From Shatili to Juta through Isirtghele pass

Very difficult 5-day trek crossing a little visited border areas of Georgia.

Very demanding 5-day trek connecting Shatili, a historical center of Khevsureti with Kazbegi region. It leads through little-visited border areas of Georgia, especially at Georgitsminda - Amgha stretch there are no roads or civilization except a few shepherds huts and one border post.

Duration: 5-6 days

Difficulty: Very hard

You will spend almost two days in narrow, overgrown valley without a solid path. Several dangerous river crossings.


You will have to carry a tent.

When to go:

Trek is not recommended until the second half of July. Earlier, the water level of Kovgra river is quite high and crossings are more risky.

Which way to hike:

People usually start from Shatili, so they don't have to walk uphill in the Kovgra valley.

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How to get to Shatili:

Marshrutka to Shatili leaves Didube bus station in Tbilisi on Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 9. am. If you miss it, a bus leaves from Didube daily at 5. pm to Barisakho, halfway to Shatili. From there, you need to hire a driver (price for Barisakho-Shatili drive should be around 100-150 GEL) or hitchhike. Of course, you can hire a driver also in Tbilisi, but it would be much more expensive - 250 GEL at least.
However, most of the people attempting this trek come to Shatili on foot from Omalo.

How to leave Juta:

By hired 4WD, drive to Kazbegi should cost 40-50 GEL. Juta became quite popular in the past years so there should be some jeep drivers waiting by the bridge.
If you are low on cash, you can also prolong the walk and get to Kazbegi on foot, it takes 4 to 5 hours and Juta valley is quite nice (at least for the first 2 hours).

Description of the route

Trail parameters

Distance 58,03 km
Trail type: AB trip
Max. elevation: 3631m
Min. elevation: 1410m
Total climb: 2727m
Total descent: 2160m

Day 1: Shatili - below Isirtghele pass
distance 12km, 1320m and 80m

From Shatili head south on the main road, upstream the Arghuni river. After two hours, you should come to the mouth of Giorgitsminda river. Turn-off from the main road can also be recognized by ruined farmhouse.

Walk up the Georgitsminda valley. Pathway doesn't follow the river, but in serpentines ascends to the slope to the right. For a few kilometers it traverses the hillside, then crosses the stream and continues on its right bank. Somewhere here is probably the best place to camp.

Day 2: below Isirtghele pas - distance 8.1km, 996m and 1495m

Before the noon, you will haver to climb the Isirtghele pass. The best way to climb to the Isirtghele pass is to climb the side ridge which joins the main ridge to the north of the pass and then descend a bit to it.

An the other side, a trail becomes visible again - there is also a flat terrain not too far behind the Isirtghele pass if you need to break a camp. A trail then sharply descends into the overgrown valley, where the camping possibilities are very limited.

The crossing of Kovgra valley is short on the map, but difficult and time-consiming in reality. You will have to fight your way through the narrow, overgrown valley of Kovgra river. Path is at some sections visible, at others you will have to create your own. People usually walk right in the stream, but it's possible also to climb little uphill and traverse.

Later the stream merges with another small river and becomes stronger, so it's no longer possible to walk in it. You will need to traverse the hillside on the right. Just follow the river, everything else is on you.

After several hours, you should come to the confluence with Taniestskali river; there is a big meadow with Georgian border guards post (don't forget your passports!). This is a great place to camp and get information about the area (bridges, safety etc.)

Day 3: Military post - Assa river distance 5.5km, 89m and 526m

Continue fighting your way through the river valley. The path should be visible only at first kilometer, then disappears again. You will have to cross the river very often - over shaky, narrow bridges, sometimes there is just one trunk laying over the stream.

The basic rule is: If you see a footbridge over the river, use it - if you don't, you will soon have to ford the river anyway. However, it seems that these bridges are regularly being destroyed by spring floods so the situation here could be different each year. So it's essential to ask any local you meet (there will not be many) about the actual situation.

There are other hazards, too - at some sections, you will have to climb on rocky ledges, at the others walk on unstable screes. Also be aware of vipers, several have been seen here.

After some six hours, you should make it to the confluence with river Assa. Break a camp here, it was a tough day.

Day 4: Assa river - Arkhoti valley distance 13.1km, 1100m and 186m

In the morning, cross the Assa river - this used to be the trickiest part of the trek as the river is quite fast and deep. However, in 2015, a new sturdy bridge was built and it seems it survived spring floods and it's still there. It lies some 50 meters upstream from the confluence of Kovgra and Assa rivers.

After river crossing, turn south and continue walking in a wide valley to Amgha village, there should be a visible pathway. In Amgha starts red touristic marking, follow it to Akhielli. Here the valley splits, take a southern branch. After some 1,5 hours of walking south it bends again to the west - here you will have to cross the stream again. In 2017, a new road was built here so it's impossible to get lost here.

From here its just 20 minutes of uphill walk to the camping spot. Follow the path, don't stray away from the river and soon you will see a waterfall on your right. look to the left - some 10-15 meters higher is a grassy mound with nice flat terrain. You will have to leave the road here since it continues south to Roshka

Day 5: Arkhoti valley - Juta village distance 16.3km, 849m and 1184m

In the morning cross the stream not far from the camping spot and continue east to the pass. The path is pretty straightforward, after some 2 hours you should reach Arkhotistavi pass. From here descend to the other side, to the bottom of the valley. Here you will find a stream, which will accompany you all the way to Juta.

The path first heads southwest, then after some 2 hours your valley will join another one and you will turn west. Another 2 hours, one river crossing and one Georgian border post later you should arrive at the Juta village.

Many photos are borrowed from this nice album with many more pictures. Thanks Ado.

Border guard's post in the Kovgra valley Juta valley from the arkhoti pass Shatili fortress Mouth of Giorgitsminda valley Walking up the valley Isirtghele pass ahead Walking on the ridge to the pass The other side In the Kovgra valley Trail in the valley is more or less visible Last section before the base Looking back at the valley Border guard's post ahead Some climbing Some river crossing Day 4 in a nutshell Finally out of the valley The mouth of Kalotana valley Tourist marks appear Shrines in Arkhoti Mountain above Arkhoti valley Loooking back Camping in the upper Arkhoti valley At the Arkhoti pass In the Juta valley elevation

Copyright © 2016 Jozef Antala. All rights reserved

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