The main city of Samegrelo (Mingrelia), Zugdidi is 108km northwest of Kutaisi. As the nearest Georgian city to Abkhazia, it has had to absorb a particularly high number of refugees since the 1990s (by some estimates they have doubled its population) and is a centre for Georgians who favour military action to regain Abkhazia. It was also from Zugdidi that deposed President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, himself a Mingrelian, launched his unsuccessful 1993 rebellion against the Shevardnadze government. Today Gamsakhurdia’s statue stands on the town’s central boulevard, which is named after him.
Despite this troubled recent past, today Zugdidi is a bustling and (at least outwardly) pleasant town that sees few travellers except for those heading for Svaneti, for which Zugdidi is an essential stepping stone.