Georgia a great summer destination if you love hiking. The country is also known as the “Gem of the Caucasus” and covers 14 different mountain ranges where you can hike along many routes through breath-taking landscapes and traditional villages. There is still little information about its treks and hikes online but we are glad that we found Jozef from Trekking in Caucasus and Davit Berishvili from Georgian Tour who are both seasoned hikers with a love for trekking in Georgia. They composed us a list with their favorite off-the-beaten-path treks, covering one hike for each region in Georgia. Read on and find out why Georgia is a real trekkers paradise!
Source: Trekking in Caucasus
Three hikes recommended by Trekking in Caucasus
Jozef, the creator of Trekking in Caucasus fell in love with Georgia. As a citizen of the former Eastern Bloc, for him the country is exotic and familiar at the same time. He loves it that its people and mountains are still unspoiled by mass tourism. He visited Georgia several times, walked its best-known hiking trails and from planning his treks, he found out that it was hard to find some relevant info. So he decided to make a website about hiking in Georgia and it's a great resource for any hiker who want to explore the pristine mountains of Georgia. His website contains very valuable information and you should also definitely check out his list of Nine Great Treks of Georgia and 12 Best Day Hikes in Georgia. You can follow Jozef on Facebook and Twitter.
Here are his 3 favorite off-the-beaten-path treks:
1. Tusheti region - Crossing of Pirikiti range
Duration: 8 hours
Elevation gain: 1200m up, 1400m down
I really like the more popular Omalo - Shatili trek but if there is one part I would adjust, it’d definitely be the “day 1” section. It navigates through the bottom of Pirikiti Alazani valley - a nice walk, but the views are quite limited. You also spend nearly the whole day walking on the jeep road. When I hiked there few years ago, I kept looking on the ridge above me and was wondering if I could walk there instead. It looked so much cooler. I found out last year that it was possible. There is a trail which climbs onto the Pirikiti range and follows it all the way to Nakle-Kholi pass. From there, it descends to Parsma and joins the classic trail to Shatili.
This trail is not suitable for everybody. If you are interested in traditional villages and prefer an easier start so you can get used to the heavy backpack, you might prefer the classic trail. But if you seek challenge and great views from day 1, this could be the trail for you. You only have to make this decision if you plan to trek to Shatili. If you just want to roam around Tusheti for a few days, you can walk to Parsma on day 1 and use an alternative trail to return to Omalo on day 2.
For detailed info about the trail, click here.
2. Khevsureti region - Traverse of the Greater Caucasus
Duration: 7-9 days (as there are several options to reach the Borbalo pass)
Distance: 80 - 100 km
Elevation gain: a lot 🙂
This is probably the most epic trek in Eastern Georgia. You'll stay for five whole days at the elevation of 3000m, high above surrounding valleys and mountains. The traverse starts at the Borbalo pass and follows the main ridge of the Greater Caucasus across the whole Khevsureti region to the Roshka pass ( the ridge actually splits the region into Upper and Lower Khevsureti).
Despite its beauty, this trek gets very few visitors due to its length, remoteness and overall lack of information. While the traverse itself takes up to 5 days, several more days are needed to reach the Borbalo pass so you should come well-prepared. There are no villages to resupply and possibilities to refill water on the ridge are limited. Trekking is therefore recommended only to experienced hikers who are used to long walks in the wilderness.
There is no compact info online about this whole traverse, but some parts of the trek are described here.
3. Khevi region- Walk in the Artkhmo gorge
Duration: 3 hours
Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 420m up, 420m down
If you hike on the well-known trails around Mt. Kazbek, there is a chance that you will meet many tourists. Still, there are many lesser known valleys which you can enjoy in total solitude.
One of those valleys is the Artkhmo gorge, a few km Southeast of Kazbegi, which I visited last summer. This valley housed once several small communities but I only found ruins, shrines and numerous cows.
I really liked this walk. The gorge is so serene and peaceful. I visited abandoned places before but this time I had no friend to talk to and there was no-one could break the silence. So I just sat and contemplated about the people who once lived there and so on. It´s a great place if you want to run away from crowds.
For detailed info about the trail, click here.
Four hikes recommended by Georgian Tour
Davit Berishvili was born and raised in Georgia and had a lot unique experiences while exploring his country. He runs the website Georgian Tour on which you can find all his itineraries and guides, a great resource for anyone interested in traveling to Georgia. Davit loves hiking, camping and spending time with his friends in the wild. He also enjoys organizing tours for friends, family and foreigners. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Here are his 4 favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes:
1. Svaneti region – Dayhike to Mkheri
Duration: 6-7 hours (4 up, 2 down)
Recommendation: Camp at Mkheri or continue trekking crossing pass over Laila to Lentekhi.
Elevation gain: 1200m
Since the summer of 2011, there has almost been no weekend or vacation that wasn't dedicated to the exploration of Georgia. I always went on different hikes or to different destinations. I was always comparing places and making lists of the best ones to visit in Georgia; places that I wanted to show to my Georgian and foreign friends. After I took a trip to Mkheri, this hike made it to my top list.
