|The dramatic nature of Svaneti is dominated by the mighty Mount Ushba with it's caracteristic double-speared summit at 4710 meters. It's regarded as one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the Caucasus.|
(gotocaucasus.com) SVANETI IS THE MOST EXTREME part of Georgia. I have been traveling in Georgia since 2004, but there has always been something stopping me from carrying out my Svaneti trip. One year there was terrible weather, another year the region was seized by Gen. Kvitsianis paramilitary forces. Something has always been in the way. But this year we went, and what a trip it was. But the backdrop was rather tragic:
Four Ukrainian climbers had an accident on Mt. Ushba the week before. Two of them died. During the rescue operation, two Chech climbers who disappeared after an accident in 1974 were also found.
How to get there
From Tbilisi you drive to Zugdidi, and take the road to Mestia wich is the centre of Svaneti. It is about 130 kms drive. No need for any 4WD. But beware of falling rocks when its raining. You can also go by plane, as the city has a small airport. But it's not Mestia you want to see. That is Ushguli, the World heritage site, and for that you need a 4WD. It's 44 km into the mountains and at 2200 meters altitude. More about that later.
First you go to Hotel Mestia.
Mestia is a dustbowl, but Hotel Mestia as an oasis. Here you get high quality food and great accomodations. The first thing you do is go to Vitali Japaridze at Hotel Mestia and order his Svaneti special "kubdari", a bread with very spicy meat inside. All food is cooked on a traditional stove with firewood. The hotel is a perfect basecamp for trekking. Vitali will give you all information you need. If you prefer more modest accomodations there are a lot of guesthouses available for self household.
Svaneti is for trekkers and climbers.
The hardcore climbers try Mt. Ushba. It's 4710 meters high summit has claimed many lives through the years. Most professionals these days hire local guides. There is of course Mt. Shkhara in Ushguli. It's considered to be Georgia's highest mountain (5068 m) and Europe’s fourth highest after Elbrus (5643m), Dychtau (5204m) and Koshtan (5151 m) according to Summitpost org. You can also hire a guide and spend four days trekiking from Mestia to Ushguli. You can also drive from Mestia to Ushguli. For that 44km trip (one way) you need a 4WD, patience and 3 hours. The track is easy. There are lots of possibilities, just ask Vitaly, or check out internet. For me Ushguli was the ultimate goal.
On UNESCOS word heritage site list
I quote the UNESCO site here: "The mountainous region of Upper Svaneti occupies the upper reaches of the lnguri river basin, between the Caucasus and Svaneti ranges. The characteristic landscape of Upper Svaneti is formed by small villages, dominated by their church towers and situated on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The most notable feature of the settlements is the abundance of towers, especially in Mestia and the frontier villages, such as Ushguli and Latali".