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Oreti, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaKazbegi, Republic of GeorgiaPirikiti Valley, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaOmalo, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaKvakvidi, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaMt. Kazbegi, Republic of GeorgiaOmalo, Tusheti National Park, Republic of GeorgiaShenako, Tusheti National Park, Republic of Georgia
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Nature & Culture Trails of Georgia's Caucasus

Discover Legendary Hospitality & Sublime Hiking in the Mountains of Poetry
2014 Trekking Itinerary

Day 1: Tbilisi, Georgia

Our adventure begins in the capital of Tbilisi, an ancient hillside spa city of filigreed balconies and cobbled streets that has been the center of governance in Georgia for 1,500 years. This afternoon we visit Mtskheta, Georgia's most vital religious center and the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church since AD 317, then enjoy a traditional welcome dinner at an open-air restaurant overlooking the Kura River.

Day 2: Exploring Tbilisi
On a walking tour of Tbilisi we'll see historic highlights of the city including the 4th-century Narikala Fortress, Semaba Cathedral and Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi's fashionable main boulevard lined with architectural highlights, museums and shops. The word tbili means 'warm,' and refers to the hot sulphur springs in the city center— you may choose to enjoy a soak in the public thermal bathhouse during our free afternoon.

Day 3: Shatili
This morning we drive northeast into the mountains, following the old Georgian Military Highway. This centuries-old route was the main invasion path for steppe nomads from the Eurasian plains headed into the Caucasian valleys and farming civilizations of the Middle East. The ice-clad range ahead beckons, with the 16,000-foot massif of Mt. Kazbeghi presiding over the lesser peaks. Driving ever upward into the alpine grasslands, we arrive at the small village-citadel of Shatili, near which we make camp. Our trek begins in this historic highland village, known for its many medieval stone fortress towers.

Day 4: Shatili / Mutso / Atsunta Pass
Early this morning we depart for Atsunta Pass. En route there is an optional side hike to Mutso, one of the oldest and loveliest villages in Khevsureti, its stone buildings cascading down the side of a steep mountain with broad views of the valley below, a strategic location for defense against invasions. This afternoon we follow a natural spring toward Atsunta Pass, where we pitch our high-altitude camp below the summit, far from any vestige of civilization.

Day 5: Atsunta Pass / Kvakhidi
This morning we crest Atsunta Pass, drinking in the sharp, clear air above timberline at 11,200 feet. Our descent takes us into Tusheti, an equally stunning and culturally distinct mountain region. Due to its high and remote location, Tusheti is accessible by road only three months out of the year, ensuring its relative cultural isolation. Entering the Kvakhidi Valley, we follow the headwaters of the Alazani River, unlikely to encounter any other travelers in this little-visited region. We camp tonight near Kvakhidi.

Day 6: Kvakhidi / Girevi
These vast Caucasus forests and high meadows harbor a wide array of distinctive plants and wildlife, from rare pre-Ice Age flowers to animals such as chamois, bezoar goat, wolves, bears, and the endemic Caucasian tur, a mountain-dwelling goat with enormous horns. We walk most of the day down valley to the village of Girevi. Our route along the flat valley floor takes us through Chontio, though no one lives here permanently anymore. Harsh living conditions prompted the abandonment of the village, though horse keepers still stay here in the summer.

Day 7: Girevi / Dartlo
Our hike today follows the banks of the rushing Pirikriti River. We pass the stone villages of Parsma and Chesho, arriving finally at Dartlo, mentioned in old chronicles as one of the most ancient villages in Georgia. We admire its impressive stone towers, built for protection against enemy attacks. High up the steep mountainside, perched above Dartlo like an eagle's aerie, is Kvavlo. For those with energy remaining, the optional short but tough side hike offers rewarding views. We overnight in Dartlo at a local guesthouse.

Day 8: Dartlo / Omalo
On our trek to the village of Omalo, Tusheti's largest settlement, we're certain to meet many local people along the way. In Omalo, we tour the striking castle tower at Keselo, overlooking the wide Gometsari Valley, then settle in to a local guesthouse. The surrounding landscape is dotted with dozens of stone villages that cling to the steep green mountainsides. The residents of these hidden hamlets are the progeny of 2,000 years of conquest and survival, a challenging heritage that has molded these former mountain tribes into a hardy and proud people who are delighted to share their traditions with us. We'll listen to poets regale us with polyphonic songs and revel in lively supras, or Georgian feasts, where our hosts will insist that we keep emptying the wild goat horns filled with their robust homegrown wine!

Day 9: Omalo
This is a day of rest and celebration as we take pride in our high mountain traverse from Khevsureti to Tusheti. For those who wish, we make an optional short drive to Shenako to hike to Diklo and the Dagestani border to admire its stone towers and stunning views. On the drive back, we stop at the Tusheti National Park Visitors Center to learn more about one of Europe’s largest and most important conservation zones. Those who choose to forego the optional activity may rest at the guesthouse or explore the village independently. 

Day 10: Omalo / Laliskuri
Today’s journey by 4x4 vehicle takes us over Abano Pass and down a thrilling steep mountain road to Kakheti in the Laliskuri district. After lunch at a local guesthouse, there’s time to relax. In the late afternoon, enjoy an optional short hike to Tskarostavi Church for a marvelous view of Kakheti. This evening, another traditional supra is in store at our guesthouse. Bring on the revelry!

Day 11: Kakheti Wine Tour
As if we had not enjoyed enough fine Georgian drink already, this day is dedicated to discovering Georgia’s famed Kakheti wine region. The wines of the world were born in central Georgia, where more than 350 different varietals are produced. We'll sample several of them as we visit two different wineries. We also visit medieval Alaverdi Cathedral, a World Heritage Site that is part of an 11th-century Orthodox monastery.

Day 12: Laliskuri / Tbilisi
Departing early this morning, we return to Tbilisi around noon and check in to our hotel. The rest of the day free to explore, shop and enjoy lunch on your own in Georgia's capital. Our grand Caucasian adventure concludes tonight with a farewell dinner at a traditional Georgian restaurant.

Day 13: Depart
An early morning transfer to the airport is provided today, to connect with homeward flights.

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