Georgia’s Best Places For Adventurous Souls

by Nancy Kikvadze

We are never tired of pointing out that Georgian nature is very diverse. Different landscapes offer different types of adventures for those who don’t like traditional sightseeing or relaxing vacation at the seaside. We should warn you about timing of the trip: some destinations really require more time to reach them, so better don’t plan too many activities a day. So, if we move from its Eastern border westwards, we will start with Kakheti, the biggest region of Georgia. There you pass by a semi-desert, red hills of David Gareji area, mud volcanoes of Vashlovani and dry steppe around Chachuna canyon. Then these Martian-like landscapes are changing to green fruitful valleys and vineyards. Kakheti, or rather its historical province Tusheti, is also a place, where you can try out the most challenging highland roads. Getting to Tusheti is difficult. The pass from Kakhetian village Zemo Alvani is open in the warm season only: the cars usually start moving there in late June and stop after the snowfalls in October. There are also small planes and helicopters going there with food delivery from time to time, but regular air tours are not developed yet. Anyways, Tusheti is a great place to be because of its remoteness, well-preserved ancient traditions and many unbeaten tracks. Main places to visit are Omalo, Diklo, Dartlo, but there are many more really fascinating places, which are known just to the locals and those who stay with them longer. It is not easy to make friends with them, even though there are Georgians. The highlanders can be quite closed people, but inside each of them there is a warm and brave heart. Just a ridge away there is another historical area called Khevsureti, which is still not a huge touristic hub, but a great place for retreats, hiking, trekking and exploration of local culture. Climbing to abandoned fortress Mutso, seeing the necropolis Anatori, where dozens of people came to die from a disease hundreds of years ago, experiencing some pre-Christian traditions (let’s say, they still have their own gods and little temples)… Sounds exciting, right? Add to this the pristine nature, almost complete solitude and high passes (Datvisjvari in Khevsureti is at the altitude of 2676 m, Atsunto pass between Khevsureti and Tusheti at 3431 m), and get a great destination for experiencing real wild Georgian mountains in all their beauty. The other great place in Khevsureti is Abudelauri lakes – there are three of them, the green, the blue and the white. First you should reach village Roshka, and then… then it’s time to hike. It usually takes a day, if you want to see all lakes quickly, but if you don’t mind to camp, do it and split your trip on two days. The rivers Aragvi and Mtkvari, which are flowing in these regions, are very good for white water rafting and kayaking. The Georgian tour agencies offer such wet adventures from spring to late autumn. There also paragliding and bike tours in the mountains – not exactly in Khevsureti, but in Stepantsminda, Juta and Sno valley, which is a bit closer to Tbilisi. Moving further, direction Western Georgia, you will also discover places, which are super good for hiking – Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park with several short and long routes, equipment rental and overnight possibilities is one of them. The other natural reserves, Sataplia and Prometheus caves are offering an experience of going really underground, to the very guts of Georgia. Those are beautiful places, though not super extreme. Svaneti and Racha, the other highlands of Western Georgia, are also awesome for nature lovers. Tourism infrastructure development has already reached Svaneti, where two ski resorts have been built in the last five years, but Racha is totally unspoiled and raw. Hiking and white water rafting are possible there, and your eyes will be grateful to you, as they will embrace this beauty. In the Georgian West Coast there is another small natural reserve, Mtirala. It is one of the most humid places in the country! A real jungle. And its infrastructure includes a zipline – again, not super extreme, but worth trying. Going to Mtirala from Batumi takes 1.5 – 2 hours with a car: the road is under development yet. Jeep and biking tours are also available in this region (Ajara). Those mountains are incredible, even though not that high as in Svaneti or Tusheti. Contact the local travel agencies to get the information about the prices and prepare yourself for a trip full of emotions!

