Review: Machekhela National Park (Adjara, Georgia) – Charming beauty of the mountain gorge
While vacationing on the Black Sea in the village of Shekvetili, we decided to devote our free time away from swimming to explore the local sights. This time we did not look for information on the Internet or random acquaintances, but went to the tourist information center, located near the central square of Kobuleti. To the right of the entrance to the Wine Shop there is a small white pavilion with the letter i. The employee of the center told us in Russian about all the interesting places in Adjara, marked them on the maps and booklets that were given to us for free. There are four national parks in Georgia near our vacation spot: Kolkheti, Kintrishi, Mtirala, and Machakhela.
The excursion to Machakhela National Park is the most comfortable. There is a good asphalt road all along the route. Tourists are waiting for waterfalls, arched and suspended bridges, beautiful nature of mountain Adjara.
We took the path of least resistance and chose a trip through Machakhel Gorge, located south of Batumi. It starts at the mouth of the Machakhela and Chorokhi Rivers.
Our way started from Batumi along the highway leading to Akhaltsikhe. On this highway tourists go to the famous Makhuntseti waterfall. I have already written a review about this trip. On Machekhela you must turn right from the highway to the Turkish border at the village of Adjaristskali. The landmark is a church which remains on the left side of the road.
Very soon from the turn we approached a metal bridge over a wide mountain river. In order to get to the Mirvety Falls and the arched bridge of Tamara we need to cross to the opposite bank. Not every driver will risk taking a car across the narrow bridge, which seems to be not very reliable. Therefore, many leave their vehicles in front of the bridge and continue on foot, but it is quite far. There are many brave men who successfully pass the bridge. To pass more than one car is not allowed, but unconscious tourists in front of us broke this rule.
We used the services of a local who took us for a small fee across the bridge in his easy car right to the arched stone bridge of queen Tamara, built in the X-XII centuries. There are several such bridges in Adjara that are unique in their architecture and durability, and many of them are still used by the villagers.
Near the bridge on the shore of the mountain river there are tables and benches, you can relax or have a picnic.
After testing the strength of the ancient bridge, we followed the path through thickets of boxwood trees to the Mirvety waterfall.
The boxwood trees are dead from pests, but their trunks and branches are covered with moss and look beautiful and mysterious.
It’s like walking through a fairy tale forest. To the waterfall from the arch bridge is about 100-150 meters.
On the way you can meet wooden bridges and fallen trees, mountain streams, and, well, to tell you the truth, houses. So, the place is not completely deaf.
Here is Mirvety waterfall. It is not powerful at all. It shows its power after heavy rains.
Under the waterfall you can walk on flat stones, the water is not very cold.
Some of us dared to stand under the jets of the water flow and take a photo as a keepsake.
After seeing the Mirvety waterfall, the same driver took us back across the suspension bridge to our car and we continued our journey along the Machakhel gorge.
The inhabitants of the gorge were famous for their skill in making flintlock guns, pistols in the 18th century. Their art is immortalized in the monument to the Machakhel rifle, standing next to the road on the bank of the mountain river.
From here begins the territory of Machahela National Park.
Near the monument to the rifle we tried out the first suspension bridge. The boards treacherously creak and sag. It is frightening to walk, we have to hold on to the railings from both sides.
On a hill 300 meters from the confluence of the rivers Chorokhi and Machakhela is the fortress of Gvara, built in the 6th century. Or what is left of it. On the top of the hill flags of Georgia and Adjara are flying, but the view from the top of the panorama is associated with climbing the 300 stairs and we pass by.
We stop at the administrative and visitor’s center of the national park in the village of Adjarisagmarty. On the second floor we were given a map with hiking and driving routes in Machahela National Park, located 300-350 meters above sea level.
Nearby is another suspension bridge for crossing to the opposite bank.
The map issued in Kobuleti turned out to be more detailed and understandable. Chestnut, alder, beech and hornbeam, yew, elm grow mainly in the park. Many species of plants are included in the Red Book. The protected area is home to many animals: bears, wolves, wild boars, squirrels, roe deer – this is not a complete list. Machahela Park was founded not so long ago in 2012. Previously, there was a special border zone and access for tourists was limited. The area of the park is 8733 hectares.
