Georgia

Chiatura, Georgia – the craziest place I’ve been to!

(Last Updated On: 18/11/2019)

The rumors say the cable cars in Chiatura are currently under renovation (in 2019). Before your trip to Chiatura, I recommend asking on my Facebook group about traveling in Eastern Europe about the current state of cable cars. I’m sure someone will know the answer.


I don’t remember how I found out about the city of Chiatura, Georgia.

It’s not the most obvious destination for travelers exploring one of my favorite countries ever, most people focus on stunning Tbilisi, Black Sea resort Batumi, magnificent Caucasus mountains or wine region Kakheti.

Even I, during my first trip to visit Georgia back in 2011, had no idea the place like Chiatura exists.

But the moment I saw the picture of rusty cable car going upwards almost at the right angle I knew I had to go there!

It took me a while but I finally reached Chiatura and had a wonderful time in this kind of forgotten town.

Short history of Chiatura

Chiatura is a fairly new city.

It was established at the end of the 19th century, when the manganese and iron ores were found in the area.

Shortly after numerous mines were opened and already in 1905 the manganese production here was 60% of the global output.

Chiatura was also the only Bolshevik heartland in Georgia during 1905 Russian Revolution.

After years of prosperity these days Chiatura is a sleepy town that lives at its own pace, hidden in the mountain valley at the outskirts of the country.

Chiatura Georgia

How to get to Chiatura, Georgia?

Couple of years ago the low cost flights started serving Georgia, flying to Kutaisi located more or less in the middle of the country.

While many complain it is not to convenient, especially if you want to travel to Tbilisi (which is 4 hours away by bus) it has some advantages too and a close proximity to Chiatura is one of them.

During one of my latest trips to Georgia I’ve decided to head to the city of Kutaisi instead of directly to Tbilisi or Batumi, as always, and from there go to Chiatura for a day trip.

I heard that there is one direct marshrutka (mini bus) from Kutaisi to Chiatura at 10 in the morning but when I got to the bus station no one seemed to know about it.

However, I was taken care of anyway, after all it’s Georgia and once again I was lucky to experience its amazing hospitality (that sadly slowly fades away).

I was taken to the marshrutka that was about to go to Zestafoni, a nearby town where I was supposed to catch another one for Chiatura.

When we arrived at our first destination I was ready to leave with all the other passengers in the center but the driver told me to stay inside so he could take me to the bus station.

Once there he walked with me to the ticket office and explained I’m heading to Chiatura so already others could take care of me and eventually put me in the right marshrutka and told the driver where to drop me off.

Less than 2 hours after leaving Kutaisi I was already in Chiatura, ready to explore.

By the way, I would have probably managed all of this by myself but if you’ve seen how the Georgian language looks like you’d know how much of a challenge travelling around can be and the help of locals was invaluable in this situation!

If you are staying in Tbilisi and would like to visit Chiatura your best option is an organized tour. Not only you will be able to see Chiatura but you will also stop at Katskhi pillar (I’ve seen it only from marshrutka’s window).

Click here to see more details and book the tour.

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura cable cars

The main reason why I wanted to visit Chiatura so badly were all the crazy, rusty cable cars.

The reason why there are so many of them is due to the town’s location, deep in the valley.

Cable cars were introduced in Chiatura in 1954 as part of the public transport system – they were (and still are) the best way to quickly get around the town as they drastically reduce the time of the journey, what takes half an hour by car can be done in 5 minutes by cable car.

According to my map there are still 17 cable cars around – finding them all and riding all of them can keep you occupied for hours!

There are operated either by the town or by the mine – the later one is free of charge but even when you have to pay for the ride it’s a very small amount of money (like 0,10€/010$).

Chiatura Georgia

Before arriving to Chiatura I marked couple of centrally located cable car stations on the map.

Back then I still wasn’t sure if I would dare to ride them as a friend of mine who professionally works in cable car designing warned me before going.

Since the opening in the 1950s hardly any renovations have been done and when he said he wouldn’t want to risk riding Chiatura cable cars I started having doubts too.

The first of the cable car stations I’ve found, next to the river and close to the train station, was going through the renovation (or at least I hope so but it could have been about to be destroyed too…).

