Adventure tour in Georgia

In recent years, we have gone through Georgia many times. We were in thousand-year-old mountain villages and monasteries, on the highest passes and in the deepest river valleys of the Caucasus. To date, however, we mainly admired from the safety of the bus and the jeep the breathtaking landscapes of one of the world’s most beautiful countries.

This year, however, after last year’s test, when we made a day’s riding trip at the end of all roads, in Tusheti, at the Chechen border, we invite our bravest readers to a whole week’s adventure tour. Between 2 and 10 July, we wander about the two valleys of Svaneti, the most beautiful and most romantic part of Georgia: Upper Svaneti on horseback, and Lower Svaneti by rafting, along the Rioni river.

We have been many times in the valley of Upper Svaneti, going up by bus from Kutaisi to Mestia, next to the Russian border, and from there continuing by off-road to the top of Europe, the thousand-year-old residential towers of Ushguli. Meanwhile, we have often talked about how good it would be to walk or ride up in the green side valleys of the mountain range, to the small villages and plateaus, from where you can see the entire landscape, to the ridge of the Caucasus and the peak of Elbrus. Now this dream comes true. In the organization of the local horse farm, we ride on a twenty-kilometer-long road to the plateau of Ushba, the holy mountain of the Svans, where we dine and sleep next to campfire, and in the next morning we return to the valley of the Inguri river. Then we go by bus to Lower Svaneti, in the valley of Rioni, Georgia’s second largest river, where we descend by rafting from the town of Ambrolauri to Kutaisi.

This tour was specifically designed for beginners. Last year, in Tusheti, we covered thirty kilometers on steep paths in a day, with everyone sitting for the first time on horseback, and it was a great experience. In addition, this time both riding and rafting will be preceded by instruction: the latter on the site, and the former, on request, a week earlier in a Hungarian horse farm in Badacsony.

The map of our adventure tour. The blue line marks the early morning bus route from Kutaisi to Upper Svaneti. From Mestia, we go by off-road vehicle to Ushguli, and then on the red riding route to the Ushba. In Lower Svaneti, we will do rafting on the thirty-kilometer-long red track of Rioni river between Ambrolauri and Mekvena (S-F). Click for a full map.

The program in a nutshell:

• Departure on 2 July, five minutes before midnight, with the cheap Wizzair flight from Budapest. Arrival on the 3rd in the dawn to Kutaisi. There, we are waited for by the rented bus which takes us up in the early morning twilight to the highest ridges of the Caucasus, the town of Mestia lying at the Russian border. On the way, after daybreak, we take breakfast in the middle of the mountains, in a small local inn next to the Inguri reservoir, the second deepest water reservoir in the world. We arrive at Mestia in the early afternoon, and we immediately continue by off-road vehicle, on impassable mountain roads, over ravine valleys, to Ushguli, the top of Europe, the land of thousand-year-old residential towers, beause this should not be missing from any Svanetian or even any Georgian program. We stay overnight in a guest house, then the next day, on the 4th, we take a long walk through the four parts of the village and in the mountains near the Russian border. In the afternoon, the off-road vehicle comes to take us back to Mestia.

On the 5th and 6th, we make a two-day horseback ride to Ushba, the holy mountain of the Svans. We go with the gentle, experienced horses and horse-drivers of a local horse farm, who take care of us. In any case, after the (optional) training in the previous weekend, we can feel sure of ourselves, because this trip is especially designed for beginners. On the plateau, we have dinner at campfire, we sleep in tents that are set up for us beforehand, and the next day we descend to Mestia.

On the 7th we go by bus through Kutaisi to Ambrolauri in Lower Svaneti (officially Racha-Lechumi province), and on the 8th we descend by rafting on the Rioni, the second largest river of Georgia. We begin with training in the morning, and then we paddle thirty kilometers in two installments. At noon we stop for lunch, and then continue rowing. At about five o’clock in the afternoon we arrive in the lower camp, where they are waiting for us with a generous dinner. We sleep in Kutaisi.

On the 9th we have two options. The first is to go by bus to the beautiful Martvili Canyon, and to have a walk there. The second, if we lost all our forces, to rest in Kutaisi, make a sightseeing tour, wander about the huge market, and visit Gelati Monastery (World Heritage) next to the town. In the evening, a special farewell party, and the next day, on the 10th in early morning, we leave for Budapest.

No special equipment is required: whatever we will need, we will get in the site. No special training and experience is required, either. The participation fee is 700 euros per person, which practically includes everything: the accommodation (half of a two-bed room; single room supplement 100 euro) with breakfast and (abundant) dinner, the rented bus and off-road vehicle, the cost of the tents, horses, horse-drivers, rafting and training, and of course, guiding. Register before 11 February, Sunday evening, at the usual

“This tour seems quite a daring enterprise”, wrote someone, a little daunted. And that’s the point of it: to dare to experience that we are capable of it. When on the other top of Georgia, in Tusheti, after a thirty-kilometer riding on stunningly steep mountain paths – everyone was a beginner – we returned to the guest house, everyone had pain in their muscles, but everybody was happy to have lived it, and they said, they would repeat it the next day. On other tours of us, we live through other experiences, that of history hidden in the cities, or the unexpected beauty of nature. Here, we experience that we can do something that we would not have imagined ourselves to be capable of.

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