In order to get a true taste of national culture and for authentic, long-lasting impressions – you should definitely venture to Georgia’s highlands. Tusheti is one such region – an amazing place with snow-covered rocky peaks, deep gorges and steep, grassy hills with flocks of grazing sheep.
Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Tusheti is bordered by Chechnya and Dagestan to the north and east and by the Georgian historic provinces Kakheti and Pshav-Khevsureti to the south.
Tusheti is one of the most popular summer hiking and horse-riding areas in Georgia and an attention-grabbing destination for photographers, travelers, adventurers and ethnographers. The tourist season begins there in June and lasts till October. Afterwards, the Abano pass, located 2925 meters above sea level, is blocked and Tusheti becomes completely isolated from the outside world.
Transportation to Tusheti Protected Areas is not available from Tbilisi: visitors need to come to the lower village of Alvani by minibus from the Ortachala or Navtlughi bus terminals, Another option is to travel by taxi from metro Isani, available several times daily. Traveling from Tbilisi to lower Alvani can take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. There is no regular transport from Alvani to Omalo and transportation is only possible by hiring a private 4×4 from Alvani center. The 85 km from Alvani to Omalo needs around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
In order to make trips to Tusheti more coordinated, tourists can visit Tusheti Nature Reserve and National Park, located in the administrative building of the Protected Areas, with integrated hotel rooms for visitors, cafe and the visitor center with exhibition and conference halls, interpretation and information boards. Visitors can plan various types of sightseeing tours there and get information on existing services, such as hotels, guides and horse-riding. Tusheti Protected Areas has 11 functioning tourist routes, giving visitors the opportunity to observe and become part of the unique historical-cultural and natural landscapes of Tusheti. While planning your trip to Tusheti, you should take into consideration that you will not have access to gas stations, ATMs or shops on your way up. Also note it is a low coverage zone for mobile phones.
Villages of Tusheti – Omalo, Shenako, Dartlo, Diklo, Dochu and others are gorgeous, with houses and fortresses built from shale with pitched roofs made of floating slates. Nowadays most of Tusheti’s population has houses around Akhmeta and Alvani in Kakheti and as traditional sheep herders, they go up to Tusheti in summertime to graze their sheep or cattle and also to host tourists in their guest-houses.
You can find guest-houses in many villages. 3-4 days are quite enough to visit the main landmarks of the region. Those fond of more active holidays can take a walk from Dartlo to Diklo and catch picturesque views on their way.
The region is also famous for its high quality wool, from which people produce colorful textile, warm socks, hats and rugs. Regarding Tushetian cuisine, it is a significant business card of the region. So don’t miss the chance to taste local beer and gourmet food – Khinkali, Khachapuri, Kotori, Gordila bread and Guda cheese. On the subject of food, you should note that pork is not eaten in Tusheti. Farmers do not raise pigs and travelers are advised to not bring any pork into the region. It happens just in this region and the strange thing is that the locals do eat pork, but only when they are outside Tusheti.
The national celebration of the region “Tushetoba” is held annually in Omalo in the first days of July or August. This celebration attracts lots of tourists and visitors who have an opportunity to see craft exhibitions, a horse-race, different competitions and an interesting ceremony of shepherd blessing.