This short, steep and straighforward hike is one of best walks around Ushguli.
This hike climbs from Ushguli to the top of the mountain looming to the northeast of the village, the westernmost extension of the Chubedishi range. The hill is quite unassuming from the distance but as you will find out soon, this hike is far from being easy. At the top, you will find several stone cairns and, even more importantly terrific views of the surrounding mountains. It´s a real puzzle why this hike isn´t more popular - in spite of its proximity to Ushguli and wonderful views, you won´t find it in any guidebook.
Duration: 4 hours
Estimates greatly vary. Our landlord told us that we will need 3,5 hours only to climb to the top and when we returned in three hours, he didn´t believe we made it :). But if you are reasonably fit, you shouldn´t need more than 2,5 hours to climb to the top and another 1,5 hours to return.
Of course, if you have more time, even better - you can spend it to hike on the top of the ridge.
The hike is short but pretty steep - to make it to the top, you will have to overcome healthy 800 elevation meters over the course of less than 4 kilometers.
Minivans to Ushguli depart daily in the morning from the Seti square. They wait until they are full, usual price for a ride is 40 GEL.
If you prefer walking, very popular is the 4-day trail from Mestia. Ushguli is also accessible from Lower Svaneti
via Latpari pass or Zagar pass.
If you need to return to Mestia, your best bet used to be minivans making day trips from Mestia to Ushguli. They usually had a few empty seats on the return trip which occured around 3 pm. .
However, in the past years, drivers became reluctant to bring hikers back since the Ushguli drivers try to claim all hikers that reached village on foot and other drivers don't want to have problems with locals. So don't rely on these buses too much.
So what to do? You can either take a taxi from locals (costs as much as 40 GEL per person) or walk on the road towards Iprali and once the village is out out sight, try to stop some minivan with daytrippers, that should be a bit cheaper.
The trail starts at the main bridge over Enguri river. Follow the road which heads east towards Lower Svaneti for some 15 minutes, till you reach the last guesthouse in the village (guesthouse Makvshi). On your left, you will see two meteo stations (small white buildings with satellites).
The real trail to Chubedishi range starts there. At first, it is a long but straightforward series of switchbacks that climb the side ridge to some 2500 meters. The path is pretty obvious - on your left is a young forest, on your right steep precipice.
From 2500m, the trail slowly turns to the north and heads directly towards the westernmost hill of the mountain range. Along the route, new views appear - in the north-west, a white pyramid of Tetnuldi pops up behind the Maphkrani range. In the southeast appears Dadiashi valley. The path becomes fainter, but it visible all the time. Only last 50 elevation meters to the top of the hill are a bit tricky - you need to bypass it from the right, then turn sharply left and climb it "from behind".
At the top, you will find several stone cairns built by Ushgulians. Views are terrific. To the north, you can see Khalde wall (the opposite side of north-facing Bezengi wall), to the east numerous four-thousanders such as Ailama, Tsurungali or Utsnobi(Neznakomka). The place is ideal for picknick or a lunch break. Once you are done, return the same way.
Of course, if you have more time, it´s even better to follow the ridge to the east - it´s very easy since the ridge is almost flat. If you follow it for an hour, you can climb Chubedishi mountain (3015m) which gave the ridge its name. Then you can descent south to the Zagar pass (easier variant) or north towards Namkuami lake (harder variant) and return to Ushguli by valley roads. But honestly, this ridge walk is better than any lower route so I would return the same way.
Where to stay in Ushguli:
There is certainly no lack of choice in Ushguli - almost every house got already got converted into a guesthouse, not counting those newly built. Below is a short list of places where stayed either me or my close friends and can be recommended. But, of course, there are also others, many just as good as the ones below.
Caucasus guesthouse - a wonderful guesthouse located in the Chvibiani community, not far from the Inguri bridge. Bathrooms and rooms are modern and clean, especially considering the price and the local standards. Tariel and his wife are lovely hosts - they don´t speak English, but their sons is there to help with interpreting. And last but not least - both breakfast and dinner were delicious.
Guesthouse Angelina - a popular guesthouse located a bit away from the village, close to the road junction. Famous for its pleasant, friendly atmosphere and a delicious food. Rooms are spacious and clean, beds comfortable and there is some nice wooden furniture so the whole place looks very cozy.
Guesthouse Gamarjoba - one of the oldest guesthouses in Ushguli, located at the northern end of the Zhibiani community, right by the church. The facilities are a bit dates, but the beds are comfortable, blankets warm and the guesthouse is overall clean. The meals are also pretty good. One of great assets of this guesthouse are people running it - Temraz and Lela Nijaradze are very friendly and welcoming hosts and their daughter Mariam also speaks English. In the house lives also Temraz´s quirky brother Fridon, who is a painter and turned one of the rooms into a small art gallery.
Booking: email@example.com or send them a message via their fb page.
Mshvidoba guesthouse - budget homestay located at the heart of Zhibiani community. The place is not too large so it keeps a "local feeling". The family running it is really friendly and Laila is a great cook.
Guesthouse Nora - a pleasant homestay located at the eastern edge of Zbibiani village. The rooms are simple bus cozy, owners very friendly and the food delicious. The only downside is the lack of heating, so the rooms might be a bit cold outside of the summer.
I would like to thank several hikers who provided photos for this post (since our weather sucked). Namely to Miranda Metheny, Rajeev Shakia and Pieter Allers. And also to Jany Pastircak who runs travel blog in Slovak with many posts about Georgia.