A practical guide to visiting Machakhela National Park from Batumi – plus all the best things to see and do in Machakhela valley.
Adjara region is the green heart of Georgia and one of the most picturesque parts of the country. From strolling through the Batumi Botanical Garden to walking the marshy boardwalks in Kobuleti or hiking in Mtirala National Park, there are countless landscapes to explore.
There’s one part of Adjara relatively few tourists get to see, and that’s Machakhela Planned National Park. It’s only an hour from Batumi by road, but it’s relatively remote and a bit more difficult to access.
It’s worth the extra effort it takes to get there, though – Machakhela is one of the most unique and precious ecosystems in the entire region, home to the ancient Colchic forests that were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2021.
On top of that, the villages here have a fascinating history steeped in folklore and heritage craftsmanship. As well as hiking, waterfalls and swimming, Machakhela has fortresses, gunsmiths’ workshops, a wonderful ethnography museum, arched Tamar bridges, and interesting vernacular architecture.
We recently got to explore Machakhela National Park with local tour company Tsitsaka Moto. Riding on mopeds, we got to go deep into the park to the furthest villages and most remote spots. This is by far the best way to see Machakhela since it’s not really possible to get around without your own vehicle.
In this post, I’ll show you the best things to see and do in the Machakhela valley, plus provide all the practical information you need to plan your own visit, either with Tsitsaka or by bus.
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Book your Machakhela National Park tour
Don’t have time to read this full guide? Here is a quick link to book the Machakhela National Park moto tour that I did and recommend → Check prices and availability here on Viator.
Watch my Machakhela National Park video
Before we start, here’s a short video we made about our day trip to Machakhela.
History of Machakhela National Park
Machakhela Planned National Park is located roughly an hour’s drive (35km) south-east of Batumi. The landscape of dense forest, wetlands and mountains is shared between Georgia and neighbouring Turkey, and protected on both sides of the border. The Turkish part is known as Borçka Karagöl Nature Park.
On the Georgian side, the park was established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. During and after WWII, the area was a militarised zone, strictly off limits to anyone who didn’t hold a special permit.
There are many reminders of this time dotted throughout the park – most obviously the pillbox guns built to protect the border zone in case Turkey decided to side with Germany. (Turkey remained neutral and the artillery was never used.)
The National Park was established to protect the area’s biodiversity (namely the Colchic forests) and also to promote ecotourism in the area. There’s now a Visitor’s Centre, three marked hiking trails, and work has been done on the only road to make the remote parts of the valley more accessible.
Homestays and small restaurants have been established by local families who live in villages on either side of the Machakhela river. Some have opened their doors to visitors for honey, cheese and wine tastings.
The community here has a unique history and a proud heritage of gunmaking (hence why the only thoroughfare is called the Machakhela Gun Road). But the thing that makes Machakhela truly special is its natural beauty.
A slice of the Amazon in Georgia
The Colchic Forests and Wetlands, presented to UNESCO in 2007 as Georgia’s first submission to the Heritage List in the nature category, are found across Western Georgia’s Adjara, Guria and Svaneti regions.
The ecosystem in Machakhela is one of the last remaining sections of a once-vast belt of tropical forest that stretched all the way across Eurasia. The virgin forest dates back 10 million years.
The landscape within the park varies from low mountains to thick forest and swamplands. Machakhela’s warm, humid climate and proximity to the Black Sea has gifted it with unique biodiversity, including more than 190 species of birds, some endangered, as well as deer, otters and bears.
Visiting Machakhela National Park from Batumi
The best time to visit Machakhela is in late May/early June or in September/October. It gets extremely hot during the summer months, so it’s best to avoid peak season.
There are a couple of ways to explore the park: either by joining a day tour with Tsitsaka Moto that includes transfers from Batumi (this is the easiest option and my personal recommendation), or by taking a city bus to Machakhela and hiking around the park.
There are now three marked hiking trails: the Archangel Mountain trail (8km), the Kokoleti trail, and the Twin Waterfall trail. All paths start from the National Park Administration Centre in Acharisagmarti village (see the location here) or from nearby Sindieti village.
