This trek explores Pirikiti and Gometsara valleys, crossing the Nakle-Kholi pass in-between.
This nice 3-day trail explores Pirikiti and Gometsara valleys. It combines visits of traditional Tush villages with some serious trekking - Nakle-Kholi pass (2920m)
offers some of the best views you can find it Tusheti. It also can be finished without sleeping equipment, as nowadays there is a guesthouse in both Parsma and Verkhovani village.
2019 update: Year 2019 was not too kind to bridges in the area. Bridge by Parsma got damaged by floods - it is still possible to cross, but it is a bit risky and certainly not for everybody. The other side of the pass is in even worse condition. Bridge at Verkhovani was taken in 2017 and not yet rebuilt. As a replacement, bridge at Jvarboseli village was used, however, that one was destroyed, too. It is still possible to cross at Jvarboseli village at the spot where cars cross, but it can be risky, too, especially when water level is high. The bridge was supposed to be rebuilt in June but nothing happened yet. As a result, I don't recommend attempting this trek unless bridges are rebuilt (confirm it at the Omalo Tourist Center) or you are really confident when it comes to crossing of rivers.
Duration: 3 days
This trek takes three days but offers many sidewalks so that it can take even five days to finish.
First and last day of the trek is spent mostly on dirt roads, but on the second day there is a difficult crossing of Pirikiti range.
A tent is not necessary, it is possible to sleep in the guesthouses.
There is no public transport to Tusheti. To get to Omalo, you will need to hire a driver with 4WD. If you are traveling from Tbilisi, you will first need to get to Kvemo Alvani village - this can be done by marshrutka or a taxi.
The marshrutka departs from Ortachala bus station in Tbilisi at 9.am and arrives at Alvani two hours later (price 7 GEL). Drivers are used to tourists and often arrange them further transport to Tusheti. Just confirm with the driver that he is going all the way to Alvani, they sometimes try to drop passengers in Telavi in order to make them hire another taxi to Alvani. Or they simply want to hook you up with the jeep driver from Telavi but that is OK if the price is right.
If you want to take a taxi from Tbilisi to Alvani instead of a bus, the price can be anywhere between 50 and 100 GEL (it grows with your distance from the Ortachala station :))
In Kvemo Alvani, the bus or taxi will drop you at the main (and the only) junction. This is the place from which depart jeeps to Tusheti so if you get here before noon, you should be easily able to hire a driver.
The ride to Omalo takes about 4-5 hours and costs 50 GEL per passenger (or 250 - 300 GEL for the whole jeep). BBC once placed it among the "10 Most Dangerous Roads in the World", but with a good driver, it definitely doesn´t feel like that. In navigates pretty steep mountainside but the road is usually wide enough and unless you are passing another car and need to navigate to the very edge of the road, there is no reason to feel nervous. Still, the accidents happen here and the road claims a few lives every year. Therefore, even if you have your own car, for this stretch of the road, it may be better to use the service of the local driver.
Hitchhiking can be "hit or miss" since jeeps traveling to Omalo are usually booked by tourists and full. And even when they are not, tourists might be reluctant to pick someone who just walked a few hundred meters beyond the departure point and raised a thumb (especially if he is dressed up in Arc´teryx gear like a couple of "travel hackers" we saw there the last time :)). Professional drivers will rarely pick you up for free. Therefore, your best bet will be locals heading to Omalo for a visit - but it may take a while until some shows up.
Another option is the Kamaz truck which brings supplies from the lowlands to Omalo. These drivers usually pick up passengers for a symbolic price but the truck has no fixed schedule. It departs like each other day in the morning, so it can´t be relied upon.
Again, you will need to hire a jeep with a driver. Price should be the same as what you paid to get there.
Description of the route
Day 1: Omalo - Parsma distance 22.6km, 778m and 863m
Leave Upper Omalo by jeep track heading to the north. You can follow this road all the way to Dartlo, but there is a shortcut you probably will want to take.
