Duration: 10 days
Group size: 10+ FULL
Dates: 3rd – 13th September
A visit to Svaneti is one of Europe’s last great adventures. The highest peaks of the Greater Caucasus tower at over 4000m, without a single ski-lift, luxury hotel or advertising hoarding to be seen. What you’ll find instead is excitement, breath-taking views, pristine mountains, deep gorges, gushing rivers… and roads which are definitely not for the nervous driver!
Svaneti is a landscape of high snow-capped peaks, forested hills and spectacular valleys. Winding roads lead to hidden villages dotted with medieval watchtowers. There is something about the region that makes you feel as if time has stood still. The people of Svaneti are a race apart – the pace of life is different there, they have their own language and traditions, their own architectural styles, and for them ancient customs are still very much a part of everyday life.
Our trip starts in Tbilisi, a city with a 4000 year old history, but not without its share of ultra modern, post Russian era, architecture. The old town has narrow streets of colourful wooden buildings overlooked by crumbling hilltop fortresses. Cutting through the middle of the city is the fast flowing Mtkvari River, all against a backdrop of mountainous country.
We stay in Tbilisi just long enough for us to get a taste for the city and wanting to enjoy it further after our trek. A train journey, giving us the opportunity to absorb rural Georgia, takes us towards our destination, Svaneti.
Having arrived in the Mestia, the capital of the region, if a collection of villages can ever be described as a capital, we embark on a journey, by foot, that takes us from one village to another, up to glaciers, on to summits and ridges and through verdant valleys. Each night we stay in traditional guesthouses with clean sheets, hot water and sumptuous Georgian food. The accommodation might be quite basic at times but by travelling this way, staying with real Svanetian families, we will experience the true Svaneti.
Each day our main kit is carried for us by a vehicle, although there may be one day when we might have to carry enough clothing for one night, if the vehicles cannot get through. Similarly, there is one day when horses will assist us if the river is running high.
This is a fabulous opportunity to visit a country that for so many years, and for numerous reasons, has not been on the tourist trail. Now is the time to see it before it becomes too well known and is overrun and spoilt by tourism.
The most obvious flight path into Georgia is via Istanbul so I am adding a long weekend in Istanbul as an extension to this trip, or as a short trip in its own right, for anybody wishing to join us from the UK. Those joining from the UK would fly out to Istanbul, from Birmingham, on Thursday 12th and have an extra night in the city before those from Georgia join them on Friday lunchtime.
Istanbul is an amazing city sitting in the centre of a cultural crossroads, the gateway to Asia. It is a city of sensory overload. of vivid colours; terracotta roofs and minarets reaching up to pure blue skies, of market places displaying colourful rugs, of strong aromas from the many spice on display, music, amazing food and a real sense of history. Istanbul’s history has been influenced by so many cultural encounters, they are reflected in a variety of stunning architectural styles.
Istanbul is the perfect destination after a trek in the mountains or for a weekend getaway.