That’s when the first wave of disappointment came as that was the station with lines going in three different directions – it must have been so amazing to see it operating at the peak hours!

Chiatura Georgia

Shortly after I found another station and bummer – this one wasn’t working either but at least the car was hanging above the street.

I saw the picture of this station from the 1960s and over the years nothing has changed here, only the advertisements appeared on the car. That says a lot about the condition of the infrastructure in Chiatura…

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

I crossed back the river only to see yet another car hanging above but not moving in any direction. At that time I started questioning the whole idea of visiting Chiatura – was it really worth all the efforts?

I mean, I liked the industrial feel, all the railway tracks, the Soviet style architecture and a mosaic with Lenin and Stalin I found on the wall of another station but that’s still not why I came to Chiatura!

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

I was ready to admit the defeat and head back to Kutaisi but I’ve still decided to check the station inside.

And that’s when the whole adventure began!

Riding cable cars in Chiatura

As I entered the building a nice lady was about to board the cable car and depart all the way to the upper part of the town. She asked me if I’m going too and I happily agreed, feeling all giggly and excited.

If I had any time to think about it I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to enter the car but as the situation surprised me I ended up being totally spontaneous – and now I’m glad I did!.

Chiatura Georgia

The car was really rusty and probably last washed back when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union. I literally could see nothing through the windows, they were so dirty.

But after a short chat in my poor Russian a nice lady saw I’m probably feeling slightly uncomfortable but also curious and managed to open the window so I could admire the views outside. And those were really stunning!

Even if it was a gloomy November day the autumn colors peek through and seeing from the high up the deep gorge / valley Chiatura is located at was just breathtaking.

The journey that I was dreading so badly turned out to be a rather enjoyable one as soon as I focused on the views and not the cable car itself, and it passed by way too quickly for my taste.

Chiatura Georgia

Once up I was feeling ecstatic, I could hear the adrenaline trembling in my ears – it was a mix of disbelief and pride that I managed to overcome my fears and ride this damn cable car. Now even I’m laughing how silly that sounds!

But then I’ve realized that if I went up I have to as well get back to the center somehow and after quick check on the map taking the road wasn’t really an option as it would have taken me way too long.

While waiting for the ride back down I had time to finally see how old and rusty everything is and I can’t say it calmed me down even the slightest.

But then more and more people came to take the cable car down and I figured it can’t be that bad if they are using it on daily basis and all is fine. And it was!

This time I couldn’t enjoy the views properly as the car was packed and only then I’ve realized how long the journey really is – a solid few minutes.

OK, it might not sound like too much (comparing to let’s say Tatev in Armenia) but in this particular place it felt like ages.

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Once I was safe and sound where I started again I felt the joy taking over me and on the wave of this excitement I’ve gladly agreed to take another cable car that was located just outside the station’s building.

This one however was more of a challenge.

It was tiny and with no windows at all – there were couple of round holes that used to be windows but most of them were boarded up with thick net so you barely could see what’s outside – in a way it was good as the cable car was going up in a really crazy steep angle and I would have probably freaked out if I could see it properly.

Going up for few minutes in a tiny, dark and rusty box was definitely among the most thrilling and craziest experiences in my life but it actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds!

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Once on top I could admire Chiatura in the full beauty – even in the gloomy weather it looked spectacular as the location of the town is really breathtaking, deep down in the gorge!

There were also parts of mine’s infrastructure but those looked really creepy and could as well be part of horror movie’s scenery!

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

The ride down was even more thrilling – there was something uncomfortable with the feeling of rushing down in a tiny, metal box that should be out of use ages ago and seeing the town through the net getting closer and closer every second.

Fortunately all was fine and I arrived to the lower station safely but I must admit my legs were slightly trembling when I left the cable car.

But again, I was more than ready to check even more rides! Too bad I couldn’t see any working ones nearby, I so would have taken them!

According to maps.me there are 17 cable cars in Chiatura and surroundings but I’m not sure how many of them actually works – from 6 I’ve seen in the center only 2 I took were operating.

Some of them are located outside of the center so you need your own car / a car with the driver to take you there but I honestly don’t know if they operate or not – friends of mine did such a tour around in summer 2016 and some of them were working just fine.

Chiatura Georgia

What to see in Chiatura, besides cable cars?

