There are so many unique places to visit in Georgia but there is one place that really caught our attention and blew us away. Tusheti is one of Georgia’s, if not the most, isolated and remote regions of the country.
The mountain road is only open from May to October and even then it is a roller-coaster ride to make it up over the mountain pass. Every year drivers fall victim to the treacherous road that leads to Tusheti.
So the question is ‘Should I visit Tusheti?’ Of course, the answer is going to be yes and the journey up will be part of the adventure.
On the journey up you will pass flat grassy pastures and once you reach the small town of Lechuri, the last town before Omalo, you will start to enter the mountainous section of the road up to the mountain pass. You start off following the river, and pass one of our favourite camping spots, before slowly starting to climb up the narrow mountain road which, in parts, is very rocky and demands good driving.
After an hour or so of driving you will rise above the tree-line and you will get a great view of your conquest so far but once you look ahead, you will see what is to come! It is quite daunting and we felt pretty intimidated.
The higher up the mountain you travel the steeper and bigger the drops are. I am not writing this to scare you, but so you know the reality of the journey you will be undertaking. It is not called ‘one of the world’s most dangerous roads’ for no reason.
Our journey over the mountain pass
Before sticking our thumbs out and trying to get to Tusheti we were both relatively nervous about the journey up the mountain. Malin was also worried about getting car sick as the road can be very windy in some sections. We nearly backed out to be honest but we had seen the pictures of the region and really wanted to make it to Tusheti.
The night before we camped in our favourite camping spot in Georgia. At the bottom of the mountain pass is a small village called Lechuri. Close to this village you will find a beautiful grassy meadow right next to the fast flowing, icy cold river. It makes for the perfect camping spot and many locals also come here to have BBQs and will no doubt be quick to invite you or give you some of their spoils form their smokey BBQ.
Not only is this a great camping spot but it is also a great place to start hitchhiking to Tusheti. All the vehicles passing here will be on their way up the mountain. This doesn’t mean that you will find it easy to get a ride though.
We had to wait about one hour before we got picked up by the local ambulance driver (not an ambulance as such but a Toyota 4×4). Before getting picked up we were passed by at least four or five Delicas (a 4×4 minivan) carrying locals and tourists.
We were so grateful when we finally got picked by Tomas, who turned out to be the local ambulance driver between all the small villages up in Tusheti. He told us, through body language, Russian, Georgian and a few English words that he drives on this road often and that we shouldn’t be worried.
Truth be told, he was a great driver and we felt completely comfortable with him and we even managed to enjoy this incredibly beautiful but hair-rising track.
On the way up we stopped a few times, once to take a few pictures of a small waterfall and other times so he could have a cigarette break understandingly as it must have been nerve-racking regardless of how many times he had been on this road.
When we reached the mountain pass we stopped to admire the astounding views in both directions. The road we had just overcome looked unreal from above and in the other direction the road wound down with big chunks of icy sections looming above and just next to the road.
To be honest, I’m not much of a hard spirits person and I found this hard to down. It reminds me of paint stripper or that really cheap vodka you would buy when you were a teenager.
However, that is just me and others really enjoy a cheeky chacha and Tomas was no exception. He had a few shots to calm his nerves and then we were on our way again for the last section of the drive to Omalo.
For the last section you join the windy river once again with lush green banks before gaining more elevation and reaching the beautiful valley and vibrant grassy meadows that surround lower Omalo. Upon the hill, behind the tiny village, you will get your first glimpse of the Keselo Towers, looming above the valley.
Feeling curious about the road up to Tusheti? Check out our video below.
The beautiful villages of Tusheti
There are countless little villages dotted around the mountains in Tusheti. When we visited we actually only made it to Omalo and Shenako as we didn’t have time to go any further afield. The walk to Shenako from Omalo was straining enough for us! For us, just spending time in this incredible nature was enough.
It is so unspoilt and undeveloped and gives you a feeling of travelling back in time. At night the skies are clear and clean of light pollution allowing you to see a magnificent light show from all the stars shining above. We were even lucky enough to have seen the Milky Way.
Most of the ancient villages in the region of Tusheti are now abandoned and getting there is only possible by horse, foot or bike. The villages in the area that are still populated include Omalo, Shenako and Diklo.
If you have time we would really recommend you to visit the small uninhabited villages of Dartlo and Parsma to get a feel of how life used to be up here and to enjoy the insane views of the valleys. We have been told that these little villages are truly magical.
The towers of Omalo
When you have finally made it over the mountain pass and through the valley to get your first sight of Omalo you will be struck by the fascinating towers that rise above Omalo giving a medieval feeling to the area.
These towers are known as The Keselo Towers. They were built as a defence system against the invasion attempts of the Mongols in the 13th century. The towers were recently renovated as part of a Cultural Heritage Preservation Project.
What to do when you visit Tusheti
There is a lot of Caucasus trekking that you can do when you are visiting Tusheti and one of the most famous treks is probably the Omalo loop. This is a great loop to do because you will visit some of the abandoned villages such as Dartlo and it has the advantage of being able to stay in guesthouses if you want to. If not you will be able to find some fantastic camping spots.
If you are a keen on mountain biking this is a great place for you. When we were up in Shenako we met three English guys who were on a self-guided trip around the area on their mountain bikes and had their small packs attached to their bikes.
