Trekking is one of the most popular types of adventure travel. After all, a climb up Kilimanjaro and a visit to Everest Base Camp are bucket list items for many people. But a new long-distance trail that is currently being scouted and built in Eastern Europe promises to provide a new challenge for those who have already been there and done that.
The Transcaucuses Trail (TCT) extends for 932 miles (1500 km) through the Caucuses Mountains, which serve as a border with Russia and Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The route starts at the Black Sea in the west and ends on the shores of Caspian Sea in the east. Along the way, the route weaves over the shadows of towering snowcapped mountains, in and out of dense forests, through ancient villages, and across deep passes and valleys, encountering diverse communities and ecosystems along the way.
Well, at least it will do all of those things once it is complete. For now, it is a concept that is slowly become a reality thanks to a team of dedicated trekkers and volunteers who have been slowly piecing the route together, scouting its various sections, and helping to map it for others to hike too. Those same people are also building the path as they go and placing route markers to make it easy to follow, with the hope that in doing so the trail will lure more visitors to the region.
What's Open for Trekkers
For now, only certain sections of the route a fully open for trekkers, with vast sections still to be scouted and cleared for others. That is a long, laborious project that is expected to take five years to complete, but once it opens it promises to take hikers through a wonderland of scenery, history, and culture.
One such destination is the Upper Svaneti region. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is best known for not only its stunning views of the Caucuses Mountains but its abundance of villages that still retain some stunning examples of medieval architecture. The buildings there include 200 tower-style homes that were once used both as places to live and defensive position against invading armies. These structures are remarkably well preserved and protected to allow future generations to see them as well.
Much of the current route of the TCT follows old Soviet-era trails, most of which have become overgrown. Past trail markers are pretty much all gone at this point, and maps of the area tend to be sketchy and outdated. But, the dedicated team that is working on establishing the trail are slowly but surely rectifying that. They are constantly surveying the area to reclaim the trails that were once there, while also establishing new ones.
But, those aren't the only challenges the group faces. In a recent article from National Geographic that spotlights the efforts to establish the Transcaucuses Trail, the team says that there is also a great deal of apathy from the local governments. Most don't care about a new hiking route being established in their own backyards, and some are even openly against the idea, even if it does mean potential tourist dollars. Still, TCT advocates are continuing to press ahead with their plans, and slowly but surely garnering support for the idea.
Still, there plans to complete construction of the route within five years could be an optimistic one.
The Trail's Impact
When it does open, however, visitors will be welcomed by villagers who are eager to have travelers come to their corner of the world. Eastern European hospitality will be on fine display, with quaint little inns, inviting restaurants, and unique shops all clamoring for their attention. This is a part of the planet that has seen few economic opportunities in recent years, and a long-distance hiking trail just might be a significant turning point for more than a few of the villages that fall along its path.
Right now, several hundred kilometers of the trail are open and hikers have already started arriving. More sections of the route are being opened all of the time, with the distances being extended regularly. When it is all said and done, the TCT will wander through 17 unique distinct regions, with more than a dozen languages spoken along its length. It'll also offer plenty of scenery (seven peaks over 5000 meters), amazing cultural experiences, and a chance to visit a place where history left its indelible mark.
If you'd like to trek this amazing route, visit TranscaucasianTrail.org.