Skip the Alps – Hike Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains instead
30 May, 2017
Skip the Alps – Hike Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains instead
Ancient villages, soaring summits, and thousands of miles of wilderness make Georgia a contender for Europe’s most unsung destination, CNTraveler says.
“High in the Caucasus Mountains where Europe and Asia intersect, cowbells clang through grassy valleys, glaciers crown jagged peaks, and sunlight glints off of turquoise lakes. Here, at 6,000 feet in the former Soviet country of Georgia, the natural landscape is punctuated only by the occasional village, and even those—often unpaved and virtually devoid of cars—hark back to a
not-so-distant past when shepherds were the only people around.

Though the entirety of Georgia could fit inside South Carolina, the country lays claim to four of Europe’s ten highest summits, more than 100 miles of way marked trails, and countless off-the-beaten-path routes ripe for exploration. And unlike the continent’s more popular Alpine escapes, Georgia’s under-the-radar status means you can often hike for miles without seeing another soul. That, however, may not be the case for long.
In 2015, the Georgian National Tourism Administration spent $600,000 to renovate approximately 20 trails; seven were finished in 2016, and the rest are slated for completion by 2019. “The goal is to make our network of trails more interconnected and accessible,” said Tamar Kakhidze, a marketing executive from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia. “We want people to be able to experience Georgia’s natural beauty and cultural heritage on foot and without the help of a guide.”

Kakhidze is onto something: Whether you’re a day-hiker or a seasoned alpinist, there’s no better way to take in Georgia’s topography—and get a glimpse of local life, unfiltered—than by trekking through it. In Svaneti, the remote northwesterly province where locals get around on horseback and prehistoric, UNESCO World Heritage guard towers dot the horizon, you can embark on a four-day walk from Mestia to Ushguli—the highest continually inhabited settlement in Europe—overnighting in family-run guest houses along the way. (Per the State Department warning, travelers to Georgia should avoid certain regions of the country; consult a map before taking unmarked trails.)
Further east, in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, explore the Lord of the Rings-like scenery around Gergeti Trinity Church, where candlelit masses are held above the cloud line at 7,100 feet. Below, in the village of Stepantsminda, you’ll find huts, inns, and taverns that plate up mountain fare like khinkali, spiced lamb dumplings that gush hot broth with every bite. (One company, Taste Georgia, even offers hiking and cooking combination packages in the region for those looking to try their hand at preparing regional dishes.) More refined cuisine—and digs—can be found at Rooms Kazbegi, a sleek hotel, complete with a sauna and indoor pool, which opened in 2012 and put Stepantsminda on the map as a luxury destination.
geotv.ge
Mount Ushba in the High Caucasus, near Svaneti

But traveling in Georgia wasn’t always so cheerful. Just ten years ago, the primitive roads, derelict trails, and formerly shoddy accommodations—not to mention political unrest—attracted only the hardiest of adventurers. Jonny Bealby, founder of Wild Frontiers, a travel company that leads treks in Georgia, first visited in 1999. Back then, Georgia was in dire straits: “Electricity and running water were scarce, beggars wandered the streets, and there wasn’t a tourist in sight,” he tells Condé Nast Traveler.

Though Georgia has come a long way since then, poverty remains widespread, with the median income hovering around $14 a day. To spur economic growth, the government is investing heavily in tourism and infrastructure—efforts that seem to be paying off: The number of international visitors to Georgia has more than doubled in the last five years.

With the uptick in tourism showing no sign of abating, airlines have launched new routes to meet the demand, making it easier (and cheaper) than ever to travel to the region. Georgian Airways now offers direct flights between London and the capital of Tbilisi, and Qatar Airways is set to add more planes to its Doha–Tbilisi route in May. It’s rumored that budget giant Ryanair will start flying to Tbilisi in the coming months.

But improved travel logistics are only a small piece of Georgia’s overall allure. “The country has a soul—it gets under your skin,” says Bealby. “The wine, the food, the people, the mountains: Georgia may be small, but its draws are many. Your first visit is unlikely to be your last,” CNTraveler says.

