From Svaneti to Kazbegi
Georgia. Countries on the border of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. Georgians are said to consider themselves more Europeans than Asians. But Europeans do not take them much for Europeans. Wild mountains, colorful and deep green, excellent food, poverty and wealth. So many contrasts in one place. It is said that those who do not drink should not go to Georgia. I don't drink, I went and it was worth it ..
Enough has already been written about Okatse or Martvili Canyon, places near the town of Kutaisi. At first impression of Georgia it was not bad, but away from tourist attractions and cheers to the mountains! After a 6-hour train ride and a two-hour jeep ride, we are in Ushguli, a group of four villages located in a valley along the upper reaches of the Enguri River. Right at the foot of the highest Georgian mountain Šchary in the Upper Svaneti region. The highest village in Europe at an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level. Due to poor accessibility, Ushguli has retained its character and culture. The symbol of Ushguli is a large number of stone towers. Love at first sight. The Šchara Glacier is planned at an altitude of 2,450 m, unfortunately it has been raining heavily since morning, but we are still packing in raincoats and setting off. On the way we pass several jeeps, in some places the road resembles a ruined riverbed more than the road, yet cars do not give up and more or less successfully overcome the road. No risk, no fun, we hear from one jeep. The rain doesn't stop, on the contrary, we are halfway there, we fight for a while, but after an hour and a half we give up, I push a tear and turn in the direction of Ushguli. It's afternoon, but instead of the glacier we head to the opposite hill towards Gvibari Gvibani, a pleasant climb, flowering colorful meadows, fascinating views of the open valley of the river Enguri.
Mestie - Chalaati Glacier
The next day we move back to Mestia, to a pleasant mountain town in Upper Svaneti at an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level. Immediately upon arrival, we take a taxi for outrageous money to the suspension bridge over the river Mestiachal, 9 km north of Mestia. Again, we are accompanied by heavy rain, fortunately the road leads through a large coniferous forest, yet we do not enjoy the view of the Chalaati Glacier. Fog, rain, clouds. The weather is playing with us. We return to Mestia by an overpriced taxi. In the evening the rain stops and we head to Café Lanchvali for Georgian specialties with a beautiful view of the Svaneti towers. A few steps from the main square we will discover the great café Erti Kava, after a few days I will finally replenish my supplies of caffeine, my favorite place in the morning and evening, before the trek and after the trek. Already the password for wifi „morecoffee“ indicates that I will like it here.
Mestia - Tsvirmi
Early alarm clock, we arrange a taxi ride to the lower station of the Hatsvali cable car, let the cable car take you to the top. From the upper station of the cable car we continue to the top of Mentashi (2,473 m), then we lose altitude and in some places a rather boring forest path we find ourselves in the village of Tsvirmi over the Zuruldi ridge after two hours. Beauty. The local church with the triangular peak of Mount Tetnuldi forms a magnificent spectacle as well as a view of the valley. Tsvirmi is one of the most beautiful villages in Svaneti, where there is a completely normal village life. We observe local domestic animals, farmers, dilapidated houses and luxurious accommodation. We come across an incredibly nice lady who invites us to her land, offers home-made delicacies and after a while we sit in a jeep, which takes us back to Mestia on the way, ie rather on the way. I watch on my mobile phone whether we are heading in the right direction, we do not understand why it does not follow the „main“ road, but through pastures, meadows, forest paths. It's not shorter, it's not faster at all. But we are silent and happy to go. Hooray. Cities on the horizon. We pay the agreed amount and reward ourselves with a rich dinner at Café Laila.
Mestia - Road to Koruldi lakes
We wake up to a beautiful, sunny day. After a rich Georgian breakfast, we set off up the hills to the Cross above Mestia (Mestia Cross), but I must say that the road gave us quite a bit, a steep climb along forest trails. After two hours we are at the cross and a beautiful mountain panorama opens up to us, in the south we see Mestia and the Zuruldi mountain massif, in the east a view all the way to Zabeshi. We continue towards Koruldi lakes, a pleasant climb is a reward, five cute puppies welcome us at one hut, we would like to take at least one in our backpack… While we met fewer and fewer people heading for the glacier, more and more four-legged friends. After another hour of travel, we run out of water. No stream nearby. Due to the fact that we have at least a three-hour descent into the valley, we turn before the finish line again. Oh no. At least we will have puppies once again… In Mestia we are heading to the Old House Café with great specialties and a view of the Svaneti towers.
