Martvili Canyon (Gachedili Canyon) is one of the most-visited places in Georgia and the most popular day trip from Kutaisi.

Carved out by the Abasha river, the 2.4-kilometre gorge has 50 to 70-metre-high rock walls and several cascading waterfalls. Visitors explore the area via a 700-metre walking trail and on a short 15-minute ride in an inflatable boat.

Lots of people hate on Martvili because it is very commercial and touristy. The high ticket price certainly doesn’t help. Though it’s not my favourite day excursion from Kutaisi, I personally love Martvili Canyon and never pass up a chance to visit when I’m in the area.

Turquoise blue waters and mossy trees at Martvili Canyon near Kutaisi, Georgia.
Martvili Canyon near Kutaisi.

There are a few things that make Martvili special among Georgia’s canyons (there are lots of others in this region that I’ll get to later). Firstly, its appearance is very unique, with slender tree trunks, spindly branches and huge boulders covered in moss hanging over sparkling turquoise-blue waters. The high humidity means it’s green virtually year-round (the photos in this blog were taken in late December). It really is very beautiful.

Secondly, the history. Martvili Canyon used to be a favourite bathing spot for the Dadiani Family who ruled this part of Georgia until 1867 from their palaces in Zugdidi. They had a private staircase to access the pools which you can still see today.

This quick guide offers 10 tips for visiting Martvili Canyon, including how to get there from Kutaisi. I’ll also discuss some alternative canyons in the area and answer the question: Is Martvili Canyon worth visiting?


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12 things to know before you visit Martvili Canyon

Where is Martvili Canyon located?

Martvili Canyon is located in Gachedili village in western Georgia’s historic Samegrelo region, around 50 kilometres or 1-1.5 hours north-west of Kutaisi. The nearest town is Martvili, 4.5 kilometres or 10 minutes’ drive away.

  • Google maps pin: Click here
  • GPS coordinates: 42.457469, 42.377135

Martvili Canyon is 280 kilometres or a 4-5 hour drive from Tbilisi. It’s not feasible to visit as a day trip from Tbilisi and I don’t recommend it at all.

Martvili’s location 3.5-4 hours’ drive from Mestia makes it a convenient place to break for the night after coming down from Svaneti. This part of Georgia is supremely beautiful and lesser-visited – if you get a chance to spend a night or two here as part of your Georgia itinerary, take it.

Best time to visit Martvili Canyon

Martvili Canyon is open year-round. Unlike Okatse Canyon that closes whenever there is heavy rain or snow, Martvili is more likely to stay open during inclement weather and during the winter months.

Most people visit Martvili in the warmer summer months. It’s shady and a few degrees cooler beneath the rock walls, and thus a good place to beat the heat of the city. The downside of course is that it can be very crowded. The area is small and the walking paths are tight, so as soon as it fills up with people, it becomes quite unpleasant.

Like all popular tourist spots in Georgia, it’s better to visit out of season – there will be fewer people and more space to enjoy the trail and views. Martvili is famous for its splendid fall foliage and is one of the best places to visit in Georgia during autumn.

My most recent visit was in winter, late December, and the canyon was just as green as it was when I previously visited in spring (the surrounding hills were a little parched, though).

A small waterfall cascades over black rocks at Martvili in Georgia.
Martvili Canyon waterfall.

Martvili Canyon opening hours

Martvili Canyon has different opening hours depending on the season:

  • Spring & summer (March-September): 10am-6pm
  • Autumn & winter (November-February): 10am-5pm

To avoid crowds, I recommend visiting either first thing in the morning when the canyon opens or around lunch time. The boat ride takes 15-20 minutes, thus the latest you can take a boat out is roughly half an hour before closing time.

It’s worth mentioning that Martvili Canyon is a National Parks of Georgia Protected Area – if you want to visit the main part of the canyon, you have to go between these hours and you have to buy a ticket.

Martvili Canyon ticket price

Prices for all Protected Areas and national monuments in Georgia have gone up significantly in the past couple of years. When I first visited Martvili, tickets were around 10 GEL. Since then, it’s almost doubled.

Here are the current prices:

  • Adults: 17.25 GEL
  • Children (6-18 years): 5.50 GEL

Children under 6 years enter free. Georgian citizens and residents qualify for discounted tickets at 10.35 GEL.

