Must see attractions in Great Caucasus

  • Top ChoiceSights in Stepantsminda

    Tsminda Sameba Church

    This 14th-century church 2200m above Stepantsminda has become almost a symbol of Georgia for its incomparably photogenic hilltop setting with mighty Mt Kazbek rising behind it, and for the fierce determination involved in building it on such a lofty, isolated perch. A circuitous new road leads up to the church (return trip by taxi 40 GEL to 60 GEL), but you can walk up to the church in one to 1½ hours from Stepantsminda. The views back over Stepantsminda are incredible. Vakhushti Batonishvili wrote in the 18th century that in times of danger the treasures from Mtskheta, as well as St Nino’s cross, were kept at Tsminda Sameba for safety. In 1988 the Soviet authorities constructed a cable-car line to the church, with one station right next to Tsminda Sameba. The people of Stepantsminda felt it defiled their sacred place and soon destroyed it. The beautifully weathered stone church is decorated with intriguing carvings, one on the bell tower appearing to show two dinosaurs. There are several ways of walking up from Stepantsminda. For the best distance-gradient compromise, walk up through Gergeti village to a T-junction 1.25km from the main road (80m after signs indicating the car track to the right). Go left at the T-junction, out past the last village buildings, and up beside a stream. About 120m past the last building, fork up to the right, passing to the right of a ruined stone tower; 200m after the tower take an initially lesser path diverging up to the right. This curves up round the hillside to reach the church in 1km. The new road has meant that the church is crowded these days with tour buses arriving with regularity. Come early or after 5pm to enjoy the church at its quietest.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Mestia

    Svaneti History & Ethnography Museum

    Mestia’s excellent main museum is one of Georgia's best, with fascinating displays of church treasures, manuscripts, weaponry, jewellery, coins and historical photos, all labelled in English. The highlight is the room of wonderful 10th- to 14th-century icons from Svaneti's churches, fashioned in silver or painted in tempera on wood. The best of these have a uniquely human and touching quality, and some, unusually, depict St George spearing emperor Diocletian instead of his normal dragon.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tusheti

    Dartlo

    Dartlo, 12km northwest of Omalo in the Pirikiti Alazani valley, is an extraordinarily picturesque village crowned by an impressive tower grouping, overlooked by the single tall tower of Kvavlo 350m above the village itself. In summer Dartlo can be almost overgrown with wildflowers, which all but close off its narrow pebble streets, and make for a spectacular sight. There has been much investment in restoring the village's ancient slate and wood houses in recent years.

  • Sights in Omalo

    Keselo

    Constructed during the Mongol invasions during the 1230s, these five towers form a protective fortress on the hilltop above Zemo Omalo where locals would flee during raids from outsiders. Lovingly restored in the 21st century after centuries of neglect, today one of the towers hosts an interesting ethnographic museum (5 GEL) – ask at Hotel Tusheti Tower if you want to visit, while in another tower the Shalva Alkhanaidze Photography Museum is planned, displaying a collection of local photographs from the 1950s to 1970s.

  • Sights in Svaneti

    Lamaria Church

    This tiny 12th-century church with its own watchtower stands proudly on a hilltop looking back over the town and marks the end of Ushguli. Inside there are some wonderful icons and frescoes, albeit rather faded, devoted to Lamaria, a Svan pagan goddess of fertility, who has gradually become identified with St Mary in the Christian faith.

  • Sights in Tusheti

    Dzveli Diklo

    About 2km past Diklo, which is 4km northeast of Shenaqo, the Dzveli Diklo fortress perches on a spectacular rock promontory looking east to Dagestan (Russia). It's a 40-minute hike one-way from Diklo, and the jeep track does not extend beyond Diklo village.

  • Sights in Svaneti

    Ushguli Museum

    Ushguli's main museum has a superb collection of gold, silver and wooden icons and crosses dating back to the 12th century from Ushguli’s seven churches.

  • Sights in Tusheti

    Shenaqo

    Shenaqo, a few kilometres east of Omalo, is one of the prettiest villages in Tusheti, with houses of stone, slate and rickety wooden balconies grouped below one of Tusheti’s very few churches. The village is also famous as one of the main locations in the Soviet film Mimino, a charming 1977 comedy about a Georgian bush pilot serving these remote communities.

  • Sights in Svaneti

    Ethnographic Museum

    Ushguli's Ethnographic Museum is located in a 12th-century building that once housed both people and livestock in the winter months, all huddled together under one crowded, smelly roof. You'll be shown the ingenious devices used by locals over the centuries, and will possibly experience a wave of gratitude at being born in the modern era.

  • Sights in Svaneti

    Queen Tamar's Castle

    These atmospheric ruins on top of a hill in Chazhashi were once made up of four defensive towers and a church, though just one tower and the ruins of the church can be seen today.