Rafting in Georgia: Aragvi, Kura, Mtkvari, Rioni, Tskhenistkali, Chrokhi, Adjaristskali
For several years now our company has been successfully and professionally organizing rafting tours of any complexity across Georgia, working all year round. Yes, you heard right rafting in Georgia is available in wintertime too, using special wetsuits that allow you to avoid freezing even when the air temperature is close to 0 Celsius degrees.
Rafting along the rivers of Georgia is diverse and depends on many factors, such as season, weather conditions, level of training of participants, as well as your location of the river. You must admit that it’s not always convenient to spend five to six hours driving for the sake of 1 hour rafting or go to a river in which there is currently no water. Below we’ll take 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 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, really worthy and interesting routes are available on the rivers of Adjara. Further, 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 constantly. 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 it’s got a couple of simple rapids, rifts and a minimum dose of extreme. Also, this route offers the opportunity for swimming, cliff jumping, and in good weather to go out to sea. But in the 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 learn in advance about the schedule of its conduct for a particular day.
Rafting on the rivers Rioni and Tskhenistskali
These are some of the most famous rivers of Georgia, that flow in the Racha-Lechkhumi region, as well as Imereti and Kvemo Svaneti. These are Legendary Rivers. Many water routes are available here, starting from beginner level to rafting for experts. 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 popular 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 1 to 2.5 hours by car. All the routes require being on the water for at least 1.5 hours and given the time needed for instructions, and dressing up, you should estimate for rafting itself at least 3 hours without taking into account the transfer time. Both simple but dynamic routes in the lower reaches of the river and more serious ones for those who have experience are available.
Tskhenistskali river is a more seasonal one, in its upper reaches there are difficult routes for professionals, in the lower reaches, there is an opportunity to arrange dynamic descent on a 15 km section from March to August.
Rafting on the river Kura or Mtkvari
The Kura River (its second name is Mtkvari) is one of the largest rivers in Georgia, originating in Turkey and ending in Azerbaijan. The main rafting descent on the Kura River begins in the area of Chitakhevi village and ends near the city of Borjomi. This is quite a dynamic route section, but in summer during the low water period, it is good for family rafting. The nearest city is Borjomi, distance from this city to the starting point of the descent is 20 minutes by car.
The second section for rafting begins above the cave town of Vardzia. This route is incredibly beautiful but rather complicated. It runs through deep canyons and the leading guide must be a real professional. This section is consistently available for rafting from April to the end of June. During the remaining months, the water level at which rafting can be conducted depends on the schedule of HPP in Turkey. Therefore, water is given into the river for 4-6 hours 2-3 times a week.
Rafting on Aragvi
Rafting along rivers Pshavskaya and Khevsurskaya Aragvi runs from April to October and the best time for rafting on them is from May till the end of July. After this period of the year, the water level drops down which makes it very easy to raft. During this time it becomes possible to get stuck on a boat between the rocks.
The nearest city to the starting point of the route is Tbilisi. It takes about 1.5 hours driving to get from here to the starting point of the descent. On Aragvi river, there’s a route on Pshavian Aragvi, which runs along the road leading to the Shatili fortress and the one along the road that leads to Kazbegi. All the routes on these rivers are designed for 1 or 2 hours rafting.
Specificities of rafting in Georgia
There are a number of points that should be taken into account when you are planning your trip so that it gives you pleasure and good impressions, rather than frustration and problems.
The first and main 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:
● Having high-quality personal rescue equipment. A helmet and a life jacket, which should both be well fixed on the body and have minimum loops. In the cold season - neoprene (the equivalent of diving suit) wetsuit. There is always a chance that you’ll find yourself in the water. If it’s hot outside and you fall into the spring water in shorts and t-shirt, this will cause damage to your health.
● Age restrictions. Even in the simplest rafting on rough water, the participation of small and even more so infants is not allowed. Even on a simple river, the raft can hit a stone, people can fall on one side, unsuccessfully wave an oar and everything that turns out to be a small bruise for an adult can cause a very serious injury for a small child. Therefore, the routes for family rafting are usually limited to 8 years old the youngest. In exceptional cases and on the simplest routes can be taken children no younger than 5-6 years old.
