Alternative, less demanding hiking trail connecting Juta village with Roshka.
Another trail connecting Juta village with Roshka which passes the mountains north of Roshkakhorkhi mountain (3562m). It offers a really nice scenery but isn´t as famous and doesn't climb as high as the adjacent crossing of the Chaukhi pass. For this reason, it´s relatively little-visited - hikers who walk only in one direction usually pick its more popular alternative. As a result, this trail is usually picked by bikepackers or hikers with rented cars, who they combine it with the Chaukhi pass trail into a 2-day loop.
Also, it should be noted that in a few years, this trail may be replaced by a road - Georgian government is currently planning a new road connecting Khevi and Khevsureti to open the latter region for tourists. This planned route is using the Sadzele pass since it´s the lowest and most accessible pass in the area. The project is currently stuck on the Environmental Impact assessment, but that may change in the future.
Duration: 1 day
The distance and elevation are substantial enough to keep you occupied for the whole day.
How to get to Roshka:
There is no public transport to Roshka. To get there from Tbilisi, you will have to take a bus to Barisakho (it departs daily at 9:00 am from Didube station). From there, you can either hike (4 hours) or take a taxi to Roshka. Of course, you can take the taxi all the way from Tbilisi, it should cost something like 200 GEL.
Roshka can be also reached on foot, at the village end (or start) several hiking trails. Apart from Sadzele route described below, you can reach it also through the Chaukhi pass or from the Arkhoti valley. With the bottom of Aragvi valley is Roshka connected by a dirt road and also by a blue-marked hiking trail.
You will need a car to get out of Juta. Luckily, especially in the afternoon is the small parking lot at the beginning of the village full of taxi drivers. So you should be able easily able to find someone willing to drive you to Kazbegi - the usual price is 40-50 GEL.
If you are really 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).
Variant with camping
If you want to do the loop from Juta and have the camping gear, there is no need to hike all the way to Roshka. The much more attractive option is to cross the Chaukhi pass and camp by the Abudelauri lakes. On the next day, follow the trail towards Roskha, but there is no need to go all the way to the village since both hiking trails run for the last 4 km in parallel and distance between them is only 500 meters. Therefore, once you see the road at the other side of the valley, cross the Abudelauri river and head directly towards it, passing the huge boulders known as "Roshka stones".
Description of the route
The trail starts at the tourist pointer in the Roshka village - the Sadzele trail is marked by white/yellow rectangles. Following the direction on the pointer, leave the village using the newly built road to the Arkhoti valley (which replaced the original trail). You will stay on this road for one hour. On your left, you will see "Roshka stones" - stone river made of boulders which were pushed here during the last Ice Age by the glaciers from the Chaukhi massif. In the Khevsur mythology, they are a remnant of a great battle of local deity Yakhsar with evil spirits.
Afte almost four kilometers spent on the road, you will reach the spot where it sharply turns to the right and crosses Roshka river. Here you keep walking in the original direction and turn onto the small trail which branches off the main road to the left. The trail then slowly climbs until it reaches the small plateau at the elevation of 2500m. You will pass some cows and see the huts by the snowfields on your right.
Here starts the serious climb - steep serpentine zig-zagging uphill along the northeastern slopes of Roshkakhorkhi mountain. Once you make it to the 2650m, it "straightens up" a bit, but still noticeable climbs across the hillside. It also crosses two small streams. Then starts another steep climb, another series of switchbacks. Last 100 meters beneath the pass, the trail more or less turns into a field of shales. The whole climb from the junction to the pass should take about 2,5 hours with a camping gear (and 1,5 hours with a daypack).
From the Sadzele pass (3060m), descend into the Veshattskali valley to the west. The descent is first mild, but once you pass the small stream, it turns into a series of steep switchbacks. At the bottom of the valley, cross the river and join the trail heading from the Arkhoti valley (marked by red). There is also a nice campsite. Turn left and follow a river until you reach a large grassy plateau where it flows the Juta river - a little-visited trail branches from here to the south, crosses the river and climbs to the Chaukhi pass. Stay on the right bank on the river and follow the well-trodden trail until it crosses to the left bank.
Shortly afterward, you will come past border patrol where you have to show your passport - it lies at the opposite bank, but there is a small bridge. Continue, following the river down the valley. At these sections, you should reach the newly built road and follow it all the way to Juta.
Where to stay in Juta:
Finding an accommodation in Juta is easy. The village is already quite "guesthousified" and combined with the fact that the majority of people visit it only on a daytrip from Kazbegi means there are always some good places to choose from.
MetiTsa guesthouse - beautiful, modern place in the upper part of the village, on the way to the Chaukhi mountain. Nato is a great host, really attentive and caring - moreover, she is fluent also in English and Russian. Also, the food is plentiful and tasty, overall, this is one of the best places in Juta.
Levan & Megi's guesthouse - pleasant guesthouse located at the beginning of the village, down by the river. Rooms are not modern by any means but the place is very cozy and has welcoming owners who really care about the satisfaction of their guests. Moreover, Megi is an excellent cook and it shows each morning and evening :)
Fifth Season - a modern guesthouse/mountain hut lying above the Juta village. I am not exactly a fan, but this place cannot be overlooked since it has the best location in Juta with best views of the Chaukhi mountain. In my opinion, the place has an incredible potential but there is also lots of room for improvement.
It is not exactly the serene, calm place in the mountains as it looks to be. It has friendly, party atmosphere but staff is not always effective when it comes to enforcing the rules so earplugs are recommended. Also, they could turn down the volume of music they tend to blast into the valley. And the last but not least, they start serving breakfast only at 9 am. which is very inconvenient if you plan some longer trek such as crossing to Roshka.
Zeta camping - traditional camping place located above Juta village, on the way to the Chaukhi mountain. It offers accommodation in cottages as well as in tents - not a place for me since I always carry my own (and there are way nicer camping spots upper in the valley), but if you don´t have it and still want to camp in some beautiful location, this is a great (tho a bit expensive) pick. Also, the staff is very helpful and friendly. Overall, a very pleasant place.
Where to stay in Roshka:
In Roshka, there are two guesthouses, both owned by various branches of Tsiklauri clan, that constitutes the majority of the village.
Roshka guesthouse - A pleasant guesthouse situated in the upper part of the village, by the start of Arkhoti road. Friendly hosts, great food - this place can be only recommended. It is quite large - together, it has 27 beds split into 11 bedrooms. Owners can arrange you also horse riding or transfer back to civilization. At the guesthouse, you can also buy local souvenirs such as honey stored in jars resembling "Roshka rocks".
Booking: While the guesthouse is present on several booking portals, owners will be happier (and richer) if you call directly. Patriarch of the house Shota (+995 599 399 789) handles requests in Georgian and Russian, so if you prefer English, you should call his daughter Shukia (+995 591 71 05 17).
Rock Side guesthouse - guesthouse located at the lower part of the village, by the "main road". In total 5 rooms with 12 beds. Mindia, the owner, speaks only usual Georgian/Russian combo, but his daughter can communicate in English as well. Wasn't able to get their phone number but guesthouse owners in adjacent villages such as Juta could help with booking.
The first draft of this trail description was written by Thomas Maas. I rewrote major part of it, but wouldn't get to it if he didn't send me that original version. So I would like to thank him for his support and willingness to contribute. Also, many photos used in this post were taken by James Salvatore. Didi madloba to him, too!