Tucked into Georgia’s far northeast corner, Tusheti has become a very popular summer hiking and horse-trekking area, but remains one of the country’s most fascinating and pristine high-mountain regions. The single road to Tusheti, over the nerve-jangling 2900m Abano Pass from Kakheti, is 4WD only and passable only from about early June to early October. Evidence of Tusheti’s old animist religion is plentiful in the form of stone shrines called khatebi, decked with the horns of sacrificed goats or sheep, which women are not permitted to approach. Defensive koshkebi, centuries old, still stand in many villages.
Today most Tusheti folk only go up to Tusheti in summer, to graze their sheep or cattle, attend festivals, cater for tourists and generally reconnect with their roots. Many have winter homes around Akhmeta and Alvani in Kakheti.
Tusheti has two main river valleys – the Pirikiti Alazani and the more southerly Gomtsari (Tushetis) Alazani – which meet below Omalo, the biggest village, then flow east into Dagestan (Russia). The scenery everywhere is a spectacular mix of snow- covered rocky peaks, deep gorges and steep, grassy hillsides where distant flocks of sheep appear as slowly shifting patterns of white specks. How to get in Omalo.
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Tusheti National Reserve
One of the most beautiful and ecologically unspoiled regions of Georgia - Tusheti is located in the eastern Caucasus. Tusheti Protected Areas cover Tusheti Strict Nature Reserve, Tusheti National Park and Tusheti Protected Landscape. There total area is about 122,050 ha. Region is a popular mountain-trekking destination and has always attracted visitors with its snowy peaks, unique pine forests and deep rivers, with its old villages and castles. This part of Caucasus is the real heaven for ethnographers, biologists, photographers and adventure lovers alike. The Tusheti protected areas possesses spectacular mountain landscape reaching up to 4,800m. These weathered slopes of Caucasus and inaccessible cliffs are the homeland of the East Caucasian tur, chamois and Bezoars goat. Tusheti protected landscapes include all the villages of this province. Every village of Tusheti is a historical monument itself dating back to the late Middle Ages. In addition of breathtaking nature, visitors are also attracted by its, domestic habits and industry like Tushetian carpets. Summer is the best season for visiting the Tusheti Protected Areas.
Historical district of Omalo- Keselo is a castle. Today there are the remains of 7 towers. This place must have been an important settlement for Tushi people, as long as there are two chapels and a beer brewing building there.
In one of the towers of Keselo, there is an ethnographical museum there. The fighting and domestic tools are exhibited there.
The three fortresses of Kamasuri, which have never been invaded by enemies, is proudly overlooking the Alazani gorge of Gometsari. A lot of times the citizens of Gometsari would swear on the name of these 3 fortresses to prove their honesty.
The village of Dartlo has the status of architectural reservation. The evolution of the use changes is visible in the village. The fortification buildings lost their function and gained the additional balcony decorations. The remains of the architecture are the towers with the pyramid shape roofing and the attached balcony houses.
Dartlo has various landscapes that is truly exceptional.
According to the legend the north Caucasian army attacked the town in the 19th century. 16 gunsmiths were defending the fortification for 18 days but the battle was unjust. So by the request of the wife one of the gunsmiths killed his fellows and died fighting himself. Men in Tusheti were well known as brave warriors.
The village of Dotchu is special because of its housing architecture. The buildings are mostly three stories high and are rich with their balcony decorations. Dotchu is built on a side of a cliff.
Girevi is located in the historical land of Tusheti, on the northern slope of the Caucasian Mountains, in about 50 km from Omalo Village. Tusheti is famous for its virgin nature, beautiful villages with ancient towers, exotic folklore, traditional festivals and delicious food.
The village is rich in monuments of Georgian traditional architecture. One of them is a five-storey tower in about 500 m west from Girevi. Another residential tower is situation in the south. It encompasses the tower proper and an added facility of later age.
Kvavlo is located in 10 km. from Dartlo. The village is known for its architecture- towers roofed in the shape of pyramids. The districts are connected with each other by small path ways. It you walk up the gorge of Didkhevi, you will be fascinated by the ravishing view of the area.
Tchesho is located in 25 km. from Omalo. Tchesho united the villages and fortification towers in its territory. Today there are only the remains of the villages and three towers lined up together.
The village of Hegho is located on the intersection of Larovani and Kvakhidi waters. According to the historical chronicles the village was surrounded by a defensive wall. The Lek army was trying to take over the place for a long while. The legend states that the Leks sent their secret service man to the master in Dagestan to determine the weakest part of the fortification. There is a story about how the master builder of the fortress and the fortress itself were tied by an oath, but the local priest took the oath away so the builder committed treason. The secret was in one white stone, that was taken out of the fence and all the walls broke down. There are only the remains of the village left today.
Most of the villages are around 2000m above sea level and sit above near-sheer hillsides or nestle down by one of the riv- ers. There’s a particularly splendid group of old towers, known as Keseloebi, on the crag at Zemo Omalo, the upper part of Omalo. Shenaqo, a few kilometres east of Omalo, is one of the prettiest villages, with houses of stone, slate and rickety wooden balconies grouped below Tusheti’s only functioning church. Just outside Diklo, 4km northeast of Shenaqo, is an old fortress perched on a spectacular rock promontory. Dartlo, 12km northwest of Omalo in the Pirikiti Alazani valley, has another spectacular tower grouping, overlooked by the single tall tower of Kvavlo 350m above.
Walking routes are innumerable though signage is erratic. Omalo to Shenaqo and Shenaqo to Diklo are two good short walks of a couple of hours each (one-way) on vehicle tracks. Oreti Lake, about five hours’ walk south of Omalo, is a beautiful destina- tion and the trail there is well marked; you can camp overnight if you like. A good long- er route (about five days) starts in Omalo, runs up the Pirikiti Alazani valley to Dartlo and Chesho, then crosses the 2900m Na- kaicho Pass over to Verkhovani and returns down the Gomtsari Alazani valley.
The track up the Pirikiti Alazani valley beyond Chesho, through Parsma and Girevi, eventually leads to the 3431m Atsunta Pass, a very steep and demanding route over into Khevsureti. The Atsunta is normally open for walkers and pack horses from about early July to mid-September. It’s a trek of about five days all the way from Omalo to Shatili in Khevsureti.
Horses are available in Omalo, Shenaqo and Chesho for between 35 GEL and 45 GEL per day.
Sleeping & Eating
We are highly experienced paraglider who takes inexperienced flyers on tandem flights in the Tbilisi Sea and Rustavi areas close to Tbilisi, from March to October, for 60 GEL (minimum two take-off attempts), or from Gudauri ski resort in winter for 120 GEL, transport included. We can also provide logistical support for groups of experienced pilots who want to fly in other areas including Gudauri (best August to mid-October) and Kazbegi.
Culture and history
The fascinating and exclusive area of Tusheti is hidden away in the Caucasus Mountains along Kakheti’s northern border with Russia. The Abano Pass is only open from mid-June to early October and travelers should expect the unexpected as they wind their way between the steep cliffs. Tusheti has truly unique cultural heritage, and locals still practice their own form of Orthodox Christianity. Shale stone towers dot the landscape and mark the ancient sites of ritual animal sacrifices. You will gain a deeper insight into the Tusheti culture by spending a night in a local homestays.
Unfortunately there are no accommodations at this location at the moment.
Unfortunately there are no car rental offers at this location at the moment.