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Upper Svaneti in Georgia
Idea About: place
Svaneti or Svanetia is a historic province in Georgia, in the northwestern part of the country. Svaneti, with the capital town Mestia, home of the Svans and the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus. Situated on the southern slopes of the central Greater Caucasus, Svaneti extends over the upper valleys of the Rioni, Enguri and Tskhenistskal, barricaded by some of the Caucasus highest (12,000-17,000 feet) peaks. The highest mountain in Georgia, Mount Shkhara at 17,059 feet (5,201 meters), is located in the province. Svaneti is seen as the heartland of an old, lost Georgia. According to the general belief, Jason and his Argonauts traveled to Svaneti to find the Golden Fleece. The Svans, an ethnic subgroup of the Georgians, speak an arcane dialect. Geographically and historically, the province has been divided into two parts—Upper Svaneti (Zemo Svaneti; the present day Mestia Raioni) and Lower Svaneti (Kvemo Svaneti; the present day Lentekhi Raioni).
What Makes It Special
Svaneti is a high mountain region in Northwestern Georgia, an extraordinary and surreal land of towers, snow, rugged and uneven terrain, breathtaking views, snowy peaks, wine, songs and dancing, where time stopped, or rather never existed. Svaneti is known for its architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes. The nature of Svaneti is legendary among travelers. The famous Svanetian towers erected mainly in the 9th-12th centuries, make the region’s villages attractive to tourists. There are dozens of Georgian Orthodox churches with 8th - 14th century icons and frescoes, and various fortified medieval buildings. Architectural monuments of Upper Svaneti are included in a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Svan culture survived in its polyphonic songs which is traditional to Georgian culture and dances.
Useful Visitor Information and Tips
There is only one road from Kutaisi to Upper Svaneti. The main road leading into the region comes from Kutaisi through Zugdidi. You can catch a minibus going from Tbilisi, (the capital of Georgia). It takes 12 hours to reach Mestia (the capital of Svaneti). Minibuses and Jeeps to Svaneti leave early in the morning (7am) from Zugdidi. You can get to Zugdidi by overnight train from Tbilisi. A Jeep or minibus to Mestia from Zugdidi will take about 5-7 hours and cost about 10 - 20 Dollars. In the summer time a plane flown by the Georgian military will give you a ride between Kutasi and Mestia. The plane will only work on good weather days. The cost is free to the locals, or about $15 for foreigners. You get into a very old Russian propeller plane. You strap yourself into a "jump" seat. It will take off from a grassy field in Mestia, and land in Kutaisi in less then an hour This will cut off about 6-8 hours of travel time to the capital. Things to do: in addition to sightseeing in amazing medieval village Ushguli, is trekking and mountain climbing in Mount Ushba (15,387 feet, 4,690 meters) in the Greater Caucasus. There is not much transportation to get into Ushguli. There is a bus to the place which goes several times a week, but when it is not an option you can hire a taxi for a day trip, or for a few days. The cost will be about $50-$70 for a day trip.
Tags: Georgia; Greater Caucasus; Kutaisi; lower Svaneti; Mestia; Mount Ushba; Orthodox churches; Svaneti; Svanetia; Tbilisi; Upper Svaneti; Ushgul; Zugdidi