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The ultimate guide to canyons and swimming spots in Georgia

It seems you guys loved our guide to waterfalls in Georgia so we’re rolling out the next one to help you escape Sakartvelo’s summer heat! Canyon dig it?!

Spending a summer in Georgia, we realised just how many beautiful canyons there are. And while Martvili and Okatse are undoubtedly beautiful, they frustrate you at the same time because you are so close, and yet so far! So for everyone who sat in a boat in Martvili canyon constantly thinking about how lush the water looks and whether you’d get fined if you jumped in: This one’s for you!

Most of these beauties are found in Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, more specifically the historic province of Mingrelia, the land of canyons. We loved this region of Georgia for it’s beautiful wooden houses, oddly frequent cows in bus stops and most of all its rivers and canyons.

We present 8 of the most beautiful canyons, perfect for swimming, relaxing, photographing & camping. Whatever floats your boat! At the bottom of the article you will find a map with all the locations and any other things that will help you find your way. Time to dip those toes!

Check out more of our Georgia guides

Kaghu waterfall (კაღუს ჩანჩქერი) on Abasha river

The ultimate guide to waterfalls in Georgia

Whether you need to cool down from the sweltering summer heat or would like to marvel at some of these beauties in the snow, you’ll find the right place to go here! We spent half a year in Georgia to compile the best waterfalls in the country for you. Let us know if you visit […]

March 22, 2021
Another angle of Dashbashi waterfalls with green mossy water

Daytripping through Kvemo Kartli to Dashbashi Canyon

City life became a bit too much for us lately. We’ve only been in Tbilisi for a month but after spending so much time in the nature before that, combined with somewhat stressful jobs after not working for while, we need a little escape. Hikes are difficult at this time of the year and unfortunately, […]

March 1, 2020
View from Rabati Castle through a window on Akhaltsikhe, Samtskhe-Javakheti, with Caroline in front

Not so wild: A posh weekend in Samtskhe-Javakheti

We’ve spent the last months in Georgia without really seeing anything. Our work schedules were insane and wintertime means that most hikes are not accessible anyway. Now that spring is just around the corner, I had thought of something nice for Aydin’s birthday: a few days visiting Western Georgia, or better said Samtskhe-Javakheti, but this […]

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Stormy sunset at Black rock lake in Lagodekhi Protected Areas, Georgia

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Our time in Georgia is coming to an end and while we’re sad, we’ve got big plans for the summer. We are going to drive through Central Asia on the Silk Road with a final destination of Kyrgyzstan. A country not many people have ever heard of. When the summer is over we will head […]

October 31, 2021

1. Balda Canyon

Caroline sitting on a rock enjoying the view of Balda canyon

Balda canyon is a little secret gem in between Martvili Canyon and Kaghu waterfalls (which are absolutely worth a visit by the way). It’s not the most obvious place to find and we didn’t see any signs. Maybe some have been added since but we’ve noted the location on the map at the bottom of the article.

To find it you will need to get to Balda monastery first. We’re not sure about marshrutka’s since we were driving, but you can ask at Kutaisi tourist information centre. Failing that, get a private taxi. We parked at the monastery but there is not much space. From the monastery walk down the hill until you get to this property, it’s a few minutes walk. Access is through the property and you will have to pay a few lari, don’t worry, it’s worth it. In our case, no one was home and the next door neighbour instructed us to jump over, so we did. A little overgrown path leads through the garden and some trees and then out into the canyon. You will find a picnic bench and a little pebble beach.

What are you waiting for, brave those beautiful, cold cold waters!

We’d been camping for a few days prior, so the clean water was extremely refreshing and nourishing – and somewhat necessary for our public image.

2. Martvili Canyon

Following the classic path, we started our canyon quest with a visit to Martvili canyon. A stunning attraction and therefore hugely popular and crowded. Since you rarely get a boat to yourself, and the boat doesn’t stop, and the boat ride only takes about ten minutes, there isn’t really any opportunity to enjoy the amazing views in peace. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every second in the canyon that shielded me from the somewhat brutal temperatures (for a Central European at least), and as a secret royalty nerd (don’t judge me) its history fascinated me. Martvili canyon used to be the secret bathing place for the Dadiani family – Georgian nobles whose palace and gardens you can visit in Zugdidi.

The history of the House of Dadiani dates back to the 11th century. During the 13th century, they became the most powerful noble family in the West of Georgia, reigning over Mingrelia, Svaneti and Guria. Nowadays there is only one remaining descendant, Robert Dadiani (who used to be a professional boxer, not very royal). Needless to say I spent the better part of the visit trying to figure out in what exact pool the kings and queens would have swum, pretending I was one of them, while parading up and down the historic limestone staircase.

The entrance fee is 17,25 lari (the boat trip was extra). It seems that you can buy the tickets online now on the National Parks of Georgia website. From Kutaisi, you can catch a marshrutka several times a day and then take a taxi from Martvili. Or walk the 5 kilometres to the entrance. You can also book a canyon tour for Martvili and Okatse directly at the tourist information in Kutaisi. Decide wisely though, because that would mean you’d have to skip the next bad boy.

