a few times and the rooms are full of beautiful mosiacs, are very clean, and they’ve even completed some renovations recently that have added a small sauna to some of the rooms.

No. 5 Sulfur Bathhouse delivers a straightforward and genuine bathing experience that is great value for money. Call to book a room in advance but this is not needed when visiting the public rooms.

Phone: 032 272 20 90

King Erekle’s Bath

King Erekle’s Bath is for when I really want to splurge! It offers a luxurious experience reminiscent of a modern spa, but still blending the feel of contemporary spaces with traditional Tbilisi bathhouse elements. The interior is spotless and sleek, presenting a modern twist on classic designs.

King Erekle’s Bath provides a fashionable, contemporary alternative to Tbilisi’s more traditional and aged sulphur baths. Reservations are a must.

Bohema Sulfur Bath (Mirzoyev Bath)

Bohema Sulfur Bath, also known as Mirzoyev Bath, is adorned with artwork that depicts the historic cityscape of Tbilisi, reflecting its deep connection with local heritage. Its minimalist interior is designed to create a calm and orderly atmosphere, ideal for those who cherish tranquility.

Catering especially to couples, Bohema Sulfur Bath offers private rooms to enhance the intimate experience. Professional massage services, performed by therapists skilled in Georgian techniques, help to relax the body and improve blood circulation, contributing to a deeply soothing experience.

Making a booking here can be a bit more challenging as there might not be someone who speaks English if you call. I usually try messaging them on Facebook or getting a friend who speaks Georgian to call for me.

Kiev Sulfur Spa

Renovated Sulfur bath in Tbilisi  with hot only sulphur water + shower
Renovated Sulfur bath in Tbilisi with hot only sulphur water + shower

Rounding up our top 5 is Kiev Sulfur bath, a local favourite found across the river in the heart of Marjanishvili. Kiev has a range of rooms from newly renovated modern baths to much older rooms covered in beautiful old mosiacs. They continue to renovate so I guess we’ll see what they do in the coming months.

Visiting Kiev Sulfur bath you can look forward to soaking in sulfur waters which are a much more bareable temperature than some of the others in Abanotubani, however most rooms don’t have a cold plunge bath fyi, just a shower to cool off. Some rooms do have a sauna so ask when booking if this is something you’d like included in your room. They also do offer additional services like kisi scrub, massage, etc.

Room prices are from about 70-110 GEL for an hour but they have just opened a Premium Class Room which offers hot and cold pools a finish sauna and steam room. I haven’t been yet but it looks lovely and is priced at 300 per hour for the room.

Kiev often run promotions on their facebook page so have a look as they might be running a 1+1 campaign (this is their most common deal).

Kiev Sulfur Spa is the kind of place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of city life, unwind, and refresh your senses.

Tips for Enjoying Your Tbilisi Sulfur Bath Experience

Now that you’re well-versed in the best sulfur baths to visit in Tbilisi, it’s time to prepare for your wellness experience.

Arrive at least 10-15 minutes early to your appointment to avoid feeling rushed and to allow enough time to prepare. It’s also a good idea to create a checklist of items to bring along—I often forget something myself! Make sure to follow the detailed guide provided below, which covers bathhouse etiquette and important do’s and don’ts, to ensure you respect local customs and enjoy your visit.

After soaking in the sulfur bath, take a hot shower to open the pores and wash off the sulfur odors, followed by a period of rest to maximize the therapeutic benefits. Lastly, be prepared to use either cash (if you’ve booked a scrub or massage) or card for payments as most bathhouses in Tbilisi accept both of these methods.

What to Bring

Just like packing for a trip, you need to be prepared with the essentials for your bath experience. Here are some items to consider bringing:

  • Soap, shampoo, and conditioner (not all places in Tbilisi provide these items or may offer them at an additional cost)

  • Towel to dry yourself off (most bathhouses provide larger towels for a fee)

  • Comb or hairbrush to manage your hair after the sulfur bath.