While it is possible to get from Batumi to Machakhela and back in a day using intercity marshrutka buses, you’ll only have time to visit the very front part of the park. If you want to do some proper hiking or see the more interesting villages, you should plan to stay overnight at one of the guesthouses within the park.
Guesthouse Zuriko in Chkhutuneti village, near the Ethnography Museum and Hotel Chveneburi near the entrance to the park are both recommended. You can organise full board, or eat at restaurants in the villages.
How to get to Machakhela National Park from Batumi by bus or car
If you book a scooter tour with Tsitsaka Moto, the price includes transfers by private car to and from Batumi. The drive takes just under an hour.
If you decide to go DIY, there are daily marshrutka vans from Batumi to the villages inside the park.
There is one van from Batumi to Chkhutuneti, the furthest village, departing at 4pm from Batumi’s main bus station. The bus back leaves Chkhutuneti for Batumi in the early morning, around 7am. The fare is approximately 3 GEL. Check times locally.
Another option is to take one of the more frequent vans from Batumi to Keda and get out early at Acharistskali. This will only give you access to the very head of the park, though – it’s simply too far to get to Zeda Chkhutuneti and back by foot.
A private car and driver organised through GoTrip costs as little as 25 USD (same price for one-way or return to Batumi). If you want to visit Machakhela in a day but you don’t want to join a tour, GoTrip is the most streamlined and cost-efficient option.
A regular taxi to Machakhela from Batumi costs roughly 100 GEL one-way.
Exploring Machakhela with Tsitsaka Moto
The most convenient way to visit Machakhela from Batumi is by joining a 6-hour day tour with Tsitsaka Moto. There are only a couple of companies that run trips to the park from the city, and this is the only one that offers scooter tours. Having done it myself, I can’t imagine a better way to explore Machakhela then on the back of a bike.
Tsitsaka is a small family business run by a mother-and-son team who recently moved to Machakhela from Moscow. When you join a tour, you have the option of either driving your own 50cc or 125cc bike (a license is only required for the latter), or you can ride pillion with a guide.
Either way, Mark, who runs Tsitsaka, will accompany you and act as a guide throughout the day. He knows everything about Machakhela – and everyone in the villages.
It’s a small operation, but it’s incredibly well-run. Mark and the team of guides communicate via walkie talkies to ensure everything runs smoothly. Road safety is paramount, so proper helmets are provided (with a cotton bandana inside that you get to keep).
They provide drinking water and sunscreen, there’s WIFI on the mopeds, and they will organise everything on your behalf, including visits to various homes, the museum, and lunch with a local family. They’ll even organise a photographer to shadow you and take photos throughout the tour!
What to see & do in Machakhela National Park
Here’s a rundown of our trip with Tsitsaka Moto, including all the best things to do and see inside Machakhela National Park.
The Machakhela Gun Road
Your first introduction to Machakhela National Park is the Gun Road, a 50km thoroughfare that runs from Batumi to Machakhela valley, finishing in the village of Zeda Chkhutuneti deep within the park.
The name is a reference to one of Machakhela’s most beloved traditions: making flint guns.
The villages in this area have a long history of blacksmithing and wood craftsmanship that dates back to the 18th century. ‘Topi Machacheli’, as the specialty guns were known, were hand-made by local families and known throughout the region for their robustness and ability to fire far-range.
Machakhela’s craftsmen were also famed for their forged swords and daggers. Keeping a full arsenal of defensive weapons was vital for those living so close to the border with the pervasive and fierce Ottoman Empire.
On the way to the gorge from Batumi, you pass by the Machakhela Gun Monument which is dedicated to this chapter of local history. The Gun Road is the only route through the valley, a vital connection between the string of villages along the river.
Zaza’s gun workshop
Some of the families who live inside the park are descendants of Machakhela’s flint gun makers. We visited the home of one such gunsmith, Zaza, who keeps a small private museum and smithing table in the basement of his house.
Zaza was taught how to make guns by his father, but he believes the family history goes back much further than that. He doesn’t have any written records but based on artefacts he has unearthed from the family property, Zaza thinks gun manufacturing has been in his family for several generations.
