Birtvisi, Georgia. Know it? If you are a hiking enthusiast you will probably have been hiking in Birtvisi. If not, you are probably like thousands of others who have it right there at the top of their bucket list! Birtvisi is a ruined medieval fortress, situated in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia. It is only about 60 km away from Tbilisi, and a must-see!
THE BIRTVISI CANYON
The Birtvisi canyon in which you will find the Birtvisi fortress is located in the Tetri-Tskaro district in Kvemo Kartli region. To get to the Birtvisi canyon, you could hire a taxi or hire a car to get you to Partskhisi village where you can start hiking towards the canyon. There are also public minibuses which run from Samgodi bus station – they will cost you 4 Gel. Your best bet though is to hire a taxi or car – the minibuses only run to this area a few times in the day. Can you believe the canyon is only a distance of 60 km from Tbilisi, or an hour’s drive away?
The walk options from the Canyon base are whether you choose the left side which is following the dried out creek upstream, or to the right, which is just left from the big wall that dominates the Canyon base, as you proceed up.
The locals love to come and joy unforgettable evenings here, so if you rather want your own peace and quiet, you will find really nice camp spots just a few hundred meters up the Canyon if you want to stay the night. This Canyonland of Birtvisi is definitely noted as one of the most spectacular hikes in the Tbilisi area. The area is renowned for its natural beauty; that’s a huge draw-card in itself. But hikers are eager to see the natural rocky fortress of Birtvisi; all 1 km-square of it. After the canyon, there is a plateau – since ancient times, the political and cultural city, Samshvilde was located.
ALGETI NATIONAL PARK
The Birtvisi fortress lies adjacent to the Algeti National Park, so you in all likelihood will want to visit this park as well. You will find it a spectacular fusion of rugged mountains and peaks, rivers, and ravines. The Algeti River flows through the park, watering and feeding over 1600 plant species. If you are a plant lover or botanist, can you imagine how occupied you will be with over 800 grasses and over 150 medicinal plants to explore? You can also hike right here in the Algeti National Park, in fact, there are around five arranged eco-tourist trials that you can participate in, one such is the Samepo Kedi trial, a circular walk of 16 km that won’t disappoint! You can also do it by horseback if you like. In this area, you will also enjoy seeing the Dashbashi fortress, the Samshvilde Canyons and also the Kldekari Fortress.
And if you can’t bear to leave the area after your hike, there are a couple of hotels that will gladly accommodate you in the park, such as the Family Hotel, Hotel Manglisi Dodo, Manglisi Central Park, even camping if you like.
Best time to hike
The best time to do hiking is during the warmer months. In a hot month like summer, you need to start the hike really early, and also beware of the mosquitoes. Autumn is actually a wonderful month to consider hiking in Birtvisi because it’s not boiling hot. When the sun shines, you feel warmed up in body and soul. Its brilliance, falling on the surrounding nature, makes for excellent opportunities to take videos and pictures that will just serve to entice friends and family to want to pack their bags and come over to Birtvisi. Sometimes, if you have been in this area after some rain, you might slip and slide a bit along the paths, but the smell of the rains falling on the earth and the plant growth is exhilarating. You just revel in all that glorious beauty. If you are on the hike after some rain has fallen, be careful on the wet slopes, but if you have the right equipment with you, you will be on top of your game!
Starting the Birtvisi hike
You would have arrived by public transport at the base location where you can start to climb. If you want to start your hiking plans as early as 8 am in the morning, you will reach the getaway destination at around 9 am. Don’t forget that Birtvisi is exquisite to look upon, but it is also rocky with winding paths and guaranteed that you will want to stop a few times just so you can take in the vistas around you.
As you head towards Birtvisi Gorge, you will walk through the mountain, obliged to stop every now and then to take in all that you see around you – the views are guaranteed to dazzle. If you are doing this hike in autumn, the color of the autumn trees and the fallen leaves is like a postcard to view. Amongst all the rocks, the winding paths will lead you; giant rocks are scattered around on both sides until you come to the gorge, surrounded by magnificent canyons. There must be plenty of winding paths around here it is so beautiful, and on one such path, you will even notice small caves, where your unwanted stuff can be stashed until you make your way back – after all, you are headed to the highest point, the Birtvisi fortress. It’s called “Sheupovari”, meaning “Persisted” in Georgian – higher than the tallest rock around. Makes sense, because those who get to see the Birtvisi fortress are those who persisted to be rewarded with views that not many are privileged to see. Around the fortress are other accessory structures and an aqueduct is still there.
In some places, you might think the hiking isn’t even easy
In some difficult downhill parts, climbing ropes come in handy here. It’s an adrenaline-pumping hike that keeps you alert and on the lookout – you feel charged up and feeling high to take on the difficult places.