Related Stories:

The 12 best dayhikes in Georgia

Follow the adventure! - Georgian hitchhikers’ exciting journey from Khevsureti to Tusheti


Svaneti among must see spots for those obsessed with zombies – National Geographic


Print
Other Stories
Five Things About Kartuli That’ll Make You Say “Vaime!”
Home to a history that spans millennia and one of the world’s most diverse (and delicious!) cuisines, Georgia’s got a lot to brag about.
Four seasons are not enough! - Well known campaign takes new turn
The online campaign #spendyoursummeringeorgia was extended to four seasons. And it will keep growing, as Keta Goletiani, one of the founders explains.
On the stairways to heaven
It is not very easy to access the Katskhi pillar in the western Imereti region. But it’s worth your time as “CNN travel” states after they hit the road.
Beshumi to Ushguli: Four days in paradise
Georgian Photographer Giorgi Shermazanashvili made a trip from Beshumi to Ushguli. His pictures capture the great beauty of Georgia's west.
First snow arrives in Kazbegi (Watch video)
It is end of August and the first snow has already arrived in Kazbegi.
Easy summer destinations for Tbilisi travellers
Summer is the busiest period in terms of tourism. Here are 4 places a foreign visitor should see in Georgia, Tbilisi to experience city’s modern and traditional mix.
Sakartvelo TOP-1 – Why is Georgia number 1 for the Belarusian photographer?
Georgia among Georgians is called Sakartvelo. This is the name how the Belarusian tourist calls this country.
American diplomat about Georgia: “Every single city has left me wanting more”
Kristen Crocker, American Diplomat has recently visited Georgia.
Forbes: “Georgia (The Country) Is On Everyone’s Mind”
Forbes, an American business magazine, has recently published an article about Georgia.
Amazon Jungle in Georgia - Kolkheti National Park
Kolkheti National Park is located in the western part of Georgia and intends to protect the wetland nature of Kolkheti.
Abudelauri Colorful Lakes – Magical Place to See In Georgia
A Magical, mysterious place, home of the Khevsuretian Gods, with a view of spectacular Chiukhi Mountain,
Koruldi Lakes in Svaneti – Heaven On Earth
Koruldi Lakes is one of the most magical places in Georgia.
Svaneti – the most untouched place by the outside world
French photographer Julien Pebrel traveled to Georgia last summer.
5 must-see lesser-known places in Kakheti
Kakheti is located in the eastern part of Georgia.
Euronews: "Batumi as a center of youth culture"
Euronews has recently published an article about Batumi, a seaside town in Georgia.
Russian tourist in Batumi explains why Russians should not come to Georgia
It has been more than a week since demonstrations have started in Tbilisi and are held daily.
How "Spend Your Summer in Georgia" campaign started?
The group includes around 207 000 members of Facebook and it has been only couple of days since the campaign was launched.
Why Georgia? – Photographer Eddy Li speaks about his experience
As the number of tourists coming to Georgia rises, so does the number of international photographers.
Visit Gudamakari surrounded by the Greater Caucasus Mountains
Gudamakari is a historical area in northeastern Georgia surrounded by Mtiuleti, Khevi, Khevsureti and Pshavi (slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains).
Georgia among Eid Al Fitr destinations
Where to mark Eid Al Firt? This is the question many of the residents of the Arabian countries will ask themselves as soon as Ramadan is over.
Visit Turtle Lake via the renovated cable car
If you are in Tbilisi and looking for a quiet place surrounded by the greenery, Georgian Journal will show you a perfect option.
5 places to visit for entertainment in Tbilisi
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia offers a lot of options to those visitors who love to go out, have fun and enjoy the active part of the city.
4 reasons why Georgia should be your next destination by Ftnnews
Ftnnews, a website about traveling has recently published an article about why Georgia should be travelers’ next destination.
Georgia and Ukraine have nothing in common when it comes to traveling
Kyiv Post has recently devoted an article to Georgia.
Former Swiss Ambassador to Georgia Lukas Beglinger settles down in Ujarma
Lukas Beglinger, a former ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia has left the homeland to live in Georgia.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
13.11.2019
14.11.2019
USD
1
USD
2.9618
2.9568
EUR
1
EUR
3.2645
3.2566
GBP
1
GBP
3.8009
3.8010
RUB
100
RUB
4.6247
4.5941