Svaneti


"A light rain has fallen,
lulled the tall grass.
If anybody says a bad thing about us,
we will split his heart by knife.

an old Georgian lullaby

Svaneti is probably the most beautiful region of Georgia and the essence of what country can offer to the foreign tourists. All those stunning photos of historical stone villages, lush green valleys and snow-covered mountains.... the most of them were made here.

The government of Georgia is well aware of its attractivess and spends millions of dollars on touristic infrastructure and propagation. They have built a new airport, roads and are developing a Tetnuldi ski resort. The region is changing quickly and not always for better, but that is the irreversible fate of all beautiful places on the Earth.

Svaneti

Luckily, for nature lovers there are still enough places to see “unchanged” Svaneti. Most tourists are concentrated in Mestia, many make daytrips by jeeps to Ushguli but most of them are not interested in serious trekking. Trail from Mestia to Ushguli is the most popular Georgian trek, but still only a little frequented by western standards.

Svaneti consists of 2 subregions - Upper (Zemo) and Lower (Kvemo) Svaneti. Upper Svaneti lies in the valley of Inguri river and all I wrote above was actually related to this region.

Lower (Kvemo) Svaneti, which lies in valley of Tskhenistskali river feels like completely different world. It has beautiful mountains and villages too, but simply pales in comparison to its northern neighbour. Thanks to this, Lower Svaneti managed to retain lots of its original atmosphere.

How to get to Mestia:

Marshrutkas to Mestia leave from Zugdidi train station every day. The first one leaves around 7 a.m, after the arrival of the night train from Tbilisi, but there should be several others before noon. The trip takes about 3 hours - price is usually 15-20 GEL per person, depending on your haggling skills.
If you prefer hiking, you can reach Mestia also on foot from Mazeri village through Guli pass.
And if you really want to save time, you can consider also flight from Tbilisi and Kutaisi. They are quite cheap (65 GEL), but occasionally get cancelled because of the weather.

How to get to Ushguli:

Minivans to Ushguli depart daily in the morning from the Seti square. They wait until they are full, usual price for a ride is 30 GEL
If you prefer walking, very popular is the 4-day . Ushguli is also accesible from Lower Svaneti via Latpari pass or Zagar pass.

Ushguli


Stunning mountain village of Ushguli justly belongs to the touristic highlights of Georgia. Some people mark it as highest village in Europe. I disagree, but it really doesn´t matter - Ushguli is not the kind of place which needs such “crutches” to attact tourists.
Ushguli lies in the Upper Inguri valley, only few miles downstream from the source of the river beneath the snow-covered massif of Mt. Shkhara, highest peak in Georgia. It is actually a conglomeration of four settlements (Murkmeli, Chazhashi, Chvibiani and Zhibiani).
At the hill looking up the valley to Shkhara is 12th century Church of the Virgin Mary with defensive tower. In the village lies an ethnographic museum with great collection of golden, silver and wooden icons dating back to 12th century. However, you dont have to go to museum to see a history here, whole village feels like one big skanzen. You can find here over 20 historical defensive towers - also thanks to them is Ushguli since 1996 on the Unesco World Heritage List.
With its muddy streets, pigs, cows and towers Ushguli feels like a place from medieval fairytale. Unfortunately, this beauty feels quite fragile - we can only guess how it will cope with the increased attention of tourists. I just hope that Ushguli will not end up like Mestia with its new “Switzerland style” main square and weird airport building.

Ushguli

Ushguli


Tower of Love


This lonely tower lies by the river, not far behind Ipari village right by the road to Ushguli. It is linked to one of many Svan legends which involves tragic love and death by jumping into the river.
Tower is open, so visitors can anytime explore its interior. However, there is not so much to explore except of the tower itself - lower floors are accesible by crude ladders, to get higher you will have to climb on stones. Still, its pretty nice example of Svan defensive architecture.
When I visited Svaneti, I did some research about the area beforehand and when we appoached this tower, asked the driver whether this is their “Tower of Love”. I will always remember how the face of our grumpy driver melted into a beautiful smile. Svan may seem little cold to the tourists, but could appreciate people who are interested in their culture and dont come here just to tick one item off their “Unesco sites” bucket lists.

Ananuri

Tower of Love (by Giorgi Nikolava)


From Mestia to Ushguli

Probably the most popular multiday trek in whole Georgia and for a good reason - not too long, accesible and still provides great views and passes several traditional Svanetian villages.

  • Duration: 4 Days
  • Difficulty: Moderate

From Mestia to Zuruldi

Shorter version of Mestia - Tsvirmi hike. It climbs onto Zuruldi range and offers phenomenal views of some of the most prominent peaks of Caucasus such as Ushba, Tetnuldi and Layla.

  • Duration: 7 Hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Trip from Mestia to Koruldi lakes

Nice dayhike to the group of alpine lakes lying at the foot of Mt. Ushba. Even though the lakes themselves are rather muddy than rocky, the view of surrounding mountains is superb.

