Tusheti – a Tourist Dream
18 November, 2010
Tusheti – a Tourist Dream

Tania  Tamliani

It was not an accident for me to have embarked on presenting the series of Virtual Tours over Georgia. In the first place, the tourist season is almost high here, and secondly, I wanted to personify these series by presenting it in the first person – I am not a city girl, I was born and grown in the mountains, and I truly feel myself a daughter of nature. And finally, Georgia’s majestic scenery deserves all my attention and pen.

So put yourself in my weathered hands – I promise you will be safe – relax and follow me! This time, I would like to stay in the mountains together with you - the gorgeous Svaneti was the theme last time. Today, I am taking you to Tusheti – a real dream for those who want to travel, and do this in the mountains. Be ready now to be captivated as much as you were by Svaneti!
That Georgia is a fascinating place for a tourist to visit is an old story. This is a dream come true provided you like to rub up against the virgin nature, get yourself acquainted with outlandish traditions and encounter a genuine human hospitality. A guest in this culture is a gift of God. Everywhere in Georgia!
True, Georgia is still on its way of turning itself into a tourism haven, but we are not prepared to wait long for the moment when it happens. Georgia has enough natural resource and human power which make it very much ready to receive and embrace a visitor.
Tusheti is a historical region in the north-east of the country. It is gorgeously embedded on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, bordering with Chechnya and Dagestan on the north and east, and with the Georgian provinces of Kakheti and Pshav-Khevsureti on the south and west respectively. The tiny population of Tusheti is made up of local ethnic Tushs, or the Tushebi, as they are called in the Georgian language. Tusheti is a typical Caucasus area. It might be a real paradise for ethnographers and biologists, amateur photographers and simply for adventurers. Historically the biggest geographical names in Tusheti are Tsova, Gometzari, Chaghma and the Piriqiti Tusheti, formerly known as Pharsman’s Tusheti, and now included into the Akhmeta region. The area comprises ten villages with Omalo being the largest.
The flora in Tusheti is simply amazing with its unbelievable vegetative diversity. And its richest forests are unique and they are typical only for this area. Deciduous trees are rare here, but there are lands under the pine woods, which are spread all over Tusheti. Trunks of those pine trees ooze out pitch, spreading around the specific aroma. And the needles off of them are scattered everywhere on the ground beneath the trees. It is so funny that, looking down at those pine needles under your feet, you subconsciously start counting them, and you never notice how time passes. This is what always happens to me when I am there.  
The pine trees are well noticeable on both sides of the Alazani River which kind of ascends from the lower part of the valley towards the highland, reaching as high as 2200 meters above the sea level, thus creating a splendid panorama with the forest line at the height of 2600 meters. This is where the border line goes between the alpine and sub-alpine zones. Only sporadic bilberry bushes grow higher. The land becomes totally destitute of vegetation at the height of 3000 meters above the sea level. Higher are only cliffs and snow-capped peaks. The Dano, Qomito and Diklo mountains are standing as high as 4000 meters and are shrouded in eternal snows. These unattainable cliffs make a cozy abode for aurochs. They spend most of the time very, very high in the mountains. Traveling up into and across Tusheti, you might see roebuck, a rare deer. Imagine, even some stray wild hogs   would occasionally ‘visit’ there from the neighboring Daghestan.
Tusheti is rich in predators like forest and cliff marten, brown bear, wolf, lynx. As for birds, you might come across great variety of woodpecker, partridge and many others. The Lodgers of Tusheti rocks are huge birds like eagle and mountain eagle, owl, windhover, buzzard and one of the fastest birds – a hawk
There are a lot of curative mineral waters in Tusheti. “Chigho water” is very salty and includes chlorides; two streams of sour water spring out of the Vedzi hill. Near the villages of Khiso, Shenaqo, Pharsma, Nasoplarsi and Chontio alkali-salty waters are found. Three streams of alkali-salty waters are noticeable near Omalo. Within the areas of Dochu and Khakhabo villages waters with iron chemical content are flowing.   
The jewel of Tusheti is the preserve zone, covering 27,903 hectares of land owned and protected by the state since 2003, encompassing practically all the villages of Tusheti.  The preserved territory was created with the purpose of maintaining those spectacular sights with lot of history and ethnic culture into it, also for the encouragement of tourism and traditional economy without causing damage to the environment. The Tusheti preserved territory is something like national parks in America, distinguished by its beautiful historical places like the towers dating hundreds of years back into history, indigenous customs, arty-crafty and cuisine. 
In the villages, unique monuments of cultural heritage, former settlements, national needlework, agricultural instruments and domestic utensils are maintained.
Traditionally, the Tushs are sheep herders. Tushetian Gouda (sack) cheese and high quality wool is famous, and it used to be exported to Europe and Russia from old ages. Even today sheep and cattle breeding is the leading branch of the economy of the highland Tusheti. The local shepherds spend the summer months in the highland areas, but live in the lowland villages of Zemo Alvani and Kvemo Alvani in wintertime. Their customs and traditions are similar to those of other eastern Georgian mountain-dwellers
The pristine nature of Tusheti, its villages living traditionally, local food and the century’s old Tusheti architecture, embellished by the delightful character of the natives make unbelievable ensemble of a tourist attraction. And we are all welcome to this treat of life-time.
Board and lodging should not be a problem. Mounted tours are also guaranteed on the back of sure-footed smaller size locally-bred horses. What else? Oh, yes! Fishing! The ice-cold mountain brook trout is waiting for you to frolic with.

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