Near the village of Skurdidi, unexpectedly, the muzzle of an artillery gun pointed at our car from the right. The cannon and the adjacent accommodation for the crew was built during World War II and was used until the end of 1950 to control the passage along the gorge.
The next stop was in the village of Tskhemlara at another stone bridge of the XII century.
On the right side of the bridge there is a restaurant where we decided to have lunch.
The restaurant was overhanging over the mountain river and it was empty. The owner came out to us and said that he was the only cook and waiter here, after which we did not risk to try his food.
Photo from the new road bridge next to the arched bridge.
The arched bridge from another angle
We loaded into the car and drove on to the village of Kveda Chkhutuneti, where a three-stage cascade of water falls from the mountains. You can approach the waterfall itself on the rocks only if you have good shoes.
The height of the water cascade is about 20 meters.
Chhutunet waterfall descends down small rapids, forming a pond in which you can swim.
Located near the road, here by the road you can go down to the old mill.
Near the waterfall, a local resident sold homemade wine and honey. Each type of wine could be tasted, and as a snack, the vendor generously treated us to corn tortillas and cheese. We didn’t like the wine very much, so we only bought dark brown chestnut honey, which had an original taste with a bitterness.
Near the Turkish border, in the village of Zeda Chkhutuneti, you can visit the Historical and Ethnographic Museum, organized by local enthusiasts. The road to it leads up a mountain serpentine. The viewpoints offer stunning views of green mountains and villages. After a short drive we found out that we didn’t have much gas left. We had to save our visit until the next time and turn back.
The tour of Machahela Gorge turned out to be long and interesting. Its main value – this stunning splendor of Georgian nature, fresh air, mountain rivers and waterfalls. There are significantly fewer tourists on this route than at Makhuntseti Falls and you can admire the wonders of nature and human hands in silence.
Machakhela National Park
There are many beautiful places in mountainous Adjara, but one of the most interesting and fascinating at first sight is Machakhela National Park. The park is located relatively close to Batumi, the first attraction is just 20 km away and the last one is 36 km away. The status of National Park was given to Machakhel Gorge in 2012 in order to preserve the unique vegetation and fauna of this virgin land. The park is truly impressive: shaggy green mountains, mountain waterfalls and bubbling rivers, the ruins of abandoned ancient fortresses, medieval bridges… and this is just a small part of all that awaits you!
What is Machahelah known for?
The region was famous for the production of the eponymous Machahel flintlock, which is a great pride and a reminder of the former glory of the gorge. This shotgun was once considered the best in terms of range and accuracy. These guns were more expensive than others of the same era. But they were in great demand. Turkey, Russia, Germany, France and others bought them.
The fertility of the region, the relatively mild climate and clean environment contributed to the development of rare varieties of grapes, among which Chhaveri is worth mentioning. It is used to produce pink wine, which is very rare in Georgia (this variety grows only in the mountainous Adjara) and unusual in taste, the grapes are harvested at the first frosts, which resembles the process of making the so-called ice wine. Wines are produced in this region by the ancient traditional method, which was used even when Machahela was a very busy trading place. Historically, Machahel is located at the crossroads of trade routes. At that time, Machahelian wine was in great demand, it was transported to Persia, Armenia, Byzantium… Thanks to the traditional way of life of the local people, even today we can enjoy the true taste of quality wine.
Machakhel honey also can’t be neglected, because it is known that Caucasian bee has the biggest proboscis, thanks to which it is possible to collect nectar from the chestnut. And only in this gorge lives a very rare species of Caucasian bee – Machahelian bee. Chestnut honey is slightly bitter, brownish in color, and not sugary. It has a number of beneficial properties that have a beneficial effect on the body. Not for nothing for centuries, local residents used it as the first cure for diseases and for rejuvenation of the body! Many people call it chestnut honey the most useful of all kinds.
I think enough has already been said, so that you have a desire to visit this region, but believe me this is only the berries! All the most interesting things to come.