Mestia - Sowjet Alpin Lodge
On the last day in Mestia we give a quick morning hike to the old Soviet mountain hut, Sowjet Alpin Lodge. The old ski hotel is now falling apart, but during the Soviet era, Mestia was a popular destination for climbers and skiers. From the ruined Svaneti tower we enjoy the views of the valley. At noon we move to the airport in Mestia, where we will have a local flight to Tbilisi, respectively. to Natakhtari.
Move under Kazbeg
After minor problems due to the weather, the Czech aircraft LET L – 410 takes a delay to the clouds. We enjoy a 50-minute quiet sightseeing flight. The flight was reportedly sold out, but the cabin of the plane was only half occupied, so we could all have a luxurious place at the window. Upon arrival, we take a taxi to the last mountain point of our expedition, the town of Stepancminda. It lies at an altitude of 1,750 meters above sea level in the valley of the river Terek at the foot of a glacier near Mount Kazbeg in the Greater Caucasus. From the balcony of the small hotel, our views point to the setting sun over the Church of the Holy Trinity and the Kazbeg Mountains.
Classic hike under Kazbeg
In the morning, we set off on a hiking trail to Georgia's most popular photographic motif, the Gergeti Sameba Church (Holy Trinity Church) to a height of 2,175 meters above sea level. From the church we continue on a path with a steeper ascent to the west, for the way up to Arsha Pass we choose the left side, which has fewer views, but is better protected from the wind. I let the family rest 200 meters below Arsha Pass and set out to see a giant of 5,000 in all its beauty. Kazbeg (5,033 meters above sea level) almost within reach. I'm not going any further, I don't have a physique for that. I return to the right with monumental views. I meet the rest of the family and above the church we enjoy for a long time a beautiful view of the sun-drenched church. The descent to the town of Kazbegi is fast. In the center we are enchanted by the cafe in Awtobuse, an original idea with excellent coffee.
Trip to the Truso valley
We enjoy the last mountain day in the valley of the river Truso. A valley lying on the border with the autonomous region of South Ossetia. A taxi will drop us off at a bridge in the village of Kvemo Okrokana, 18 km south of Stepancminda. We set out with the Kesare gorge, which our path leads over the roaring river Tergi. After an hour of leisurely walking, a beautiful valley with travertine terraces, the mineral lake Abano, red-colored sulfur springs opens up. A beautifully colored riverbed with the rays of the sun is a balm for the soul. Along the lake, along an unmarked path, we reach the village of Ketrisi, where almost no one lives and the village is falling apart. On the other side of the river Tergi we return.
In the morning we leave the mountains and head to Tbilisi with a marshmallow. He finds out several times that every problem has a solution. If there is no space in the marshmallow, nothing happens, you go to the garage and a wooden chair is brought and immediately one of the passengers has a „very comfortable chair“ and we go! Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, lies on the banks of the Kura River. The city combines historic buildings with buildings with a modern style. We will walk along the Bridge of Peace, we will head to the Narikala fortress on the hill above the city. It's crazy hot, we'll cool off among the trees in the botanical garden. On a tired evening we fall into bed, absorbing wonderful experiences from a country that has not yet been swallowed up by the tourism industry.
How to get to Georgia
If I planned the trip again, I would consider renting an off-road car. I would stay longer in Kazbegi and in Ushguli. I would skip the canyons at Kutaisi. I would choose the flight Prague – Kutaisi and Tbilisi – Prague or vice versa. I would repeat Russian, because Georgians often do not really speak English. I was hoping that Russian would somehow jump in, but it didn't jump in. Ím I'm going to a bookstore for Russian for self-study, next year it's planned to move further east.
At the foot of the Šchar glacier
From Ushguli to the foot of the Shchar Glacier.
The highest village in Europe
Friends at Koruldi lakes.
Old Soviet mountain hut. Now it's falling apart. In the past, the Russians enjoyed the view of the valley while drinking vodka.
Regular dose of coffee in Awtobus.
Kazbegi - Church of the Holy Trinity
Gergeti Sameba in the distance.
Kazbeg at your fingertips
The third highest mountain in Georgia.
As if time stopped here …
Truso river valley
Abano mineral lake in the Kesare gorge
Truso river valley
Colorful bed of the river Tergi
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