But Chiatura is more than just cable cars! The walk around the center was really pleasant and if you like the Soviet architecture (I do!) you will appreciate the place even more.

Even the weather at that point was getting better and better but it was time for me to leave so I could get back to Kutaisi at the decent time.

I was lucky as this way I found the direct marshrutka and even if I had to wait for a long while (almost one hour) it was still much more convenient than going again via Zestafoni.

On the way, not far away from Chiatura, I could see another of Georgia’s top tourist attractions – Katskhi pillar – a 40 meters high monolith with a small monastery on top (unfortunately it’s not accessible anymore).

If you’re visiting the area by car this should be your must stop too!

If, like me, you’re using the public transport be sure to sit on the right side of the bus when leaving Chiatura – you will see the pillar just fine!

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura Georgia

Is it worth to visit Chiatura, Georgia?

At first I was slightly disappointed with Chiatura and wasn’t so sure if it was worth going all the way there just to see rusty cable cars.

But as soon as I started riding them my impressions changed dramatically!

Visiting Chiatura is until now one of the craziest travel experiences I’ve ever had and I’m really hoping to return there to ride all available cable cars!

If you like quirky places then this one is definitely for you and Kutaisi makes a perfect base for a day trip to Chiatura.

It just might be not the best idea to visit the town in November, like I did, as the weather can tricky but I’m sure you’d enjoy the place anyway!

By the way, while you are in the area and based yourself in Kutaisi don’t miss Tskaltubo – a former spa resort that is now a dream of every adventurous traveler and a fan of exploring abandoned places! It’s one of the highlights of Georgia really!

Chiatura Georgia

Chiatura – practical information

I flew to Kutaisi with low cost airline Wizzair – they operate from numerous airports in Europe and even if their tickets aren’t so cheap anymore it is still a good option to get to Georgia.

You can also fly to Tbilisi and reach Chiatura from there – apparently there are some direct marshrutkas, the journey time should be between 3 and 4 hours and I expect the ticket to be around 5€/5$.

In Kutaisi I stayed at Green Flower Hotel – it has amazing reviews on Booking and I can definitely recommend it too. It is some 10 minutes walking from the center but the view from the balcony is really amazing. You can check more details and the current prices of the hotel here.

I haven’t checked any restaurants in Chiatura but I stoped by at the local bakery and had one of the best khachapuris in Georgia, for like nothing! The bakery was located in the center, in the building close to the bridge.


Travel resources

With over 15 years of independent traveling, I’ve learned which websites and services are the best when planning a trip. I always use and trust the following websites:

Money – My number one tip for everyone is to start using Revolut bank card to save money when traveling.

You get the card by mail within a few days and you can use it all over the world. You top up the card in the app on the phone, where you can also have accounts in different currencies and exchange money between them, for no extra fee and at very favorable rates.

Everything is super easy and fast, you only need an internet connection to manage your accounts in the app.

Revolut supports over 140 currencies and offers free withdrawal from ATMs all over the world. In the first 6 months I’ve used Revolut card in 12 countries, including Georgia, in 3 continents and had no issues at all. And I saved a lot of money in the exchange rates!

Click here to learn more about the service and order your own Revolut card!

Accommodation – I always book my accommodation through Booking.com.

They have really good deals (especially with their “Genius” program that you become a member of after few reservations) and in most of the cases, if your plans change, you can cancel the reservation without any extra costs.

I also value them for a really good customer service that I had to use a few times.

Check the best deals on accommodation in Georgia here!

Insurance – I never travel without the insurance as you never know what might happen on the road and better safe than sorry (I’ve learnt my lesson).

I can recommend World Nomads that offer the insurance dedicated to travelers just like you and me.

Click here to get the insurance policy for Georgia here.

Day tours – I do go for a day trips when I travel as often they are the most convenient way to see the place that saves you time and money.

I most often use Get Your Guide that offers a variety of tours all over the world. Click here to check all the best tours you can take during your travels!

Offline maps – For years I’ve been using MAPS.ME app and I can’t recommend it enough!

It’s free, works offline perfectly fine and saved me many times. You can easily transfer Google Maps with all the bookmarks to maps.me and use them offline wherever you are.

Click here to download it to your phone before your next trip!