Remember to bring the following items to the sulfur baths:

  • Water bottle to stay hydrated, especially after soaking in the sulfur waters

  • Flip-flops to maintain personal hygiene and prevent slipping on wet surfaces

  • Large towel for privacy and comfort while moving between areas

  • Reusable plastic or waterproof bag for carrying wet items

  • Swimwear if you feel more comfortable – but most people do bathe naked.

  • Extra set of undergarments for changing into.

Lastly, carry a light jacket or cover-up for leaving the bathhouse, especially during colder months, as the temperature difference can be significant.

What to Leave at Home

While it’s good to know what to bring, it’s equally important to know what to leave at home. Managing personal items at the baths can be a hassle, so it’s advisable to leave valuables at your hotel. Consider leaving at home excessive cash or valuables to avoid the concern over securing them while at the baths.

Also, leave any jewelry at home or in your hotel as the water can tarnish your jewelry leaving it black – I made this mistake but luckily it was easy enough to rectify when I got home.

Etiquette and Dress Code

Just like any public space, Tbilisi’s sulfur baths have their own etiquette and dress code. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • In private sulfur bath rooms, swimwear is a personal choice, as these rooms provide locks for privacy, allowing guests the option to bathe suitably dressed or naked.

  • Cameras are permitted in private rooms; however, they are prohibited in communal areas to respect the privacy of others.

It is expected social etiquette to follow these guidelines when visiting the Tbilisi sulfur baths:

  1. Shower thoroughly before entering the bath pools, in line with local customs for hygiene.

  2. Personal massage services, provided by male or female masseurs, are a key and recommended aspect of the Tbilisi sulfur bath experience.

Sulfur Baths in Tbilisi
Mosiac: Sulfur baths in Tbilisi

Taking a dip in Tbilisi’s sulfur baths offers a distinct wellness journey that combines historical richness, cultural depth, and therapeutic benefits. Whether you opt for the luxury of Chreli-Abano, the authentic vibe of Gulo’s Thermal Spa, the cost-effectiveness of No. 5 Sulfur Bathhouse, the contemporary style of King Erekle’s Bath, or the traditional charm of Bohema Sulfur Bath, each bathhouse provides its own blend of relaxation, rejuvenation, and a touch of Tbilisi’s historical essence.

With our tips and insights, you should be ready to immerse yourself fully in this unique experience. So, are you set to explore the restorative magic of Tbilisi’s sulfur baths?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health benefits of Tbilisi’s sulfur baths?

Visiting Tbilisi’s sulfur baths can help treat skin conditions, soothe muscles and joints, improve blood circulation, and strengthen the immune system, as the warm sulfur-enriched water can dilate blood vessels and enhance metabolism. So, it’s a great way to experience pain relief and other health benefits.

What is the difference between public and private baths in Tbilisi?

Public baths in Tbilisi offer an authentic local experience with communal nudity and gender segregation, while private baths provide more comfort and privacy at a higher cost. It’s all about the level of comfort and experience you prefer.

What should I bring for my sulfur bath experience?

Make sure to bring a swimsuit (if you wish), lightweight towels, soap, a waterproof bag for wet items, and flip-flops for walking around the bathhouse. Consider also bringing a bottle of cold water 9can also be purchased there) and essential items like a reusable bag, extra undergarments, and a light jacket.

What is the etiquette and dress code for Tbilisi’s sulfur baths?

When visiting Tbilisi’s sulfur baths, remember that swimwear is a personal choice in private rooms, but necessary in public communal baths due to common nudity. It’s important to shower thoroughly before entering the bath pools as a measure of social etiquette.

How can I choose the best sulfur bath experience in Tbilisi?

To choose the best sulfur bath experience in Tbilisi, consider your preferences, budget, and desired amenities. Evaluate the atmosphere, amenities, and location in Tbilisi, and decide between a public communal bath and a private room based on your preference.

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