First you pass the villages of the Latali community and then you have to cross a bridge over the Enguri river. Make sure you get the right turn and then it's easy to follow the path to the mountain top. The path goes through a regular and not very impressive forest but its great to have some shadow during most of the route. There is no water on the way so make sure you're prepared! When you exit the forest, you are in the alpine zone and you'll see its majestic beauty and some breathtaking panoramas. The panoramas of the main Caucasus range are fantastic and even more beautiful are the views on the 4000m Lahili summit of the Svaneti ridge, aka the Divine Lahili. The Svans (the inhabitants of the Svaneti region) also call this summit Laila.
Article about my first visit to Mkheri can be found here.
2. Javakheti region – Hike to the Abuli megaliths
Duration: 4-6 hours
Recommendation: explore Shaori Megalyths, Didi Abuli, Levani lake and Tabatskuri lake
Distance: 14-16km (depends where you start and if you go up summit of Patara Abuli)
Elevation gain: 800m
Foreign hikers rarely go to the Javakheti region. They may just visit the cave city of Vardzia and miss out on the love, inspiration, mysticism and exhilaration that lies in the mountains of the Javakheti Plateau. It's like the Abul-Samsari mountain range comes right out of a fairy tale and the lakes between all these mountains are like the eyes of Goliath, the giant who resided here in ancient times.
There's a megalithic fortress on the Small Abuli mountain (2700m), which is said to be 18 centuries old and it's a place where history meets the unreal beauty of the mountains. The stoned paths on the mountains are like prehistorical highways and it used to be the place where the monks would go observing the stars.
In the fall of 2013 I gathered 20 crazy individuals to explore the exotic Shaori Megalyth on the mountain above the Paravani Lake. That night we camped in the forests near the lake. The day after we went on a hike to the Abuli mountain to visit the megalithic fortress. We passed the Gandzani village that was populated by local Armenians and we saw many Azerbaijani shepherd huts where they had crazy dogs and the tastiest tea and cheese! After trying to find our way on the path that was filled with huge stones, we finally arrived at the fortress. I will always remember this mystical place!
More information about the Shaori and Abuli megaliths can be found here.
3. Adjara region – Hike to Kikhani Fortress
Duration: Depends on the mood of mountain
Recommendation: Explore the Beshumi resort, the Bako summer settlement, the Chirukhi resort and the Green Lake.
Distance: 16 km from Beshumi (hike) or by jeep from Skhalta and then 1,3km ascent
Elevation gain: 600m (1600-2200)
You can find the Kikhani Fortress – the Mt Olympos of Adjara – in the most Southwestern top of the mountainous Adjara region. It can be seen as the Georgian Machu Picchu. The hike offers a spectacular 360 degrees panorama and the path leading to the fortress is very windy. The unique location makes this place very exotic and touristic but you must try very hard to make it there! It took me 4 attempts to get there:
1st attempt: Juni, 2012. It was a very wet season and while I was crossing the Goderdzi pass from the Adigeni side, I got caught in the rain and fog near the exotic Green Lake. One of my tires blew out and I had to spend the night in the village of Ghorjomi and postpone my trip to the Kikhani Fortress.
2nd attempt: June, 2013. We went on a hike to the Kintrishi National Park and during the last day we planned to visit the fortress. To do so we needed to camp somewhere near the town of Khulo. It rained the whole night and we ended up staying at a shepherds house. We enjoyed the local hospitality but has to postpone the trip to the fortress.
3rd attempt: September 2014. We were driving with a Soviet Truck to make it from the Beshumi Resort to the Kikhani Fortress but we had an accident while coming down the steep descent. We had to return to Tbilisi with some injuries.
4th attempt: August 2015. This time we finally managed to conquer Kikhani – Veni, Vidi, Vici! Just as we were about to return from the fortress, it started raining and fogs were closing the view. We were very lucky that the mountain had temporarily opened itself to us before it was captured by mystical fogs.
More information can be found here.
4. Racha region – Hike to the Lagora Huts
Duration: Roughly 6 hours
Recommendation: Explore Gona, Notsara, Zopkhitura areas or continue to the Shoda base-camp or to the pass
Distance: 13 km
Elevation: 1300-2000; 6.5km up and 6.5km down
One day you'll come to a point when you've seen almost everything you wanted to see. You have a family and less time for hikes but last year I had an extra reason not to hike to the Lagora Huts. My wife was pregnant and it didn't sound like a good idea to go there. I didn't even know the way to the huts but I hoped that the locals were right about the distance – their measurements in kilometers are a different science – and we decided to do this dayhike to the huts after all.
We started the hike in the Ghebi village, which used to be a village with tens of towers, very similar to the Svanetian towers. Now there are only Magti towers (a Georgian mobile operator) which function as a sign for travelers that they are on the right path. Then we walked for a few hours through some meadows and a dark forest. At some point we realized that we hiked a lot more than expected and my wife becam nervous as she wasn't allowed to hike that much. We finally reached the St George Church on the mountain top where we joined some locals from Patara Ghebi for a meal and a toast. We asked them if we could borrow an axe and we continued our way down to the Lagora huts where we would spend the night.
We cut our way through a path of hogweeds with the axe like Don Quixote was tilting at wind mills. We finally reached the hut where we collected some wood to make a fire. Inside the hut there were some posters from the dark 90's and the place looked quite ugly but we didn't care much about it. We made a fire, had some drinks, sang songs and played games. It was a very special night with the two of us and we couldn't wait for our baby Sofia to be born and be as active, crazy and loving as we are and to take her with us on hikes, expeditions and go wild as we do...