This hiking route explores the overlooked, non-touristy corners of the western Svaneti.
This hiking route explores the overlooked, non-touristy corners of the western Svaneti. It passes numerous villages and hamlets which flourished hundreds of years ago, but since then fell into a state of disrepair and now stand abandoned and forgotten. The equal fate befell the dense network of trails which once connected them - many were reclaimed by the forest. Only the past few years saw the reverse of this trend - in 2017, the Transcaucasian Trail Association rehabilitated the trails east of Nakra (earlier, hikers used the jeep road running in parallel).
The trail itself snakes along the hillside above the Enguri valley. It doesn´t climb too high, the highest altitude reached is only 1866m. Still, it offers nice views of the valley below as well as of the surrounding mountains.
Duration: 1 day
While the trail is most of the time well-trodden and easy to follow, the distance to cover is substantial and there are many up and down parts. At least you don't have to ford any rivers since all crossings have bridges.
How to get to Nakra:
There is no public transportation to Nakra village. To get there from Zugdidi, wait for the marshrutka to Mestia and ask the driver to drop you at the mouth of Nakra valley. From there, you will have to walk (or hitchhike) for more than an hour till you reach the village.
Another option is to start trekking further to the west and arrive at Nakra by foot from Chuberi, using the 2-day route across the Ugviri pass.
Leaving Etseri is easy since there is a main road not far south from the village. All you have to do is to stand by the road and thanks to the relatively heavy traffic, it should be easy to hitch a ride in the desired direction.
Of course, you can also walk. There are two nice day walks connecting Etseri with the neighboring villages - Mazeri and Nakra.
Description of the route
From the Nakra mineral spring, follow the river downstream for a hundred meters till you reach a wooden bridge. Cross the river. The path then climbs steeply through the forest, eventually reaching the Latsumba community. Once you reach the second cluster of houses, you will see a gate to the right. Pass this gate and immediately turn right again, onto a small trail leading into the forest. The trail then leads across the forest and pastures in the western eastern direction, slowly gaining the altitude. Then it turns south and climbs onto a small forested ridge. Once at the top, the views of Svaneti range rising to the south will open up. The view of the mountains will follow you for the rest of the day.
Also, once at the top of the ridge, you will notice a small trail to the right which leads you to a small church. The church lies at the top of the ridge some 300 meters to the west and offers great views over the Enguri valley - so you can make a small detour if you feel like it.
From the pass, the trail leads in the eastern direction towards the bunch of ruined houses - remains of Lashkrashi village. Here it joins the jeep road - turn right and at the very next junction 250m later, turn sharply to the left, towards Tsaleri village. You will reach village after some 20 minutes of gradual descending. It seemed empty with just some cattle standing around. Most houses are ruins as well. There is an information panel that describes the history of the village. There is also a water spring by the road.
Once you leave the village, after the rightward turn, make sure to look around for the signs to turn right down to the forest on a footpath which will lead you down to cross the Manshura river and its subsidiary. Fortunately, there are bridges on both crossings. Crossing the rivers will force you to lose the altitude, which you will have to climb back to straight after you cross the rivers. This is why the trail takes so much time to finish.
The trail leads you up to the Kichkhuldashi settlement. There is a small group of houses with a tiny chapel in the middle. The whole settlement is inhabited only by two people, Valeri Vibliani and his wife. They put up a huge sign "guesthouse" on a farmhouse, offering rooms and meals to the trekkers. Unfortunately, nobody knows about this possibility of accommodation along the trail and therefore they do not get many customers. If you plan your trip to reach Kichkhuldashi in the late afternoon or evening, I would really recommend staying over, both of the owners were very friendly and extremely happy to have someone to talk to.
Behind Kichkhuldashi, the trail enters the forest again. At several places, it's blocked by fallen trees - a sign that it's not used too often. Once again, you will have to descend to cross the river Ladlina, passing the Paledi ruins. On the opposite side of the valley, you can already see Gheshderi village where you are heading. Before, you still have to climb down and up to cross a river stream (there is a bridge). The trail then turns into a dirt road, slowly descending, with amazing views around, including the Laila peak of 4008 meters.
Once you reach the crossing of the river Parischala before the Pari village, there is a natural mineral spring of water rich in iron which is smelly and delicious. Pari was quite a lively village with some newly built houses and a few water pipes along the trail. After Pari, you will reach the T-junction - it's left branch climbs to the Katskhi village, it's right branch descends south to the main road. You take neither of these roads - instead, follow a smaller trail to the left of the right branch which climbs to the Zagari hamlet (a bunch of houses on small hill 100m away). Before you reach the hamlet, turn left and follow the trail across the meadow. Then there is yet another descend to cross a Kinni river (there is a small bridge), with a subsequent ascent to the original altitude.
From the bridge, follow the trail through the meadows to the southeast until you reach the Pkhutreri village. Here, turn left and hike to the Etseri village 500 meters further. As in 2018, there was only a single guesthouse in the village, owned by Tony Hanmer and his wife Lali, a perfect place to have a coca, beer, tea or a cooked meal (since they also run a shop).
The major part of this trail description was written by Czech hiker Miloš Hejný who finished the trail in the early summer of 2018. He also provided me with photos. Thanks a lot!