Tusheti is one of Georgia's most remote hiking regions, an adventurous destination high in the Caucasus Mountains, in a country already well off the beaten track. This is a land of extremes, and for six months of the year, Tusheti is entirely cut off from the rest of the world. For the other six months, the only way in or out is over the perilous 9,350-foot-high Abano Pass. Traveling to Tusheti's isolated villages is all part of the challenge—brave the roads, and you'll be greeted by epic mountain scenery and humbling homestays in this untamed corner of Georgia.
Follow this complete guide for your visit to Tusheti, Europe's last wild frontier.
Best Things to Do in Tusheti
Tusheti is a destination for avid hikers and outdoor lovers. Much of the region is protected within the Tusheti National Park, an area that's home to endangered wildlife and fiercely independent mountain villages.
Drive the Abano Pass: The only way in or out of Tusheti by car is over the 9,350-foot-high Abano Pass. This is one of the most underrated road trips in Europe, offering incredible views of forests below and mountains above as you climb ever higher into the Caucasus.
Admire Tusheti's Stone Towers: You'll be welcomed into Tusheti by the climactic sight of tall stone towers on lonely hilltops. Historically, the people of Tusheti would retreat to these defensive towers in times of war, and while many are now crumbling, many more of these ancient family homes are still lived in. You'll find the most dramatic stone towers in the village of Dartlo, where in summer, many double up as guest houses for hikers.
Explore Omalo: Omalo is the main base for tourism in Tusheti. Many travelers choose to stay in the village and hike or horse trek into the surrounding area on day trips. At Omalo, you'll find the Tusheti Visitor Center, a great place to learn more about local history and culture, and the place to find a horse, guide, or camping equipment, too, if you need any of these things.
Climb the Keselo Fortress: Omalo is split into two parts, Upper and Lower Omalo. Walk to the top part of the village and climb the stone watchtowers of the Keselo Fortress, where you'll enjoy panoramic vistas of the village below and the Caucasus Mountains around you.
Visit the Diklo Fortress: The small village of Diklo is quite literally the last village you can visit in Georgia—beyond it is the border with Russia. From the crumbling rocks of Diklo Fortress, you can see the 13,700-foot-tall, snow-capped Diklosmta peak. The mountain forms Tusheti's border with the Russian provinces of Dagestan and Chechnya.
Best Hikes in Tusheti
Tusheti's most popular hiking trails are clearly marked and, in some cases, sign-posted too. You can construct your own multi-day hiking itinerary starting in Omalo, or you can hire a local guide and horses to show you the way.
Omalo to Diklo: A four-hour, 7-mile hike will take you from Omalo to the village of Diklo, where you can find the Diklo Fortress and mountain views into Russia. It's a further 3-mile return hike from Diklo village to Diklo Fortress.
Diklo to Dartlo: From Diklo, it's a long day hike over the mountains to Dartlo. The 10 miles will take at least six hours, as there's a lot of up and down as you work your way west through abandoned villages and past the dramatic cliffside towers in the village of Chigho.
Dartlo to Omalo: From Dartlo, you can hike back to Omalo to complete the circuit. It's 7.5 miles one way from Dartlo to Omalo, and there's not that much uphill hiking to worry about. The journey should take three to four hours.
Oreti Lake Hike: Oreti Lake is a spectacular alpine lake at an altitude of 8,700 feet. The trek from Omalo is impressive but long (Omalo is at an altitude of 6,170 feet). It's a 17.5-mile round-trip hike over rough terrain, and you'll either need to camp out overnight by the lake or join a horse trek to make it there and back in one day.
Omalo to Shatili Trek: The ultimate Tusheti hike is the 46.5-mile, five-day trek from Omalo to Shatili. You need to be self-supported, as you'll have to spend several nights camping out. After tackling a 11,154-foot-high mountain pass, you'll end up on the other side of the mountains. From Shatili, you can take a local Marshrutka (shared taxi) down to Tbilisi, or arrange for a driver to pick you up—or you can spend another five days walking back to Omalo!
Beware of Wildlife
On remote hiking trails in the wilderness of Tusheti, you might see brown bears in the distance, while at night, you'll hear the howling wolves in the mountains. There are otters, rare wild goats, deer, roe, wild boars, and countless species of bird that you might encounter in the national park.
While most of these animals will stay well away from hikers, one animal you will encounter is the ferocious Georgian sheepdog. These enormous dogs are intimidating to say the last, and although it's unlikely they'll attack humans, it's best to carry a stick and make them aware of your presence early on!
Best Time of Year to Visit Tusheti
The only time you can visit Tusheti is when the Abano Pass is open. The weather in this part of Georgia is notoriously unpredictable, but the earliest the road will open is the middle of May, and the latest it closes will be the end of October.
Heavy snowfall can keep the road closed as late as June, though, so try to plan your trip between July and September, to avoid disappointment. Even in summer, temperatures only average around 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius), so pack plenty of warm clothes for those cold mountain nights.
Brave the start or end of the season, and you might catch the shepherds herding huge flocks of sheep along the Abano Pass.
The epic road to Tusheti starts in the village of Kvemo Alvani, but you'll need an experienced driver who knows the twists and turns to get you safely to Omalo. At times, the views are as frightening as they are impressive. The 50-mile drive from Kvemo Alvani can take anywhere from four to eight hours (and more if there's bad weather). Driving the Abano Pass, though, is all part of the wild road to Tusheti.
Travelers can find a driver or join a car in either Kvemo Alvani or the nearby city of Telavi. Both are in Georgia's eastern Kakheti region, two hours away from Tbilisi, the nation's vibrant, up and coming capital. In Tbilisi, head to the eastern Ortachala bus station. Leave the trendy bars and quirky cafes behind you, and jump on a local Marshrutka. There's only one a day to Kvemo Alvani, usually leaving at 9 a.m. There are Marshurtukas to Telavi all through the day, however. Telavi is surrounded by Georgian vineyards and wineries, and it makes for a great place to break up the long journey.
If you do make it direct to Kvemo Alvani, then you'll find drivers are waiting at the crossroads in the village where the road to Tusheti begins. You can hire a whole vehicle or wait until one fills up with tourists or locals.
If you arrive in Telavi, you can either try to catch another Marshurtka along to Kvemo Alvani or head to the Tourist Information Office where the staff can find you a driver and try to pair you up with other travelers to split costs.
One way, a driver and car should cost 200 Georgian Lari ($65) to Tusheti from either Telavi or Kvemo Alvani. There are no ATMs in Tusheti, so bring plenty of cash up into the mountains for your entire stay!
Where to Stay
You'll find the best accommodation in Omalo and Dartlo, though in both cases, the best places to stay are the local homestays (every village in Tusheti has one or more), where you can arrange bed, dinner, and breakfast for as little as 50 Georgian Lari ($16) per person.
You can wild camp in Tusheti, but it's best to camp near the villages to avoid any unwanted attention from bears or sheepdogs.
What to Eat
Don't expect to find any supermarkets in Tusheti. If you have dietary requirements or are planning on wild camping away from the villages, bring along supplies.
The homestays will keep you well-fed with home-cooked Georgian food. A Tusheti breakfast will leave you with enough leftover bread and Guda (a local salty sheep cheese) to save for your lunch. Dinner will be hearty soups, alongside large Khachapuri bread stuffed with cheese, potatoes, or meat, and if you're lucky, handmade Khinkali, legendary Georgian dumplings bursting with juices. You'll probably end up having to toast a few shots of Cha Cha, a fierce home-brewed spirit, with your hosts too!