No visit to Artvin would be complete without immersing oneself in nature, and the Karagöl Sahara National Park is an excellent place to do just that. The park, established in 1994, covers an area of 8,030 acres, with only one hotel by the beautiful Karagöl Lake, a great starting point for camping, swimming, and hiking vacations in untouched nature.
The steep two-kilometer (1.2-mile) walking path toward this beautiful yet dilapidated church in a gorgeous remote forested canyon is very much worth the effort because of its significance in Georgian history. Historians believe Porta Monastery to be the monastery founded by the monk Grigol Khandzteli, who was the founder and leader of many monastic communities in Tao-Klarjeti (a historical region in southwest Georgia).
Another famous Artvin fortress, the Ardanuç Kalesi is almost entirely surrounded by the jagged edges of natural cliffs and, therefore, overlooks the valley in quite the dramatic pose. You’ll have to climb the steep metal steps to enter the fascinating structure, which used to look out on the capital of Georgian king Ashot the Great in the early 9th century.
Built in 937 by Bagrat III, King of the Abkhazians and Georgia and part of the Georgian Bagrationi dynasty, the Livane Kalesi (or Artvin Kalesi) was extended during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I. Perched on a rock above the valley, the impressive structure also holds a cistern and chapel within its irregular cut stone walls.
Another fairy-tale castle in Artvin, the Şavşat Kalesi, founded by the Georgians in the 10th century, served as the seat of Shavsheti, one of Tao-Klarjeti’s many princedoms. Make sure to pay attention to the information boards that give more details about the fortress’ wine cellar, pharmacy, and hamam.
One of the biggest waterfalls in the province, the Mençuna Şelalesi is quite the popular stop in Artvin and is a stunning sight with water tumbling down the cliff surrounded by the evergreen forest. The 100-meter (328-foot) drop is especially beautiful in the months of April and May.
Located in the Barhal or Altınparmak village, Barhal Kilisesi is a medieval Georgian monastery and cathedral church built by Davit III Kurapalat (a Georgian prince of the Bagratid family of Tao) in approximately 973. The structure is a definite must-see because of its well-preserved demeanor set within the remote natural landscape.
Despite its name (which translates to Hell Creek Canyon), this natural spectacle is quite beautiful with its deep canyons that rise to 200 meters (656 feet) in height. Look out for the mysterious caves in the impressively curving natural rock façades.