• 13 THINGS TO DO IN MARTVILI (GEORGIA)

    Looking up the verdant Gachedili Canyon near Martvili, the water cloudy and the level high after some serious rain
  • A GUIDE TO MARTVILI

    Looking up the verdant Gachedili Canyon near Martvili, the water cloudy and the level high after some serious rain

13 THINGS TO DO IN 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.

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.

SEE AROUND MARTVILI IN OUR WEST GEORGIA FILM

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MARTVILI MAP

Use the map below to get to all the places mentioned in this Martvili guide. You can also download an offline version to Maps.me (iOS/Android). Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view.


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.


To use an offline map with all the same pins and routes marked, first download Maps.Me (iOS/Android), then download our Martvili Travel Guide bookmarks, and select open with Maps.Me. 

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.


TAKE A TRIP THROUGH MARTVILI CANYON

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.

A view of moss-covered rocks and aquamarine water from the walkway in Martvili Canyon

Looking down from the walkway



A water-level view seen from the boatride in Martivili Canyon, 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



A water-level view seen from the boatride in Martivili Canyon, 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


A view of moss-covered rocks and aquamarine water from the walkway in Martvili Canyon

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.

SWIM IN GACHEDILI CANYON

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.

Two people chat with their feet in the water at Gachedili Canyon near Martvili in western Georgia

Relaxing in Gachedili Canyon



Looking up the verdant Gachedili Canyon near Martvili, 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



Looking up the verdant Gachedili Canyon near Martvili, 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


Two people chat with their feet in the water at Gachedili Canyon near Martvili in western Georgia

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.

SOAK IN NOKALAKEVI HOT SPRINGS & RIVER CANYON

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 calcified white waterfall surrounded by steam at Nokalakevi hot springs near Martvili

The steaming, calcified white waterfall where the hot springs flow down towards the river



The calcified white waterfall surrounded by steam at Nokalakevi hot springs near Martvili

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.

People sit in hand-dug hot pools at the Nokalakevi hot springs on the banks of the Tekhuri river, near Martvili in western Georgia

Relaxing with beers in hand-dug pools on a January afternoon at the Nokalakevi hot springs



People sit in hand-dug hot pools at the Nokalakevi hot springs on the banks of the Tekhuri river, near Martvili in western Georgia

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.

PICNIC AT BALDA CANYON

Our personal favourite of the canyons around Martvili, Balda Canyon is an enchanting little spot hidden away at the bottom of someone’s garden. Narrow, enclosed walls and a tunnel of twisted branches, lush ferns, and moss-covered boulders create a real fairytale vibe. And of course, like Gachedili and Martvili canyons to the south, the colour of the Abasha river water flowing through here is a spectacular shade of blue-green (except after heavy rain). There are a couple of picnic benches above the river, and plenty of rocks to spread out on and soak up the scene. You can swim in a deep pool of water at the point where you first emerge in the canyon, or wade/swim up the canyon to the left to find a narrower spot where the tall walls close in.

A narrow path enclosed by moss-covered stones and trees at Balda Canyon near Martvili

The tunnel of twisted moss-covered branches in winter, still attractive with a fairytale vibe although summer is something else entirely



Clear and bright aquamarine water surrounded by green moss at Balda Canyon near Martvili

The clear aquamarine water in Balda Canyon; this is another shot from winter as our photos from summer were taken after a period of heavy rain, when the water was cloudy and fast flowing… just imagine jumping in this on a hot summer’s day…



Clear and bright aquamarine water surrounded by green moss at Balda Canyon near Martvili

The clear aquamarine water in Balda Canyon;
a shot from winter as our photos from summer
were taken after heavy rain, when the water
was cloudy and fast flowing… just imagine
jumping in this on a hot summer’s day…


A narrow path enclosed by moss-covered stones and trees at Balda Canyon near Martvili

The tunnel of twisted moss-covered branches
in winter, still attractive with a fairytale vibe
although summer is something else entirely



Park here (42.48869, 42.40657), then walk down the street to the right. You need to go through the garden of the first house on the left (there is an old sign advertising food by the gate). Usually there is someone there and they collect anywhere between 2 – 5 GEL per person for access. As with the other canyons, it’s best to visit when it’s been dry for a couple of days, otherwise the water will be high, cloudy, and fast flowing.

