Posted by: lindsaygoes | October 8, 2019

Stepping round the Svaneti region of Georgia

Mestia is in the Svaneti region of Georgia, the area we were to spend the next few days. The Svaneti region is known for its stunning mountains and gorges and tower houses in all the villages.

Svaneti Tower

We arrived in the evening, and the next day we were dropped off on the main road, close to another village, Mulakhi. From Mulakhi we hiked back to Mestia. It was about 13 kilometres all up. Initially we had an uphill walk to the village, and the uphill sections continued for around 7 kilometers. None of the sections were too steep, and they were interspersed with flat sections and a couple of downhill sections as well. Along the way we picked up a couple of canine companions who were hoping for some of our lunch. They ended up following us until they found a larger group of hikers. Once we reached the highest point for the day we had our lunch, and then had a reasonably tricky descent for about 200 meters down a steep gravelly and slightly muddy track. Once we’d completed that section it was a fairly gentle slope back down to Mestia.

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Mulakhi to Mestia hike

Once we got back we had a break, and then a cooking class where we were shown how to make Sulguni, the local cheese and Kubdari, a meat filled pastry.

Georgian cooking class

Then we did a bit more exploring of the town. We visited the Margiani museum which consists of an old Svan tower, which you can climb to get a view of the house, and a room with the old furniture which gives an example of how people used to live, with the livestock inside to keep everything warm.

Margiani museum

We attempted to go on the chair lift, but it was closed for the day, so we visited the Ethnographic museum, which had some interesting exhibits (and great wifi!).

In the morning we got some transport to a smaller, more elevated village, Ushguli. The drive was two hours through steep windy roads, with gorges next to some sections, and cleared landslips in others. The scenery along the way was stunning though.

Around Ushguli

Once we reached Ushguli we walked to the local church, Lamaria (St Mary) and then hiked up to the summer residence of Queen Tamar. This was around a 6 kilometre round trip, with some fairly steep and tricky sections both up and down, and we saw one snake across the way. The scenery from the bottom to the top was spectacular, particularly as we were getting the early autumn colours.

Ushguli

Hike from Ushguli to the summer residence of Queen Tamar

Hike from Ushguli to the summer residence of Queen Tamar

Hike from Ushguli to the summer residence of Queen Tamar

The next morning we had our longest walk for the trip, around 19 kilometers to and from Shkhara Glacier. We started fairly early in the morning, and the first valley we walked through was still in the shade, so it was pretty cold, with some of the puddles still frozen. The whole walk had fairly gentle slopes with the first seven kilometers on a dirt track shared with cars and horses. After that the track narrowed to a single file track, which gradually became rockier and rockier until you had to use your imagination to find it by the time you got to the glacier. None of the areas were too tricky, but you had to watch where you were going so you didn’t twist an ankle.

Hike to Shkhara Glacier

Hike to Shkhara Glacier

Hike to Shkhara Glacier

You could get very close to the glacier once you reached it, but had to keep an eye out as it kept spitting off small rocks (and I’m sure bigger ones come off occasionally)!

Water melting off Shkhara Glacier

Shkhara Glacier

Once we got back to Ushguli we had a bit of a break and then it was back on the road back to Mestia.


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