Georgia. North of the village of Martvili, the water has carved a narrow canyon into the limestone. The steep, densely vegetated slopes and the winding, turquoise river are reminiscent of a fairytale world. Let yourself be enchanted and read here some practical tips for your trip to the Martvili Canyon in Georgia.
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Tip: Are you traveling with a four-wheel camper or, like us, with Lada Niva and roof tent? Then I have a tip for a great place for the night near the Martvili Canyon at the end of the article.
Walk on historical Paths
In the 19th century the princely family Dadiani had discovered the Martvili Canyon in Georgia for themselves. They laid out a walking path along the river. Already at that time the path led over several limestone stairs and two small bridges to several viewpoints. This historic path has now been made into a walking trail about 700 meters long and starts directly at the visitor center.
The path runs parallel to the river through a shady forest. The slopes are lush with trees, bushes and ferns. The moisture allows lichens and mosses to thrive on the trees and everything is lush and green. A welcome change on the sunny and rather dusty day. Again and again we stop and soak up the beauty of Martvili Canyon. I was amazed at how different it is from the nearby Okatse Canyon, which we had visited in the morning. If you have the time, I would recommend you to just visit both canyons.
You can get to several viewing platforms via historic limestone stairs and two small bridges. At the end of the path is the largest platform with the best view. From here you look directly into the narrow canyon with its winding rock walls.
Boat Ride over the turquoise Waters of Martvili Canyon
In the past, Martvili Canyon was the bathing place of the Dadianis. How great it must have been to refresh oneself in the clear turquoise green water. However, due to accidents, bathing in the canyon is forbidden today.
On a boat tour, however, you can get almost as close to the waters of the Abasha River. The perspective from the water surface to the steep 40 to 70 meter high walls of the canyon is hard to beat.
After our walk to the viewing platform, we return the same way and continue a little further to the boat dock. There, we are equipped with life jackets, get a paddle in the hand and one minute later, we sit in a yellow rubber boat with captain. Bootsanleger. Wir werden mit Schwimmwesten ausgerüstet, bekommen ein Paddel in die Hand gedrückt und schon sitzen wir in einem gelben Gummiboot mit Kapitän.
We were lucky and got a boat with skipper for us alone (maybe because of Covid). A total of six people would fit inside. To see well then, you would have to fight for the front seat first.
During the boat tour, we tried to paddle along diligently. But I was so distracted by the natural beauty around us that I mostly put the paddle down again after three paddles and grabbed the camera. Fortunately, our captain was patient and probably did better without our interference anyway.
How to get Martvili Canyon in Georgia?
From Kutaisi, Martvili Canyon is just a stone's throw away. With your own car you will reach the visitor center after about one hour drive (47 km) from Kutaissi. It is a perfect stopover if you are on your way to Svanetia.
If you don't have a car, you can also book a day tour to Martvili Canyon from Kutaisi* . This is available in combination with Okatse Canyon and the popular Prometheus Cave, which alone are worth a visit.
Arriving at the parking lot, we were a bit disoriented at first. The visitor center is not immediately visible, instead there are a lot of providers for rafting tours. Since we only wanted to do the simple short boat ride at the bottom of the canyon, we walked past the other tour providers and the numerous souvenir stands and restaurants. Then, at the end of the trail, one can't miss the visitor center.
Tip: Check the weather forecast before visiting. In case of rain and snow, the boat tours will not take place.
Opening hours: daily from 10 am to 7 pm.
Entrance fee: for adults 17,25 GEL
Boat tour: 15 GEL
Location: At Inchkhuri village, 5 kilometers north of Martvili in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region.
What else is there in the Area?
Martvili Canyon is well signposted and is the biggest tourist attraction in the area. Not far from the canyon there is also the Martvili Monastery and the Martvili-Chkondidi Cathedral. However, since we were more interested in nature and largely stayed away from interiors due to exploding covid numbers, we did not visit either.
Kutaisi is a good starting point for many great tours. Nearby are Prometheus Cave, Okatse Canyon and exciting Lost Places and Soviet architecture at Tsakaltubo.
If you want to continue from Kutaisi to Svanetia, be sure to check out my article about our Road Trip on the Svaneti Loop. By the way, you can rent this cool Lada Niva with roof tent in Kutaisi at Overlando. What better way to discover Georgia?
Trekking sandals, waterproof bags, sun hats and everything else you might need for your trip to the Martvili Canyon in Georgia you can find at Bergzeit.
Pitch for the Night
For us, one of the highlights of the region was our campsite for the night.
We were on the road with a Lada Niva and roof tent. I had previously searched on Google Maps for a possible camping site in the quite sprawling area at Martvili Canyon. At the bank of the river Abasha I finally found it (GPS: 42°28'42.3″N 42°22'47.5″E). Here you can stand (depending on the water level of the river and the weather) in the half-dried riverbed. A gravel road initially runs parallel along the eastern bank of the river. After about 1.5 kilometers, another dirt road branches off to the left in a hairpin bend toward the river. If the river would have even less water or with a vehicle with appropriate fording depth, the river can be forded here. Here is a lot of space and we had fresh water for cooking and for a cool bath. Since no rain was predicted (not even for the upstream regions) we were also not worried that the river would rise.
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Do you want to know where the journey is going? Then I can recommend this travel guides* to you.
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Have you ever been to Georgia, maybe even to the picturesque Martvili Canyon? How did you like it? Do you have any questions about my article? If yes, then write me a comment!