Mtkvari (Georgian: მტკვარი, Turkish: Kura, Azerbaijanian: Kür) is with about 1500 km the longest river of the Caucasus. Taking its spring in the high plains of Ardahan the river flows in the most Northeast corner of Turkey. Approaching towards the border with Georgia Kura river enters a deep gorge, which probably haven't seen any paddlers yet. Unfortunately there are hydropower works going on at the moment (Nov 2012). On the Georgian side of the border the most popular kayak sections around the cave city of Vardzia starts. The small camp site opposite of the cave city serves as basecamp. Most kayakers put-in here to paddle the Tmgovi Gorge (Vardzia Gorge). This most famous section of Mtkvari can be every thing between an easy class 3 bimble (in summer) and a challenging big water class 4-5 (in May/June). Most paddlers finish near the village of Khertvisi but there's nothing to hold you to go further to Akhaltsikhe (two more days) or Borjomi (four more days). It is even possible to reach Tbilisi by boat (about ten days of paddling).
- Put-in: Vardzia, on the right bank of the river, close to the small restaurant/campsite opposite of the cave city
- Take-out: last road bridge before Khertvisi. It is possible to paddle further down.
- Length: 12 km
- Time: 2-2.5 h
- Difficulty: in low water class 2-3 (3+), in high water class 3-4 (5)
- Last update: 2012 r.
Even the section is pretty easy in summer, it is very picturesque. The core section is deep below Tmgovi Castle ruins (river left) and the road (river right). Downstream of the castle there are huge boulders in the riverbed, some of them are undercut, and there are a few siphons. In low water setting up safety is fairly easy due to the pool'n'drop character. In spate this section is reported to be a breathless class 4 to 5, swimming not recommanded.