Khevsureti

Khevsureti

Things to do - general

Sparsely populated Khevsureti, bordering Chechnya (Russia), is home to some fan- tastic defensive architecture, a part-animist religion, and spectacular scenery of steep, forested valleys and blooming mountain pastures, as well as being credited with in- venting khinkali dumplings.

Men in this remote area were still wearing chain mail well into the 20th century, but to- day Khevsureti’s old culture is only clinging to life and very few villages have permanent inhabitants. Shepherds bring their flocks up from Kakheti from about June to September, when tourism also provides an income for a few families. Khevsureti makes a great trip but bring at least some food with you, and some warm clothes as it can get cold at night even in summer.

The road to Khevsureti turns northeast off the Georgian Military Highway shortly be- fore the Zhinvali Reservoir and runs up the Pshavis Aragvi valley towards Khevsureti’s largest village, Barisakho (population 200), about 100km from Tbilisi. At Korsha, 2km past Barisakho, there’s a small but interest- ing museum (admission free) of Khevsur life, with armour, weapons, traditional clothing and photos; to visit, ask at curator Shota Arabuli’s guesthouse, three doors away. There’s no mobile-phone signal anywhere past Korsha. From Korsha it’s about 8km up to Roshka, a small, muddy village off the main road, on walking routes towards the Chaukhi Pass and Arkhoti.

After Korsha the road becomes 4WD-only as it climbs to the 2676m Datvisjvari Pass (open about May to November) and then descends the Argun valley to Shatili, 150km from Tbilisi. Shatili’s old town, built between the 7th and 13th centuries, is a unique agglomeration of tall koshkebi (towers) clinging together on a rocky outcrop to form a single fortresslike whole. It was abandoned between the 1960s and ’80s, and the new village, of about 20 houses, is just around the hill. But several towers have been restored to accommodate tourists. In August or September (dates vary) you might run into the Shatiloba festival, with folk music and dance horse races and Georgian wrestling.

From Shatili the road continues 3km northeast then veers south just before the Chechnya border. At the bend, the Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible, sit on a promontory above the gorge: in times of plague infected villagers would voluntarily enter these tombs and wait for death. The road continues 9km up the Andaki valley to tiny Mutso, where the spectacular abandoned old village on a steep rock pinnacle contains several more boneladen stone crypts. A foot trail continues up and over the very steep Atsunta Pass (3431m) into Tusheti.

Country Georgia
Region Khevsureti
CityShatili
Population3200
Languages spokenGeorgian, English, Russian

Sights

Your Guide to Khevsureti

Sparsely populated Khevsureti, bordering Chechnya (Russia), is home to some fan- tastic defensive architecture, a part-animist religion, and spectacular scenery of steep, forested valleys and blooming mountain pastures, as well as being credited with in- venting khinkali dumplings.

Men in this remote area were still wearing chain mail well into the 20th century, but to- day Khevsureti’s old culture is only clinging to life and very few villages have permanent inhabitants. Shepherds bring their flocks up from Kakheti from about June to September, when tourism also provides an income for a few families. Khevsureti makes a great trip but bring at least some food with you, and some warm clothes as it can get cold at night even in summer.

The road to Khevsureti turns northeast off the Georgian Military Highway shortly be- fore the Zhinvali Reservoir and runs up the Pshavis Aragvi valley towards Khevsureti’s largest village, Barisakho (population 200), about 100km from Tbilisi. At Korsha, 2km past Barisakho, there’s a small but interest- ing museum (admission free) of Khevsur life, with armour, weapons, traditional clothing and photos; to visit, ask at curator Shota Arabuli’s guesthouse, three doors away. There’s no mobile-phone signal anywhere past Korsha. From Korsha it’s about 8km up to Roshka, a small, muddy village off the main road, on walking routes towards the Chaukhi Pass and Arkhoti.

After Korsha the road becomes 4WD-only as it climbs to the 2676m Datvisjvari Pass (open about May to November) and then descends the Argun valley to Shatili, 150km from Tbilisi. Shatili’s old town, built between the 7th and 13th centuries, is a unique agglomeration of tall koshkebi (towers) clinging together on a rocky outcrop to form a single fortresslike whole. It was abandoned between the 1960s and ’80s, and the new village, of about 20 houses, is just around the hill. But several towers have been restored to accommodate tourists. In August or September (dates vary) you might run into the Shatiloba festival, with folk music and dance horse races and Georgian wrestling.

From Shatili the road continues 3km northeast then veers south just before the Chechnya border. At the bend, the Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible, sit on a promontory above the gorge: in times of plague infected villagers would voluntarily enter these tombs and wait for death. The road continues 9km up the Andaki valley to tiny Mutso, where the spectacular abandoned old village on a steep rock pinnacle contains several more boneladen stone crypts. A foot trail continues up and over the very steep Atsunta Pass (3431m) into Tusheti.

Shatili

Shatili is one of the most brilliant masterpieces of Georgian architecture. This village is scattered on the slopes of a rocky hill and served both as a residence and a fortress. For many centuries it served to defend northern passes in the Caucasus leading to Georgia (now restored). The village is lined with closely built tower-houses, which make a solid and inaccessible fortress wall surrounding the whole village. Shatili is linked with the outer world only by a narrow road leading to Arghuni gorge. The architectureis based on terraces of flat-roofed houses and towers, with narrow stone stairs leading to the top between the buildings. The Bridges were used to traverse the village without having to go outside when the enemy invaded.

Activities

Rafting - Adventure Club

Georgia’s many rivers can provide exciting rides for rafters of all levels. Jomardi is the longest established and most reputed operator, with English-speaking guides available. A half-day trip to the Mtiuletis Aragvi or Pshavis Aragvi north of Tbilisi, suitable for any level, costs 45 GEL per person, plus 20 GEL to 30 GEL for transport (depending on group size). The season runs from late April to October (best until July). Trips go most often at weekends. Jomardi can also provide challenges for experienced rafters on the Mtkvari River near Borjomi and Vardzia (April and May), and the Rioni River in western Georgia (June to November).

Jomardi also rents sleeping bags (per day 8 GEL), sleeping mats (5 GEL), three-person tents (15 GEL), mountain bikes (40 GEL), skiing gear (skis, boots and poles 35 GEL) and mountaineering equipment.

Culture and history info

Sheltered by the massive peaks of the greater Caucasus, hidden away from the outside world, there is the extraordinary land of the Khevsurs – Khevsureti. Nowhere else in Europe there is a place that feels so mysterious, unique and magical, a place where ancient pagan traditions survive, and medieval fortress villages guard the secrets of the valleys. Right up until the 1930’s, people here wore chainmail amour and carried swords and shields. The Soviet Union attempted to destroy this ancient way of life, but rituals, songs and crafts are still preserved by the people of this proud, independent land. The main sight in the region is Shatili. This fortress village, next to the Chechen border, has withstood the ravages of time, as well as multiple invasions and sieges. Each four or five story houses are connected by rooftop walkways that can be taken up if the enemy penetrates the village. One of these towers has been converted into an extraordinary hotel for visitors. The ruined fortress village of Mutso is straight out of a fantasy movie. Poised like a bird of prey on a rocky outcrop at 1,880m above sea level, it has thirty towers and dozens of intact death houses where plague victims would crawl in to die.

Unfortunately there are no hotels at this location at the moment.

Unfortunately there are no self-catering offers at this location at the moment.

Khevsureti tour for 2 days

Khevsureti
Your best guide to Khevsureti Tour name: Khevsureti tour Route: Tbilisi – Pshavi – Baris More info
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