● Instructor’s qualification. Riding a raft on the river is much more difficult than driving a large passenger bus on a windy mountain road. This profession is studied for more than a year and professional training is pricey. 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 seminars 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 how to use it, check if you're wearing it correctly, explain how you should sit in the boat, how to use a paddle, talk about their commands, about typical situations on the water and how to react in case of trouble. This point is mandatory, if not - this is another good reason to rethink it.
- Active safety. All serious rafting is conducted with additional active insurance, the participation of a lifeguard on a small kayak boat. In case of a raft overturn loss of a participant or loss of equipment, it provides quick assistance, thereby significantly reducing the risk of injury.
Natural features of rafting in Georgia
Firstly, seasonality. In Georgia, all rivers originate from glaciers, which is why the most dynamic rivers occur during snowmelt. This depends on the height of the mountains from April to July. At this moment the rivers are full of water and the rafting brings a ton of emotions. In August and September, the water level drops down significantly and interesting rafting in Georgia is possible only on large rivers (Kura, Rioni).
Second, the weather. The water level in the rivers also depends on the rains, so even in a dry period, after a heavy rain, the river can change beyond recognition in a few hours, which can impose some restrictions on the rafting.
The difficulty of rafting
There is an international gradation of routes complexity routes for rafting, which is used in world practice and consists of 5 categories. The most simple is the first one, which is almost without rapids. The most complex is the fifth category, on which hard and dangerous rapids go one by one. Basically, all the routes that are suitable for family rafting have 1-2 categories. Almost all popular routes of Georgia from July to September can be attributed to them. For advanced participantsand also newcomers who are looking for hotter stuff the 2nd-3rd category will be good for. It includes all the popular spring routes during active snowmelt, as well as some routes to Rioni in July till the end of September. For those who already have some experience in rafting and are in good physical shape, categories 3 and 4 will be good. Finally, the fifth category is appropriate only for experts and hardly is used for commercial rafting.
It is also worth keeping in mind that very often companies offering rafting refer to overstated categories, or the service is offered by a manager who also does not fully understand the differences. Therefore, we do not recommend relying solely on the difficulty category when choosing a route.
What can you take with you on rafting
Let's take a look at another important point: what you need on rafting, and what is not worth taking.
Firstly, the most important rule of rafting: “Any item, no matter how it is fastened, hidden and so on, has a chance to get into the water and therefore break or sink.” Therefore, we do not recommend to take with you: cell phones, documents, expensive glasses, watches, etc. The instructor on the boat and the organizers are not responsible for your personal items, you take them only at your own risk. Although the instructor can advise you on how to protect these items from getting into the water or give a waterproof cover for them.
As for action cameras, apart from the standard mount, we recommend using an additional lace in order to tie the camera to your helmet. There have been times when this saved the camera and valuable footage.
What you need to take with you:
- Sunscreen, in hot weather being on the water, the skin can burn very quickly.
- Set of clothes for the water. Which after rafting will be wet. This is usually a swimsuit or t-shirt and shorts.
- A bottle of water. It’s not surprising to drink a lot of water while rafting and clean streams with drinking water are not available on all routes.
- Panama cap with a visor. On a sunny day, you can wear a helmet that protects your face and nose from sunburn.
- Comfortable shoes that are fixed on your foot. Great options are sandals or sneakers. In extreme cases, coral slippers. (after the rafting your shoes will be wet)
Contraindications for participation in Rafting
- Physical form. Almost all popular routes for family rafting do not require special physical training and are available to everyone. Extreme routes above 3rd category will require 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 used to physical work, think well whether you need it? Believe me, even simple successfully completed routes bring good emotions and a positive charge.
- Health condition. Rafting involves activity, movement and adrenaline rush. Therefore, if you have contraindications to this, it is better to refuse the ride.
- Swimming. You are given a life jacket in order to participate in family rafting, and this is often enough to ensure your safety. 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 serious routes.
- State of alcohol and drug intoxication. Here you can give an analogy with driving, even on a simple route section, a drunk person can endanger his own life and those who surround him. Therefore, dear guests, drink after. Sober rafting is much more interesting!
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.