A spectacular trek in the western, less-visited part of Svaneti.
Nice trek traversing western, less-visited part of Svaneti. It connects villages in two remote, (still) pristine valleys and also offers great views from the area around Utviri pass. Overall, it is a great track for the adventurous trekkers. The trail was newly marked in 2017 by white/red marking.
Duration: 10 hours
If you are fast and fit, the trek can be finished also in one very long day.
Difficulty: Moderate / Hard
During the season, major part of track is a dirt road so walking is not difficult. The elevation is substantial (nearly 2000m). If done in one day it is an extremely demanding hike. All the streams or rivers have bridges to cross (except the Utviri river near the pass).
Just wait for a marshrutka traveling between Zugdidi and Mestia and ask the driver to drop you at the Tobari village, at the mouth of Nenskra valley (65km before Mestia). He should charge you up to 15 GEL. From there it takes about 2 hours to walk to Chuberi.
In Zugdidi, You can also arrange for a taxi to take you straight there. They will charge you 60 - 100 GEL depending on your bargain skill. They will tell you that the part from Tobari to Chuberi is really steep and that the road is bad but that is not true. The road is mostly paved and climbs just slightly.
How to leave Nakra:
It is just one hour walk to the main road. Hail any marsrutka going either to Zugdidi or Mestia. They should charge you up to 18 GEL.
Still, most of the hikers who take the effort to finish this trek continue trekking further east, towards Etseri.
Nenskra hydropower dam
Nenskra dam is a controversial project which, once completed, will flood a large parts of the upper Nenska valley and diver water from both Nenskra and Nakra rivers. The project is being pushed by Georgian authorities (and funded by EIB) who try to exploit country’s hydropower resources. The problem is that in “the hunt for megawatts”, other social and environmental impacts are ignored, just as the protests from the local communities who largely oppose the construction. The trail doesn’t directly pass through the construction site but still, the dam is a big theme in the area and most of the people will have a strong opinion about it, so you should know what’s going on there.
Description of the route
The marked trail begins in Chuberi. There is a bridge over the Nenskra river and that is also starting point of the trail (there is an infopanel with the map of trail as well). In Chuberi, there is a pub and a shop.
The trail initially winds slowly up along wooden fences of houses until it finally merges into a forest. When you reach a signpost that instructs you to cross the river (actually the signpost was bended to lead us straight when we were there) you have two options. Either follow the marks and turn left - this route is shorter, but will leads over several streams which are bridged only by several wooden logs (also, this is the route recorded in the gps log).
The longer but more comfortable route follow the track which serpentines up towards Zemo Marghi. Just don´t forget to turn left on the crossroad before the village in order to cross the river Markhi (there is a bridge). You can turn right, pass a gate and take a shortcut to reconnect the the official trail.
The trail goes through pastures and woods, staying close to the Marghi river until it reaches the hut/shelter. From there on you will walk in a wood until you reach its border. There is the end of the dirt road as you get to another huts.
There are again two possibilities. One trail crosses Marghi river, turns a bit south and goes up and down around the valley, just beneath the steep slopes. I chose the current official trail, which is newly marked - keep to the left of the Marghi river until you hit the signpost and then turn left up the small ridge which separates valleys of Marghi and Tita rivers. Soon you will reach several huts. There is again a dirt road that leads past a small lake to the last hut before the pass. The two trails also reconnect here.
From the hut, the trail continues slowly up on the southern side of the valley, until you reach the pass 600 meters up. Along the trail, there is a lot of eroded parts and landslides. There may be also snow (it was there in the beginning of July when we were there) so bring good shoes and possibly hiking poles.
Utviri pass has the altitude of 2711 meters. If you have few more hours to spare and would like to climb even higher, a good destination is the 3225m high mountain South Kirar which offers stunning views in all directions. To reach it, just follow the top of the ridge in the southern direction - the climb is non-technical.
Behind the Utviri pass, about 15 mins of walk, there is a lake that is amazing for swimming and quite warm during the season.
Once you descend from the Utviri pass, the trail continues leftwards, following the yellow signposts, until you cross the glacier stream Utviri. In the spring and early summer, the stream may be swollen from the melting glaciers and has to be crossed on foot (there is no bridge).
The rest of the trail descends on a dirtroad through pastures and meadows, passing the cottages. There is also an official camping spot with a shelter in case of bad weather, but not a good camping option because it is quite muddy around the cottages, with a lot of rocks). From the cottages, continue slowly in an easy trail downwards along the dirt road until you reach the village of Nakra.
Our map said there is a shop as well as a guesthouse in Nakra, but we were able to find them only with the help of the locals.
However, there is a stream close to the bridge in the lower part of the village with a natural mineral spring. The water tastes really well and supposedly helps any stomach illness one may have. Fill all your bottles - there is a steep ascend if you continue from Nakra village to Gheshderi.
This article was written by Czech hiker Miloš Hejný who finished the trail in the early summer of 2018. I made only some final edits and added the section about the dam. Thanks a lot!
Photos were provided also by MIloš, only the last one comes from Rosa Vroom.