For a very long time, the legends of a beautiful, little-investigated mountainous region of Georgia, Svaneti, were of a great interest for us. As a result, we created this itinerary on the country of proud and wayward mountaineers, the best soldiers in the Caucasus, Svans. Svaneti is called the land of a thousand towers, as you can find ancient fortifications of IX - XII centuries everywhere there. It is there where the heroes of ancient Greek myths, Argonauts led by Jason, went to find the Golden Fleece. Svaneti is the motherland of the legendary climbers, Michael Hergiani is among them.
Georgians consider this region, lost in the majestic mountains and green valleys, to be the pearl of their country. They always do their best to show it to their guests. “Those, who haven’t been to Svaneti, haven’t seen the true Georgia”, - they say. Svaneti is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
In recent years, Svaneti is developing as a tourist destination. Now the capital of Svaneti, Mestia, has its own airport. Things are changing very fast there. So, we’d better hurry up to see the wild, unspoilt by civilization mountain trails of this beautiful region.
The group meets in a booked hostel in Kutaisi. It doesn’t matter what time you arrive at Kutaisi (KUT). You can arrive in the morning (and you’ll have an opportunity to see the caves), or late at night. You can also fly to Tbilisi (TBS) or Batumi (BUS). There are buses, so you can take a three-or-five-hour ride and get to Kutaisi by bus. It won’t cost you much.
You can leave the stuff that you won’t need while hiking (beach clothes, for example) in the hostel.
We get up early. Transfer to Svaneti. On our way we stop to take photos at the titanic dam of Inguri HPP. Transfer time is approx. 5 hours. As soon as we arrive to the village of Etseri, to stretch your legs after a long journey, we don’t go to bed, but take a couple-hour walk up the valley. We set up camp with the view of the Svan ridge and Layla.
Walking distance of 4 km. Ascent: 300 m.
Early start. We smoothly gain the speed. The height of the pass, which we must take today, is 2416 meters. So it won’t be that easy on the first day. We stay for a night in our tents on the lawn near Mazeri village (height is 1600 m).
Walking distance 15 km. Total ascent: 946 m, descent: 1556 m.
We leave our backpacks in the village and go for a walk. We take only water, lunch snacks, raincoats. But you should understand it right: despite we don’t carry heavy backpacks, the journey still will be quite tough, because it’s long and far away (a six-hour climbing and a three-hour descending). Our goal is a 2700 m point. It’s the foot of Ushba glacier. There is climbers base camp. These people are going to conquer this beautiful peak of the Caucasus. On our way we pass several large waterfalls (their springs are on the glacier). In the evening we come back to Mazeri.
Walking distance: 18.6 km. Total ascent: 1554 m.
A hike from Mazeri to Mestia across Guli Pass (the height is 2960 m). On the way, for sure, we come across a couple of high-altitude areas: first, the woods, then the mountain pastures, at the end, the solid rocks. From the pass we admire the new view of Ushba. There are also the array of Tetnuldi and Svaneti Ridge in sight. We set up camp just below
the pass, on the first flat ground. We spend a night accompanied by Georgian horses :)
Walking distance: 13 km. Ascent: 1697 m.
We go down a bit lower, cross the gorge with another rough small river, go up the slope. After lunch, we go for a walk (without our backpacks) to amazing Koruldi mountain lakes. Green grass, water surface and snowy peaks is an excellent background for your new avatars in yor social nets :) Having returned to our backpacks and taken them from the ubiquitous Georgian cows, we continue to go down to the big village of Mestia. We stay for a night in a guest house.
Walking distance: 17 km. Ascent: 500 m.
In the morning we walk around the village of Mestia, visit the museum of a legendary climber Hergiani, climb one of the Svan towers. The towers look extremely picturesque with the mountains on the background. They create a special atmosphere around Svaneti valleys.
Later on we buy food and pack our backpacks. After that - a hike to the village of Jabeshi. We go up a bit along the slope. As soon as we find a site with a gorgeous view, we set up camp. The height is about 2,500 meters . From there we can see the peaks of Great Caucasus Ridge, a familiar Ushba and the distant towers of the Inguri valley.
Walking distance: 3 km. Ascent: 300 m.
Very soon after the start we reach a dirt track going on the ridge. Along it we continue to climb til lunch. We have a snack on the view site and start going down along a grassy slope. A night is on the banks of the river, near the village of Adishi (2040 m).
Walking distance 12 km. Ascend: 1276 m.
We go along the right bank of the Adishischaly river. At the foot of Lardaadi glacier (formed on the massif of Tetnuldi-Adishi) we cross the river and start the steep climb to the pass Chhutnieri (2740m). On our way, we have to cross many creeks and small streams. At the end, we pass the ruins of the legendary Svan settlement of Khalde. It’s a symbol of uncompromising struggle against the conquerors. We stay for a night in the village of Iprali (1890 m).
Walking distance: 14,4 km. Ascent: 939 m.
We go on the road along a beautiful canyon. In Ushguli we’ll spend much time exploring the ancient architecture of Ushguli (churches, towers, houses).The height is 2100 m. We stay for a night at one of the camp sites. We can take a shower there!
Walking distance 10 km. Ascent: 965 m. Descent: 763 m.
It’s a six hour hike to Shkhara glacier. We go along the Inguri River. On the right side there is a plateau of Namkvani glacier, on the left there is Shkhara wall (5150 m). At a height of approximately 2400 meters we arrive at the foot of the glacier. From under it, the rapid water flow breaks with a lot of noise (the same river Inguri). From time to time snow boulders and stones fall from the glacier. Do not forget to protect your shoes with special shoe cream, because there we are going to wade plenty of creeks. If we are not tired, we can climb a little higher, on the view point. In fine weather, we can see Kazbek. After lunch we return to the base camp in Ushguli.
Walking distance: 12 km. Ascend: 500 m.
Today we transfer to Batumi. There we check in a hostel, swim in the sea, walk round the night city. And of cause, we try khachapuri a la Adjara. It’s a must-do thing :)
The trekking is over. If you have time, you can continue exploring Batumi. You can fly home at any time.
Photo by Andrii and Olga Maygutiak