Hosting both the Higher and Lesser Caucases, Georgia provides one of the finest hiking territories in whole Europe. Quite modern and with many western influences it is very easy to travel and yet the country is unexplored enough to provide a real adventure.
Tuck between continents, Georgia offers an interesting mix between European, Russian, Middle-Eastern and Central Asian influences.
Even if you don’t travel there for hiking, Georgia is an amazing country to explore and has plenty to offer for every taste. Flights from Europe to Georgia are so cheap that there’s really no excuse not to go there.
This article include some general information on trekking in Georgia as well as a more detailed description of a trek in Svaneti and Borjomi National Park.
- The planning for a hike in Georgia is really easy. There is no need for any special equipment. Just take what you would take for a hike in the Alps.
- http://www.caucasus-trekking.com/ – Awesome website with such a good collection of single and multi-day-treks. GPX tracks and detailed description of the trails is included. Highly recommended!
- Walking in the Caucasus, Georgia by Peter Nasmyth – good description of day treks but no multi-day-treks. It has pretty bad reviews on Amazon although I’m not sure why. I hiked one of the trails and it was a decent description of the trail. There’s something for every hiker – from very easy treks up to really hard ones.
- The tourist offices are very helpful and can provide you with maps and advice on trekking.
- If you hike in a National Park, for example Borjomi, the National Park Administration will give you detailed information on trekking routes. You can also book your overnight stays in the huts there.
- The main language in Georgia is Georgian but the people also speak Russian (especially the older people) and at least some words of English. You can easily travel to Georgia without speaking Georgian or Russian.
Long-Distance Treks In Georgia
- The Transcaucasian Trail (TCT) is currently under development and if it’s ever finished will be the best long-distance trek in the area.
- Since the TCT will probably take a couple of years until it’s finished you have to find your own way to create a long-distance trek. If you want to hike longer than one week you need to create the route on your own by connecting several multi-day treks into one long hike.
- For multi-day hikes that are less than one week long, you can checkout the sources provided in the planning section.
Generally, the hiking season in the Higher Caucasus is from mid-June until late September. In the Lesser Caucasus the hiking season is somewhat from early May to mid-October. I even know of some people that even hiked there during the winter season – with the right equipment of course.
Read more here: http://www.caucasus-trekking.com/general/whentogo
Hiking Season in Tusheti
Although technically, you could enter Tusheti by early June, many multi-day treks will still be impassable at that time.If you plan to a multi-day-hike in Tusheti, I would recommend the time from mid-July to late-September.
Tusheti is so remote that you should plan some extra days for a buffer in case anything goes wrong. In 2015, many tourists had to be evacuated with a helicopter because the roads out of Tusheti were impassable. http://dfwatch.net/tourists-evacuated-by-helicopter-from-tusheti-37959
Maps for Georgia
- http://www.caucasus-trekking.com/mapsonline – here you can find recommendation for the use of paper maps.
- http://garmin.opentopomap.org/ – We used these maps for navigation with our Garmin GPS. They were surprisingly detailed and include contour lines. Hence, they are perfect for any outdoor activities.
- http://www.openandromaps.org/en/downloads/asia-middle-east – an alternative map for Garmin GPS devices.
- As always, you can use the Viewranger App with your phone as a backup to navigate yourself.
Svaneti: Hiking from Mestia to Ushguli via Tsvirmi
This article is to supplement the description found at http://www.caucasus-trekking.com/treks/tsvirmiushguli. The description is extremely detailed and very good.
A few tips:
- Almost everyone starts this trek in Mestia as it is easier to reach than Ushguli.
- In the summer it is very easy to find a car, marschrutka or a driver back to Mestia. If you are not too many persons you can easily catch a ride from there instead of renting your own jeep. Some people had the idea to take an alternative route from Ushguli down to Lower Svaneti. It turned out that these roads are in a really bad condition and it’s really expensive to hire a private jeep to do this (summer 2016).
- Bring enough water for your every day’s hike because there aren’t many springs along the way.
