In recent years Georgia has seen an enormous increment in tourism, and while the majority of visitors often prefer to visit the big cities, like Tbilisi and Batumi, or the mountainous regions of Svaneti and Kazbegi, many other places have gained large attention, and are now considered staples of Georgian tourism.
The Martvili Canyon truly represents these intermediate places for what they all have in common; offering something different and a short but enjoyable activity in a unique scenery.
For the past decade, the Martvili Canyon has been one of the most popular day trips from Kutaisi, but many tourists come from Batumi and Svaneti as well, using the humid and protected environment of the canyon to escape the summer’s heat.
So, what is it? is Martvili Canyon worth visiting? Let’s find out together.
Table of Contents
Overview of Martvili Canyon
Situated 45 km from Kutaisi, in the village of Inchkhuri, the Martvili Canyon is an official Natural Monument and one of the most visited attractions in Georgia.
The gorge is 2.4 kilometers long, its walls can vary from 20 to 40 meters high, and it’s only 5 to 10 meters wide for the most part.
This combination of the high walls of the gorge and its narrow passages create a surreal scenery, especially with the lush vegetation that characterizes the Imereti region and the blue waters of the Abasha river.
In the middle section of the canyon, there is a 25-meter waterfall that is the main highlight of the visit for most people, and also the turning point for the boat tours.
The contrast between the calm waters at the start of the boat ride and the power of the waterfall is fascinating, especially in such a short distance.
A visit to Martvili Canyon usually comprehends a boat tour, which lasts around 25 minutes, and a walking tour of the gorge, where you can appreciate the scenery from all angles.
The walk also brings you through a few limestone bridges still standing and to Dadiani’s Pool, a part of the canyon where the 19th-century royals used to bathe and relax. Their private limestone stairs can still be seen there.
This part of Georgia is not among the most visited, which is a shame, as, in my opinion, the Imereti and Samegrelo regions offer some of the most authentic experiences in the country, where the culture and beauty of this land transpire at every corner.
Martvili Canyon has started to bring more visitors to these regions in the last few years, as it’s a perfect destination to connect to other sights. But still, many of the gems are still left to discover, often because of the lack of a good transport system.
A rented car goes a long way here.
Martvili Canyon Opening Hours
Opening hours in the winter: 10:00-17:00
Opening hours in the summer: 10:00-18:00
Day off: Monday
How much is entry to Martvili Canyon?
The ticket price in Martvili Canyon is considerably higher than most other attractions in Georgia, especially for the full experience.
The following is the entrance fee, which includes the walking tour.
Children under 6 years old: FREE
Children (6-18 years): 5.50 GEL
Foreign Adults: 17.25 GEL
Georgian citizens and residents: 10.35 GEL
Boat Tour Ticket Price: 15 GEL
1 GEL = around 2.7 American Dollars
The tickets have to be purchased at the entrance of the canyon, and they accept both credit card and cash.
Beware of Scams
Georgian attractions are rarely swarmed by people trying to sell you overpriced experiences or souvenirs, but Martvili Canyon is one of the sole spots where this happens on the regular.
Many visitors over the years, me included, have been approached by unofficial vendors in the parking lot right in front of the Visitor Center trying to sell you activities in the canyon for prices that have no business being uttered, even four times the official rates.
I simply want to make you aware of this and to tell you to avoid their tries. Go directly to the entrance and get the official tickets.
Martvili Canyon Boat Ride
The Martvili Canyon boat ride usually lasts around 25 minutes, and it covers a total distance of 700m for the round trip.
As written in a previous section, the ticket for the boat ride is an additional fee to the entrance one, amounting to another 15 GEL.
The main highlight and turn-around point of the boat ride is the waterfall in the middle section of the canyon, but the whole trait is particularly scenic, so expect to take a lot of photos!
The inflatable boats can host up to 6 people, who can also be the driving force, as you can participate in rowing while the guide sits in the back.
I fully recommend taking the boat tour, as it’s the only way to see the park in its full beauty and in its entirety. Going between the steep walls of the canyon on the blue waters of the Martvili Canyon makes it worth a visit, it’s enchanting.
It’s also worth noting that people under 1m in height can’t get on the boat ride, and that in case of rain the service is suspended.
The entrance ticket includes a walking tour on the 700m stone-paved trail that passes above Martvili Canyon.
During the peaceful walk, you’ll pass over 2 limestone bridges, 3 platforms placed at the most strategic spots for taking in the views or capturing them with a photo, and several fairytale-like scenes.
Don’t think about leaving without going on the short walk just because you’ve already done the boat tour. They offer two different points of view, and since you’re there you might as well make the most of it.
How to get to Martvili Canyon from Kutaisi
The options to get to Martvili Canyon from Kutaisi are limited, but with a little planning and time, it can easily be done.
The most common way is to use public transport, which requires a combination of marshrutka and taxi.
Marshrutkas for the village of Martvili leave every day, once every hour starting from 8 am, from the main bus station in Kutaisi at the railway station. The ticket costs 5 GEL and reaching Martvili takes almost 2 hours.
Once there you need to get a taxi from where the Marshrutka leaves you. A taxi ride to Martvili Canyon costs around 50 GEL for the whole car, which is clearly a bit expensive.
If you’re able to split the cost with a group of your own, that’s great, otherwise, you can try to unite forces with other tourists, in the summer.
The same thing needs to happen to leave, but it should be easier to split a taxi from the canyon.