Some 1,5 km from the Omalo village there is a serpentine, where road sharply turns left. At the bend there is a marker with directions, so just turn from the main road to the right,
follow the smaller path, climb the meadow and you will soon come to the road in the forest. This road after some 2 km joins again the main road to Dartlo.
Dartlo is one of the loveliest villages in Tusheti, beautifully situated in the hillside. If you have time for a detour, you can also climb to the Kvavlo defense tower some 200m above the village,
which offers some nice sights. Then you can continue via road to Dano village, which lies higher in the hillside. The path climbs even higher above the cliffs and only then descends to the river.
If you want to pick an easier path, just follow the main road by the river and after some 2 hours, you should arrive to Chesho village. Another hour of walking
and you will come to Parsma village - time to break a camp. And you still should have time to see this interesting village.
You could easily spend two days on this section - if you go through Kvavlo, Dano and then decide to visit villages beyond Parsma, further up the Pirikiti valley.
Day 2: Parsma - Verkhovani distance 12.1km, 1195m and 1274m
Cross the bridge in Parsma and follow the road downstream - in the same direction from which you came yesterday, but on the different bank. There could be a herd of sheep, so beware of the dogs.
After one mile, the path turns right and starts sharply ascending. Follow the path, it's quite obvious. It will eventually turn southeast and after several hours you will finally reach Nakle pass.
Nakle-Kholi pass is flat and wide, there is even a pointer showing the direction to Verkhovani.
Start walking in that direction - path heads to the southwest, you will see the marking from time to time. Then comes the tricky part -
there is a spot where you will need to leave pleasant, slowly descending trail heading to the west and start the sharp descent.
The place is hard to describe and poorly marked, use GPS or keep in mind that you can’t get too far away from the river valley to the south because you will eventually have to end up there.
Follow a barely visible trail to the south, it soon becomes obvious again. It descends to the river and leads to the abandoned village of Dadikurta.
Below the village, it turns into a serpentine and descends to the small river, with the forest at the other side.
Next section is short but may take a while as it’s necessary to cross the stream three times.
First crossing is doable without getting wet, but the remaining two are not so easy - if you have sandals, I recommend to put them on. Finally,
after third crossing, the trail climbs a bit uphill, circumvents the hillside and enters Verkhovani village.
The village is built on a steep slope, they are only a few places to camp (moreover, the ground is very rocky).
If you think you deserve to sleep in the bed after today’s effort, you can do so in the “Guesthouse Lamata” (+995 99 70 03 78)
Day 3: Verkhovani - Omalo distance 21.9km, 815m and 633m
If you have time, you can spend another day in the area, using Verkhovani as your base and visiting abandoned villages in the Tsovatistskali valley to the west.
But you have just three days, it's time to return to Omalo. You can descend to the river, cross the bridge to get to the main road and follow it downstream, but I think it's more interesting to stay on the trail a little bit longer.
So, instead, don't descend to the river but follow the path which goes from the village to the southeast, in paraller to the river. The trail is mostly in a good condition but there are also a few landslide sections where you need to be more careful. After 2 km, you will get to the Jvarboseli village where there is another bridge by the tower (there is also the another guesthouse). Once at the correct side of the river, just climb to the main road and follow it to the east.
After one hour the road crosses a river again and climbs a little into Beghela village.
Here it abandons a river, ascents into the slope and follows the contour line through the forest. Follow the road, after another hour you should see Dochu village below you -
it's amazing, almost aerial sight, as Dochu is situated in the slope below the road.
Follow the road for another few hours, it will cross Bochorma village, dive into the forest and eventually join the road from Omalo to Dartlo.
On this intersection turn right and follow the road all the way to Omalo.
Many great photos used in this article were taken by Mario Sklenar. More of his photos can be found here.
Photo of Dochu is borrowed from this webpage with more info about Georgia. Thanks Oliko.