4x4 Adventure

by Nancy Kikvadze

Because Georgia is a compact and diverse country, there is a very small distance between completely contrasting landscapes: deserts, sea, subtropics, tea plantations, high mountains etc. Almost everything can be seen within a day or so travelling in a 4x4 vehicle. See the breathtaking scenery change with your own eyes, moment by moment, and capture the essence of what it feels like to be in Georgia. Local off-road tours are a great choice for People who loves nature. Get ready for unique adventure to collect your once-in-a lifetime memories. You will explore the legends, history, wildlife and geology of Georgia. Drive to must-see lookout points of Svaneti and well-known landmarks including Grandview Point of Kazbegi. There is also a chance to go off-road totally, without going through beaten paths. Enduro motorbikes and safari cars wait for you to drive you really crazy!

Best Summer Hideaways Of The Georgian Mountains

by Nancy Kikvadze

Admit it: the closer summer approaches, the more you anticipate holiday time and escape from the sansara of daily responsibilities. Even if you are not an office worker, summer weather and nature and so appealing that you do your best to find several days to switch off from the routine. We decided to make up a list of several not overly popular places of Georgia, real natural hideaways, where you can walk, chill, breathe, think. They are not among the top resorts that are featured in every guide, from our main page up to Lonely Planet, but we want to believe that you are eager to discover more about our country.

1. Okatse Canyon

This picturesque place in Imereti region is located in Khoni municipality, in 40 km from Kutaisi. As it often happens in Georgia, it’s more convenient and fast to take a taxi, a car or maybe join a guided tour to get to the place. In 2014 a new trail has been hanged at an altitude of 100-140 meter along the steep rock. The views from viewing platforms there are breathtaking! Wild nature, clear air, altitudes which make your head spin – you won’t leave the canyon unimpressed. In the village Zeda Gordi there is a informational center for the tourists, where the route through relict tree park of noble Dadiani family starts. It leads you to that hanging trail above the canyon. In the first park of the park there is a spring with pure water – take an empty bottle with you to have some water for the trip. The length of the route is the following: the path through the park is 2200 m, the hanging trail is 1800 m. As the altitude varies during the hike, you will have to conquer more than 500 steps!

2.Kinchkha Waterfall

Approximately in 6 km from the canyon there is Kinchkha waterfall, the biggest in Georgia, which is enchanting you with grandiose movement of its waters. If you are so lucky that you travel there after a big rain or snow melting, you will see not just one, but two or even four full-flowing streams falling from the altitude of 80 meters. That’s why the waterfall is called “twins” sometimes.

3. Lomisa

Around village Mleta near Georgian Military road, there is a wonderful place, which is featured in an old legend. According to it, many centuries ago a mighty bull called Loma guided Georgian slaves from Persian captivity. He led them uphill, with the icon of St. George between his horns, which was showing him the way. The mountain is called Lomisa after this bull. Reaching the top is possible on foot only – the hike takes 1.5 hours or more, depends on your physical preparation. A little X century monastery is standing at the mountain. A huge 30-kilogramm chain is kept there: the pilgrims take it to their shoulders, make three circles inside the church and pray. If the wish was sincere, it will come true.

4. Dartlo

This Tushetian village will impress you a lot. It appears unexpectedly, as you are driving via the rocky road from Omalo. Overlooking the river, this peaceful place still has the spirit of Middle Ages (even though some building have been completely restored just recently). In couple of kilometers uphill there is another village-fortification, Kvavlo (Flower Village). In the summertime there are thousands of flowers around! The population of Dartlo consists of several people. Electricity is generated by solar batteries. Water is coming from the river nearby. Food – from summer gardens and sometimes from “lower” areas. Fantastic nature, serenity…The only sources of noise are the river and the cow bells. What do you think about such place for escape?

5. Shovi

Tiny climatic resort in the Georgian highlands, Shovi is a village in Racha, the region, which is not featured in mainstream top-ten-places-to-visit. Alpine nature, couple of cottages to stay and plenty of space to camp – a good option for a retreat. Mountains and dense forests make Shovi look mysterious, but don’t be scared: Georgia is still a safe place to be.

