The canyon-and-cave-studded landscape northwest of Kutaisi is a hugely popular destination in Georgia. From boating the emerald river at Martvili Canyon, to walking the Okatse Canyon skybridge and exploring Sataplia and Prometheus caves, this is a great opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Imereti and Samegrelo regions.
Joining a guided day tour from Kutaisi can be the most economical option – and it’s certainly the easiest way to travel in terms of logistics.
In this guide, I’ll run through what to expect when you join a day trip to the Kutaisi caves and canyons and share my recommendations for which company to go with. I’ll also provide travel tips to help you make the most of your day.
Transparency: I participated in the Canyon & Caves Day Tour as a guest of Budget Georgia. As always, all options, recommendations and criticisms are 100% my own.
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Which caves and canyons are near Kutaisi?
There are four popular caves and canyons that most people visit. All are administered by Georgia’s Agency of Protected Areas and have tourist infrastructure.
Okatse Canyon: A 2-kilometre section of deep canyon with an elevated walkway and viewing platforms. Located 50 kilometres (60 minutes) north of Kutaisi.
Martvili Canyon: A smaller, very leafy canyon with a turquoise river, boat rides and a short walking path. Located 50 kilometres (60 minutes) north-west of Kutaisi.
Sataplia Cave & Nature Reserve: A park with preserved dinosaur footprints, hiking trails, a cave and viewing platform. Located 10 kilometres (20 minutes) north-west of Kutaisi.
Prometheus Cave: An 11-kilometre cave complex with a 1.4-kilometre walking trail. Located 20 kilometres (30 minutes) north-west of Kutaisi.
These locations are spread out so it’s not possible to visit them all in one day. Most tour itineraries visit two or three sites plus lunch, and that takes up a full day. Martvili Canyon is definitely my pick of the bunch so if you only have time to visit one canyon, make it Martvili. For more, read my detailed guide to visiting Martvili Canyon.
Other popular natural landmarks in the area include Kinchkha Waterfall (75 minutes from Kutaisi) and White Cave (20 minutes from Kutaisi, near Tskaltubo). There are also lesser-known canyons and caves that are not protected and do not have tourist infrastructure, including Balda Canyon near Martvili.
Who is this day trip suitable for?
The canyons and caves are a good option for anyone who wants to get out into nature. Georgia’s Imereti and Samegrelo regions are extremely pretty, but don’t expect unbridled natural beauty or a hands-on nature experience: remember these are all built-up tourist areas that are regulated.
I particularly recommend Martvili and Sataplia for families with kids. Note that children under 5 years are not permitted to ride on the boats at Martvili.
The cave paths are dimly lit and the outdoor walking trails can be a bit slippery, so you do need to be steady on your feet. The distance you have to walk varies from 700 metres at Martvili to around 2 kilometres at Sataplia and Okatse. All paths are mostly flat and not too strenuous. Every site has stairs.
When is the best time to go?
All the caves and canyons are open year-round. In winter, Okatse Canyon is more likely to close whenever there is rain or snow. Boat trips don’t run when the rivers are high (after heavy rain), and some paths or viewing platforms may be roped off if it’s wet and slippery.
Most people visit this part of Georgia in the popular summer months when it’s hot and dry. It can get very crowded, though, and the heat can be unbearable (having visited Okatse in the middle of the day in peak summer, I wouldn’t recommend it).
The caves, by contrast, are a steady 15 degrees Celsius year-round with 98% humidity. Martvili Canyon is also very cool in summer.
Autumn shoulder season is a very pleasant time to go, especially in early to mid October when Western Georgia’s beautiful fall colours come out.
How much does it cost?
This is not exactly a budget day trip option. Ticket prices for the Protected Areas are quite dear, and there are other costs to consider. Add transport, and it starts to add up pretty quickly.
Entrance fees are as follows:
- Martvili Canyon: 17.25 GEL entrance + 15 GEL boat ride (optional)
- Okatse Canyon: 17.25 GEL entrance + 12 GEL for off-road transfer to the canyon (optional)
- Prometheus Cave: 23 GEL entrance + 17.25 GEL underground boat ride (optional)
- Sataplia Nature Reserve: 17.25 GEL entrance
How to visit the caves & canyons
Some of these locations can be reached by public transport (marshrutka van) from Kutaisi. But most require a taxi for at least part of the journey.
- Kutaisi to Prometheus Cave: Van to Tskaltubo + van to the cave (3.20 GEL total; 45 minutes travel time).
- Kutaisi to Martvili Canyon: Van to Martvili + taxi to the canyon (4 GEL + 50 GEL; 2.5 hours travel time).
- Kutaisi to Okatse Canyon: Van to Khoni + van to Gordi + walk 2km (4 GEL total; 2+ hours travel time).
