In mid-July, our SRAS group went on a day trip to Kutaisi, the second largest city in Georgia and also a popular wedding destination. After going to Bagrati Cathedral, we ate dinner and spent the night at a nearby guest house. Unfortunately, I did not feel well that evening, so I went straight to bed when we got to the guest house, but my friends said that dinner was a table piled with khachapuri, fried potatoes, chicken, cheese, salads, watermelon, and lemonade. On our roughly 3 hour drive back to Batumi the following day, we explored Prometheus Cave and then Martvili Canyon, not too far off from Kutaisi. These are two of Georgia’s most well-known natural wonders, so it only made sense to visit them during the short time we were there.
Prometheus Cave is located in Kumistavi, a village in the Tskaltubo municipality of Western Georgia. It is an out-of-this-world experience with wondrous rock and water formations that make the cave seem like a magical underworld from Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The cave is full of stalactites, stalagmites, rock formations, and underground lakes and rivers that cannot be described with words. With 22 halls discovered since 1984, it is considered to be Georgia’s largest cave. Six of the halls via a boat ride on the underground Kumi River are open to tourists on a 45-60 minute guided tour (offered in Georgian, Russian, and English). The guide leads tourists through the cave and explains different facts about it, although if you are like me and get caught up in the sheer beauty of the cave, you will end up trailing behind and not really paying attention.
Just past halfway through the tour, there is a lights show during which an alternation of neon and dark colors are projected onto the cave’s ceiling while classical music is played in the background. The resulting ambience is beautiful and adds to the surreal experience. This a well worthwhile trip, and it is little wonder that the cave is considered a natural monument by Georgia’s Agency of Protected Areas.
The cave’s name, which was suggested by former president Saakashvili, comes from the Greek legend surrounding Prometheus. According to the myth, Prometheus stole the secrets of the gods, in particular fire, and gave them to mankind. Zeus had his servants take Prometheus and chain him to a rock as punishment. Zeus then sent eagles to Prometheus to slowly eat away at his liver everyday. Many believe that the rock Prometheus was chained to is in this cave, but others maintain that the rock is elsewhere in the Caucasus Mountains.
The six cave halls open to the public also have names that bear mythological relevance. They are: Argonauts, Kolkheti, Medea, Love, Hall, and Iberia halls all refer to story of the Argonauts’ search of the Golden Fleece in Colchis, which is said to have taken place in Georgia.
Martvili Canyon, sometimes referred to as Gachedili Canyon, is located in the village of Inchkhuri in the Samegrelo Region. It currently has two bridges, three spots for viewing, a limestone staircase, and the opportunity to ride an inflatable boat. The canyon itself was carved out by the Abasha River. Over the years, the river created a 1.5 mile long gorge with high rock walls. Slim trees with bright green leaves, moss-covered boulders, and vibrantly turquoise waters make the canyon a naturally picturesque spot.
Martvili Canyon is also known for being a former bathing spot of the Dadiani noble family. The Dadiani ruled over Georgia until 1867 from the more western city of Zugdidi. The limestone staircase was their private path that led down to the pools where they bathed. It still stands.
The first thing our group did upon arrival was ride the inflatable boats. We paddled our way through the still waters and took many pictures of the beautiful scenery. Rock walls covered in greenery were on either side of us, and tree branches formed a canopy overhead. We crossed the small bridges and viewed the waterfalls which poured over the boulders with gusto and bravado.
Conclusion: Exhausted but Content
After our time at Martvili, our group ate a late lunch of beans, chicken, pork, and bread at the restaurant by the visitor’s entrance. Given that the weather in Kutaisi had been extremely hot the day before, we were all drained of energy. We played relaxing Russian music in the van on the way back to our homestays in Batumi and did our best to sleep. We weren’t very successful, perhaps because a passing vehicle slammed into our van’s mirror (thankfully no damage was done!).
Despite the heat and exhaustion in Kutaisi, it was an amazing trip. Prometheus Cave and Martivili Canyon were unlike anything I had seen before and truly opened my eyes to the wonders of this Earth.