Rafting in Georgia: Aragvi, Kura, Mtkvari, Rioni, Tskhenistkali, Chrokhi, Adjaristskali
IGeTUR company has been successfully and professionally organizing rafting tours of any complexity across Georgia, and we work all year round. Yes, it is true; the rafting in Georgia available in winter, too. Of course, we use special wetsuits that allow you to avoid freezing even when the air temperature is close to 0 degrees Celsius or less.
Rafting in Georgia is diverse, and it depends on many factors, such as season, weather conditions, level of training of participants, as well as your location and location of the river. You must admit that it’s not always convenient to spend five to six hours driving for the sake of one-hour rafting or go to a river in which there is currently no water. Below we’ll take a look at the main rivers suitable for rafting, as well as the factors that must be considered when planning your tour.
Rivers suitable for rafting in Georgia
The main rafting in Georgia is carried out on the rivers Adjaristsqali, Chorokhi, Machakhela, Rioni, Tskhenistskali, Kura (Mtkvari), Terek, Aragvi. The opportunity to ride a raft, kayak, or canoe along with one of these rivers we’ll describe below.
Rafting on the rivers of Adjara (Chorokhi, Adjaristskali, Machakhela)
The rivers of Adjara, the most western part of Georgia, are located just an hour’s drive from the city of Batumi. The best time for rafting along them is from March to mid-July, and then after mid-October. At this time, excellent and exciting routes available on the rivers of Adjara. In summer, the water level in the rivers drops down significantly, and rafting on Machakhela and Adjaristskali looks more like flipping over from stone to stone.
At this time of the year, a good instructor pushes the boat at least twice per rafting, and a bad one always. Therefore, in the summer months, if your goal is to try rafting and not to get disappointed in it, then rafting in Adjaristsqali is best done on an inflatable kayak or canoe.
Rafting on the Chorokhi river at any time of the year is a simple route, perfect for families cause on Chorokhi are a couple of straightforward rapids and a minimum dose of extreme for participants. Also, this route offers the opportunity for swimming, cliff jumping during good weather, the opportunity to go out to sea. But in summer months, the possibility of rafting on this river depends on the schedule of hydroelectric power plants located on the territories of Georgia and Turkey, so you need to ask about the possibilities of rafting in the choosing day.
Rafting on the rivers Rioni and Tskhenistskali
These rivers are most famous in Georgia and flow in the Racha-Lechkhumi region, as well as Imereti and Kvemo Svaneti. Many rafting routes from beginner level to expert level available here. Conducting rafting on these rivers is possible for one or a few days. And the best part is that you can raft along Rioni all year round. Let's take a closer look at these rivers.
The most famous river is Rioni, with the nearest settlement of Kutaisi (located 2.5 hours from Batumi, 3.5 hours from Tbilisi). The distance from Kutaisi to the starting points of rafting routes is approximately one to 2,5 hours by car. All the routes require being on the water for at least 1,5 hours. Also, you must count the time needed for instructions and equipment dressing. You should estimate the time of the event at least 3 hours without taking into account the transfer time. On the Rioni, you can find for both dynamic but light routes in the lower reaches of the river and more serious ones in the upper reaches for people who have experience.
Tskhenistskali river is a more seasonal one. On the upper reaches of the river locates challenging routes for professionals, on the lower reaches available middle-grade descent of 15 kilometers stretch, that open from March till August.
Rafting on the river Kura or Mtkvari
The Kura River (the second name of the river is Mtkvari) is one of the largest rivers in Georgia, originating in Turkey and ending in Azerbaijan. The central rafting descent on the Kura River begins from Chitakhevi village and ends close to the city of Borjomi. The rafting on the section is quite dynamic in spring and calm in summer when the water level is low. That period the route is well for family rafting. The nearest city is Borjomi, the distance from the town to the starting point of the descent is about 20 minutes by car.
The second rafting section begins close to the cave town of Vardzia. The route is incredibly beautiful but rather complicated. It runs through deep canyons, and the leading guide must have high professional skills. Rafting on the section open from April till the end of June. In summer, usually, the water level in the river is not enough for rafting.
Rafting on Aragvi
Rafting along rivers Pshavskaya and Khevsurskaya Aragvi runs from April to October. The best time for rafting on these rivers is from May till the end of July. After this period, the water level drops down, and routes become lazy and straightforward.
The nearest city to the starting point of the route is Tbilisi. It takes about 1.5 hours driving to get from the town to the starting point of the descent. On Aragvi river, you can find both the rafting close to the road leading to the Shatili fortress, like rafting close of the road to Kazbegi. All the routes need time for rafting from one to two hours.
Specificities of rafting in Georgia
When you look for rafting service in Georgia, it will be the right decision to look into several points that help you get a pleasure and excellent impressions from the trip, in another side you can get frustrations and problems.
The first and foremost point while rafting is safety! A very long topic, which is worthy of a separate article, but let's try to outline the main points:
Even the simplest rafting is associated with risk, often it is lower than driving a car on a highway, but it still exists and therefore any company that is serious about rafting, always complies with the following requirements:
● A company has high-quality rescue equipment. They have a helmet and a life jacket, and a river guide checks that you fix both on the body. In the cold season, the company provides a neoprene (the equivalent of diving suit) wetsuit. Always there is a chance that you’ll find yourself in the water. If it’s hot outside and you fall into the cold river water in shorts and a t-shirt, it will cause damage to your health.
