Long Weekend Near Kutaisi

Sataplia

Text by Nino Kvirikashvili

Photos (Sataplia, Prometheus, Navenakhevi) by Nino Kvirikashvili (courtesy of the Agency of Protected Areas)

Navenakhevi Cave

Remember Gollum’s abode from The Lord of the Rings? That’s how the magical Navenakhevi Cave feels.

The Navenakhevi Cave is located near the village of Navenakhevi in the Terjola Municipality, not far from Kutaisi. Though the cave itself is located 7 kilometers from the village of Navenakhevi, locals still recommend spending the night in Kutaisi.

To get from Kutaisi to the Navenakhevi Cave, you can catch a routed taxicab which departs from the Kutaisi Bus Station 3 times a day. The fare is 1.80 GEL. A taxi ride from downtown Kutaisi, on the other hand, costs 10 GEL and up.

You can hire a guide right on the spot. According to the local guides, in the 1980s the Navenakhevi Cave was crazy popular among tourists. But because of the subsequent infrastructural collapse, it was closed to the public. Recently, the cave’s infrastructural project received 980,000 GEL of financing from the state, resulting in a quality visitor center, an amphitheater, a cafeteria, and a playground.

30 meters from the entrance, the cave splits into 2 sections. The second floor is linked to the main hall via small stairs. The footpath is 210 meters in length. The cave is at 225 meters above sea level and dates back 27 million years.

There are 4 halls in the cave, and all 4 have their own names: the first is known among Georgian paleontologists simply as the Hall, the second as the Clay Hall, the third as the Hall of Wonders, and the fourth as the Golden Canopy. 

I was especially impressed by the Hall of Wonders. Do you know what a stalagnate is? I only knew of stalactites and stalagmites. A stalagnate is a pillar formed when a stalactite and a stalagmite meet. Well, the largest stalagnate, 18 meters in thickness, is found in the Hall of Wonders. The wonders never cease, do they? After all, it takes a whole century for a 1 cm thick dripstone to accrete. Using such stalagnates, paleontologists estimate that the cave is 27 million years old. Here you can also find dripstones of various shapes and colors, some resembling the paws of a lion, and others known simply as khinkali dumplings.

The Golden Canopy in the Navenakhevi Cave boasts the longest stalactite. This 10-million-year-old formation is 2.2 meters in length.

The temperature in the cave is always 14°C. The water here contains calcium and salts. The cave is especially beneficial for asthmatics. The cave’s maximal height is 18 meters.

There are 120 stalagnates in the cave, more than any other cave in Georgia. There are 190 stalactites and 130 stalagmites per square meter. How to get there:

There is only one route in and out of the Navenakhevi Cave, because its other end is blocked by a 7-meter-thick stalagnate. Paleontologists claim that the cave extends about 30-32 meters further, though nobody knows what lies beyond the last stalagnate as it is technically impossible at this point. It is very possible that the Navenakhevi Cave wonders never cease.

How to get there:

There is only one route in and out of the Navenakhevi Cave, because its other end is blocked by a 7-meter-thick stalagnate. Paleontologists claim that the cave extends about 30-32 meters further, though nobody knows what lies beyond the last stalagnate as it is technically impossible at this point. It is very possible that the Navenakhevi Cave wonders never cease.

Kinchkha Waterfall

From my modest travel experience, the more difficult the path to a given sight is, the more unexpected, exciting, and impressive the destination turns out to be. At least, it’s true of the Okatse Waterfall, also known as Kinchkha after the village close by. This waterfall raised a set of brand new emotions in me: a bit of surprise with lots of excitement.

26 and 2 kilometers separate Khoni from the village of Kinchkha, and Kinchkha from the waterfall, respectively.

The last stretch leading to the waterfall passes through a serpentine—though I wouldn’t say dangerous—route. Still, it’s better to ride in a jeep or pickup to be on the safe side.

The road is asphalted, so you can walk up there, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and flag down a car.

While still on the road I noticed the highest waterfall and got ready for a new, totally unexpected experience.

Five minutes later, I was there. The infrastructure turned out to be well functioning, with a visitor center and a neatly arranged footpath to take me closer to the waterfalls.

An unbelievable panoramic view unfolded, and the fabled Okatse Waterfall turned out to be a cascade of waterfalls descending in three tiers.

The tallest waterfall—the one I saw from the road—drops from 70 meters to send splashes all over the place.

And “the place” is amazingly clear and white, consisting of limestone, which is why it’s white, with crystal clear water running down the white stones.

“It probably freezes in winter, right?” I asked a tourist center assistant standing next to me.

“No, it doesn’t. It may freeze on the edges, but that way the water flows in the middle, which makes the sight even more beautiful… Come back in winter and see for yourself,” he invited me.

It doesn’t freeze and looks even more beautiful. How about that! As for the path, it is cleared in winter, the local ranger says.