  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Difficulty: Moderate

From Mestia to Chalaadi glacier

Another popular trail in the proximity of Mestia, this one is exploring the valley of Mestiachala river. Not that hard and surprisingly nice.

  • Duration: 6 Hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Trek to Tobavarchkhili lake

This trek crosses Egrisi mountains, which separate Svaneti from Samegrelo lowlands. It doesn't come close to the highest mountains of Caucasus, but that's fully compensated by it's very diverse environment. High passes, magical lakes, rocky gorges, waterfalls, shepherds huts, remote valleys - this trek has it all.

  • Duration: 5 days
  • Difficulty: Hard

Trek from Mestia to Ushguli via Tsvirmi

Alternative of the most popular Georgian trek, which is by mine opinion even better than standard hike via Zhabeshi. Its main advantage are much better views on the first day, when it climbs onto Zuruldi massif.

  • Duration: 4 Days
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Mazeri to Ushba glacier

This demanding daytrip follows the Dolra valley from Mazeri village to the foot of Ushba glacier and offers breathtaking views of Ushba mountain. On the way to the glacier you will pass beautiful Shdugra waterfall, highest one in Georgia.

  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Difficulty: Hard

Mazeri to Mestia through Guli pass

A beautiful, but demanding day-long hike through the Guli pass offering superb views of Ushba mountain.

  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Difficulty: Hard

From Etseri to Mazeri through Baki pass

A pretty nice day hike connecting two valleys of Upper Svaneti. It offers great views of Mt Ushba and its glaciers as well as a nice view of Enguri valley and Svaneti ridge.

  • Duration: 6 Hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

From Mestia to Tsvirmi

Amazing hike in the proximity of Mestia. It crosses Zuruldi range and offers phenomenal views on some of the most prominent peaks of Caucasus such as Ushba, Tetnuldi or Layla. Walk finishes in pictoresque Tsvirmi village.

  • Duration: 6 Hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Ushguli to Shkhara glacier

Easy dayhike in the area of Georgia´s highest mountain to the foot of Shkhara glacier and springs of Inguri river.

  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Difficulty: Easy

From Ushguli to Chvelpi via Latpari pass

Beautiful trek from Upper to Lower Svaneti crossing Svaneti mountain range. First half of the trek offers breathtaking views of main Caucasus ridge.

  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Difficulty: Hard

Crossing of Zagar pass

Nice walk on an old road connecting Ushguli in Upper Svaneti and Mele village in Lower Svaneti.

  • Duration: 2 Days
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Trekking from Svaneti to Racha

This beautiful, but very demanding trek takes you to some of the most remote parts of Caucasus. It follows the old road, which once connected Zeskho village in Svaneti with Ghebi village in Racha, but fell into disrepair long time ago.

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Difficulty: Very Hard

"A light rain has fallen,
lulled the tall grass.
If anybody says a bad thing about us,
we will split his heart by knife.

an old Georgian lullaby

Svaneti is probably the most beautiful region of Georgia and the essence of what country can offer to the foreign tourists. All those stunning photos of historical stone villages, lush green valleys and snow-covered mountains.... the most of them were made here.

The government of Georgia is well aware of its attractivess and spends millions of dollars on touristic infrastructure and propagation. They have built a new airport, roads and are developing a Tetnuldi ski resort. The region is changing quickly and not always for better, but that is the irreversible fate of all beautiful places on the Earth.

Svaneti

Luckily, for nature lovers there are still enough places to see “unchanged” Svaneti. Most tourists are concentrated in Mestia, many make daytrips by jeeps to Ushguli but most of them are not interested in serious trekking. Trail from Mestia to Ushguli is the most popular Georgian trek, but still only a little frequented by western standards.

Svaneti consists of 2 subregions - Upper (Zemo) and Lower (Kvemo) Svaneti. Upper Svaneti lies in the valley of Inguri river and all I wrote above was actually related to this region.

Lower (Kvemo) Svaneti, which lies in valley of Tskhenistskali river feels like completely different world. It has beautiful mountains and villages too, but simply pales in comparison to its northern neighbour. Thanks to this, Lower Svaneti managed to retain lots of its original atmosphere.

How to get to Mestia:

Marshrutkas to Mestia leave from Zugdidi train station every day. The first one leaves around 7 a.m, after the arrival of the night train from Tbilisi, but there should be several others before noon. The trip takes about 3 hours - price is usually 15-20 GEL per person, depending on your haggling skills.
If you prefer hiking, you can reach Mestia also on foot from Mazeri village through Guli pass.
And if you really want to save time, you can consider also flight from Tbilisi and Kutaisi. They are quite cheap (65 GEL), but occasionally get cancelled because of the weather.

How to get to Ushguli:

Minivans to Ushguli depart daily in the morning from the Seti square. They wait until they are full, usual price for a ride is 30 GEL
If you prefer walking, very popular is the 4-day . Ushguli is also accesible from Lower Svaneti via Latpari pass or Zagar pass.

Svaneti Ushguli village Tower of love

Copyright © 2016 Jozef Antala. All rights reserved

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