Guest post by: Anya Sapharova

Tourist destinations can vary from fancy shops and restaurants to alienated deserts and unknown highways that may lead nowhere. Being a tourist equals to explorer’s profession with a blank map under one’s arm and a pocketful of desired adventures. Georgia - the county that has gained a great popularity among tourists reveals its secrets year by year with an endless trust and kindheartedness. Places once sacred and sacramental hidden under the tree crowns shyly become the prior tourist destinations. The funny fact is that the spirit of adventurism pumps up foreigners to examine the far-away and little-known lands of inscrutable Saqartvelo that sinks into one’s soul and dwells in its matter.

Mountainous country welcomes its friends and guests with spiky mountains and green hills, expands its vast territory to the fields lined with flowers. The range of natural sights seems to be limitless and at some places even abnormal and enchanting. The country embraced with mountains shows one ore of its peculiarities in the face of canyons that fascinates not only the tourists but the locals as well. One of the reason why Georgians are characterized as very proud people takes its roots in the scrupulous nourishment of their natural resources. It is evident why Georgia, previously a very closed and unknown country, did not show its treasure to the rest of the world – Georgians just contemplated the pure beauty by themselves.

The time has finally come to open minds and make up the leeway –the time to be adored and be on everyone’s lips. The Georgians have become accomplices of their exuberant natural resources and are ready to put the plan of robbery into operation. The plan under the name ‘Humankind’s Heart Robbery’.

After having spent memorable days in the mountains of Georgia one must not lose the opportunity to discover the places in the depths of Georgian natural heritage. Canyons – the antipodes of the high Caucasian ranges can be put on your map of adventures as one of the most captivating places to see in Saqartvelo. 

One of the most distinguished canyons is known under the name ‘Okatse’. It got the name after the river that runs through the Okatse gorge. The piquancy of the place lays in 140 meter suspension bridge that overlooks the whole territory of the canyon. It is better not to step on the bridge if you have the fright of the heights in order not to get dizzy. Those extrimals who adore vertiginous sights have to put down the Okatse canyon in the list of the ‘must visit’ places in Georgia. Emerald-green leaves of a thick forest layer massages both eyes and mind. 

Those who are interested in getting acquainted with the beautiful Okatse canyon first have to get to Kutaisi bus station. Every day at 4 p.m. a mini-bus goes to the village of Zeda-Gordi – Okatse is situated right there. The price of travelling is 5 GEL. Still this option might not be optimal because the marshrutka arrives very late and on the way back to Kutaisi and you might have to practice hitch-hiking.  Another way is to go to Khoni. First pay 2 GEL to get from Kutaisi to Khoni and then 3 GEL to get from Khoni to Zeda-Gordi for 3 GEL. Large companies of tourists may order a taxi and that might cost about 30 GEL. 

When having approached Zeda-Gordi, it is important to find the visit center for the tourists, though the words ‘find’ may be a little bit exaggerated – a newly built office stands out so much at the background of the rural life. It looks like a futuristic place that somehow reminds you that you are in the 21st century and that civilization is just 50 km away. You have to purchase tickets there in order to show them at another checkpoint that is 2 kilometers away. Yes, the road is not short, but the overall impression later will not disappoint. The price of entrance is 7 GEL.

After entering the place you can get some visual information from the mini model of the canyon. It competently describes how to get to the canyon and what is the nearest route. The only intrusive force that can distract from the peaceful entrance into the canyon will be projected in the face of the local drivers who suggest giving a ride to the canyon as if referring to a long way. Still it’s better to have a walk especially if the weather is nice because in a couple of hours you will again merge with the busy pot of the civilization in Kutaisi. 

Okatse canyon is known for the remains of the Dadiani family palace (XVIII century) though you will see nothing bit the lonely pillars. Maybe in a couple of years we will be lucky to see the renovated version of the palace and there will be one more reason to travel to Okatse canyon. 

The road that leads to the suspension bridge of Okatse descends and is about 2km long. This fact makes the journey extremely pleasant especially after an exhausting travelling.  When the road ends you get to the second check-point mentioned above and show the tickets you can finally start going down the steps (they say there are about 544 of them, but no worries, you will forget about your exhaustion and all mathematic rules after absorbing the beauty of the canyon. 

There is no sense is describing the unprecedented beauty of the canyon because it should be contemplated in person. This part I will leave to the readers who will regret not being artists and those who are without any doubt will reproduce the Georgian beauty on the canvas.

When the journey is finished you might feel tiredness and fatigue so it will be rational to take the taxi because the road ascends all the time right after the canyon.  Despite the weariness it is highly recommended to visit the Kinchkha waterfall and wash away the tiredness of the day. 

Another option is to visit the Martvili canyon but you have to plan the lodging for the night. You can rent a room from the locals and then continue our journey. Other tips to take into consideration are to stock up the water supplies and get a comfortable pair of shoes. Okatse canyon will leave no people indifferent and the main luggage should consist of high spirits and lust for adventures!