The countryside in Svaneti Valley was stunning, we particularly liked the fact that all animals were truly free range. The guest houses were great --- lots of different fresh vegetables and even Wifi, if one hankered after news. We hope that the Georgians will be able to retain the charm of their villages without being overrun by massive groups of tourists arriving in large coaches. So far, there are no large modern hotels, but there is a distinct risk that tourism may not be regulated in a sympathetic way. While large stretches of the roads are unpaved only 4x4 cars can reach some of the villages. Overall, a brilliant holiday which I'd recommend to anyone who loves mountains, churches, history, good food, good wine and friendly people.
I fear I am uncertain what was TravelLocal's responsibility and what was the responsibility of Hidden Caucasus.... this must mean that the organisation was seamless and everything was well arranged
nothing other than what I commented on above
We loved our driver, Lado: he was punctual, very helpful, charming and clearly knowledgeable, though we did not speak Georgian or Russian --- it was very good that he stayed in the same hotels we did and that we could eat together, communicating via the translation programme on his mobile. The guides we had were generally good: ?Tamara from Becho was excellent, very helpful, sensitive to walkers who were not in their twenties any more, and we learnt a lot about her and her family's life in the Svaneti Valley and about Georgia in general. Irakli, our guide in Ushguli, was young and fit and got us safely to our destination and back. The guide we had in Tbilisi was extremely good: her English excellent, her knowledge about the city, history and culture outstanding. I'd recommend her very very highly --- she also had a good sense of humour and was flexible enough to adapt her tour to fit in with what we had already seen the day before.
Check with people who have been recently to find out whether the locations are still charming and are not being overrun by mass tourism. I would avoid the peak tourist time --- September was obviously fine weather-wise, with some heavy rain in the afternoon, but sun every morning. Maybe there would be fewer tourists in June.
The free-range farm animals in Becho and Ushguli, though the litter left everywhere was a great pity (no doubt left by tourists as well as Georgians themselves) --- interestingly there were brilliant signs near one of the churches we visited telling everyone to use litter bins and that made a great deal of difference.