The footpath led me as close as possible to the waterfalls. I was just standing there, stunned, staring at the tallest one. Next, I heard my colleague calling out to me. I followed him, anticipating the third waterfall to be much smaller.

But… I can’t even begin to describe my emotions after my first encounter with this waterfall. I remember hearing the overwhelming sounds of roaring and rumbling. I looked up but, apparently, the whole show was below.

The water drops down the 35 meters into the river so fast that the splashes bounce back up to reach you. There is a special transparent observation platform arranged to contemplate this fast-falling stream and the amazing landscapes surrounding it. Through the platform’s transparent tiles, you can also see what’s happening directly under you. And that’s when I realized for the first time what acrophobia is about. My heart started racing, and I got a feeling of choking. I tried not to look down as I headed toward the guardrails, step by step… Then I clutched one of the rails and looked down, unable to get my eyes off the sight. I knew for sure that I’d be back!

According to visitor service assistants, aristocrats of old used to come here to shower. Up until recently, only a handful of locals would feast by the waterfalls’ splashing streams. Things are different now, though. Pretty soon a zip line will be arranged here for extreme sports fans. The Agency of Protected Areas also plans to install a lighting system and build a small café here.

Prices: A pass to Kinchkha Waterfall costs 10.35 GEL, though non-citizens pay 17.25 GEL.

If you’re vacationing without a ride, you’ll need to hire a cab in the center of Khoni which should cost you 30 GEL to get to the waterfalls.

Prometheus’ Cave

Prometheus’ Cave
Prometheus’ Cave

Prometheus’ Cave, a 1.8 km-long karst cave cherished as natural monument, is found 40 kilometers from Kutaisi. Nested 400 meters down into the ground, this natural formation is dated 60-70 million years. 6 of the 22 halls discovered here are open to tourists. 1-hour foot or boat tours to the Halls of the Argonauts, Colchis, Medea, Love, Prometheus, and Iberia are concluded by a 15-minute boat tour down the Kumi River running through the cave. Most beautiful stalactite and stalagmite dripstone of various shapes create a sense of magic in action. Inside the cave, you will come across a petrified waterfall, fossilized wood curtains, cave pearls, and an underground river and lake. Artificial lighting and a laser show further intensify the experience.

The visitor information center is located in the village of Kumistavi, Tskaltubo Municipality. Tour guide services, included in the ticket price, are provided in the English, German, and Russian languages. Tours are offered all year, but keep in mind that boat tours are prohibited due to safety considerations whenever the water level in the cave rises. Similarly, boat tours are cancelled in the rain, so check the weather in advance.

As a sign of appreciation, Prometheus’ Cave offers audio tour guide services, a civil ceremony, and cave sump diving sessions.

For service fees and working hours, please visit the official website of the Georgian Agency of Protected Areas

How to get there: From Kutaisi you can catch a Tskaltubo-bound bus (departs from the McDonald’s parking lot and other easily recognizable areas). From the Tskaltubo station, marshrutka #42 will take you to your destination, just a 6-kilometer ride. For detailed information, please contact at 577 10 14 17, 577 10 18 99

More info: beto.promete@gmail.com

Sataplia State Reserve

Sataplia
Sataplia

Founded in 1935, the Sataplia State Reserve incorporates 330 hectares of forested territories featuring geological, paleontological, speleological, zoological, and botanical monuments. But what puts Sataplia in the international spotlight is dinosaur trace fossils—marlstone has preserved almost 200 traces of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs from different eras. Notably, the Sataplia dinosaurs are different from all their counterparts known in the world, which is why they are categorized as Satapliazaurus.

Sataplia is a perfect destination for family tours. A short comfortable, easy walk and you find yourself looking at dinosaur prints in the special conservation facility, wandering in a karst cave, appreciating the exhibition hall and wild bee colonies, and wandering through the Colchis Forest with rare and endangered species of conifers from the Georgian Red List, half of which are relict. Ascending a special glass platform and enjoying beautiful panoramic views of the Imereti Region will be the icing on the cake of your journey.

The visitor information center is located in the village of Banoja, Tskaltubo Municipality.

Tour guide services are available in the English and Russian languages.

Tours are offered all year, but keep in mind that panoramic platform sessions are prohibited in the rain or snow, due to safety considerations.

How to get there: If you feel an urge to rush to Sataplia on an unplanned visit, catching a cab is the best option. According to Senior Specialist Mirza Kenchadze of the Sataplia Museum’s Visitor Service, it will cost you about 10 GEL. Alternately, you can travel by marshrutka from Kutaisi (#45 departing from Javakhishvili Street), and then cover 1.5 kilometers to the Sataplia Visitor Information Center.

For detailed information, please contact Mirza at 595 08 60 59, 577 10 18 99

mirzakenchadze@gmail.com

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