CHILL AT KAGHU WATERFALL

Not far from Balda Canyon is the small but attractive Kaghu Waterfall. The falls spill down over a moss-covered wall into a crystal clear pool, perfect for a refreshing dip in the heat of summer. In peak season it can be really busy and you can expect to find stalls selling drinks and snacks, but out of season it’s a quiet and peaceful spot.

Park at Balda Monastery (42.48796, 42.40865) and walk about 20 minutes along the dirt track to the falls, returning the same way.

See More From Georgia

A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A man emerges onto a pebble beach from the calm Black Sea in early summer after taking a refreshing dip while on a Western Georgia road trip
A UAZ 4x4 and a wooden house with mountain views behind in a summer settlement in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains
A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
Snow capped Mt. Kazbek shining bright at sunrise, as seen from the town of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in northern Georgia
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau
A person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
Two people watch something in the distance from outside a parked 4x4 vehicle in the hills of Racha, Georgia.
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A man emerges onto a pebble beach from the calm Black Sea in early summer after taking a refreshing dip while on a Western Georgia road trip
A UAZ 4x4 and a wooden house with mountain views behind in a summer settlement in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains
A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
Snow capped Mt. Kazbek shining bright at sunrise, as seen from the town of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in northern Georgia
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau
A person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
Two people watch something in the distance from outside a parked 4x4 vehicle in the hills of Racha, Georgia.

HIKE THE THREE WATERFALLS TRAIL (ONIORE, TOBA, AND KAGHU)

In the hills above Balda Canyon and Kaghu Waterfall you can find two more impressive falls, Oniore and Toba Waterfalls. It takes around 6 – 8 hours on a 12 km loop hike to visit all three. The route partly follows dirt tracks which lead up from Guest House Balda to grazing pastures at an elevation of about 600 m, partly on walking paths to then reach the waterfalls, and partly on an overgrown trail following the Toba river. It’s possible to wild camp below Oniore Waterfall, or near a seasonal herder’s hut southwest of the falls, where you can also get elarji, homemade sulguni, and drinks (as long as Giorgi is there – ask beforehand at Guest House Balda to check).

The views up on the plateau are wonderful, looking across lush valleys to tree-covered cliffs. Note that when hiking alongside the Toba, it’s necessary to cross the river a few times, directly before/after Kaghu Waterfall (depending on your direction). Normally, the water level isn’t more than shin deep and you can often hop across stones, but you may want to come prepared with water sandals to change into. This part of the trail is also quite overgrown, so be sure to factor in extra time here for route-finding and diversions.

Two hikers stand on the plateau looking across towards Oniore and Toba waterfalls, with a yellow hiking signpost pointing the way

Looking across to the cliffs, the yellow hiking sign pointing the way to Oniore Waterfall



A herder demonstrates how to make Sulguni (a type of Georgian cheese) in a hut on the Oniore Waterfall hike route, near Martvili

Sulguni masterclass at the herder’s hut



Two hikers stand on the plateau looking across towards Oniore and Toba waterfalls, with a yellow hiking signpost pointing the way

Looking across to the cliffs, the yellow hiking
sign pointing the way to Oniore Waterfall


A herder demonstrates how to make Sulguni (a type of Georgian cheese) in a hut on the Oniore Waterfall hike route, near Martvili

Sulguni masterclass at the herder’s hut



You can hike the trail in either direction. If the Toba river valley section is too overgrown, or you want to stick to a more straightforward trail, you can of course just go up and down the same way via the dirt tracks and herder’s hut. Park somewhere around Balda village (42.48487, 42.3994) or by Balda Monastery (42.48796, 42.40865). You can walk on a dirt track between the two places if you need to return to your car. There is a spring at the herder’s hut, and you can treat river water for drinking if necessary.

Before embarking on this day hike, make sure you are prepared with a refillable water bottle, food, proper footwear, all-weather clothing, a route map, and a power bank to keep your phone charged. Start in the morning (by 10am) to ensure you have enough time to complete the hike in daylight. You can view and download the hiking route on our map.

STAY AT KARMA HOSTEL

So much more than just a place to stay while visiting the area, Karma Hostel is reason enough to come to the region. Tucked away in a little village on the outskirts of Martvili, Karma is one of Georgia’s most unique accommodation options. An old house given a new lease of life by three friends from Belgium and Poland – Max, Emanuela, and Woody – its open plan living areas, backyard bar, and lush expansive garden make it equally conducive to socialising or relaxing in nature.

