Svaneti is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of Georgia’s most remote areas. The high mountain region located in the northwest of Georgia is breathtaking with rocky terrain, surreal land towers, and ten highest peaks of Caucus Mountain range. Recently, Snaveti was renovated with tourist infrastructure making it one of the best places to visit in Georgia.
Besides picturesque nature, Svaneti is known for the powerful polyphonic music, unwritten Svan language, and a long history of invasions. Over the years, it has become a popular destination for skiing during winter and mountain climbing during summer. Trekkers love the trails in Svaneti and will flock there whenever an opportunity arises. There are plenty of things to do in Snaveti. Here are 12 things to include in your itinerary.
Mestia is the start of many thrilling trips in the region with a lot to offer. The city of Mestia is located 283 miles –about 456 kilometers- from Tbilisi and is 4,921 feet above the sea level. With the Adishi glacier right ahead, anyone fascinated by walks cannot resist the inviting trails. Visitors should take caution not to go far as there are hidden cracks in the ice.
Adishi glacier is a sight to behold, located in the middle of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range right in the Svaneti Region and the southern slopes of Caucasus.
Visit the History and Ethnography museum
History of the Ethnography museum features among the most critical activities for anyone visiting Georgia county. Founded in 1936, the museum showcases many historically significant artifacts from Svaneti and entire Georgia. You will also see unique engravings and icons, exemplary jewelry, explore medieval weaponry, and learn about the Svans lifestyle, among other things. The museum is located in Mestia.
A trek to Chaladi Glacier
This is a perfect activity for visitors who prefer small day-trips to long hikes and camping. Chaladi Glacier stands 6,069 feet above the sea level. It takes only five to six hours for a return trip to the Glacier. The climb to the bottom is along a flowing stream with uniquely beautiful mountains scenery, wild nature, and untouched vegetation.
Original trail to Chaladi Glacier starts at the Mestia main square, follows the road to the east and over the bridge. It is a straight forward path that leads to the bridge over Mestiachala River after a two-hour walk. Many tourists start there hike at the Mestiachala River, which splits into two.
The main river flows to the right, leading to the valley that leads to the Russian border, hence inaccessible. To get to Chaladi Glacier, cross the bridge and head left where you will encounter breathtaking nature, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Across the bridge lies a military border post that may ask for your passport if you are a visitor.
Turn right and climb into the trail leading to a beautiful pine forest. After 15 minutes, you come to a river and through a forest. You will see the Glacier in front of you from here, but remember, getting close to the Glacier is dangerous.
Villages of Svaneti
Many minibusses known as marshrutka operate from Mestia to Soli, Lentekhi, Mele, and Mazeri. However, the bus schedules are not consistent, so hiring a taxi may help you maximize your time. Locals in the villages are friendly as they often encounter tourists and mountain climbers wandering in the small villages.
Know the Becho community
In the west of Mestia, situated in the valley of Dolora River, is the Becho community, which is spectacular and less visited by tourists. The area has some of the most beautiful walks. At the head of the valley towers the most dangerous and toughest mountaineering challenge, twin-peaked Ushba. It is not only spectacular but hosts the highest village in the valley called Mazeri.
Mazeri offers an excellent base to start exploring the area. Towards the Dolora River, you can walk to the glaciers on the west side of Ushba or to the Etseri and Laleti communities. Shikhar Valley that was the fortress of the princess of Dadeshkeliani is here and makes a great place to visit.
There are various trekking trails suitable for full or half-day hikes. A trek to Shdugra, for example, leads to a significant waterfall. Mount Mezir has a mountain lake, an ancient church, and a high viewpoint. On the other hand, Guli Pass is known for panoramic views, an old church, and scenes of Ushba.
The Becho community has a rich culture, and visitors learn a lot from the least explored community.
Hike up Ushguli
A well-marked trek from Mestia leads to Ushguli- a UNESCO site. This is the most remote area of the region and the highest settlement in entire Europe. All tourist information you will need is in the office in Mestia. Accommodation is plentiful as every village along the trail has a guesthouse.
Once in Ushguli, you can visit the ethnographic museum in the village of Chazhashi to see medieval metalwork, icons, and processional crosses. You will also learn how people in the defensive towers lived.
Visit Lamaria Church in Ushghuli
Lamaria Church, which is named after the Virgin Mary, features old frescoes on the inside and offers spectacular views of Shkhara mountain. The church legend connects with the late 19th-century murder of lord Puta Dadeshkeliani who wanted to rule the community.