For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • If you don’t want to miss new posts and news from me click here to sign to my newsletter! You can also follow me on Bloglovin!
  • Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Georgia too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. If you like what you are reading and seeing here and would like to support me and my blog please consider using those links. It would be like getting me a virtual drink that you don’t have to pay for! Thanks!

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Chiatura Georgia       Chiatura Georgia

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Ann Woodward
    10/12/2017 at 19:19

    OMG those cars!! I didn’t go to Chiatura this summer, but I had heard of others heading there

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      16/12/2017 at 06:44

      it’s pretty crazy there but I loved it! :)

  • Reply
    Katarzyna Koźlikowska
    10/12/2017 at 19:27

    Oj, jakbym chciała! Może jeszcze namówię kogo trzeba w najbliższe wakacje. ;)

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      16/12/2017 at 06:44

      koniecznie!! naprawdę warto :)

  • Reply
    Mark Bennetts
    11/12/2017 at 07:00

    I’ve bookmarked this. We have just booked our return to the region and Chiatura is on our list.

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      16/12/2017 at 06:43

      when will you be in Georgia? If we are there at the same time I’m so going to Chiatura with you! :)

    • Reply
      Kami and the rest of the world
      16/12/2017 at 06:43

      PS. you will love it there so much! consider also going to Tskaltubo!

    • Reply
      Mark Bennetts
      16/12/2017 at 08:31

      Kami and the rest of the world We arrive on 30 May and and will spend June and July in both Georgia and Armenia but hope to leave a little time to go overland to Switzerland, where we want to be by early August. Do you have plans for the region also, would be good to catch up there. I have Tskaltubo on our list as there is an abandoned Sanatorium there . Have you visited it?

  • Reply
    Rob Kunkel
    12/12/2017 at 23:33

    I love your approach the world. Thanks for a great review.

    • Reply
      kami
      22/12/2017 at 22:24

      Thank you! :)

  • Reply
    Donelli Gianluca
    12/08/2018 at 19:24

    I was there two days ago. Amazing place with an amazing history. You did a great review. Ciao

    • Reply
      kami
      19/08/2018 at 09:32

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it! :)

  • Reply
    Nadia
    05/07/2019 at 13:02

    Hi :) I see you updated this post last month. I called Kutaisi tourist info today and they told me the cable cars are now all closed :( Do you know whether that’s true? I’d like to visit Chiatura but would be devastated to go all that way and find the cable cars are gone :D

    • Reply
      kami
      20/07/2019 at 12:21

      I think I read about some renovations of cable cars but I don’t know how long they would take, unfortunately

  • Reply
    Anouk
    16/08/2019 at 20:02

    Really liked your review! Today we went to Chiatura and we thought it was amazing! Besides the cable cars and the old apartments, a local man recommended a place next to the new highest cable car (at 862 m). The map says that the street is a dead and, but if you continue the muddy path, you’ll find a huge old abandoned building. It had partly collapsed, but some parts are still fairly in tact. Besides that it offers a great view over the city. So if you’re ever in Chiatura again, this is a nice place to visit too :)

    • Reply
      kami
      19/08/2019 at 21:47

      Thank you for your comment! It sounds like a great place to see! I’m sure I will be back in Chiatura eventually so I will make sure to get there too! Thanks again!

  • Reply
    Bastian
    12/09/2019 at 21:13

    Hi. Been there in June, and the cable cars described in the report were in motion and I went with them … Crazy experience.

    • Reply
      kami
      15/09/2019 at 15:46

      Glad to hear that. It’s indeed crazy, but so cool!

  • Reply
    Piote Marek
    28/10/2019 at 16:55

    Hi.
    I’m planning to visit Giorgia and Chiatira, but I got an information aboit closure of Mine Cable Cars. When I read Your article I start to sherching the internet about thise which are still working. Could You please give me some coordiates for those which You ride?

    Best Regards from Poland

    • Reply
      kami
      06/11/2019 at 23:06

      I read that they are closed too, unfortunately. You should ask about the current state of the cable cars on my Facebook group about traveling in Eastern Europe, I’m sure someone will have more info. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/121053081614593/
      I used maps.me app to find all the cable cars, they are all marked there – you should download it too, it’s free, works offline and it’s really good.

      Have a great trip! I również pozdrawiam z Polski ;)

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