Birtvisi Canyon is a relatively less explored gorge of Georgia offering splendid views of volcanic hillocks. Located just around one hour drive from Tbilisi, the canyon is perfect for those who would like to get away in nature without special equipment or renting a car. This guide provides all the useful information you need to hike in Birtvisi Canyon, so let’s start, shall we?
Why hike in Birtvisi Canyon?
Birtvisi is part of Trialeti Planned National Park in the Kvemo Kartli region situated on the left side of the Algeti river. It features several independent rocks and elevated small vulcanic hills formed millions of years ago as a result of an active volcanic eruption. Later, natural processes like wind and rain changed the appearance.
In this rocky pyramid-like mountains lies Birtvisi Fortress, the least accessible fortification in the whole country. Unfortunately, the exact date of the construction is unknown, with the first mention in the historical sources of the 11th century AD.
It is absolutely extraordinary how the constructors of the citadel ingeniously used the challenging landscape to build a walled settlement along the ridge of the mountains. The fortress has several towers with well-built defensive construction. Apart from the defense fortifications, there are ruins of residential buildings, farmhouses, and water pools.
The highest tower of the citadel is accessible only through the steep rock-cut staircase. This so-called “Invincible” (Sheupovari) tower offers panoramic views of the surrounding areas and played a significant role during the invasions.
Birtvisi Fortress was the most powerful fortification in Georgia, not invaded for many centuries. Even Tamerlane, the cruelest invaders of the 14th century, attempted seven times to conquer Birtvisi. Unfortunately, on the 8th attempt, he got an insider tip on how to capture the fortification.
Hiking the Birtvisi Canyon
The best place to start the hike is from Tbisi village and walk on a well-rammed dirt road leading to a small forest. When you see a sign saying – Birtvisi Natural Monument – you are on the right track. Sadly, the trail is not marked, but make sure to download guides from Wikiloc to lead you towards the fortress or download Maps.me – my all-time favorite offline navigation mobile app. We hiked the canyon with a group of friends, from which one is a guide, so she knows the area inside out!
After about 150m, turn right into the forest and follow the path. Slowly, you’ll start noticing the impressive, cone-like rocks popping up from time to time as you gain the elevation. You’ll have to climb over several steep stones as you go; however, you’ll have dazzling and dramatic views of this unusual landscape from all around you. A truly impressive sight to see!
After about 1.5km, you’ll come to a Devis Naprali, translated as Giant’s Cleft. This is a narrow opening to an absolutely stunning area that looks like a natural wonderland full of lush greenery, moss-covered trees, rocks, and flowers. The path leads to the base of the Birtvisi Fortress, where you can rest and have lunch.
Afterward, you can walk around 230 meters to the remains of Arsena’s Castle and enjoy the gorgeous scenery of the ancient tower hidden in the overgrown foliage. Then come back to your lunch spot and hike towards the Sheupovari tower.
However, do note that you’ll be climbing the steep rocks up and down, so be extremely careful and cautious where you step. It’s a rough climb, but the views are absolutely breathtaking. Once standing at the remains of the tower, you do realize why locals called Birtvisi canyon and its fortress Sheupovari.
What to bring on the hike
- Comfortable shoes that don’t slip and stand firmly
- Raincoat or wind-proof coat
Best time for hiking the canyon
Hiking the Birtvisi Canyon is possible year-round; however, note that summers here might get quite hot. Avoid hiking after heavy rains as some parts of the canyon will be quite muddy or even flooded.
We hiked at the beginning of March. It was a bit cold and windy at the highest point, but otherwise, it was a nice walk.
- Overall hike distance is around 5km long
- The hike is of moderate difficulty in some parts
- The landscape is rocky and steep
- Mobile network doesn’t work in the gorge
- Download trails at Wikiloc or install Maps.me
- Camping is possible
How to get to the Birtvisi Canyon
The best way to get to the Birtvisi Canyon is to drive via Rustavi Highway towards Marneuli on E117. Then make a turn on the right at village Koda and pass through Asureti, Jorjiashvili, and Sagharasheni villages. From this point, there will be brown tourist signs of Birtvisi Canyon. Continue your way until Tbisi and park somewhere near the hill behind the village to start the hike.
If you don’t have a car, daily marshrutkas run from the Navtlughti bus station in Tbilisi to Tsalka. Alternatively, you can take a marshrutka to Tetritskaro and ask the driver to drop you off at Partskhisi village right at the bridge before it makes a turn towards Tetritskaro; and walk for about 30 minutes to reach Tbisi. If you are taking Tsalka one, hop-off at the sign of Tbisi village.
The price of the marshrutka is 3 GEL. Check the schedule a day or two days earlier; sometimes it changes seasonally or by the demand.
Getting back from Birtvisi Canyon to Tbilisi is not a problem either. You can walk through the main road and wait until any marshrutka comes along, or walk towards the spot the first marshrutka dropped you off. Just remember to be back on the main road around 4-4:30 p.m. According to my friend, hitchhiking works perfectly in this area, so if you happen to miss marshrutka, you can always stop a car and tag along till Tbilisi.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Georgia travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
– Book affordable flights on Kiwi.com, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
– Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Georgia, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
– Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking and Agoda, or find a cool apartment on Airbnb and get $34 off on your first stay (my invite expires in 30 days after you sign up! )
– Pre-book a private car transfer from Tbilisi Airport to your hotel
– Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road