When he was going to meet two people in front of the church, Puta encountered the whole community that had come to help pull a cord attached to the trigger. This is how the people divided the responsibility equally for eliminating the man that wanted to rule them. Ushghuli had never had a ruler.
Walk to Shkhara Glacier
The walk from Ushguli to Shkhara Glacier is one of the most beautiful hikes among many in Svaneti. Since it follows the dirt road, the pathway is not as pleasant, but the views of Shkhara Glacier are stunning.
Note, a hike to and from Glacier takes about five hours with no significant climbing. Minivans are operating from Seti square daily. If you opt to trek, join the other trekkers on the 4-day popular trek from Mestia.
From Ushguli village, walk to the north, upstream of Inguri river towards the main Caucasus ridge. The valley bends to the northeast leading to Shkhara glacier in the distance. Follow the main road, and you will encounter a few small streams.
After 2 hours, you will see an arrow written Shkhara pointing across the river. Stay on the banks until where the main road bends to the left and goes uphill. Take the small unmarked trail to the right, and cross the overgrown meadow and a field of red rocks. Follow the path into a small forest which emerges at the age of the moraine that is 300 meters from the foot of Shkhara glacier.
Observe caution in Shkhalia as the falling rocks are dangerous.
Enjoy Tetnuldi Mountain
Tetnuldi, located in the Svaneti region of Georgia and central part of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, is a prominent peak. It is the tenth highest peak of Caucasus, one of the most beautiful mountains in the area. The hill is hard to climb as it is mostly covered with ice and abundant snow. Adishi Glacier is one of the glaciers on the slopes of Tetnuldi.
You can see Tetnuldi if you look North when skies are clear from Mestia town in Svanetia. The sight is a perfect snow wight pyramid dominating the skyline. It is referred to as the bridegroom of Ushba and Svanetian bride. The name Tetnuldi translates as Blond Mountain or Wightheared, fitting perfectly as the mountain top has no single black rock spot.
Tetnuldi stands in the same row with giants like Djangi, Skhara, Dykhtau, and Koshtan and is seldom climbed due to its remote location. Famous among Georgian and Russian climbers, the mountain offers exciting ice-climbing possibilities. The route to its top offers overwhelming views of Shkhara and is one of the most aesthetic in the area. You can also catch the most tantalizing views of Bezengi massif, Svananian mountain ranges, and the Caucasus as you walk through the trails.
Hike to some of the most beautiful lakes
A seven-hour trek from Mestia to Koruldi lakes will treat you to gorgeous views along the way at the foot of Mount Ushba. Some of the most stunning lakes that Georgia boasts of are located in Svaneti.
Try local cuisine
Svaneti, like any other culture, has some meals that are originally Svan. Tashmibali, known as Tash-M-Jab by locals, is a dish of mashed potatoes enriched with cheese. The more it stretches, the better.
Kubdari is another Svan delicacy, which is a meat pie made from a mixture of beef, pork, and slices. In some cases, the cook uses only beef, onions, and Svaneti salt.
Ski until April
Skiing in Svaneti is a fun-packed series of activities as most of the participants are ski lovers. Hatvasli ski resort is incredible for both skiing and snowboarding, with 5,6 km long ropes of different strengths. Snaveti offers many untouched slopes with various landscapes for skiing.
Four lifts operate in the area and will take you to any slope of your choice. Though the ski season varies every year, one can visit from December to April.
Snaveti offers a wide range of adventures within the realm of Georgia tourism, from the refreshing streams to the snow-capped glacier tops, a sight to behold. The locals are friendly and welcoming, making this part of Georgia an incredibly peaceful place. This Georgia town is a perfect place to visit at any time, as every season is full of suitable activities for entire families, or individuals.
Homestays in the region offer generous portions of meals projecting the generosity of Snaveti locals. You will never go hungry in Georgia as there are plenty of eating sessions with large meals, always including khachapuri and kubdari.
When visiting Snaveti, you may want to add more days to your itinerary and explore all the things to do in the province. If you are limited in time, though, places like Ushguli give visitors who come for a day value for their time and money. Up the narrow path, the trail leads into Zhidiani village of Ushguli and enter divine serenity as you gaze the mountains, and further on, snow-topped peaks.
Whichever season and time you choose to visit Svaneti, you will enjoy the experience.