The two storey Karma Hostel Martvili surrounded a lush green garden

Karma Hostel, a beautiful big old Samegrelo house renovated in a unique style



The treehouse at Karma Hostel in Martvili

The treehouse for those who like it rustic



The two storey Karma Hostel Martvili surrounded a lush green garden

Karma Hostel, a beautiful big old Samegrelo
house renovated in a unique style


The treehouse at Karma Hostel in Martvili

The treehouse for those who like it rustic



Retro furniture and salvaged Soviet-era artwork blend with hand-crafted furnishings and design pieces to create a style of its own. Karma is a hostel in name but more of a guesthouse in nature, with the owners whipping up a daily vegetarian breakfast and dinner feast for guests to enjoy together at large indoor and outdoor tables. You can rent bikes to explore the local area, or do as many do and simply chill in a hammock surrounded by the resident dogs, cats, chickens, and sheep. Fair warning though, a night or two can easily turn into a week-long stay, or in our case, a few months!

Breakfast being set up in attractive wooden dishes at Karma Hostel In Martvili

The breakfast spread is always a treat



A mustard wall, dried hurma, old unit and plants on the back veranda at Karma Hostel in Martvili

Nice touches on the back veranda



Breakfast being set up in attractive wooden dishes at Karma Hostel In Martvili

The breakfast spread is always a treat


A mustard wall, dried hurma, old unit and plants on the back veranda at Karma Hostel in Martvili

Nice touches on the back veranda



Karma Hostel has three private rooms and a spacious dorm with privacy curtains, lights, and sockets for each bed. There is a large shared bathroom for all guests. It’s also possible to camp in the garden. There is plenty of room to park outside the gate. Book your stay here.

SPLASH AROUND AT TSACHKHURI WATERFALL

The winding uphill drive to Tsachkhuru St Archangels Church and the sprawling vista from the top is reason enough to include this in your Martvili itinerary. However the real highlight is nearby Tsachkhuri Waterfall, plunging into an aqua pool before cascading down to a series of smaller pools below. It’s a short and straightforward walk from the car park at the church to the waterfall itself, across a small grassy meadow and along a wide stony path. After about 10 – 15 minutes you’ll come off the main path and climb down a short trail to the waterfall.

A person splashes in the pool below Tsachkhuri Waterfall near Martvili in western Georgia

Splashing around in the pool



Tsachkhuri Waterfall plunges from high surrounded by lush greenery, near Martvili in western Georgia

The impressive Tsachkhuri Waterfall



Tsachkhuri Waterfall plunges from high surrounded by lush greenery, near Martvili in western Georgia

The impressive Tsachkhuri Waterfall



Park here (42.55732, 42.34234), next to the church. It’s about a 20 minute walk one way to the waterfall.

HIKE TO KHIRZENI LAKES

From the meadow near Tsachkhuri Waterfall a trail climbs for around 400 metres to three lakes hidden in the forest. There is an information board at the start of the trail, but no markers beyond this, so it’s best to follow our downloadable GPX (Gaia GPS, OSMand apps, etc.) /KML (Maps.me app) tracks to find the lakes. Note that we recorded the one-way track in reverse, starting at the lake and ending at the car park.

After initially climbing the steep grassy hill behind the church, the trail follows a rocky forest path then runs parallel to a stream. You need to cross this stream (you should be able to hop over rocks), then climb up a short but steep slope of loose dirt and stones. Follow the trail round to the left and you’ll emerge at a large grassy meadow with wonderful views over Samegrelo. This also makes a nice wild camping spot.

Continue climbing up the open hillside, passing a herder’s hut on the left. Jumberi may well invite you in for coffee if he’s around. The trail enters a forest and remains in the trees for the rest of the hike. When you reach an elevation of around 1000 m, you’ll pass by a first, then a second lake. The third and final lake is a little higher up, the not-so-obvious path leading to its northwestern shore. It is completely surrounded by thick forest with the trees coming right to the shoreline – a very peaceful spot and a pretty impressive sight. Allow 3 – 4 hours for the return hike.

Overgrown Khirzeni Lake, hidden in the forested hills to the north of Martvili

Khirzeni Lakes, hidden in the forest



A wild camp spot with two tents in an open high meadow, overlooking Martvili and the lowlands of Samegrelo below

The perfect spot for camping on the way to the lakes



A wild camp spot with two tents in an open high meadow, overlooking Martvili and the lowlands of Samegrelo below

The perfect camp spot on the way to the lakes


Overgrown Khirzeni Lake, hidden in the forested hills to the north of Martvili

Khirzeni Lakes, hidden in the forest



Park here (42.55732, 42.34234), next to the church. There are herds of cows and curious Asiatic water buffaloes roaming the upper meadow, so it’s wise not to leave your tent unattended if you plan on camping around here. Proper footwear is recommended for the hike (not flip flops or such like). The lakes are enclosed in dense jungle-like forest and aren’t really suitable for swimming in. There is water at the church but no springs on the hike, just stream water. Make sure to carry enough water with you.