Sightseeing in Machahela
The greatest treasure of the gorge is nature. There are a huge number of waterfalls and viewing platforms. The river, saturated with underground springs of mineral water. Bathing in the river is very beneficial for the skin and health in general. Here, in many ways preserved the centuries-old way of life of the local population. Until now, they are still grinding corn flour in the old wooden mills. And the folk songs and dances of Machakhela are known far beyond the borders of Georgia. What to see in Machakhela in 1-2 days and how to get there? Machakhela’s roads don’t allow for big buses, so if you’re a lover of solitude and touching unspoiled nature, this is the place to go! Below I will tell you about the most significant sights in Machahela in the most convenient order to visit:
This place is on the approach to the gorge, and strictly speaking, does not belong to it. But, it would be a big mistake to miss such a marvelous corner of nature! Especially since the road goes past it.
Your journey is better to start with a walk to the ancient arched bridge of the 14th century. Locals call it the bridge of Queen Tamar, but that’s not quite right. It was built later. And the technology of construction is very different from the real bridges of the era of Tamar. However. This does not detract from its beauty. Here you can take great pictures.
Continue along the stream upstream. Follow the path along it, and it will lead you to a fabulous alley of boxwoods covered in moss. To get there you will need to cross a small bridge to the left and climb the slope 10-12 meters. The ferns and dense vegetation around create an illusion of the Ajara tropics.
As you move forward along the alley you will feel the growing breeze of coolness and freshness, the ringing streams of water will disturb your delight and captivate you with its beauty! Yes, this is it – Mirvety Waterfall, the highlight of the Adjara mountains! The waterfall has some good photo spots for unforgettable photos. The waterfall is only about 20 km from Batumi city center. In summer the water flow is small. Try to get here after the rain. And it will amaze you with dozens of its small cascades. The water doesn’t just fall from a height, but jumps from stone to stone until it reaches a bowl at the foot.
To get to Mirvety Falls, you will need to turn off the main road, and drive on a fully suspended road bridge with a relatively narrow span. Cars such as delicas, SUVs, minivans or regular cars can safely pass, but only one car at a time, and slowly and carefully. The GPS coordinates for Mirvety Falls are: 41.53021, 41.71216.
The Gwara Fortress
The Gwara Fortress is a fortress ruin of the VI century. The site was not chosen by chance, it offers a panoramic view of the entire gorge and is difficult to access. The fortress served as a place of shelter and a watch post from frequent invasions, and also performed the functions of a modern customs office. Recently 25 clay jugs (or more correctly, kvevri) traditionally buried in the ground, in which Georgians have been making wine for 8000 years, have been discovered. However, in the fortress the jugs were most likely used for storing water and food. A very good place for photo and video shooting! The stepped path (265 steps) to the fortress leads through a real Colchis forest with evergreen rhododendrons, chestnuts, beeches, walnuts… I suggest you make a couple of stops and breathe in all the freshness and purity of the place! I often hear from tourists: we wish we had more in the jar with us.
Be careful: after last year’s excavations by archaeologists, there are stones sticking out on the fortress walls. It is necessary to move on them with great caution. It is better to wear athletic shoes.
The coordinates of the nearest point to the fortress, to which you can reach by car are 41.51591, 41.71877. Stop the car at the cafe with the bamboo arbors. Immediately behind the cafe begins the stairs to the fortress. After returning back, you can take a breather by ordering coffee or ice cream at the cafe. The hostess is very friendly. Here you can also buy local Georgian tea and other homemade products: honey, jam, chacha. Just do not take jars from the showcase. They stand there in the sun all day long. Ask to be taken out of the room.
The main thing is not to miss the turn from the main road to the back road. It is very steep and goes sharply uphill. You can use a concrete stop and a small bridge as a guide. In front of them, on the left hand side is the right turn.
Monument of Machahel Rouge
It is from this monument that Machahela National Park begins. The monument commemorates the former glory of the Machahel flintlock shotgun. The shotgun was prized for shooting long distances and the barrel did not explode no matter how it was loaded. On the monument you can also notice the flag with the name of the gorge in the Georgian language and a dagger. Weaponry was at a high level. Local men forged iron and steel for centuries, even cradles were made of iron.