Tickets are purchased at the visitors’ centre with either cash or credit/debit card. There is an option to pre-purchase tickets online through GURU.GE and skip the queue. The only time you’d need to consider pre-purchasing tickets is during the peak summer months.

You can also use the GURU website to double-check ticket prices: Here is the link.

Orange boats at Martvili Canyon in Georgia.
Boats at Marvili.

Should you take the optional boat ride?

These prices are just for entry into the canyon. If you want to do the optional boat ride, it costs an additional 15 GEL per person. This brings the total entry price to 32.25 GEL per person.

For most travellers, an extra 5 USD is nothing in the grand scheme of things. But it’s still quite expensive for what it is. So, should you fork out for the boat ride?

I think you should. The ride only lasts for 15-20 minutes and doesn’t go very far along the river (around 300 metres), but it visits the northern part of the canyon that you don’t see from the walking track, which leads south. It’s a different perspective, too: The walking track is high up, so the only way to see the rock walls and waterfall from below is on the boat.

The boats are inflatable kayak-type things. You get a (tatty) life jacket and if you want it, a safety helmet. You have to paddle yourself, although there will be a staff member on board to help. If the water level is too high or the currents too strong, the boats don’t run. This is often the case in spring and anytime after heavy rain.

Children under 5 years or shorter than 1 metre cannot go on the boat. The boat trip finishes in the same place it starts, and there is a waiting area near the pier for any members of your party who opt out.

Abasha river and Martvili Canyon.
Views of the river and canyon from the boat.

Walking path & accessibility

After the optional boat ride, you then walk a loop path around the lip of the canyon. It’s a short 700-metre track consisting of a trail, metal bridges that criss-cross the gorge, and viewing platforms that extend out over the waterfalls.

The entire path is paved with stones and is easy to manage as long as it’s not too wet. If it’s been raining, it will be extremely slippery (I almost fell over on one of the bridges on my last visit!). Take care and watch your footing.

The path offers good views of the Fur Bridge, Dadiani’s Bath and the 12-metre-high waterfall. A limestone staircase, part of the Dadiani Trail that the royal family used for private access to the gorge, can be seen off to the left of the trail.

Bridges and a walking path around a beautiful canyon in the country of Georgia.
Martvili Canyon walking trail.

Can you swim in Martvili Canyon?

No, swimming at Martvili Canyon is not permitted. At least in the main protected part of the gorge. There are other areas nearby where you can swim (see the next section for details).

Best day tours to Martvili Canyon

The easiest way to visit Martvili Canyon from Kutaisi (and the option most people go for) is by joining a day tour. Tours normally include several natural landmarks in the area: Okatse Canyon, Kinchkha Waterfall, Prometheus Cave, and/or Sataplia Nature Reserve.

There are dozens of companies in Kutaisi that organise day tours. I recommend Budget Georgia. The group tour has guaranteed departure every day of the year (no minimum number of guests), guides are friendly and professional, and prices are very fair.

The summer group tour (available April to October) visits Martvili, Okatse and Prometheus Cave, and includes a lunch stop at a local restaurant. It costs 50 GEL per person including transfers to/from Kutaisi and a guide.

The winter group tour (November to March) swaps Okatse Canyon for Sataplia Nature Reserve. It costs 60 GEL per person. Read more about the tour and my experience here.

Private tours are also available throughout the year.

Entrance costs are not included, so make sure you budget in ticket prices and other expenses (such as the boat ride at Martvili and the jeep transfer at Okatse).

An old set of limestone stairs used by the royal Dadiani family to reach their private pools in Martvili Canyon.
The limestone stairs used by the Dadiani family to access their private pools.

How to get to Martvili Canyon by marshrutka or taxi

To get to Martvili Canyon using public transport, you have to use a combination of marshrutka van and taxi. Note that this is not necessarily a budget-friendly alternative – and it’s not terribly convenient either.

First, take a van to Martvili from Kutaisi Central Bus Station (around 1.5 hours; 6 GEL). From there, you can either walk the last 5 kilometres to the canyon (another hour or so) or take a local taxi for around 50 GEL per car round-trip.

Alternatively, a taxi to Martvili Canyon from Kutaisi starts from 100 GEL per car when booked through GoTrip. You won’t have a guide per se, but you can choose an English-speaking driver. This is a great option for anyone who doesn’t want to join a tour but still wants to travel safely by private car.