- A GPS comes is pretty much necessary for the first and second day. The descents on both days do not follow a clear path, so they would be quite dangerous without one.
- There are plenty of guest houses in each village where you can also buy food.
Day 1: Mestia – Tsvirmi
- You can either climb up the Zuruldi mountain range with the cable car or hike up via the eastern side of the hill. Hiking up is nice but a bit strenuous.
- Until the towers – which are the highest point for today’s walk – the path is clear and easy to follow.
- After the towers, things start to get a bit trickier and more dangerous. When descending, the path is only partly visible and very steep. In addition to that, the GPX track at the top is somewhat displaced to the actual position. The GPX data is also inaccurate on the descent so you have to find your own way down. Raining makes the descent more difficult because the grass is wet and slippery.
- The final descent to Tsvirmi is also a bit difficult to find and steep. You have to find your way through the many cow paths.
Day 2: Tsvirmi – Adishi
- The first few hours of the trek are really easy to find because they run on jeep roads.
- The road to the upper path was in a very good condition and there was no more construction work going on (summer 2016). It could easily be found with the help of the GPX track.
- Hiking the upper path is really great. There are no people, you have stunning views and the path is in a good condition. At the of June there were still some snow fields up there but it wasn’t dangerous.
- Descending from the upper path is a bit fishy because there is no path. Instead you have to descent directly over the grassy hills which is quite steep at some points. In addition to that it was sometimes hard to see where to continue the descent. In this case you absolutely have to trust the GPX track and keep your eyes open for dangerous passages!
- If you decide to take the lower trail, it should be really easy to follow. There even was a trail marker at the beginning, although I’m not sure if they last throughout the entire trail.
Day 3: Adishi – Iprali
- This day is now on the “standard” route again and we met much more other hikers than on the first two days
- The river crossing at the beginning is absolutely doable. I don’t understand why there is such an excitement about it and some people even take a horse. The water was below knees at all times at 9:30am, end of June. We saw even children doing it. In the worst case you may slip and fall down but it’s certainly not life threatening. The only bad thing about the crossing was freezing cold water as it is coming directly from a glacier.
- Apart from that, the trek is absolutely beautiful. There’s a huge glacier and up on the pass the views are fantastic.
Day 4: Iprali – Ushguli
This is the shortest hiking day of all but it is nonetheless beautiful and interesting. If you have some hours left, do not follow the jeep road to Ushguli like the GPX of the caucaus-trekking.com suggests. Edit December 2016: Jozef updated the description of the page which now also includes the upper trail. Instead, take another path that leads through the forests and meadows on the hillside. The entire track takes around 5 hours in total if you follow this path. When we were hiking up there, we saw incredibly many flowers, had great views and the trail itself is so much fun to follow. In difference to the jeep road, there are almost no people on the upper trail and no cars.
If you want to take the upper path, descent from Iprali down to the main road. Follow the main road for about 1 km. Then make a left turn up to Davberi village. Pass the village and make the climb to the upper path. You can find this alternative path on Openstreetmap oder Opencyclemap.
Borjomi National Park
- If the weather is bad up in the Higher Caucasus or you visit Georgia in the shoulder season the best alternative is to visit Borjomi National Park. Borjomi is so easily accessible and information can be found online and at the National Park.
- Before entering the National Park, you need to go to the National Park Administration Office. This office opens pretty late in the morning, so it’s worth checking out the opening time. At the office, you need to obtain your entry permit and you can book all your overnight stays in the park. They will give you information on the current situation in the park and help to figure out the best route. The park map you can buy there is of a very good quality. It contains all relevant trails and places for accommodation.
- There are several multi-day treks throughout the entire park which usually last 2-5 days. You can also design your own combination of trails and extend your hike up to around 8 days.
- Although it’s less of an adventure because the routes are quite fixed, the National Park is absolutely beautiful! And the hikes are quite challenging sometimes – there are very steep sections and on some days a lot of elevation.