The monument is clearly visible from the central highway and stands almost at the confluence of two rivers: the Chorokhi and Machahela. Coordinates: 41.51788, 41.72051.
Suspension bridge and park administration
These two locations are located next to each other. The park administration building will be happy to tell you what you can see around the area. There you can also pick up brochures and maps of the area and warn the border guards if you are going to move near the border.
Be sure to walk over the suspension bridge. Wobbly and creaking – it causes a sea of adrenaline for the inhabitants of megapolises.
You can read about another reserve in Adjara here: Mtirala.
Bunker from World War II
You could always expect an invasion from Turkey. Countless times they encroached on our lands. Therefore, during the Second World War, this defensive structure was built. It should be noted at once that it never took part in the battles. In 1958, the military weapons from the DOT were dismantled, because by that time, Turkey has ceased to behave as an aggressor.
The place for the construction was not chosen by chance. If you climb to the roof of the bunker, over the trees you can see that just behind it the road curves and bends to the left. The only road in the gorge was in the palm of your hand in front of the fortification. The cannon installed in the bunker could hold back the attack of enemy vehicles for a long time, and the thick walls reliably protected soldiers from enemy shells and bullets.
Now it is a tourist attraction. It is possible to enter the bunker. But be careful! Be sure to take flashlights and look under your feet. There are manholes somewhere. Also, I don’t recommend going into the far right room. Bats live there. If you disturb them, they will hover frightfully above your heads in the confined space.
GPS coordinates: 41.516367, 41.798537.
Tskhemlar Arch Bridge
The arched bridge of Tskhemlar was built around the 12th century during the reign of our great Tamara. Tamara is called a king, not a queen, and is a representative of the Golden Age in Georgian history. The woman who “had the nerve” to encroach on the historically “male” throne of Georgia. Tamara’s name is associated with many legends and mysticism.
It is one of the longest bridges of that era in the region. There is a new vehicular bridge 20 meters from it, from which it is convenient to take photos. Next to the new bridge there is an area where you can park your car. The bridge can be easily seen from the main road. The coordinates are 41.50991, 41.82003.
Karimana Falls is probably the most unusual stepped waterfall in Machahela. In ancient times it was a stopover and resting place for traders, and more recently coins from different centuries have been found here. In addition, the rocks in some places are painted copper color, and this is also not accidental. The waterfall had the function of clearing copper from the earth at least 1000 years ago. Last year, it was given the status of a historical site and work began to improve the area around it.
The coordinates are 41.498887, 41.839867.
Historical and ethnographic museum of Machahela
Road to historical-ethnographical museum of Machahely gives you indescribably beautiful views of the gorge, it is the highest point of the tourist route. Coordinates of one of the most conveniently located viewpoints, where you can make a beautiful picture or just admire the view: 41.49200, 41.86265. The historical and ethnographic museum of Machahela itself is located in the former building of the mosque, inside which the patterns, balconies, frames, windows, geometric shapes and spirals made with extraordinary accuracy and professionalism have been preserved. Machahel was under the Ottoman yoke for over 350 years, and many had to change religion, but the locals have passed on Christian traditions and culture from generation to generation with great trepidation in their hearts and love. Even in the patterns of the mosques they managed to hide grapevine, wine jug and crosses. By the way, despite the fact that Machakhela was one of the very first parts of Adjara conquered by the Ottomans, it was here that Islam was most fiercely resisted. In the mountains and private gardens there are still a huge number of well camouflaged underground rooms where locals used to go to pray in secret from the Turks. And even now, Machakhela is the only region of Adjara where there is not a single active mosque.
The paint, with which one of the walls is painted, in spite of the proximity of windows and sunlight for over 200 years, has not lost its brightness. The museum will introduce you to the traditional attributes of Machahel life, the culture, the technique of building traditional houses, domestic and household utensils, dowry items, and the names of the first and last manufacturers of Machahel rifles. The actual loom, behind which the makers of this shotgun worked hard, is kept on the second floor.