SAVOUR THE TASTE OF SAMEGRELO AT ODA MARANI

No trip to Martvili is complete without sampling the delicious Megrelian food at Oda Marani, washed down with a glass or three of Keto Ninidze’s excellent wine. The outdoor seating in the grounds of her family’s oda house makes for a tranquil setting. The menu includes Mingrelian classics like kharcho (beef in a richly spiced walnut sauce), gebzhalia (cheese with mint), kuchmachi (mixed beef heart and liver), elarji (stretchy cornmeal mixed with cheese), a delicious spread of pkhali (veggie dips and pastes), fresh salad, and moreish khachapuri (bread stuffed with cheese, with extra cheese on top).

Keto’s wine includes local grape varieties such as Ojaleshi and Tsolikouri, and less common ones such as Dzelshavi from Racha. On a warm summer’s evening it’s all too easy to while away a few hours here, working your way through the wine list and feasting on some of the best food in Georgia.

A delicious bowl of kharcho (beef in a richly spiced walnut sauce) at Oda Marani in Martvili

The kharcho and khachapuri (and the entire menu) is of the highest quality



Carrot pkhali on mchadi (cornbread) and a tempting glass of beautifully amber Tsolikouri at Oda Marani in Martvili

Pkhali on cornbread and a glass of Tsolikouri



A delicious bowl of kharcho (beef in a richly spiced walnut sauce) at Oda Marani in Martvili

Possibly the best kharcho ever


Carrot pkhali on mchadi (cornbread) and a tempting glass of beautifully amber Tsolikouri at Oda Marani in Martvili

Carrot pkhali on mchadi (cornbread) and a
tempting glass of beautifully amber Tsolikouri



Oda Marani is open 12pm – 9pm daily in season (Spring until Autumn). Contact them on +995 598 900 379 to make a reservation.

GO HIKING IN THE EGRISI RANGE

There are some fantastic multi-day hikes in the mountains to the north of Martvili, including Tobavarchkhili Lakes and Lebarde Lakes. Both are quite challenging and require you to be self-sufficient, carrying camping gear and food – definitely suited to experienced hikers only! The hiking season is from July – September.

TOBAVARCHKHILI LAKES

Tobavarchkhili Lakes are a beautiful string of alpine lakes surrounded by jagged mountains. Most people start the 4 – 5 day hike from Mukhuri. There is a 4×4 gravel road leading to Natipuru Hut, from where the hiking trail proper starts. From Tobavarchkhili you can then hike north to Khaishi, on the Zugdidi – Mestia road, or southwest to Skuri, about 9 km from Mukhuri.

LEBARDE LAKES

The Soviet era ‘resort’ area of Lebarde sits at about 1600 m, at the end of a 34 km rough track (best travelled via 6×6 truck – try Gocha on +995 555 225 656 to arrange a trip). There are a few shepherd huts and an abandoned cinema. From here you can hike to Big and Small Lebarde Lakes (confusingly also called Tobavarchkhili sometimes, meaning ‘silver lakes’).

The hike is 12.5 km one way, taking 6+ hours. It’s possible to hike to the lakes and back to Lebarde in one day (9+ hours), but a better option is to camp by the big lake and hike back the following day. You can find a GPX track of the route on Viewranger, and a longer GPX track on Georgian Travel Guide, which includes the route from the main road to Lebarde and from the lakes towards the Tskaltubo – Tsageri road. We’ve included this route on our map for reference.

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ADMIRE THE SAMEGRELO HOUSES

There’s something pretty special about the houses in Samegrelo. Traditionally, these were wooden oda houses, built on stilts with four simple rooms and an ornately carved balcony. They were designed to be moveable, with each wooden component being numbered, disassembled, transported, and reassembled. These days, many oda houses are abandoned, or in need of a lot of love and care. Drive around the region and you’ll spot them, often in faded shades of green, blue, pink, or just natural wood.

