Greater Caucasus Mountains
Key information: Greater Caucasus Mountains
- The Georgian Caucasus, at the meeting – point of continents, are wealthy in culture and history – and in landscape and wildlife.
- Exceptional walking in magnificent surroundings – vast spires above flowery meadows above teeming forests.
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating91
- Natural interest15
- Human interest10
- Negative points0
- Total rating91
- Length: Your choice
- Maximum Altitude: Around 3,400m?
- Level of Difficulty: Variable
This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.
The Caucasus Mountains run for some 1,100km, from Russia in the north-west, to Armenia in the south. Georgia itself lies between the Black and Caspian seas, where Europe and Asia meet.
This position underlies its history and culture, at the crossroads between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. It was invaded and occupied repeatedly by the Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Mongols, Persians, Ottoman Turks, Russians, and others. Georgia was, rather remarkably, the second officially Christian country in the world, after Armenia. Georgians have a strong sense of identity, expressed through their heritage of defensive towers and splendid, very early, churches – and above all, in their love of wine and feasting and in their legendary hospitality to visitors.
The Caucasus are extraordinary beautiful, with an entrancing combination of high, grassy, flower-heaven pastures with huge peaks, spires and cliffs, and glaciers and meltingly beautiful lakes. Forests in the lower reaches.
Georgia is said to be among the world's top twelve countries for geographical diversity. It contains the heart of the Caucasus mountains – larger than the Alps – subtropical wetlands, a Black Sea coast, semi-desert, all peppered with ancient stone towers and an exceptional history.
The Caucasus include the Greater Caucasus to the north and the Lesser Caucasus to the south, divided by the plains of central Georgia. There is a gap in the middle of the Georgian Great Caucasus, which is South Ossetia, which was grabbed by Russia in 2008, and remains disputed territory.
There are endless great walks here, from short explorations to multi-dayers.
Ardoti to Dartlo via Atsunta Pass. A beautiful and fascinating trek (both naturally and in human terms) across this high pass in wild mountains. 4 days, up to 4,400m. (Recommended by our friend Nick Ince.)
Ardoti to Mutso(in Khevsureti), a classic fortified village, via the Khadotani pass.
Omalo to Shatili via the Atsunta pass. 5 days/70km between two ancient centres of Caucasus regions. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Borbalo Pass: Tusheti to Khevsureti: cross the high central ridge of the Greater Caucasus. Landscape and views as magnificent as you would expect. 5 days/77km. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Kazbegi (east): a region as well as a town:
To the Gergeti glacier, with grand views of Mt Kazbegi (5,033m) and passing the famous Tsminda Sameba church. 22km, 8hrs or so (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Kazbegi to Roshka or Gudani via the Sadzele Pass (at 3,056m). 2 days, superb-sounding walking. Or the 4 day walk over the Barbalo and Tsubrovana passes to Ardoti – or, indeed, one more day on across the Khadotani Pass to Mutso in Khevsureti, a classic fortified village.
Truso Valley day walk. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
A lot of trekking around Mutso, a classic fortified village, including multi-dayers across high passes.
Khevi (east of South Ossetia): around Juta:
Juta to Roshka via Chaukhi Pass: a superb trek across this high pass in wild, beautiful landscape: fascinating both naturally and in human terms.3 days, up to 3,430m. You can do a one-day alternative. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.comand our friend Nick Ince.)
Juta to Gori via the Abudelauri Pass. 2 day walk over this 3,230m pass. Magnificent views of the heart of the range.
Tetu Peak(3,210m) near Juta – a superb day walk.
Up a flower strewn valley to the foot of Mt Chaukhi near Juta.
Around Gudauri: several walks here, including ridges and the Khada Gorge.
Racha Area (central, west of South Ossetia):
Baba Glacier: a day walk to gorgeous high meadows with stunning mountain (and glacier!) views.
The multi-day walk hike to Udziro Lake.
Keli Plateau (west-ish): a bare if beautiful once-volcanic plateau. Near troubled South Ossetia, so a permit is needed. Beautiful Kelitsadi Lake. 3 day/37km tour. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Svaneti region (north-west): said to be Georgia’s wildest and remotest area, riddled with ancient villages and towers. Mestia lies at its heart.
