Atmospheric walk in the deserted gorge southeast of Kazbegi.
Another leisure walk in the vicinity of Stepantsminda village. This one explores the little-known Artkhmo gorge.
The gorge itself has very interesting, serene atmosphere. It’s one of those places, where one feels as if the whole mankind had disappeared in some sudden, unspeakable catastrophe. There are shrines, overgrown, derelict villages, bustling nature, many cows... but no people.
Duration: 3 hours
Ten kilometers there and back, no serious climb. Easy peasy.
How to get to Akhaltsikhe:
Akhaltsikhe village lies in the Sno gorge, off the Georgian Military Highway. You can´t get here by a public transport and the traffic is too sparse for the effective hitchhiking.
Therefore, the most convenient way to get here is a taxi - a price of the ride from Stepanstsminda shouldn’t be higher than 20 GEL.
The route starts at the bridge in front of the Akhaltsikhe village. There is a dirt track branching off the main road, down to the river. Follow it, ford the river and head towards the gorge in the south.
This first section follows the flat bottom of a wide valley and is a bit boring. If you arrived by taxi and your driver has a good car, he may be willing to drive you here instead, though if would be a bumpy ride.
Finally, after more than a mile, the gorge narrows down and the dirt road splits. Its left branch follows the bottom of the gorge, while the right one climbs the hillside to the right (there is also a small waterfall). We go to the right and climb some 50 meters above the river. It´s a very comfortable walk - this used to be a dirt road, but now it´s covered by a short grass.
After another mile, you will reach a small shrine on a promontory over the river. By this time, the road has almost completely disappeared and left behind only a small trail. Still, there is nowhere to get lost - the trail goes a bit up and down, but basically still follows the contour line some fifty meters above the bottom of the valley. There are several paths which lead down to the river, but try to keep your elevation.
Soon, the Artkhmo village appears ahead. It´s an interesting place - several ruined or boarded up houses, sunk in the sea of stinging nettles. Ideal place for a picnic.
The path deeper into the valley lies a bit lower than the houses. It’s obvious that it was once a regular dirt track but now is overgrown by tall weeds. After few hundreds of meters, it narrows down into a small track. One kilometer behind the village, it descends to the river and disappears (gorge here becomes even more narrow).
If you have camping gear, it should be possible to continue further, explore upper reaches of the valley or maybe even cross Narvani range to the west. Or you can do just what I did - to eat lunch, soak feet in the water and turn back.
On the way back, you can explore also a bottom of the valley - though there is not much to see except the funky swinging bridge (crossed it like 10 times).
Artkhmo gorge. There is a hint of trail on the hillside to the right, but I didnt find it there on the closer inspection