A two storey mint green oda house under a covering of snow in Martvili

These characterful old houses look good in winter or summer



A faded blue oda house under a cover of deep snow in Martvili

A lovely shade of faded blue goes perfectly with the snow



A two storey mint green oda house under a covering of snow in Martvili

These old houses look good in winter or summer


A faded blue oda house under a cover of deep snow in Martvili

Faded blue goes perfectly with the snow



Other unique features of Samegrelo homes are their immaculate yards (a point of pride for Megrelians) and the existence of a little and large house on the property. Traditionally the small single-storey house was used as a separate kitchen, with the large two-storey house the main living area. These often have beautiful carved balconies and outside staircases connecting the first and second floor. Samegrelo houses are especially beautiful in Autumn, during and after the hurma (persimmon) harvest. Strings of the fruit are hung up in lines to dry, creating a curtain of orange on every balcony.

A string of drying hurma (persimmon) hanging from the upstairs veranda at sunset on a winter's day in Martvili

This beauty still had hurma (persimmon) hanging on Christmas Eve



A string of drying hurma (persimmon) hanging from the upstairs veranda at sunset on a winter's day in Martvili

This beauty still had strings of hurma
(persimmon) hanging on Christmas Eve



SEE THE FRESCOES AT MARTVILI MONASTERY

Sitting atop a hill in the middle of Martvili is a small but attractive monastic complex, dating back to the 7th century. To reach it you can drive, walk, or take a quick trip on the Soviet-era cable car which runs from the town.

There are three buildings set in the tranquil grounds, plus the main Martvili-Chkondidi Cathedral. Inside, impressive frescoes cover the walls in varying states of completeness. Outside, elaborate carvings of figures embellish the stone walls. There are wonderful views of the surrounding landscape from the monastery, especially in early morning or around sunset when the hills glow and light glints off the snaking rivers below.

Martvili-Chkondidi Cathedral at dusk

Martvili-Chkondidi Cathedral at dusk



Frescoes under the domed ceiling in Martvili Monastery

Frescoes inside the cathedral



Martvili-Chkondidi Cathedral at dusk

Martvili-Chkondidi Cathedral at dusk


Frescoes under the domed ceiling in Martvili Monastery

Frescoes inside the cathedral



Park here (42.40561, 42.37883) and walk up the steps to the monastery grounds. Alternatively, walk up the hill via the road or take the cable car (3 minutes, 1 GEL return. The hours of operation are sporadic so you may need to call the number posted nearby to arrange a ride).

HOW TO GET AROUND MARTVILI

It’s definitely advantageous to have your own car to explore the best things to see and do around Martvili. But, if you’re travelling independently there are a few ways to get around.

One option is to hire a taxi for the day to take you around the sights (eg. Martvili, Gachedili, and Balda Canyons, plus Nokalakevi Hot Springs). This will cost around 70 – 100 GEL.

You can hire a bike from Karma Hostel for 25 GEL per day. It is a 30 km return trip to cycle to Martvili, Gachedili, and Balda Canyons. If you’re fit, you could also include a loop down to the hot springs and back, making it a 67 km round trip in total. We’ve added two suggested cycle loops to our map, which you can download to your phone and use to navigate online or offline.

Hitchhiking is also common, particularly for reaching Martvili and Gachedili Canyons.

It’s also possible to walk between Martvili, Gachedili, and Balda Canyons, mostly on dirt tracks. Follow the cycling route outlined on our map. It’s about 5 km one way from Martvili Canyon to Balda Canyon, or an 11 km loop, returning via the road through the village. A combination of hitchhiking along the main road and walking the dirt track is a good idea.

Check Out Our Georgia Road Trip Itineraries

A man emerges onto a pebble beach from the calm Black Sea in early summer after taking a refreshing dip while on a Western Georgia road trip
A UAZ 4x4 and a wooden house with mountain views behind in a summer settlement in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains
A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary
A man emerges onto a pebble beach from the calm Black Sea in early summer after taking a refreshing dip while on a Western Georgia road trip
A UAZ 4x4 and a wooden house with mountain views behind in a summer settlement in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains
A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

HOW TO GET TO MARTVILI

BY CAR

Martvili is in the Samegrelo region of western Georgia. It’s about 280 km and 5 hours drive from Tbilisi, 150 km and 3 hours from Batumi, and just 44 km and less than 1 hour from Kutaisi.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

You can take a direct marshrutka (minibus) from Tbilisi, Batumi, or Kutaisi. The closest train station is Samtredia, approximately 40 minutes drive away. Karma Hostel can arrange a taxi to pick you up at the train station for 50 GEL.

