Svaneti region is sits on the southern slopes of the Caucasian range, where rivers Enguri and Tskhenistskali start their flow through the impressive gorges and highlands of Svaneti. Historically this region consisted of upper gorges of the river Kodori, so called Abkhazian Svaneti; northern part of Samegrelo and bordered Lechkhumi and upper Racha. This is a land where the first inhabitants, mainly gold prospectors, settled in ancient times. For centuries the Svan ethnic group evolved there, cut off from the outside world by the high and inaccessible mountains. This explains why their culture has ben preserved almost intact throughout centuries. In ancient times, Svaneti was a recognized part of the Kingdom of Colchis. Deep river gorges, narrow paths, stone houses, incredible beauty of giant mountains, make the landscapes unforgettable. Among the important Cultural sites of Svaniti is Ushguli tower village – one of the highest inhabited places in the world situated at 2200m above sea level; Kvirike church (12th c), Tanghili church (10-11th cc), Lamaria church (9-10th cc) Nakipari Church (10-11th cc), churches of the villages Lengeri and Latali.
The highest constantly populated place in Europe, Svaneti really has to be seen to be believed – and first time travelers can be forgiven for considering that they have faltered into to a big-budget Hollywood fantasy epic. Svaneti is highland territory, with a few peaks rising to over 5000 meters, and some of the most stimulating mountaineering anywhere in the world. The warm, wet winds flowing from the nearby Black Sea, moderate climate make pleasant summers and surprisingly mild winters. Lower in the deep valleys, this humidity produces what is known as a moderate rainforest, and in the highlands the mountain slopes are covered with pines and hornbeams. But aside from the staggering natural beauty, the region’s real wealth is the culture of its people – the Svans. With their own language, related to but separate from Georgian, their own old traditions and crafts, and their enormous sense of humor, Svans have always been a proudly independent people.
Mestia – Only in 1935 a road was built to link Mestia with the outside world. The road was made and electricity was later brought to Mestia as well. By the way – only in 1968, it was granted a status of a townlet.Located in the heart of Svaneti, 1500 meters above sea level, Mestia is the center and cultural heart of the Svan people. Svans have their own traditions, unique architecture, cuisine, language which differs from official Georgian.Nowdays Mestia becomes the main tourists’ attraction, it is being renovated and infrastructure developed. Due to renovated airport this former towlet becomes easy reachable, tourist come here not only in warm season when one can climb up to the mountains enjoy amazing mountainous landscapes and extraordinary architecture but in winter as well – recently here was opened modern skiing resort.
Ushguli – Community of villages located at the head of the Enguri gorge in Upper Svaneti, Georgia. Altitude claims vary from 2,086 to 2,200 metres, thus Ushguli is considered to be the highest inhabited village in Europe. The Ushguli villages contain buildings that are part of the UNESCO Heritage site of Upper Svaneti. Nowadays in Ushguli area are living about 70 families (about 200 people), yet enough to support a small school. However, the life here is not the easy one – the area is snow-covered for 6 months of the year, and often the road to Mestia is impassable.
By visiting Ushguli one will have unique opportunity to feel the spirit of life in such a remote area, to get to know incredible architecture (typical Svanetian protective towers are found throughout the villages), to meet locals, and no doubt – to enjoy stunning mountainous landscape.
Adishi is a tiny village which in wintertime is isolated from any road connection. There is no better way to experience the nature, culture and history of Svaneti than a visit to Adishi. Being isolated for most of the year, Adishi is a microversion of what Upper Svaneti is all about. The isolation that have preserved the uniqueness of the area, is also the reason why Adishi is the ultimate choice for a ski-touring trip. You can basically ride unridden lines every day, and not only unridden for the season, but basically ever. Located at the foot of the Tetnuldi you can just pick and choose among amazing lines. Adishi is 9 km from the road to Mestia, and the skin up is a nice mellow hike up through the river valley. Once up there you will be lodged at the comfortable home . Upon request we can offer horse-transportation of the luggage to the village.
Hatsvali is the first ski-resort in Svaneti, and it is a powder-mecca in disguise. The resort is northfacing, and it is located on a ridgeline just above Mestia. The tree skiing in Hatsvali is particularly good, and there are plenty of runs in the pine-forest, as well as open chutes and fields that provides excellent free skiing. In addition there are great back country opportunities from the top of the lift, where you can follow the ridgeline and find your own back country-zone. The resort has one chairlift that serves the three runs, and the vertical drop of the resort is 482 meters. At the top there is a restaurant where you can enjoy the view of Ushba, Tetnuldi and all the other magnificent mountains in Svaneti.
Shkhara is generally considered to be Georgia’s highest mountain and Europe’s fourth highest after Elbrus (5643m), Dychtau (5204m) and Koshtan (5151 m). Pushkina is higher (5100m) but forms part of Dychtau and debatably not a peak in its own right. Shkhara’s altitude significantly differs between maps . On the Russian side the peak is located in the Bezengi region. 65km east of Mount Elbrus it contains the densest collection of high peaks and the largest glacial system in the Caucasus, the Ullu-Shiran-Bezengi. While Elbrus may be the highest mountain in Europe the Bezengi region is the true Mecca for all serious mountaineers in the Caucasus. The region takes its name from the dramatic Bezengi wall for which Shkhara marks the eastern end with Shkhara West (5057m) located nearby. Shkhara is generally considered to be the highest point on the wall being approximately 10m higher than Dzhangi further West.