Georgian Mountains: 50 Shades Of Green

by Nancy Kikvadze

As you are traveling around Georgia, you notice that each region has its own colour, or at least its own shade. From yellowish green of Gareji through moss green of Tusheti and forest green Imereti to emerald green of Megrelian subtropics – you will never see an identical colour and landscape as you trip.

Georgia offers dozens of different paths for beginners and advanced hikers; it is also possible to reach some remote places with horses or cars. We list some beautiful places to awake your wanderlust.

  1. Svaneti: Commune Ushguli and Mazeri Waterfall

Just look at this unbelievable beauty! Well preserved medieval towers, the highest Georgian peak, Shkhara, green meadows… It is Ushguli, the highest permanently inhabited settlement in Europe, and an interesting destination for a hike or a ride. You can go there just in summer and in the beginning of September, because the road from Mestia, the heart of Svaneti, is still not perfect. A 45 km long hike can take one or two days, depends on your level of fitness and your curiosity: you can also make breaks in the villages on your way.

To explore the area up there, you can rent a horse and feel the wild wind and unlimited freedom of an off road ride. Shkhara’s glaciers are very beautiful, and there are also small lakes around Ushguli – it is worth seeing, if you like nature and a bit of solitude and peace. This area is very good for brushing one’s thoughts!

Another interesting destination - waterfall Mazeri, which is located near commune Becho. It can be also a half day or full day trekking, if you are really into making it on foot and not with a car from Mestia almost till the waterfall.

  1. Khevsureti: Shatili, Mutso, Abudelauri

Khevsureti, North-Eastern historical province on the border with Chechnya is offering you fantastic views and some thrilling stories. Mutso, an abandoned citadel, is an awesome example of medieval Georgian fortifications. Another location, which must be visited, is necropolis of Anatori. Small stone houses on the cliff, surrounded by moss green mountains, are full of bones. As a hard unknown disease appeared in the region, infected people came to these houses to die and leave their co-villagers uninfected. This is a sad, but very picturesque place.

Shatili is the central village of the region. There are 7-8 families living there – unfortunately, not each of them stays for the winter. In late spring, summer and early autumn you can stay in one of guesthouses – some of them are located just at the cliffs, as stone nests.

Abudelauri lakes are another beautiful destination in Khevsureti. You can see them within one day trip. From village Roshka it is possible to make a two hours trekking to the Green and Blue lakes, and you will need another hour to reach the White lake. It is totally worth it: surrounded by mountains from three sides, the colourful lakes look so stunning!

  1. Khevi: Chaukhi and Juta

Mountain massive Chaukhi separates Abudelauri from Juta, a small village which is located a bit lower that Ushguli – at the altitude of 2250 m only. It is a great start point for hiking routes to a small Juta lake, Chaukhi pass and above mentioned Abudelauri lakes in Khevsureti.

Near Juta, there is an awesome camping place called Zeta Camp. You can get a camping place, shower and food, or stay in a simple room. The area is extremely picturesque, and definitely worth exploring.

  1. Tusheti: Upper Omalo and Dartlo

Tusheti is that wild part of Georgian mountains, where roads are still not that good maintained, hence dangerous sometimes. Nevertheless, the region is extremely beautiful. You can reach Lower Omalo with a shared car from Kakhetian village Alvani, and hike to Upper Omalo and Dartlo from there. Oreti lake, situated at an altitude of 2400m is another beautiful destination, which would need some strength though. But it is totally worth it! Breathtaking paths, untouched nature, medieval Tushetian towers and being face to face with mountains – this feeling is incredible.

For those who are interested in learning more about people, it would be good to know that the locals still keep some pagan traditions, even though Georgia adopted Christianity in IV century, - you can notice it in daily habits and rituals.

In winter upper Tushetian villages remain uninhabited: the shepherds bring their herds down to Kakhetian settlements. Summertime is the only period, when you can see Tusheti in all its wild beauty.

  1. Kakheti: Eagle Canyon

It is one of the most impressive places in Vashlovani National Park, perfect for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Those who are fond of medieval times, can walk through the forest to city-fortress of Khornabuji and admire a view of Alazani valley from there.