I have to say it looked like a lot of fun! If you would prefer to go on a guided trip either by hiking, mountain biking or on horseback.
If you would like to see what we got up to in Tusheti have a look at our video below.
Useful travel information
When Malin and I visited Tusheti we went fairly badly prepared and didn’t take any groceries or supplies with us which is quite unlike us, so we found out the hard way about the lack of shops up in Tusheti. We wanted to put a little section together that will help you be better prepared for your trip when you visit Tusheti and the surrounding villages.
Groceries, shops and drinking water
Inside the shop you will find plenty of canned foods, some vegetables (not much more than onions, tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers) as well as some of the local meats (pork is not usually eaten in this region for certain reasons which seem a little unclear) as well as a dried cheese which tastes strangely like Parmesan and goes great on your pasta camping dishes!. Being so remote, the supplies in the shop are a little more expensive than normal but nothing crazy.
Funnily enough there is even a local guy who drives up with a delivery of bread every day. You can also get this fresh serving of bread when it is delivered to Hotel Tishe.
People often ask us about where we get drinking water from or how we make sure we have enough. When we are hitchhiking and wild camping we always travel with a 5 litre water bottle that we leave empty until we about to camp and ask our driver to stop somewhere to fill it up with tap water.
When you are in Tusheti you won’t have a problem finding tap water in the main villages and there are plenty of streams to fill up your bottle.
But isn’t it dangerous to drink tap water or water from a stream? Well, yes it can be. Malin got really sick a few years ago when we were travelling in Kyrgyzstan. That was before we got our first water filter though. Since then we haven’t had any problems with tap water, river water or lake water.
The Sawyer Mini is a campers dream item as it allows you to filter up to 300,000 litres of water if it is well looked after. It is particularly good because you can filter water to use for cooking, brushing your teeth, washing fruit and veg or anything else you can think of.
The Lifestraw is great because all you have to do is fill up the bottle and you having drinking water instantly available just by sucking on the straw. Both of these filters are vital to your trip for several reasons.
1. You can drink any water.
2. You help to prevent damage to the environment by not having to buy ridiculous amounts of plastic bottles.
3. You save a ton of money!
How to get to Tusheti
You have a few options for getting to Tusheti. Most people will get there in Delicas, some people will drive on their own, others will hitchhike and a few crazy people will even cycle up there!
If you are planning on catching a Delica you should first get to either Kvemo-Alvani or Zemo-Alvani and once the vehicle is full it will get on its way. The fare should between 40 and 50 GEL which is 14-18$ and the journey will take you about five hours so it would be best to start in the morning.
If you are in Tbilisi you can even get a Delica all the way to Omalo which will take at least eight hours and set you back around 70 GEL or 25$.
If you are planning on driving yourself remember to take your time and hire a car that will be able to manage some difficult terrain. The road is dangerous as I mentioned earlier but if you drive carefully and make plenty of stops to calm your nerves you will be fine.
Start early in the morning so you avoid ending up driving in the dark, which I imagine would be pretty daunting on this road!
It is difficult but it is definitely possible to hitchhike this road and make it to Omalo. If you can get to the town of Pshaveli and wait after the junction leading to Omalo you will eventually get a ride. It might even take an hour or two before you have any luck but it shouldn’t be a problem. Georgia is home to some of the easiest hitchhiking in the world after all!
Our only advice would be to get an early start so you aren’t on the mountain pass road when it is getting dark, that wouldn’t be much fun.
Where to stay when you visit Tusheti
With Georgia becoming more and more popular because of its incredible regions, natural wonders and culture there are heaps of new accommodation popping up all over the place and Tusheti is one of those places. Even in some of the smaller villages you can now find places to stay on Airbnb, and if you click this link you will get $$ off your first trip. You can find places from as little as 12$ per night in Omalo.
Not only that but you can also find plenty of affordable rooms or dorms on booking.com.
If, like us, you love being in the middle of nature snuggled up in your tent then this region is for you. Just find yourself a nice flat spot, which can sometimes be challenging, and get a good night’s sleep.
Just make sure that when you leave in the morning you take all traces of your stay with you and please make sure that you don’t leave any rubbish behind.
If you are far away from civilisation take the precaution of hanging your food in a tree rather than keeping it in the tent! There are some wild animals around after all.
When to visit Tusheti
The time frame for visiting Tusheti is quite narrow and the mountain road is usually open between May and October depending on the weather. We visited in July and the temperatures were really nice. It was a little fresh a night where we camped close to Lower Omalo but really very comfortable. The daytime temperatures where also very pleasant sitting at around 24 degrees Celsius.
Another thing to take into consideration is rainfall. May and June are the rainiest months so if you are intending to travel at that time remember to take the right equipment as the weather can change pretty quickly up in the mountains. If you choose to go in July or August the weather will be more stable and there will be a lower risk of rain.
Malin and I were once told that with every 100 metres of altitude gain it drops one degree. We aren’t exactly sure how accurate that is but maybe there is some science to it!
We know that you are going to love visiting Tusheti, it is a nature lovers dream with so much to offer. Malin and I would love to know if you have been before and what your experience was or if you are planning a visit to Tusheti some time soon. If you want any more information please drop us a question in the comments below and we will get back to you!
Thanks for taking the time to read our post and we look forward to hearing from you.
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