- Kutaisi to Sataplia: Local bus/van to Banoja + local taxi (2 GEL + 10 GEL total; 45 minutes travel time).
It’s logistically impossible to visit more than one or two of these places in a day using public transport – journey times are too long and connections too complex.
Recommended day trip: Kutaisi Caves & Canyons Tour with Budget Georgia
There are dozens of companies that offer this day trip. I recommend travelling with Budget Georgia. They have guaranteed departures every day of the year (no minimum number of guests), the guides are friendly and professional, and prices are very fair. I personally know the owner, Giga, to be a responsible and reliable person. I always feel safe travelling with his drivers.
Their summer group tour (available from April to October) visits Martvili Canyon, Okatse Canyon and Prometheus Cave with a lunch stop at a local restaurant. It costs 60 GEL per person including transfers to/from Kutaisi.
Their winter group tour (available from November to March) swaps Okatse Canyon for Sataplia Nature Reserve. It costs 60 GEL per person.
Private tours are also available throughout the year.
Entrance costs are not included in the price, so make sure you budget in ticket prices and other expenses. In summer, the total cost with boat rides and jeep transfer at Okatse would be 151.75 GEL plus lunch (20-30 GEL). So you’re looking at around 175 GEL per person. In winter, you’re looking at 149.75 GEL plus lunch.
I recently went along for the winter tour to Martvili, Sataplia and Prometheus Cave. I really enjoyed the experience – we had a small group (just two of us in fact) and Giga was a great guide. The tour was reasonably paced and I didn’t feel rushed. I was very happy that the tour was timed to drop us back in Kutaisi before dark because I really hate being out on the road after dark.
Things to consider before you go
- Signage is sparse, so it pays to go with a guide. (At Prometheus Cave and Sataplia, the entrance cost includes a park guide.) If your group is large, it can be hard to hear the commentary. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and press your guide for more information.
- All activities are weather-dependent. If the river level is high, the boats won’t be running at Martvili. If it’s raining, the glass walkway at Sataplia won’t be open and Okatse Canyon may be completely closed. That’s just the way it goes.
- Be mindful of what’s included in the tour price and extra costs you have to cover yourself.
- All ticket offices accept credit/debit card as well as cash.
- Bring snacks and drinking water with you. The shops and stalls near the canyons are usually overpriced.
Final words: Is the Kutaisi Caves and Canyons day trip worth it?
As I’ve said before, the infrastructure at these Protected Areas is a bit heavy handed and everything feels quite commercial as a result. I’m not saying the landscape has been ‘ruined’, but it’s definitely not pristine, raw beauty.
Personally, I think Martvili Canyon is extremely pretty and worth the ticket price (including the boat ride). Okatse I’m not so fond of. I enjoyed Sataplia more than I thought I would – actually I rate it very highly because it offers a combination of caves, views, and beautiful walking trails. If you’re into caves, Prometheus Cave is quite spectacular. If you’re not into caves, it’s just another cave.
At the end of the day it’s a matter of personal taste. If you enjoy the outdoors and the caves and canyons near Kutaisi are on your bucket list, then an organised day trip is the easiest and most budget-friendly way to travel. Having been on the tour with Budget Georgia, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to other travellers.
Explore more options – including alternative and lesser-visited destinations – in my guide to the 15 best day trips from Kutaisi (coming soon!).
Where to stay in Kutaisi
If it’s your first time visiting Kutaisi, I highly recommend choosing a hotel that’s located in the city centre. See this neighbourhood guide for detailed recommendations, or check out my top Kutaisi accommodation picks below.
UP-SCALE: Best Western Kutaisi (⭐ 8.3). Situated at the end of the White Bridge, footsteps from Kutaisi centre, this hotel has a magnificent rooftop bar-grill with river views. Quality service, well-appointed rooms and a generous buffet breakfast are all on-point with the Best Western brand.
More Kutaisi travel resources
- Best things to do in Kutaisi, plus my suggested Kutaisi itinerary
- Alternative things to do in Kutaisi, hidden gems & quirky attractions
- Where to stay in Kutaisi, my district & hotel guide
- Best restaurants & cafes in Kutaisi, where to eat in Kutaisi
- Kutaisi Airport to the city, best transport options
- Guide to Tskaltubo, the best day trip from Kutaisi
- Staying at Tskaltubo Spa Resort, a refurbished sanatorium
- Guide to Chiatura, and the famous Soviet cable cars near Kutaisi
- Visiting Baia’s Wine, a popular vineyard near Kutaisi
- How to travel from Kutaisi to Tbilisi, detailed transport guide
- How to travel from Kutaisi to Batumi, detailed transport guide
You might also be interested in…
– The ultimate Georgia itinerary: Four detailed & custom designed itineraries
– Places to visit in Georgia: 35+ unique destinations around the country