Following the old road connecting Ushguli in Upper Svaneti and Mele in Lower Svaneti.
Nice walk on an old road connecting Ushguli in Upper Svaneti and Mele village in Lower Svaneti. I wouldn´t rate it among the very best treks in Svaneti
since this one just follows a dirt track all the time, but nature around is still beautiful and there are several interesting sights such as Zagar pass
or abandoned settlements in Koruldashi valley.
Still, this one works more as a walk connecting other hikes, not as a standalone trek.
It can be combined with Ushguli - Chvelpi trek to make a loop around Svaneti
or undertaken to approach starting point of Svaneti to Racha trek.
Duration: 2 days
If you have time, it's recommended to spend one more day on a day trip to Zeskho valley.
The first day is harder as you need to climb almost 1000m into Zagar pass, the second day is easier. Trek is rated as moderate due to the considerable distance (37km)
A tent is not necessary as there is a small guesthouse in Tsana village.
How to get to Ushguli:
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.
I heard that there is a daily marshrutka to Lentekhi/Kutaisi in the morning. But can't confirm it personally
as we hired a taxi to Lentekhi at hotel/restaurant in Mele. Price was 120 GEL for six people.
Another option is, as usual, to keep walking by the road and hitchhike, but traffic for first few hours will be very low.
Description of the route
Day 1: Ushguli - Tsana distance 20.7km, 960m and 1391m
Leave Ushguli by jeep track heading to the east. Path slowly, but steadily ascends and after some 2 hours should bring you to the Zagar pass. From here you have a great view of central Caucasus ridge
dominated by peaks Ailama and Tsurungali.
Start descent into the valley, for the first hour it's quite steep. All the time you are walking on the jeep road but the traffic here is minimal (usually just a couple of cars daily)
so it's not a big problem.
The road in the valley is running close to the river, but you will not see it too often as most of the time you will be surrounded by over 2-meters high hogweeds -
Koruldashi valley is quite overgrown. But you will see numerous abandoned houses, among them the ruins of Koruldashi Arsenic factory at the glacier foothills, which pollutes the whole region.
For this reason, bring sufficient supply of water and don't drink from the streams.
After some 6 hours of walking, you will eventually see an almost abandoned village at the right bank of the river - Tsana. Its quite hard to miss due to the sign advertising local “hotel”
(don´t be afraid, it's just an old house with few rooms to rent).
You can either camp close to the village, sleep in the hotel or maybe you will be lucky and locals will offer you to spend a night in one of the abandoned houses.
In a village, you can find safe spring of water. It is also possible to use Tsana as a base and next day make a side trip to the Zeskho valley which has nice "end of the world" feeling.
Day 2: Tsana - Mele distance 17.5km, 201m and 646m
This day is pretty straightforward and not so interesting, just continue walking on the jeep road. After some 30 minutes of descending, you will come to the turn-off into Zeskho valley, but you will need to stay on the main road.
Little further there is a signpost showing the direction to Lentekhi (75km). Luckily, you will not have to walk that far.
Next few hours of the walk are spent in a relative wilderness, you will often walk on a road carved into a wall of rock with a river roaring below you.
Terrain then becomes a little flatter, you will pass through several abandoned villages and get a good view of a Lechkhumi mountain range to the south dominated by Lelaashkha mountain.
From here it is just a short walk to Mele, first inhabited village on the road.
Where to stay in Mele:
Being the first village on the banks of Tskhenistskali river, Mele is mildly popular among drivers, bikers and hikers coming down from the Zagar pass. Almost all of them stay at Rati's guesthouse.
Rati's guesthouse - situated at the eastern edge of the village, the first place you will see if you enter Mele from the direction of Zagar pass. Guesthouse offers fresh drinks and lovely, self-cooked meals in the morning as well as in the evening. The rooms arere quite new and beds very comfortable. Welcoming and hospitable owners.