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After 18 days in the country, we found the best of Georgia! The area which enchanted us more was the province of Svaneti in the northeast of the country. We saw almost untouched local nature, mountains, lakes and rivers. But, besides the green, the province has many UNESCO World Heritage sites too. Its villages have survived all this time to tell its history, even if the narrative is in Georgian, Russian or local dialect, as only few people are able to speak English!

Svaneti

Svaneti is so remote that amongst all the invasions Georgia had throughout its history, no one has ever reached there. Probably, that is the reason why the Svan people (as the local population is known for) kept its traditions almost untouched. The Svans have their own gastronomy, dance, culture and even own dialect.

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Svaneti

On the other hand though, their region sees a vendetta police since long time ago, which did not guarantee peace entirely for the villagers. It was common (and as the legend says, it still is) for families to fight each other and dispute territories. The historical medieval towers stand out from the exuberant landscape. It was (is) there where families hide in the during conflicted periods. Each clan has its tower and, during these periods, they bring their animals and food inside while staying at the top floor battling with another family or possible invaders.

Svaneti

During Georgian times of mayhem, when there were war conflicts with other nations, the Svans stopped any conflicts amongst them in order to protect themselves of a possible invasion. Even the families which were not fond of each other understood the importance of unify and strengthen themselves and to be in peace until the country passes through this instability.

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Ushguli – the most distant one of the villages

Svaneti

A specific place, particularly, caught our attention: Ushguli, a set of 4 small villages (Zhibiani, Chubiani, Chazhashi and Murqmel) practically isolated. Only the Caucasian mountains separate the 70 families who live there from Russia. The best description we read about ushguli was: A remote village, from a remote province, in a remote country.

Svaneti

By the way, Ushguli is the highest village inhabited longest in Europe and it is at the bottom of Shkhara mountain, the third biggest of the continent – we still have not found a consensus about Georgia being part of Europe or of Asia, but as most of the Georgians consider themselves as Europeans, we will deal with the topic in that way.

How to get there

Svaneti

Leaving from the capital Tbilisi, you take a train (18GEL) or a marshrutky (minivans which serve as Georgian public transport) to Zugdidi city (330Km). From there, take another marshrutky to the city of Mestia (130Km for 20GEL). From Mestia, the city with best infrastructure for tourism in the region (many guest houses, restaurants, tourist information points and so on) it gets easier to decide what you would like to do around there. Mestia alone is already worth seeing as it is very charming and has many options for trekking.

Svaneti

From Mestia to Ushguli are about 44Km and you can take a private tour, a marshrutky (20GEL) or go by trekking, which takes about 4 days, stopping in the local villages to sleep. Many people opt for this and do not regret. The view is exuberant! In these villages where you can spend the night, for the price of 45GEL, there will be accommodation with dinner, breakfast and a lunchbox for take-away to have during the continuation of the trekking on the following day.

Svaneti

Hitchhiking

For those adept of the good and old hitchhiking, just like us, it is possible to do it all the way from Tbilisi to Ushguli. Once you arrive, you can find accommodation in any of the few hotels. But, you can also simply walk through the city and wait for some of the old villagers to offer you a bed and breakfast for about 15/20 GEL. It is something that would make the staying a lot more authentic.

Svaneti

It does not matter the way you choose to get to this Georgian remote region as long as you do not give up on arriving! The landscape on the way is breathtaking and the Georgian hospitality pays off all the effort. Surely, it is one of the most charming regions we have ever been to and one of the most special ones in Georgia.

Svaneti