In this guide we cover 13 top things to see and do around Martvili, including the best places to stay, eat, and drink good wine. We also include a detailed map which you can download, and practical info on how to get to Martvili.
While Martvili is best known for its eponymous canyon, there is in fact much more to this lush region of Georgia. From sulphur springs and waterfall pools to hidden lake hikes and Megrelian feasts, there is plenty of encouragement to linger longer. Throw Karma Hostel into the mix – a relaxation haven – and it’s hard to drag yourself away from this chilled out corner of Samegrelo.
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HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP (ONLINE VERSION)
To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps. On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version.
Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this version of the map offline, but we’ve created a similar version for offline use as per below.
HOW TO SAVE THIS MAP (OFFLINE VERSION)
You can easily navigate by tapping the bookmark for your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tap your end point bookmark and select ‘route to’. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’.
You can use Maps.me offline or online, but note that the attached photos and links for each bookmark will only appear when you’re online.
Let’s kick things off with Martvili Canyon, the area’s best known attraction. Once the bathing spot of choice for the ruling Dadiani family, there’s no doubt this is the most impressive canyon in the region. But, it does come with an entrance fee and, especially in the summer months, a constant stream of tourists.
There are two sections of the canyon to visit. To the left of the entrance a walkway and viewing platforms lead you a few hundred metres along the top of the canyon, looking down over multiple waterfalls and into the impressively blue-green water. Even in winter, the sculpted canyon walls are thick with green moss and ferns, a lush little paradise with arched bridges offering the perfect vantage point. To the right, you can paddle your way through a scenic section of canyon in an inflatable boat, getting up close to a small waterfall and peeking into dark cracks and crevices. The boat ride offers an interesting perspective from the bottom up, even if it only lasts about 15 minutes.
Looking down from the walkway
On the Martvili Canyon boatride, patches of green still clinging to the rocks in mid-winter
On the Martvili Canyon boatride, patches of
green still clinging to the rocks in mid-winter
Looking down from the walkway
There are paid car parks by the entrance to Martvili Canyon (2 GEL) (42.45856, 42.37752). Walk down the hill to the ticket office, passing various stalls. Entry costs 17.25 GEL, plus 15 GEL for the boat trip (less for Georgian citizens and residents). It’s open daily from 10am – 5pm/6pm (depending on the season). We recommend visiting outside of peak summer season to avoid the crowds, or at the very least, go at 10am when it opens if you’re visiting in summer.
For a less touristic canyon experience, where you can actually get in the water for a swim, head a few hundred metres beyond the official Martvili Canyon entrance to what is known locally as Gachedili Canyon.
It’s a short walk from the main road, through a wooden gate, across a grassy field, and down through some trees. Here you’ll find a stretch of jade coloured river impossible to see from the road. Slabs of rock stretch out on either side of the water, perfect for picnicking or lounging around. To the left the sun-bathed canyon widens, the river lazily flowing around islands of pebbles. To the right it narrows, the tall canyon walls closing in to create a magical little fern-draped tunnel of moss-covered rock and refreshingly cool water.
Relaxing in Gachedili Canyon
Looking up the canyon, the water cloudy and the level high after some serious rain
Looking up the canyon, the water cloudy
and the level high after some serious rain
Relaxing in Gachedili Canyon
Park at the side of the road or get dropped off here (42.46503, 42.37483). It’s a 5 minute walk to the canyon. Note that after rain (as with all rivers around Martvili) the water is cloudier and much faster flowing. The water level is also much higher, making it impossible to wade/swim up the canyon to the right. For the best experience, visit when it’s been dry for at least a couple of days.
While we wouldn’t dare get in the water outside of summer at other canyons and waterfalls mentioned in this guide, Nokalakevi is the one spot in the Martvili area that is even better come winter. Scalding hot sulphur water bubbles out of the ground and flows down over a calcified white waterfall, before trickling across a wide stretch of pebble beach and draining into the fast flowing Tekhuri river. Tall tree-dotted cliffs rise on the opposite side of the water, and its location at a bend in the river gives the Nokalakevi hot springs a cosy, secluded feel.
There are a couple of log benches in front of the waterfall – perfect for a steam bath – and if you have a high tolerance for hot water, it’s possible to take a shower of sorts underneath. Most people (including us!) prefer to soak in a makeshift bath closer to the river, where the water has had a chance to cool to a more bearable temperature. When the hot spring water gets too much, it’s only a short hop to the river for a chilling dip.
The steaming, calcified white waterfall where the hot springs flow down towards the river
The steaming, calcified white waterfall
On a hot summer’s day, with the sun beating down on this exposed stretch of canyon, there’s every chance you’ll spend more time in the river than the sulphur springs. It’s pretty fast flowing by the hot pools, but if you walk around the bend to the left (east) and keep going for a few hundred metres, you’ll get to a narrow canyon section with rocks either side, perfect for jumping and swimming.
Note that there are no permanent hot spring baths here. Instead, pools are dug by hand among the pebbles at the riverside. There’s usually at least one ‘hot tub’ on the go, but when the river level rises after rain, these pools can be washed away and there’s no guarantee you’ll find a ready-made one. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, come prepared with a bucket or spade for digging your own pool! This area is a popular local picnic and BBQ spot, and also a great place for wild camping.
Relaxing with beers in hand-dug pools on a January afternoon at the Nokalakevi hot springs
Relaxing with beers in the hand-dug pools, on a
January afternoon at the Nokalakevi hot springs
Park here (42.36572, 42.19514) and walk down the dirt path at the embankment to the riverside. The waterfall is to the right. The track from the main road down to the parking area is now paved, but it can get quite muddy in the parking area itself, so be careful if you have a 2WD or low clearance car. There are bins at the parking area. Lots of stray dogs live by the springs.