Getting to Martvili Canyon by car
If you are planning to rent a car, let me first congratulate you. Georgia is a great country to explore by car, and although some dangers might come with it, some of the best places are only accessible through it.
A fantastic road trip you can’t miss is the one along the Georgian Military Highway, connecting Tbilisi to Kazbegi. Some of the best sights of Georgia await you there.
The Imereti and Samegrelo regions are especially suited for a road trip, as their beauty can’t realistically be accessed via public transport. With their many canyons, waterfalls, caves, natural springs, and interesting villages, they are perfect for a few days of relaxation away from the big towns.
Getting to Martvili Canyon by car takes more or less an hour, and the road is safe and straightforward. Once there there are a couple of free parking lots.
When is the best time to visit Martvili Canyon?
The tours operate all year round, and the canyon is beautiful during all of the seasons due to its humidity and conformation, which permit it to show off its greenery uninterrupted.
During the summer the shade of the gorge is often used to escape from Kutaisi’s or Zugdidi’s heat, which is why Martvili Canyon is one of the most popular day trips from either town.
That also translates to bigger crowds, which can become an inconvenience in such a small park. So time your visit wisely, during the week if possible.
The main season runs from April to November, and the canyon is particularly charming in Autumn.
The peculiar conditions of the gorge make it a viable day trip all year round, even in the winter. However, consider that in rainy or snowy weather the boat tour will be discontinued, and the walking tour might be inaccessible or too slippery.
Is Martvili Canyon Worth Visiting?
Despite its beauty and accessibility, I consider Martvili Canyon to be worth it only in certain contexts.
Overall, if you’re in Kutaisi for a few days, I can recommend going to the canyon and pairing it with a visit to the lesser-known Okatse Canyon or Prometheus Cave, as all these attractions don’t take up too much time and can lead to a very relaxing day. This is especially true during the summer, as Martvili Canyon can serve as a refuge from the scorching heat of the region.
However, if you are thinking of going out of your way to make it in the Martvili area, for example as far as coming from Tbilisi, I would advise against it.
Georgia has an incredible variety of interesting places all over its territory, and I believe there to be an extensive list of options that are more impressive than Martvili Canyon, especially if you are on a tight itinerary, lasting one or two weeks.
Another reason why I think of this experience as not worth it in some scenarios is the duration of it. Getting there by public transport can take more than the tour itself.
A boat ride usually lasts at most 30 minutes, and if you pair it with a relaxed walking tour on the catwalks, with photo stops and everything, you have about 1/1h30m of action. Also, consider that you would be paying considerably more than any other activity in Georgia.
If you’re looking for a spot to relax and take it easy, or you’ve just spent some days in Svaneti and want a change of scenery, then I’m not opposed to the idea of Martvili. It’s an enjoyable experience, overall.
Other things to do around Martvili Canyon
Visiting Martvili Canyon doesn’t take up too much time, and the surrounding area has much more to offer, from other canyons to waterfalls and caves.
If you want to visit two or more attractions on the same day but don’t have your own vehicle, the best options are to get a car with a driver, a guided tour, or to overpay on taxi rides.
Okatse Canyon & Kinchkha Big Waterfall
Entrance fee for adults: 17,25 GEL
Another natural beauty of Georgia, Okatse Canyon has truly been competing with Martvili Canyon for the spot of most popular day trip from Kutaisi, in recent years.
Okatse Canyon has a wonderful 700m catwalk that leads from the entrance to the main viewing platform over the 100m deep gorge.
It’s a different experience from Martvili Canyon, which is why the combination works so well.
It’s possible to swim in Okatse Canyon, and relaxing in the waters between the mountains while taking in the moment is priceless.
Just 5 minutes distance from Okatse there’s the Kinchkha Waterfall, one of the highest in Georgia. Also protected by a visitor center, it offers amazing views of the uncontested waterfall from a catwalk that passes right by the river.
Getting to Okatse Canyon with public transport is similar to Martvili Canyon, although here you have to get to Gordi with a marshrutka, and then get a taxi to the canyon.
The taxi actually stops 2km before the entrance, as the road isn’t suited for it. You have to hike the last part, possibly even if you have your own 4×4.
Entrance fee for adults: 23 GEL
Boat tour: 17,50 GEL
The 70-million years old karst cave has recently become one of the most visited spots in the country. Everybody that’s ever visited a cave knows the excitement of entering a new world, and Prometheus Cave is no different.
You can enter 6 halls full of stalactites and stalagmites, and cover a distance of 1.4 kilometers, after which you can either go outside walking or with a boat ride costing an additional fee.
It’s called Prometheus Cave because the Greek character was supposedly chained to the top of a mountain in the area of the cave. It was named as such during the preparation for its opening as a tourist attraction in 2011.
In recent years, Martvili Canyon has become one of the most visited spots in Georgia and the main day trip from Kutaisi, mostly for its uniqueness and undisputed natural beauty.
The boat ride and walking tour offer some incredible views into a fairytale world that often serves as an escape from the summer’s heat.
The experience is more expensive than any usual Georgian activity, the park is tiny and the activities are short. Getting there can also take a considerable amount of time.
I consider Martvili Canyon worth it only if you have a few days to spend in Kutaisi or are doing a road trip through Imereti and Samegrelo, otherwise, I think Georgia has much more to offer.
However, don’t let my opinion stop you from exploring the beautiful canyon and its surroundings, and let me know your experience if you decide to go.