Svanetia is the most beautiful region of Georgia. The best time for the hiking tour is in May, June and September.
The starting point for your trekking tour is a tiny town Mestia. Mestia located in the valley between the mountain range. Before you start your hiking tour, visit the local Museum. One can also find a lot of churches around. The Saint George Church has preserved crosses and icons from the 12th century. In the Pusdi Church, one can still find the wall paintings dating back to the 13th-century. In case you don't want to go by car you can reach Mestia by plain but be prepared for the flight cancels. Everything depends on the weather.
You have been to the Alps why do you need to go to Svanitia? I tell you why. Svanetia is totally different with its incomparable beauty.
On the first day of our hiking tour, we went to Koruldi lakes. The landscape was tremendous. We just couldn't believe that everything around us was real. Every minute I asked my daughter to stop here and there and to take pictures. The hiking to the top of the mountain is not complicated but it requires some physical strength. The Koruldi lakes are on the top of the mountain (2700 m). If you travel solo without the tour guide, take a trekking map in the town center of Mestia. To find the way you need to go to the west beginning from the main square. In 300 or 400 meters you would see a turn to the left. Continue going up the hill till you see the second turn, don't take any turn just continue going straight up the hill.
On the way, you would see a Svaneti Tower, a hostel and the last place where you can fill the bottle with water. Up now you should go all the time up the hill. At some point, you would see two ways. We took the main route. The way is longer but simpler. You can take one of the ways turning to the left, the ways are shorter but more difficult as you go through the bushes. All roads lead to the huge cross. Here we had a rest enjoying spectacular views from the view deck. If you are lucky with a clear sky, you can see the two pick, Tentnuldi, and Leila, of Ushba Mountain. Unfortunately in our case, the weather was mean to us. The way up to the view platform and down the hill, back to the Mestia would take approximately 5 hours.
We continued going up to the lakes. For this trail, we followed the road signs. Passing the small houses on our right and left we came to the last hiking sign. In 40 minutes we saw small lakes scattered all over the valley. The lakes are very small. I was not impressed but if you climb the nearest hill and take the pictures from the top you would see how these lakes gently scrolling the hills complementing one another as a piece of a puzzle forming the whole.
by Joris Dierickx, flickr.com
In case you decide to take advantage of being in Mestia, Upper Svaneti, go to the village Jabesh. The route will take more than 13 hours. Take a tent with you. The weather is changing here like in Ireland.
The views were spectacular that made our hiking tour easier. I almost forgot about my heavy bag. We stopped by the river to drink. The way to the village of Jabeshi is very long. The mountain river is pure and cold but don't dare to drink river water. A lot of livestock is grazing here. From there the trail goes up to the next pick (1900m). We were almost there!. From the top, we could see the village.
I would very honest with you telling that the rest of the tour was very hard for me. I was swearing to express my tiredness and complaining all the way. The village we reached late in the evening. We put a tent in someone's garden and I didn't care much who's garden it was:). I was so tired. The weather was rainy and I went to bed only with a single thought about tomorrow's day.
How would I go back?
The next day we were talking to our host. He was laughing at me because he saw my poker face the day before. It was a miracle he had a car!. He brought us back to Mestia. My pain and self-pity overwhelmed me. We decided to stay in Mestia and have a rest walking around the town, tasting traditional food, and listening to traditional songs.
The next morning we took a taxi and drove to Ushguli. Actually Ushguli is a community encompassing four villages. The village belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ushguli is 45 km from Mestia. It is the most remote and inaccessible regions of Georgia. The Svans speak their own language, have different traditional cuisine, and are very hospital people. Over 20 medieval typical Svanetian protective towers are found in Ushguli. There is an Ethnographic Museum in one of the towers in the center of the settlement. A short walk up the hill would bring you to the Lamaria Chapel dating back to the 12th century. The Chapel is full of wall paintings and old frescoes. From there you can start hiking to the foot of Shkhara.
by Peter Ashton
At the height of 2850 meters above sea level, at the Bezengi Wall, you can enjoy the tremendous and magnificent views of the snow and rocks around. In the evening you can go to Koshki just to feel like a Svan King sitting on the throne and eating traditional Svan kubdauri.
If you find a place to stay in Ushguli you can continue your hiking tour further to Khalde and waterfalls. In the year 2017, the path was marked by local volunteers. Before 2017 the way to waterfalls knew only local mountain guides. Khalde is a small village that was abandoned during the independence war. In some houses, locals opened hostels.
On the last day of your stay in Svaneti, you can go to the most beautiful place in Georgia, a Chkhutnieri glacier. Don't take too many things with you. The climbing is difficult and takes a lot of time. I recommend taking a guide who brings you to the glacier for 25 Lari.
by Evgeniy Romanov, Flickr.com