Tusheti: magic of mountains and slippery roads

Tusheti: magic of mountains and slippery roads

Couple of years ago BBC hast listed the roads of Tusheti among the most dangerous and hence the most fascinating ones. This triggered the interest of both international and domestic travelers to this remote mountainous region, which is now inhabited in basically in summertime only. Just several families stay for winter in Kvemo Omalo, and 1 or 2 people spend 7 months of cold in Dartlo and Shenako. The rest is involved in shepherding or maintains guesthouses from June till late September. Then the snow falls and the road is closed.

Recently I’ve been there with a group of journalists, so unfortunately there will be no real tips about renting a car of finding a guesthouse (which I would search here anyways). We went with Delica, and the driver was super good: we never got stuck, even though there were quite dangerous places.

DSC_33471 DSC_33141 DSC_33861By the way, the road can be temporarily closed even during the season, because you never know, when rainfall or snowfall will decide to crash in. As their consequences are liquidated, the amazing 72 kilometer of unpaved serpentine and 2850 meter high Abano Pass are available again. There is only one way to enter Tusheti with the car: from Kakhetian village Zemo Alvani, and it’s recommended to use bigger 4×4 only: an average car will get stuck. Otherwise you might make a great trekking from Khevsureti, but it is rather for well-prepared people.

DSC_32901 DSC_36431Tusheti is a real paradise for hiking, trekking, bird watching, horseback riding and throwing a glimpse into pre-Christian beliefs. Though it is considered to be Orthodox Christian, you might trace some features of older kinds of worshipping. Solar and animalistic symbols are featured in carvings and handcrafts, lambs are sacrificed during the local fests and pork is not allowed at all… Even though there is a Christian church in Shenako, there also little stone temples called “nishi”, which are not available for women. Brewing of Tushetian low-alcohol beer aludi is also processed by men only.DSC_4423DSC_36081DSC_4083On the hill near Zemo Omalo village, there is a fortification complex Keselo that consist of several reconstructed medieval towers. Several of them were residential, some used for defensive purposes only, unlike the towers of Svaneti. In one of them there is a good ethnographic museum, which showcases habits and beliefs which existed here through the ages, as well as structure of families and corresponding places for women and men. Imagine, they had to stay in the different corners of the common room. The new families could be started, as the guys were 15 years young, and the girls even 13.DSC_37671 DSC_3445 DSC_3446 DSC_3704 DSC_3766DSC_38411Villages Shenako and Diklo are also worth visiting, especially if you go there on the horseback. An unforgettable journey it can be!DSC_39111DSC_3878DSC_3885One of the main highlights of the region is village Dartlo, which has been reconstructed with help of the World Bank and now looks a better than even 5 years ago. Maybe, even closer to its original look back in the Middle Ages. From Dartlo you can go up to Kvavlo, another interesting fortification. Its renovation is frozen right now, but climbing the ancient walls and getting amazed with surrounding mountains and rivers is worth doing. A climb up took me 45 minutes, a way down a bit less.DSC_4363 DSC_4430 DSC_4364 DSC_4465 DSC_4494Rivers, glaciers and waterfalls are on every step, as you travel in Tusheti. Green pastures, high velvet mountains, pine and mixed forests… Nature lovers, you will be happy as you can be! As well as food lovers, by the way. As shepherding is the main occupation here, cheese will be always on your table. Even several kinds of it.  Local type of flat bread, kotori, is stuffed with cottage cheese and sheep cheese. Khinkali are not just meaty, but also with potato and cheese, which made my vegetarian belly way too excited. Lamb meat and different stews are also very popular.DSC_34241 DSC_33241As getting to Tusheti is not easy, I recommend you to check the weather forecast as well as available tours in advance (around 2-3 weeks before you want to travel). Better take not just shorts and t-shirts, but also something warm, because it’s quite high. Also be aware that there will be no big supermarket, so make sure you have enough of necessary basics as plasters, wet wipes or your favorite cookies. Tusheti is wild, and this wildness makes it magical and totally enjoyable. I wish you a great trip!

For more inspiration, find a lot of my Tushetian pictures here, on my facebook page 🙂

About Dariko

Born in Ukraine, now Tbilisi-based. Love seeing new places.