MARSHRUTKA

Marshrutka times can change without notice so it’s always best to double check locally. Also, bear in mind that even when there’s a schedule some marshrutkas won’t leave until they are full. In Martvili, they arrive at and depart from a parking area in the centre, across from the monastery cable car.

If you’re travelling to/from Tbilisi and miss the direct marshrutka, an alternative option is to travel first to Kutaisi then change. In Kutaisi, the marshrutkas arrive at and depart from the same bus station (by the McDonald’s on Chavchavadze).

TBILISI (DIDUBE) TO MARTVILI | 0900, 1500, 1630 | 20 GEL | 5 – 6 HOURS

MARTVILI TO TBILISI (DIDUBE) | 0620, 0720, 0900, 1030, 1210, 1630 | 20 GEL | 5 – 6 HOURS

MARTVILI TO BATUMI | 0800 | 15 GEL | 4 HOURS

BATUMI TO MARTVILI | 1100 | 15 GEL | 4 HOURS

TBILISI (DIDUBE) TO KUTAISI | Every Hour 0700 – 2000 | 15 GEL | 3 – 4 HOURS

KUTAISI TO TBILISI (DIDUBE) | Every Hour 0700 – 2000 | 15 GEL | 3 – 4 HOURS

KUTAISI TO MARTVILI | Every Hour 0800 – 1800 | 5 GEL | 40 MINUTES

MARTVILI TO KUTAISI | Every Hour 0800 – 1800 | 5 GEL | 40 MINUTES

TBILISI (DIDUBE) TO MARTVILI
0900, 1500, 1630
5 – 6 HOURS
20 GEL

MARTVILI TO TBILISI (DIDUBE)
0620, 0720, 0900, 1030, 1210, 1630
5 – 6 HOURS
20 GEL

MARTVILI TO BATUMI
0800
4 HOURS
15 GEL

BATUMI TO MARTVILI
1100
4 HOURS
15 GEL

TBILISI (DIDUBE) TO KUTAISI
Every Hour 0700 – 2000
3 – 4 HOURS
15 GEL

KUTAISI TO TBILISI (DIDUBE)
Every Hour 0700 – 2000
3 – 4 HOURS
15 GEL

KUTAISI TO MARTVILI
Every Hour 0800 – 1800
40 MINUTES
5 GEL

MARTVILI TO KUTAISI
Every Hour 0800 – 1800
40 MINUTES
5 GEL


BY TRAIN

Train times vary slightly depending on the season, but there is usually one in the morning and one in the evening. We’ve given approximate times below. You can register online and book tickets via the Georgian Railways website, or via Matarebeli or TKT. It’s a scenic journey and far more comfortable than the marshrutka.

TBILISI TO SAMTREDIA | Train 870 (Tbilisi – Zugdidi) | Depart 0810 Arrive 1230 | 16/28 GEL 2nd/1st Class

TBILISI TO SAMTREDIA | Train 874 (Tbilisi – Poti) | Depart 1810 Arrive 2230 | 16/28/43 GEL 2nd/1st/Business Class

SAMTREDIA TO TBILISI | Train 873 (Poti – Tbilisi) | Depart 0848 Arrive 1300 | 16/28/43 GEL 2nd/1st/Business Class

SAMTREDIA TO TBILISI | Train 869 (Zugdidi – Tbilisi) | Depart 1825 Arrive 2240 | 16/28 GEL 2nd/1st Class

TBILISI TO SAMTREDIA
Train 870 (Tbilisi – Zugdidi)
Depart 0810 Arrive 1230
16/28 GEL 2nd/1st Class

TBILISI TO SAMTREDIA
Train 874 (Tbilisi – Poti)
Depart 1810 Arrive 2230
16/28/43 GEL 2nd/1st/
Business Class

SAMTREDIA TO TBILISI
Train 873 (Poti – Tbilisi)
Depart 0848 Arrive 1300
16/28/43 GEL 2nd/1st/
Business Class

SAMTREDIA TO TBILISI
Train 869 (Zugdidi – Tbilisi)
Depart 1825 Arrive 2240
16/28 GEL 2nd/1st Class


13 THINGS TO DO IN MARTVILI

That’s it for our guide to the Martvili area. We hope you found it useful. If you have any questions, just drop them in the comments below. And if you’ve been to Martvili before, we’d love to hear all about your thoughts and experiences.

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13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili13 Things To Do In Martvili
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