• Michael Knock

Azerbaijan & Georgia - 20 Day Explorer (Virtual Tour) - Day 17

We were due to be heading to Aerbaijan & Georgia @ this time of year, however, COVID-19 restrictions have required us to suspend all tours for the rest of 2020.

On this virtual Tour, you can travel with us as we explore two emerging countries - Azerbaijan & Georgia. On this Tour, we fly into Baku, Azerbaijan and out of Tbilisi, Georgia and bus, hike & funicular our way around these amazing cultures.

Day 17 Ushguli

The region of Svaneti is one of the most remote areas of Georgia and is home to the village of Ushguli, 2,100 meters above sea level, and the highest inhabited settlement in Europe.

The village of Ushguli is one of the most attractive villages in Georgia. This region has special cultural value to the Georgians as it relates to King Tamar. 

The Enguri, one of the fastest rivers in the country, starts its journey from this area and it flows throughout the whole Svaneti Region. For many centuries, Ushguli was very much off the map for a lot of people because it was just so hard to get there.

However, in the latest decade or so, the road is continuously rebuilt each season, so now it is much easier to get there from Mestia (might also be one of the reasons why so many people now do the hike from Mestia to Ushguli!)

The distance, by road, is only about 40km but you will still need more than 2 hours to reach Ushguli. The road is not for the faint-hearted and, on this particular occasion, I thought the 50km/h sign was being overly optimistic. It was good that we were overnighting in Ushguli - facing this road twice in the one day might be more than enough for even the most intrepid travellers.

One of the first things you will see as you arrive in Ushguli is more of the extraordinary Svaneti Towers. You will see these characteristic towers only in this region but most are located around Ushguli. Despite the fact that some of the towers are already destroyed, the feeling that you are in a mysterious place is quite vivid. Ushguli was the favorite place of King Tamar and we were able to explore a distinctive tower that used to be a residence of the King. 

After a quick orientation around Ushguli, a fortifying cup of coffee and a snack we then set off on our 3hr walking tour to the Lamaria Church and Queen Tamar's Tower. The Church dates from the 10th centry, is dedicated to St. Mary, is located on the top of a high hill and it is surrounded by a stone fence. Once you step through the gate, you feel that time almost stands still as apparently everything has remained the same for centuries.

Inside the church, there are many time-faded frescoes. Every year on 28 August, people from all over Georgia gather to celebrate the day of St. MaryThis Church,

church of the Assumption of the Mother of God, still has regular services. Local residents believe that it was under this church that Queen Tamara, who was a central figure in Svans history, was buried. They consider her to be a Christian benefactor who built all their temples, and gave generous gifts to churches.

The walk back to Ushguli gave us plenty of time to take in the views...(and appreciate the couple of days in Mestia to acclimatise to the altitude)...

before arriving at the Caucasus Guesthouse - our home away from home for tonight. As with most guesthouses in this area, the accommodation is clean, simple and just what you need to savour the generous hospitality of the Georgian and Svaneti people and their culture. In this case, the views outside the rooms were nearly the equal of the views inside the rooms.

Today was one of those special days.

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