Mestia river valley to the base of the Chalati glacier, 5 hrs or so.
Around Ushguli, a landscape strewn with flowers and littered with the towers that make this landscape so unique. A valley walk to view Shkhara, Georgia’s highest mountain at 5,201m (stated heights vary!).
Mestia to Ushguli: a 4 day, 58km hike through glorious scenery, village-to-village so tents are not required and you get into Georgia’s history and culture. Said to be Georgia’s most popular hike. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Svaneti to Racha: 3 or 4 days, 39km. It crosses two high passes, in really remote country, so is a demanding hike. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Guli Pass(Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Latpari Pass(Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Mkheri church(Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Betcho valley: another flowery valley with superb views at its head.
Lagodekhi Park, in the far east: the country’s oldest reserve teems with wildlife in its ancient forests. Huge views above the treeline. The Black Lake, at 2,800m is the best walk in the region. A wonderful 3 day trek. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
Borjomi-Kharagauli Park: this big park hosts fine forests. The 4 day (54km) St Andrew’s Trailis the best-known of nine main trails. Also the one-day “Footprint trail”, which sounds marvellous. (Recommended by www.caucasus-trekking.com)
This is demanding walking in remote mountains with uncertain weather. Come fully prepared.
Walking in the Caucasus by Peter Naysmith is the book on walking here. Find relevant books on Amazon.
Special thanks to Jozef Antala (a new hero to the walking world!), who created www.caucasus-trekking.com, which has an excellent selection of treks, as well as a mass of valuable information.
We want to give you more! Please help us by recommending your best walks, making suggestions and sending photos! Thank you!
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk (support us: find books using our Amazon links)
Walking in the Caucasus – Peter Naysmith. A well-written and wide-ranging book, the first comprehensive walker’s guide to Europe’s most diverse landscape, including birds, flora and fauna.
Find relevant books on Amazon.
Other books (support us: find books using our Amazon links)
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Broadly, the best time to go is from the second half of June till late September. July to mid Sept has the best weather in the mountains.
The Caucasus get a lot of snowfall (especially its western parts) and winter conditions remain for the most of the spring. Non-high trekkers should wait until the second half of May, when the valleys will be green and flowery, although walking will still be limited to the lower ground. One can do many nice day hikes, but tackling mountain passes could be risky.
The cultural areas in the plains are stifling in summer, so it is hard for walkers who want to go high to find good weather for both. Late June and early September are the best compromises.
Generally fine in high season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.at any time.
Most people fly in to Tbilisi and then drive on.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
Altitude: If going high, acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope. Otherwise, likely to affect you a bit.
Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.
Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
Dangerous animals of all shapes and sizes, including snakes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Bears are a potential problem: come prepared to deal with an encounter in bear country. Take all appropriate precautions and walk noisily if you think you are in a bear area.
This can be remote country: food and other supplies/food and other supplies may not be readily available and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
Health risks: Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
Beware of dogs: avoid flocks. Brandish sticks and throw stones if they threaten, keep well clear if possibly rabid.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do these walks independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.
Most people form or join organised/supported expeditions when doing multi-day walks. Given the remoteness of the country, many will prefer to do it this way, and travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Organisers can also arrange for permits to be obtained.
Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital, and the guidebooks contain good advice in this regard. If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!
Expedition organisers include:
Kudu Travel – our friends. Do a 12-day expedition featuring day walks rather than overnight treks. Based on Gudauri, Juta, Kazbegi, Mestia and Ushguli. They also do a walking tour, which takes in several of the same walks, but also spends more time on cultural exploration.
PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.
You can walk village-to-village in the lower reaches. Camping is the only realistic option once on higher trails.
http://www.thehotelguru.com has a growing selection of interesting, non-standard, carefully-chosen places to stay.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
www.caucasus-trekking.com has an excellent selection of treks. Created by Jozef Antala (a new hero to the walking world!).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasus_Mountains As usual, a good starting place.
Try www.flickr.comfor pictures of this walk.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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