3. Gachedili Canyon

Martvili canyon, also named Gachedili canyon or Abasha canyon after the river, is however much longer than the part you have to pay entrance to. It has a total length of 2.4 kilometers and depth of up to 70 meters. There are other places you can enter for free and feel like the only person in the world.

Exit the tourist attraction Martvili canyon and continue on the road for about two kilometers northwards. Just before the bridge to the village of Gachedili, there is a path to the left of the road. Go through a small wooden gate and follow the path down into the canyon, and straight into another reality. If there ever was a perfect swimming place, it’s here. You can stretch out on the smooth limestone surface and bask in the sun. Jump into the deep blue pools. Walk down the canyon until you get to a stretch of forest where we saw someone camping, surrounded by several cows (They’re everywhere in Samegrelo, we didn’t even bat an eyelid anymore).

The natural monument is not only fascinating because of it’s stunning blue green water and carved limestone rocks but also it’s special paleontological findings. Researchers of Ilia State University found footprints and bone pieces of dinosaurs there! Moreover, prehistoric human bone fragments and fragments of cave bears, bisons and other millions of years old animals were discovered, resulting in Gachedili canyon receiving protected area status. This is something everyone should be mindful of when visiting. It’s hard to forget about it anyway when you’re standing in the brilliant water at the bottom of it and feel like a dinosaur could walk around the corner any second! Most likely it will just be another cow though.

As with every place we write about, it unfortunately comes with the obligatory rubbish. We got used to carrying rubbish bags with us to pick up what we could. That seemed like the best option to enjoy our time. Fatalist me also shuddered to think what would happen if they opened up the damn gates of the river at Gachedili village. I therefore forbade Aydin to camp there but it’s been two years now and we still haven’t heard of any campers being swept away…

Hiking with waterfalls

A small alpine lake in Aigüestortes i Estany of Saint Maurici national park lake reflecting trees, cloudy mountains in background

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In the heart of the Pyrenees, we wake up from a cosy nights sleep in our tent, it was cold but not excruciatingly so. Wide awake, freshened and energetic to explore. We came to Espot to experience the mighty Pyrenees mountains. We decided randomly on the national park Aigüestortes i Estany of Saint Maurici. Well […]

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The river shallows and widens engulfing the valley in the Karwendel mountains

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The view from the pinzgauerbahn - snowy mountains and a cute village

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January 27, 2019

4. Abhesi (Martvili) Canyon

Another section of Martvili canyon: we’ll call it Abhesi since that’s the name of the waterfall where from you can access it. This one’s a little harder to find and requires a bit of wading.

If you don’t make it to the canyon then you can at least enjoy the waterfalls and swimming pools. They are very pretty, more so in the spring, when the waterfall is bursting with snow melt. Just ignore the hydro electric power station to the right…

About 500 metres before the entrance to Martvili you’ll see a sign for Abhesi waterfall pointing you left, next to a mini market. There is a little road where you can park if you are driving. Otherwise you will need to catch the marshrutka (See the Martvili Canyon section above for more details). You might have to pay a guy a few laris if he comes out. We didn’t have to, but some people have reported that they did.

To access the canyon, basically walk upstream from the waterfall and swimming pool. Sometimes the current is strong and the rocks are very slippy. I actually slipped and fell on my knees thinking I had cracked them, lying in agony. I managed to save my camera though so I guess all is well? Anyway there was no real damage and the pain went away after a few days. I would suggest to wear some water/canyon shoes so you don’t slip and it will be fine. The water wasn’t really that deep in most places.

You can make it all the way to the end of the paid section of Martvili canyon and could probably wave at the people on the viewing platforms.

The canyon has some really cool sections there with fascinating patterns in the rocks and beautifully curved walls, and of course also the fantastic blue water. There are also plenty of sections to relax and enjoy the view.

Caroline looking at Abhesi waterfall near Martvili canyon
Abhesi waterfall and swimming pool (Caroline’s shins aren’t actually that short)

5. Okatse Canyon

Okatse canyon is another well known tourist location, with lots of people embarking on day trips from nearby Kutaisi. It costs to get in, with a different price for Georgian and international visitors. Compared to a lot of other things in Georgia it seems quite expensive, though in reality it’s still cheap – 17.25 GEL.

The entrance is at the Okatse visitor centre in the village of Gordi. From there you take a walk through Dadiani forest before walking along a hanging metal pathway on the side of the canyon. At then end, the hanging pathway juts out across the canyon with panoramic views all around. There is quite a bit of walking, approximately 2.5KM from the visitor centre to the bridge, so make sure to bring water on a hot day. The forests are very pretty and you will most likely see lots of animals in there. Horses, cows and so on. Watch out for the enterprising locals hassling you for 4×4 rides. We would suggest to walk and avoid unnecessarily polluting the landscape.

