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Introducing Tusheti

Tucked into Georgia’s far northeast corner, with Chechnya to its north and Dagestan to its east, Tusheti is an increasingly popular summer hiking area but remains one of the country’s remotest and most fascinating and pristine high-mountain regions. The road over the nerve-jangling 2900m Abano (Tseri) Pass was not built until 1978; Tusheti still has no public electricity supply, and evidence of its old animist religion is plentiful in the form of stone shrines known as khatis, decked with the horns of sacrificed goats or sheep, which women are not permitted to approach. Tall defensive towers (koshkis) still stand in many villages, many of them dating back 600 years or more.

Today most Tusheti folk only go up to Tusheti in summer: to graze their sheep or cattle, attend festivals, cater for tourists and generally reconnect with their roots. Many have winter homes in and around Alvani in Kakheti. The road to Tusheti is only open from about early June to early October, and some of the homestays may not open till July.

Tusheti has two main river valleys – the Pirikiti Alazani and the more southerly Gomtsari (Tushetis) Alazani – which meet below Omalo, the biggest village, then flow east into Dagestan. The scenery everywhere is a spectacular mix of high, snow-covered, rocky peaks, deep gorges, and steep, grassy hillsides where distant flocks of sheep appear as slowly shifting patterns of white specks.

You can find a reasonable Tusheti map on Tusheti Protected Areas (www.tushe tipa.ge).