The higher you get, the more enthusiastic you’ll get as well as to what is to come and when you get to the peak, you will naturally be reaching for your video cameras; it is safe to say that the beauty up here might not even be able to be encapsulated by the video cameras! Who will understand that you were so close to the clouds that you could reach out your hand virtually and touch them?
Hundreds of rocks later, some more than a hundred meters high and some crowned with the remains of the old fortress, peeking through the forested Canyonland, and what you would never have expected to yourself in at the beginning of the walk, you arrive at the fortress. You will be mesmerized by the Birtvisi Fortress, enjoying the views, drinking of the pure mountain water and eating what you brought along. You can also take a short climb to the top of the hill, surrounded by the fortress. You will be bedazzled by the panoramic views of the Algeti valley, Trialeti mountain chain, and forests before you – drink them all in! Here you can rest, relax and just enjoy nature at its best.
This fortress is already mentioned in the 11th century. Two dukes captured the emir of Tbilisi and the fortress of Birtvisi, which was considered unconquerable fortress. In the 15th century, Georgia was invaded again and the fortress was attacked. A battle ensued with the Birtvisi fortress finally being conquered.
The uniqueness of the fortress is that it has been built from massive stones, taken naturally from the ground. The arrangement is so high that nobody was able to conquer it for many centuries. The surroundings and the ruins are very impressive to visitors because spectacular views are opened up to them from the tops of the hills.
This region of Kvemo-Kartli has a very impressive archeological history as well, with findings such as grape pips found in Shulaveri; a pre-historic wine vessel found from Mt. Khrami, as well as the Bolnisi Sioni Cathedral. It is famous for its inscription of ancient Georgian writings ever found – now residing in the State Museum.
As you can see, the hidden valleys of Birtvisi contain secret springs, castles, and waterfalls, all encapsulated in the limestone massif. Exploring can keep you literally busy for weeks if you want to keep up with this exciting maze!
Going back down to where your car is parked, you are going to feel you used every muscle, but what an achievement! It’s more than likely you will want to come back to this place. This fortress, you will be amazed to notice is all the work of nature and human artistic creations. You are not going to get any phone signals up here so you really feel as if time stood still – that you are still in those ancient fortress times, with untouched nature around you.
Rather fancy yourself joining a tour?
Don’t forget that if you don’t fancy doing this hiking trip to the fortress or other places on your own, or don’t fancy organizing it all, there are fantastic tours to join. On a typical tour, your guide will be able to point out things that you might not have thought about or known about. Usually, when you join a tour, you might decide to take different routes, a couple of examples of what you might expect – you choose –
Route 1 example: Such a route will probably take a whole day, with the entire trip being around 170 kilometers starting from Tbilisi to Birtvisi, followed by the hike on foot for about 6 kilometers, and then back from Birtvisi back to Tbilisi. Basically, this route you would go south of Tbilisi to reach the Birtvisi canyon. When you get to the Algeti valley there are two villages, one is Tbisi and the other is Partskhisi. You walk through majestic forests and rocks – after an hour or so reaching the ruins of an ancient fortress called Dedatsikhe. You will then walk a short distance to get to the top of the hill which is surrounded by the fortress.
Route 2 example: You would leave Tbilisi in the morning. After reaching the Algeti valley and the two villages, you will still move along the same path as the above. But when you reach the Dedatsikhe fortress you might stay over for the night; the next morning starting your trek to another fort in the area called Sheupovari. From this fortress, you would return down again and back to Tbilisi. This route you would hike about 12 km.
Route 3 example: This type of route you would also cover about 12 km, leaving from Tbilisi, again to the Algeti valley as mentioned above. There is a place called Orbeti where you would hike, but this route is much more difficult; lots of climbing and walking in the water on your way to the Birtvisi fortress. You would pass the fortress of Dedatsikhe on your way to Birtvisi. A real adventure!
Other outdoor sports
You won’t find much better places than Birtvisil to indulge in some outdoor sports – it’s all about climbing, camping, canoeing, and trekking. I wonder if you knew that the Algeti Reservoir is not far away from here. There is just so much on offer for the extreme adventurist to participate in; rafting, cannoying, kayaking, paragliding, and heaps of hiking spots. If you want to stay over whilst hiking, there are good camping sites that you will find near the rocks.
Accommodation and restaurants
Don’t want to leave this area just yet? You don’t have to – there are fabulous hotels in the area, most of them are under 25 km distance away.
- Bioli Medical Wellness Resort
- Hotel Deutsche Muehle Bolnisi
- Hotel S&L
- Hotel Vaki
- Cybernetics Hostel & Suites
Some restaurants near Birtvisi:
- Tsiskvili in Tskneti
- Lui Coffee
- Tabla Saloon
- Mount Mtatsminda
TAKE A HIKE
Unforgettable moments, unforgettable hiking memories in an unforgettable place – if you do get a chance to visit Georgia, Birtvisi is the number one place to visit.
Hiking and happiness go hand in hand or foot in boot.
~ Diane Spicer ~