All of the photos here were taken on the hanging platform. Careful if you suffer from vertigo, it’s a long way down, some fifty or so meters. However, the biggest danger here is not falling, it’s dodging out of the way of all the people taking selfies!

If you don’t have your own car, the best way to get to Okatse is probably with a private driver. Speak to your hotel or hostel to find a good deal. Failing that, head over to the tourist information centre in Kutaisi. They will be able to give the latest Marshrutka timetables. They are always changing, so not much point listing them here. However, they leave multiple times a day and only cost a few lari. The biggest downside is that you will still have to walk a few kilometres to the visitor centre.

As a last tip, if you are in a car, or have a private driver, you can access the canyon floor where a road crosses the river. You can hike through the canyon and swim in the river below. We can’t comment our how viable it is as we never got around to it, but we have heard it was possible from reputable sources. You can drive to this point here – it’s marked on the map at the bottom too.

Close up of Okatse river inside the canyon from the viewing platform

6. Okatse Pools

This canyon doesn’t really have a name – well, at least we couldn’t figure it out. If you know it, let us know in the comments so we can make corrections! Anyway – we found this place by accident, looking for another waterfall which we wanted to camp by.

We were looking for Lomina waterfall but never managed to find it because when we were in the area, the maps were much worse and the location not exact. The waterfall is found here, so enjoy!

In any case, while looking for Lomina we first parked at Kinchka waterfall car park and headed down to the river. We figured the waterfall was just up the river so we decided to follow it. We first walked past this canyon which looked super nice, but we were determined to get to Lomina so we didn’t pay it much attention. It turns out there was not really a path and we ended up bush whacking through thick forest and got pretty lost. We decided to head back in land, away from the river, looking for the road. It was really not a clever adventure, the rain was pouring, an angry looking dog appeared in the field and we didn’t really know where we were were.

Around 10-15 minutes later we found the road and headed back to our car. Lomina was a failed mission but remembering the canyon we decided to look for a place to camp. Luckily for us, right next to the river was a little meadow where we could pitch our tent nicely.

Morning comes and the sun began to warm the forest, the fresh morning dew running down our tent as the temperature slowly rose. We unzipped the tent to find two stray dogs protecting us as we slept. Not the first time in Georgia. We lounged in camp chairs drinking a coffee from the gas stove and before long the humid temperature was stifling. Only one thing for it – swimming.

What a great little place! We ended up staying for another night, swimming and relaxing for almost two days. A few people came and went to take photos and have a little swim. They appeared to be travelling as part of tour groups, this being a little stop in a larger itinerary. Regardless, we had the place pretty much to ourselves for two days.

The second morning I got up early to photograph the sunrise. The rock formations and water colour made for excellent subjects. You can’t beat watching the sun rise with the only sounds coming from the birds and elements. A few goats did turn up for a drink though.

To get to this little unnamed canyon, head for Kinchkha Waterfall. We parked in the Kinchkha Waterfall carpark. Head down the steps to the waterfall, but instead of going left, to the visitor centre, turn right. A little path of a few hundred metres will bring you straight to the canyon. Next to the waterfall on the right hand side is a little meadow where you can camp. Nobody noticed us and we weren’t disturbed at all!

7. Dashbashi/Tsalka Canyon

We’ve only visited Dashbashi in winter so most likely it’ll look even more beautiful during the warmer seasons. This place is an absolute highlight in Kvemo Kartli. The walk down into the gorge is steep and can be slippy, especially in bad weather. This canyon is absolutely fascinating, waterfalls line the canyon sides and water seemingly appears from nowhere. Waterfalls go on as far as the eye can see, with vibrant green moss lining the river floor.

To learn more about Dashbashi canyon, including how to get there (check the facts section at the bottom of the post) and other interesting locations in the area, head over to our guide all about the district, Kvemo Kartli. For all your waterfalls needs in Georgia, don’t forget our Ultimate Guide to Waterfalls in Georgia post.

8. Nokalakevi hot sulfur spring

Nokalakevi hot sulfur spring is another one that features in our The ultimate guide to waterfalls in Georgia post, but this time here not because of the waterfall but because of the canyon around the corner! This is another place we’d never heard of and just stumbled across when driving around the region. It’s definitely a local secret because in the canyon around the corner we saw many young Georgians swimming, diving & jumping around. Unfortunately we didn’t get any pics of the canyon but we can assure you it’s a beauty! The river is a lot more powerful here than Martvili so do be careful. Both sides of the river have rocks and cliffs all along, perfect for relaxing and jumping!

Park the car by the main road opposite the dirt road, don’t attempt to drive down the dirt road to the right. It’s a five minute walk to the spring situated in a little concrete hut. From there, walk down to the river. The hot water is dripping over the edge, creating a hot waterfall before flowing into ice-cold Tekhuri river. The canyon is around the corner of the river, towards the north. The location is found here.

Which one’s your favourite? Have you been to any? We know there are definitely more canyons in Georgia and we will be exploring and updating this post in the future with more locations. If you’ve got any questions – please let us know in the comments below!

Check the map below for exact locations of all the canyons around Georgia.

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