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Svaneti - Time Travel In The Caucasus Mountains

By Huw Owen

Of all the countries that feature currently on TravelLocal, Georgia is one of the least known and yet most fascinating. When we see Georgia in the news we think of the American state of the same name, or perhaps the Russian invasion of 2008, but beyond that the history, culture and people are a mystery to us.

Mestia, Svaneti, GeorgiaSvaneti is the most unusual and spectacular part of Georgia and is a name completely lost on the vast majority of armchair travellers worldwide. Which is odd because it contains many of the things most wanted by travellers - adventure, the thrill of discovery, great cuisine, fabulous scenery and hospitable and enigmatic people.

Until very recently the journey from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, to Mestia - Svaneti's main town - took around two days depending on your tolerance for long drives in the mountains. However that has now changed with the coming of proper road surfacing and maintenance. This "Shangri-La" of the former USSR has opened up, but is holding on to a very important and fascinating culture.

The people of Svaneti - the Svans - have their own language, a very ancient one indeed that pre-dates Georgian. They also have their own cultural legacy, best seen in the History Museum in Mestia - repoussé icons of the story of St George, medieval watchtowers guarding the valleys and incredible hand-painted ancient gospels.

Hiking in GeorgiaAnother outstanding feature of the mountains here is the botanical variety. Svaneti combines the humidity of the Georgian lowlands with the topography of the high Caucasus. This unique combination of climate and landscape means Svaneti, and Georgia more generally, are regarded as world class biodiverse regions. Any hiker coming to Svaneti from mid-June will see one beautiful example of this - the overwhelming number of stunning alpine flowers, including some rare orchids.

So come to Svaneti and take a look around - for now, you might have it to yourself.

Make it happen

Our Georgia page is a good place to start for information on visiting. All of the trips created by our local travel experts are entirely bespoke and unique to you - they will match your personal requirements exactly. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, call +44 (0) 117 325 7898