Set in the topmost reaches of the Enguri valley beneath the snow-covered massif of Mt Shkhara (5193m), Georgia’s highest peak, Ushguli is an unbelievably picturesque spot. With more than 20 ancient Svan towers, it has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 1996. This community of four villages, a 47km, 2½-hour drive southeast from Mestia, reaches up to 2100m above sea level and has a claim to be Europe's highest permanently inhabited settlement. From lowest to highest, the four villages are Murqmeli, Chazhashi, Chvibiani and Zhibiani.
There’s some wonderful walking around Ushguli: it takes about six hours to walk 8km up the valley to the foot of the Shkhara glacier and back. One tower in Chazhashi houses Ushguli’s main Ethnographic Museum, with a superb collection of gold, silver and wooden icons and crosses dating back to the 12th century from Ushguli’s seven churches. At the top of Ushguli, beautifully situated on a hill looking up the valley to Shkhara, is the 12th-century Lamaria Church, with a defensive tower next to it.