Martvili District is one of the most beautiful corners of the Samegrelo region, and it deserves a visit. In Martvili, you can see a marvelous canyon that once captivated the aristocrats of Dadiani, enchanting waterfalls, caves, and architectural historical monuments.
Martvili Canyon – a wonder of central Georgia
The enchanting and unique landscapes of central Georgia can be observed in the easternmost part of Samegrelo – Martvili. The main and significant attraction that draws tourists to the region is the famous canyon.
Martvili Canyon is famous not only for rafting on the Abasha River in the enchanting surroundings of rocks formed over millions of years. This is the place where traces of the camps of primitive-communal tribes have been discovered. Fossilized dinosaur bones have been found on the riverbanks, providing further evidence of their presence in the territory of modern Georgia millions of years ago.
Certainly, such magically beautiful places could not escape the attention of the Dadiani princely family, rulers of the Principality of Samegrelo and sometimes the kingdom. Catherine Chavchavadze, the mistress of the Dadiani house, loved to splash in the water here. The secluded riverbank in the canyon was considered the bathing place of the princely family.
At present, access to the bathing area itself is closed, but a special platform has been created from which you can admire this place and take photos:
The canyon is located north of Martvili between the villages of Gachedili and Inchkhuri. The length of this natural masterpiece is just over two and a half kilometers, and the depth ranges from 20 to 40 meters. In its course, the river descends along the ledges, forming small but very beautiful waterfalls.
The canyon consists of two parts: upper and lower, separated by a small shallows. Rafting on inflatable boats is carried out in the upper canyon, while the lower part of the canyon is used for walks and swimming. Martvili Canyons are an ideal place for photo and video shooting.
Martvili is an excellent region for hiking. You can wander for weeks along the forested mountain slopes of this area and see many wonderful natural formations. Some travel agencies offer 2-3 day tours to Martvili. Undoubtedly, such a journey can leave a lasting impression.
Martvili Canyon on the map:
Martvili Canyon – Prices
Currently, as of january 2024, the prices for tourists are as follows:
Boat ride – 15 GEL. Adult entrance ticket – 20 GEL. For children aged 6 to 18 – 5 GEL. Discounts are available for students and local residents.
Earlier, it was possible to go quite far into the canyon with private boat operators. Now, the route has become a bit shorter. Nevertheless, this canyon is so beautiful and unique that it is definitely worth a visit.
I strongly recommend taking a boat because almost all the beauty is along the route. All the best photos in this article were taken from a boat.
Photos of the Martvili Canyon
This canyon is so beautiful that you bring back a huge number of splendid shots. Below is a small photo report from the last trip.
Canyon viewpoint platforms:
Note: the floor on the platform, which hangs over the abyss, is made of iron mesh. But the height is not very significant, so even children were not afraid.
The deeper the canyon, the less light reaches there. And the water looks more beautiful. In areas where direct sunlight hits the water, it is not as blue.
View of the canyon from the path leading to the Dadiani Bath:
Photos taken during a boat trip:
Martvili Canyon: how to get there
A self-guided trip to Martvili on public transport is quite a cumbersome task. It’s better to start the journey from Kutaisi, where minibusses to Martvili depart approximately every hour, and the ticket costs 4 GEL ($1.5), with a travel time of about an hour.
The Kutaisi bus station is a microbus chaos, so it’s better to ask drivers where the minibusses to Martvili stop. People in Georgia are attentive to guests, so everyone will help.
If you inform the minibus driver, he will stop the vehicle at the right place and show you which way to go.
Minibusses from Batumi to Martvili also operate, with a travel time of about 3 hours. However, keep in mind that it won’t be possible to return on the same day, so take your time and visit the Chkondidi Monastery. It’s also worth staying for a day and going to the village of Gordi (20 km from Martvili). There is the Okatse Canyon. Believe me, it’s worth it. Just don’t forget to arrange accommodation in advance.
Perhaps the most convenient way to see the canyon is to buy a tour.
Where to eat deliciously near the canyon
Megrelian cuisine is one of the brightest and most distinctive regional cuisines in Georgia. The stars of this region are Elardzhi and Megrelian kharcho.
Elardzhi – in simple terms, it is mamaliga (known as hominy) made from cornmeal cooked with special cheese. Thanks to this, the substance becomes very elastic and incredibly tasty! Some manage to stretch Elardzhi for more than half a meter!