If you go the GoTrip route, you might as well add in more stops. For example, this itinerary I created for Martvili Canyon, Okatse Canyon and Kinchkha Waterfall is the same price (starting from 100 GEL per car) including door-to-door transfers from Kutaisi. You can spend as long as you want at the canyons and make additional photo stops along the way without the price changing.

Learn more about GoTrip in my review.

Driving to Martvili Canyon

The road to Martvili Canyon is tarred and very manageable. There is free parking onsite, but in summer it might be a good idea to park off the main road and walk down. Don’t leave any valuables in the car.

In Georgia, I use My Rent A Car to hire a car from a local agent. Prices are great, and there’s often no deposit.

Read my tips for driving in Georgia.

What to wear & bring with you

Comfortable walking shoes with good grip are absolutely essential for Martvili. If there’s even the slightest chance of rain, bring wet weather gear – there isn’t much shelter and it’s no fun being out there in the wet. The walking track is mostly shaded, but it’s still a good idea to bring a hat with you in summer.

There are stalls selling bottled water, soft drinks and snacks on the road that leads down to the main canyon entrance. I usually avoid these places when possible as prices are usually inflated. Always ask the cost before you buy. The stalls are closed in winter. For ease, it’s a good idea to just bring some snacks and bottled water with you.

Bring your camera, but leave non-essential valuables at home. You can take small bags on the boat. For more tips, see my Georgia Packing List.

Restaurants near Martvili Canyon

There are lots of small eateries around the canyon – again, I usually avoid these places as the quality of food doesn’t always match the price. They are built solely for tourists so most of them are closed outside of the peak summer months.

Luckily there are plenty of amazing food options nearby. One of the best restaurants near Martvili Canyon is Oda Family Marani, a gorgeous family run winery that specialises in Megrelian food (my favourite regional cuisine). Reservations are essentials.

Kalakis Chrdilshi in Khoni is a solid option for budget-friendly Georgian fare.


Is Martvili Canyon worth visiting?

Martvili Canyon is not my favourite day trip from Kutaisi. Don’t get me wrong: It’s very beautiful, but the infrastructure is a bit heavy handed and it feels overdeveloped as a result. When it’s overcrowded, it’s not very pleasant. I actually enjoyed my winter visit much more because we were the only group there.

But there’s a reason why Martvili is so popular. If you want an easy excursion and to do some sightseeing, it’s a fine choice. If you want a relaxed day out or an outdoor adventure experience, there are alternative canyons nearby that are less built-up.


Martvili Canyon alternatives

It’s possible to swim in the nearby Gachedili Canyon. There are beautiful turquoise pools around this point, for example. It’s best to go with your own car so you can drive around and find a quiet spot.

Another option is Balda Canyon, also on the Abasha River but a little further north-east. Here you’ll find hiking paths, swimming holes and several impressive waterfalls, including Kaghu and Oniore.

Balda is not developed the same way Martvili is. The scenery is similar and usually the area is much, much quieter. Swimming and walking is completely at your own risk – it can be slippery and without any safety rails etc., it might not be suitable for everyone. Please don’t jump into the water or climb over any rocks – serious accidents have happened here in the past.

There’s not much infrastructure around this area apart from a few guesthouses, but it’s close enough to Martvili (15 minutes by car) that you can still eat lunch in town.


Other things to do near Martvili Canyon

Aside from other canyons, caves and waterfalls, there are plenty more things to do in Martvili, including the town itself with its stellar monastery and legendary Friday market.

Nokalakevi Archaeological Museum and hot springs are 30 minutes further west. To the north and north-west, you have Levan Dadiani’s Palace in Salkhino, Nogha Fortress, Tsalenjikha, wineries such as Obene, and the wonderful Ethno Village Sisatura.


Where to stay in Martvili

Samegrelo is one of my favourite parts of Georgia. If you can spend more than a day exploring Martvili and the surrounds, you definitely should.

Karma Hostel is my favourite accommodation in Martvili, with budget-friendly rooms, delicious home-cooked food and a relaxed vibe. Check prices and availability here.

In Balda, Parna Cottage offers accommodation in a gorgeous traditional oda house. Check prices and availability here.


Where to stay in Kutaisi


More Kutaisi travel resources


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Do you have any questions about visiting Martvili Canyon or additional tips to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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