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Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer

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Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

Overview for Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

The Transcaucasian Trail, being developed since 2015, is becoming a world-class, long-distance hiking trail more than 3,000 km in length, following the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains and connecting roughly two dozen national parks and protected areas in the region.

Bordering Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the region known variously as the Caucasus, the South Caucasus, or Transcaucasia is one of the most biologically, culturally and linguistically diverse regions in the world – yet one that few have had the chance to explore. Now, united by a shared vision of a long-distance trail network across the region, a growing community of local and international hikers, cartographers and conservationists is putting this hidden gem on the map to help ensure that the landscapes and heritage of the region can be enjoyed by future generations.

Tusheti is a remote region of northeast Georgia, nestled in the Greater Caucasus and only accessible through a few high passes. The walks are first-class and the views are always spectacular in Tusheti, where the landscape is dominated by snow-capped mountains, wide valleys dotted with ancient villages and medieval defensive towers.

Most of the inhabitants of Tusheti live in the lower valleys of Kakheti in the winter and then return to the mountains when the shepherds move the herds in early summer. They keep the unique elements of Tushetian culture alive through festivals, feasts, horse races, and religious rituals held throughout the summer.

Itinerary for Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

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Day 1: Arrival to Tbilisi

Walking tour of old Tbilisi. Highlights include the Narikala Fortress which looms above the city, a diverse collection of religious houses of worship, including the Tbilisi mosque, synagogue, the site of an ancient Zoroastrian temple, and Armenian and Georgian Orthodox churches, and the Simon Janashia Museum (National Museum) which holds many of the treasures of ancient Georgia. Optional visit to the sulphur baths, Turkish-style bathing houses built on the natural sulphur springs in the centre of the historic old town.

Day 2: Tbilisi – Shenako

Much of day 2 is spent driving. The picturesque route from Tbilisi to Tusheti passes through Kakheti, the wine-producing region of eastern Georgia, and up and over the stunning Abano Pass (2,826 m). In the evening you arrive in the beautiful village of Shenako where you can visit the Church of the Trinity, a small traditional church from the XIX century.

  • Transfer time: around 8 hours. The road over Abano Pass is unpaved, and therefore quite bumpy.
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Note: It is possible to split the transfer and have one extra night in Telavi on the way to Shenako. The Kakheti region, of which Telavi is the capital, is the main wine making region in Georgia. There are numerous wineries and wine tasting tours are possible on request. Accommodation in Erekle hotelRcheuli Marani or Château Mere.

Day 3: Shenako – Diklo – Shenako

From Shenako you start walking to the ancient village of Diklo. From Diklo walk to Pichekhi Castles, an ancient fortress on the border with Dagestan, which has amazing views of the valleys of Tusheti. According to the legend, once Diklo was invaded by an army of 10,000 soldiers, and 16 local warriors from Diklo managed to defend the Pichekhi castle for 18 days. When the old village of Diklo finally surrendered, the inhabitants moved to a new territory which is Diklo now.

  • Walking for the day: 4-6 hours (14 km, 450m elevation gain)
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 4: Shenako – Chigo – Dartlo

This day is more strenuous, as you have to hike up and down a lot. The highest point is 2,450 meters above sea level. Pass through the remote village of Chigo. From one side Chigo is surrounded by rocky hills and from the other by the impressive Alazani river gorge. Finally you arrive at the beautiful village of Dartlo. Here you will find stunning examples of the local vernacular architecture – fortress-houses which are usually attached to fortified towers.

  • Walking for the day: 6-7 hours (16 km, 1,000m elevation gain)
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 5: Dartlo – Chesho – Parsma – Girevi

Today the route follows a timber road which connects all villages of the Pirikita Alazani gorge. In Chesho there is a guesthouse/store where you can relax, have a refreshment or buy a snack. Then continue to Parsma. The road does not go through the village itself, to see the village, you must climb up on a little hill where the village is located. After Parsma, continue to Girevi, which is the last settled village of Tusheti in the Pirikita gorge. It offers beautiful views of the Alazani valley.

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours (14 km, 350m elevation gain)
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 6: Girevi – Nakaicho Pass – Verkhovani

We recommend to start this day early as you need to go over a 2,900 m high pass. Go back towards Parsma and cross the big bridge over the Alazani river. From there start hiking up on the hill following the trail. The pass offers amazing views on both sides. You will also see a lot of wild blueberry and raspberry bushes along the way. After the pass, you start descending into the Gometsari gorge. After a while you reach the village of Dadikurta and then the beautiful village of Verkhovani, located on the side of the hill. Verkhovani hosts the tallest fortified tower in Tusheti (17m).