Megrelian kharcho is a dish of beef cooked in a sauce of walnuts and spices. Traditionally, these two dishes are ordered together as they complement each other perfectly.
Not far from the canyon, there is a restaurant on the riverbank that has been popular for many years. I myself, every time I visit Martvili, make sure to stop by here. Because I haven’t tasted better Elardzhi anywhere else!
As a secret to the whole world, I share this location: Sanapiro restaurant.
What to see near the Martvili Canyon
Motena Cave is located 3.5 kilometers from the canyon, and it is not easily accessible. To reach it, you’ll have to walk from the village of Pirveli Balda. The cave is not developed for tourists like Prometheus Cave and is not illuminated, making it interesting for speleology enthusiasts and those seeking a bit of safe adventure. The cave is inhabited by bats, spiders, and insects.
The front part of the cave has collapsed, so it might resemble a grotto. Upon entering, a huge hall appears, about 30 meters wide and over 20 meters high. Passing through a small crevice, you can enter the second hall of the cave.
Like any karst formations, Motena Cave has stalagmites and stalactites. The mountain rock in which the cave is formed is travertine, something between limestone and marble. This same rock was used to build the famous Roman Colosseum.
A river flows through the cave. Visiting this place does not require special effort or equipment other than flashlights.
On the outskirts of the village, you can admire the canyon from a bridge thrown across the gap.
Toba Waterfall, Oniore, and Arsena Djordjiashvili Cave
If you don’t mind a bit of effort, you can walk to Toba Waterfall along a trail. The walk will take about 5 km. Organizing a journey through the forests, mountains, caves, and canyons of Martvili is best done for a couple of days or even a week with tents and other camping gear. There, you can see not only waterfalls and caves but also a boxwood grove where 700-800-year-old trees grow.
Unlike Motena Cave, this underground creation of nature is difficult to access, and you can only enter it with special climbing equipment, using ropes. However, if speleology enthusiasts manage to visit Arsena Djordjiashvili Cave, they won’t regret the trip. The cave is the source of Georgia’s highest waterfall, Toba, falling from a 234-meter cliff. Unfortunately, seeing the waterfall in its entirety is very difficult, almost impossible, as the water stream, descending, gets lost in the forests covering the slopes of the mountain.
The second large waterfall, Oniore, can not only be observed but also visited. Undoubtedly, the powerful water flow falling from a height of over 80 meters is awe-inspiring.
Jorcku Cave is a two-story deep grotto where traces of primitive tribes were found. Researchers also discovered fossilized skeletons of predators and other animals from prehistoric times: cave bears, leopards, bison, etc. Currently, the cave is home to bats and spiders. Rivers flow through it, one of which disappears into a crevice and emerges a few meters later as a clean, mineral spring.
But perhaps the most interesting places are:
Enchanting Okatse Canyon and majestic Kinchha Waterfalls
Zugdidi and its stunning palace of the Dadiani dynasty
Historical and architectural monuments
The most significant cultural monument is the Chkondidi Monastery – the center of spiritual life in Samegrelo. The monastery was founded in the 7th century, but numerous invasions by enemies destroyed it, so the monastery was repeatedly restored. It was rebuilt in the 10th century, and in the 13th century, it finally took shape.
The monks of the monastery, or rather, the bishops of the Chkondidi diocese, were always among the influential figures of the Abkhazian kingdom and unified Georgia. They especially distinguished themselves in the Golden Age at the court of David the Builder (advisor Georgy Chkondideli) and Queen Tamar (Antony Chkondideli – one of the ministers, later canonized as a saint).
The monastery was not just a refuge for monks; it played an important cultural and educational role. Church books of that time were copied and translated here.
The monastery is the burial place of the princely Dadiani family. The tomb of the last prince of Samegrelo, a descendant of the once enlightened family, Nikolai Dadiani, is located here.
On the monastery grounds stands the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (also called the Martvili Cathedral). It was built in the 10th century and is considered the first large temple in Georgia.
A little higher than the Martvili Cathedral, you can notice a small church, Chikvani Nativity Church, dating back to the 10th century.
During the Soviet era, the monastery was closed, but after gaining independence, it became active again. The monastery grounds are well-maintained, illuminated, and ready to welcome tourists. Since the monastery is located on a hill, the city is perfectly visible from there. Even in Soviet times, a cable car was built to the temple.
I am Victor, the founder of this site and its main, but not the only author.
Traveler and photographer. Visited more than 40 countries.
Born and raised in Batumi. I love to travel in Georgia.
More about me here.