● Age restrictions. Even in the simplest rafting on rough water, the participation of infants is not allowed. Even on a light river, the raft can hit off a stone, and people can shifting in the boat. Or anyone during the paddling can hit the neighbors by an oar, and everything that turns out to be a small bruise for an adult can be the case a severe injury for a small child. Therefore, the routes for family rafting usually have for participants limit is eight years old. In exceptional circumstances and on the most straightforward trips can be taken children no younger than 5-6 years old.
● Instructor qualification. Riding a raft on the river is stressful than driving a large passenger bus on a windy mountain road. The real raft-guide get skills for several years. Many boat owners in pursuit of quick profits do not want to pay for the education, sending amateurs to the river until a disaster happens. Therefore, make sure to check the qualification of the company’s instructors, which organizes your tour. During the last years, specialists from the International Rafting Federation (IRF) have held several pieces of training in Georgia and certified more than 15 instructors. Each serious rafting company in the country has at least one such certificated specialist now. If there are no such people in the company, that’s a good reason to rethink whether you should trust your health and life to them.
● Briefing. Any rafting starts with a safety briefing. Instructors show you all the gear, explain and check how you use and fasten clothing on the body. Also, tell you how should sit in the boat, how to use a paddle, give information about individual commands, about typical situations on the water, and how to react in trouble. This point is mandatory! If a guide didn't give a safety-talk, he isn't a professional.
● Active safety. All dangerous rafting conducted with additional active protection. The supplemental instructor with a kayak which follows with the group to help in critical cases like a raft overturn, loss of a participant, or loss of equipment. The safety-guide provides quick assistance, thereby significantly reducing the risk of injury.
Natural features of rafting in Georgia
Firstly, seasonality. In Georgia, all rivers take place from glaciers. Because of this, the best time for rafting is the time of snow melting from April to July. In this season, the rivers are full of water, and the rafting brings real emotions. From the middle of Jule, the water level drops down significantly, and enjoyable rafting in Georgia available only on both large rivers Kura and Rioni.
Second, the weather. Rains also influence the water level in the rivers. In a dry season after heavy rain, rivers can change in a few hours. You can find the exciting rafting in a place where it was nothing.
The difficulty of rafting
The international gradation of the rafting complexity consists of five classes. The most simple is the first one, which is almost without rapids. The most complex is the fifth class when hard and dangerous rapids go one by one. For family rafting is suitable the routes of first to second classes. The most popular rafting routes in Georgia relate to family grade from July to September. For advanced participants and newcomers who are looking for the hotter journey well suit routes of third grade. The third grade includes all the famous spring rafting descents provide during active snowmelt, as well as some of the sections on the Rioni from the middle of July till the end of September. Those who have rafting experience and fine fitness can try the rafting of fourth grade. Finally, the fifth category is appropriate only for experts and is hard to use for commercial rafting.
Also, keep in mind the fact that many companies offering rafting events using overstated grades. It can be a trick, or the sale-mangers don't understand the difference of classes. Therefore, we do not recommend using only the category during you choose a rafting route. Better will be if you can asking about rout properties like a distance, level of water, time for travel, etc.
What can you take with you on rafting
Let's look at another critical point: what you need on rafting, and what is not worth taking.
Firstly, the essential rule of rafting: “Any item, no matter how to fasten or hide it is, has a chance to fall into the water and break or sink, therefore.” Therefore, we do not recommend to take with you: cell phones, documents, expensive glasses, watches, etc. The instructor and the organizers haven't responsible for your items. They can advise you on how you can protect the items or give you a waterproof cover for them. But if you take it, then all goods will be only on your responsibility.
Some words about action cameras, apart from the standard mount, we recommend using an additional lace to tie the camera to your helmet. This simple trick saved many cameras in our practice.
What you need to take with you:
- Sunscreen. In hot weather, skin can quickly burn.
- Clothes for the water. It can be a swimsuit or a t-shirt and shorts. These clothes will be wet after rafting.
- A bottle of water. It can be a surprise, but you will want to drink a lot of water while rafting. But clean springs with drinking water hard to find on the most popular routes.
- Panama cap with a visor. On a sunny day, you can wear the hat under the helmet to protects your face and nose from sunburn.
- Comfortable shoes that fix well on your foot. Great options are sandals or sneakers. In extreme cases, coral slippers. (after the rafting your boots will be wet)
Contraindications for participation in Rafting
- Physical fit. Almost all popular routes for family rafting do not require high fitness for participants and available to everyone. Extreme routes third grade and above will need from you well-coordinated teamwork, as well as to be ready for extreme situations (turning over the boat, swimming in the water, etc.), so if you are not well fit, think whether you need it? Even simple routes finished well will be bringing you good emotions and a positive charge.
- Health. Rafting involves active moving and adrenaline rush. Therefore, if you have contraindications to this, it is better to refuse the ride.
- Swimming. You wear a life jacket and helmet which ones enough to safety in family rafting. But if you decide to go on an extreme route, then the ability to swim is mandatory for you. If you do not know how to do this, then you must refuse participation in dangerous trips.
- State of alcohol and drug intoxication. Are you drive a car under alcohol or drugs? Even on a simple rafting section, a drunk person can endanger his own life and those who surround him. Therefore, dear guests, drink after. Sober rafting is much more enjoyable!
We hope this article will be useful in planning your vacation in Georgia. Good luck to everyone on the water! More pleasant impressions and highlights.