  • Walking for the day: 6-7 hours (13 km, 1,000m elevation gain)
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 7: Verkhovani – Jvarboseli – Dochu

Gometsari gorge is calm and peaceful. From Verkhovani descend down to the river. Cross the bridge and follow the dirt road. You will pass by Begela village and finally arrive in Dochu, situated on the slope below the road.

  • Walking for the day: 4 hours (12 km, 500m elevation gain)
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 8: Dochu – Bochorna – Omalo

Today you will pass by the highest inhabited settlement in Europe, Bochorna, located at 2,345 meters above sea level. At the end of the hike you will reach Omalo. It is the capital of Tusheti region. Therefore, it is the biggest settlement in the area. Visit the beautiful Keselo castle in upper Omalo, which is a fortress from XVIII century.

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours (14 km, 400m elevation gain)
  • Overnight in a guesthouse

Day 9: Omalo – Tbilisi

Transfer to Tbilisi. Stop over at Alaverdi Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Alaverdi is the tallest church in Georgia and one of the finest examples of Georgian medieval architecture, dominating the surrounding landscape of fields and vineyards.

Note: It is possible to split the transfer and have one extra night in Telavi on the way to Tbilisi. The Kakheti region, of which Telavi is the capital, is the main wine making region in Georgia. There are numerous wineries and wine tasting tours are possible on request. Accommodation in Erekle hotelRcheuli Marani or Château Mere.

Day 10: Departure or Onward Travel

Hotels for Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

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9 nights in 3 or 4-star hotels (in Tbilisi) or family run guesthouses (in the mountains). Allthough most guesthouses have private rooms (double or twin), they offer only basic amenities and faiclities are often shared. However they are clean and offer genuine contact with the local culture and unique opportunities to experience the way of living in Tusheti. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality.

Hotels:

Guesthouses:

*Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

Breakfast is always included, as well as 2 lunches, 6 packed lunches and 7 dinners. In Tbilisi dinner is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or the numerous restaurants near your hotel.

Travel for Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

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Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Tbilisi.

Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking. 

Transfers to/from Airports

All ground transfers, including airport transfers, are included.

Baggage Transfers

All hotel to hotel luggage transfers on walking days are included (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person).

Country and Visa Info

UK citizens and most West European citizens do not need to obtain visa to enter Georgia. Detailed information regarding visa requirements can be found here. If visa is required, travellers can apply for e-Visa here.

The region where our trips take place is completely safe, as it is located far from the conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Up-to-date travel advice on Georgia is available here.

Detailed travel information will be provided in your holiday information pack.

Trip Info for Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

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Difficulty Grade: Moderate

This holiday is appropriate for experienced walkers and requires a good level of fitness (read more about difficulty grades).

Route Navigation

We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to Go

This trip is available from June until September. Earliest departure date is 8 June; latest departure date is 17 September.

The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.

Weather

The climate in the region is continental, cold and temperate. Tusheti has alpine weather with long, cold and snowy winters. In June and September snow fall is also possible. And even in summer it can become cold, especially during the night.

What to Bring

We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing not more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.

  • Good hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Several t-shirts (cotton or preferably breathable/fast drying)
  • Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
  • Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
  • Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
  • Hat/Baseball cap
  • Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)

Included for Transcaucasian Trail: Tusheti Explorer (Guided)

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  • Detailed pre-departure holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps (electronic copy + one printed copy per party)
  • You will be accompanied by a local guide on all walking days (6 days)
  • Accommodation in 3 or 4-star hotel in Tbilisi for 2 nights (arrival day and departure day), breakfasts included
  • Accommodation for 7 nights in Tusheti in guesthouses (private rooms available but cannot be always guaranteed; shared facilities)
  • 2x lunches on the way to/from Tusheti
  • Breakfasts and dinners in Tusheti for 7 days
  • Lunch boxes on 6 days in Tusheti
  • 2x airport transfers (arrival and departure)
  • Car transfer Tbilisi-Tusheti on Day 2
  • Car transfer Tusheti-Tbilisi on Day 9
  • Baggage transfers
  • 24/7 assistance by phone

Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements

  • Single room supplement: available only in Tbilisi hotels
  • This holiday is NOT available for solo travellers, minimum size of party is 3, maximum 7 people. If you are a single traveller, please consider the self guided version of this itinerary

Other Trip-Related Costs

  • Entrance fees for attractions and museums

Excluded

  • Flights
  • Lunches and dinners in Tbilisi
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the program

Extensions

  • Extra nights in Tbilisi
  • Extra nights in Telavi on the way from/to Tbilisi and wine tasting tours

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