Inside his workshop-museum, Zaza gave us a quick demonstration of the gun-making process: forging the barrel from locally sourced metal, hammering it on an anvil, then showing us how the different components of a classic Machakela gun are assembled. The wooden trunk, painted gold and decorated with engravings, are quite beautiful.
Zaza no longer manufactures working guns, these are just decorative items made to preserve the tradition and keep the technique alive.
Museum of Historical-Ethnography of Machakhela
Machakhela’s Ethnography Museum, located inside an old mosque in Chkhutuneti, documents the area’s gun-making traditions and other chapters of local history. There are more than 800 items on display, most donated by local families.
The museum was founded during Soviet times in 1984, when religious buildings were decommissioned and transformed for civic use. The three-story mosque itself has a 200-plus year history. Inside, carved balconies, elaborate window frames and interior frescoes are beautifully preserved, as vibrant as the day they were painted. According to the museum’s Director, restorations have never been carried out.
As well as being beautiful, the mosque’s decorations also reveal a lot about Machakhela’s cultural resistance and persistence. If you look closely, you can see grape vines, wine jugs and crucifix motifs woven into the Islamic designs – a subtle nod at the area’s Orthodox traditions.
As part of Adjara, Machakhela was one of the first parts of Georgia that was conquered by the Ottomans. Today, it’s the only district in the predominantly Muslim region where there’s no functioning mosque.
Arched stone bridges can be found all over Georgia, often nestled in leafy gorges or stretched over pretty alpine streams. Collectively, the country’s hemispheric bridges are known as ‘Tamar Bridges’, named for Queen Tamar the Great who ruled Georgia in the 12th century.
There are a handful of these medieval bridges built in Tamar’s honour within Machakhela National Park. Tskhemlara Arch Bridge is the largest and easiest to visit, lying just 2km from the tourist office.
Other bridges in Machakhela valley include Chomakhisuri Arch Bridge in Kokoleti and Chkheri Arch Bridge.
Lots of switchback rivers and streams means lots of bridges – and lots of steep rocky inclines means lots of waterfalls. Machakhela, like all of Adjara, is damp and humid, so waterfalls tumble almost year-round.
Karimana waterfall in Kveda Chkhutuneti is Machakhela’s classic postcard-perfect view. At the top of the tall waterfall comprised of huge boulders, you can see the leftovers of an old copper mine.
As part of our tour with Tsitsaka Moto, we visited the falls then took a break by the river nearby to swim in the icy cold water and lounge in the shade.
Only a few of the defensive fortresses and towers built to protect Machakhela from the Ottomans were sturdy enough to survive the rough and tumble of Adjara’s savage storms.
Chkhutuneti Fortress, constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries, is in better condition than most. Perched high above the road, you can just spot a few sections of waist-high, crumbling stone walls. At the top, a trapdoor and secret tunnel reveals itself.
We hiked up to the fortress for a beautiful view of the valley below. The snow-capped mountains in the distance are part of Turkey’s Borçka Karagöl Nature Park. The invisible border between the two countries runs somewhere in between.
The twin Chkhutuneti villages are the furthermost communities in the park. Here, you can see some wonderful examples of ‘maize barns’, stilted wooden houses built for storing corn and fruit. We also visited a hydro-powered corn mill where the mill stone is rumoured to be hundreds of years old. I’ve never seen one in action before – it’s great to watch.
The rest of the village is made up of family estates, each fringed by dense orchards and vineyards.
Lunch in a local home
Our final stop on the tour was for lunch at one such home in Chkhutuneti. We were treated to a full spread of Georgian cuisine and Adjarian specialties, including an incredible Sinori, a layered dough and cheese dish that’s particular to this region.
Served with fresh vegetables, homemade cheese, wine and kompot made from spring stone fruit, it was the perfect end to our day in Machakhela.
Needless to say I slept on the drive back to Batumi!
How to book a Machakhela day tour
The easiest way to book a tour with Tsitsaka Moto is by going through Viator. Confirmation is instant and tickets are paperless.