Combined car + trekking in the high mountains
Length (on foot): 17 – 29 km
Start from: Mestia
Drop-off: Khalde; Latphari pass
Season: June – October
Price indication: 680 GEL
Visit Archangel’s church of Iprali: + 10 GEL
The top 2 sights of Upper Svaneti: UNESCO village Ushguli and Bezengi wall. The most cost-effective option to explore the highest mountains, biggest glaciers, best panoramas and the most remote village with outstanding 8th-12th century architecture. Two versions, a shorter and a longer hike.
The Bezengi Wall is the section of the Great Caucasus Mountains where the highest peaks are concentrated forming an enormous wall 4800-5200 m high. It includes peaks Tetnuldi, Gestola, Katintau, Jangitau, Shkhara – the tallest summit of Georgia (5200 m), and others, as well as three big glaciers (Adishi glacier, Khalde glacier, Shkhara glacier). This hike brings you very close to the high mountains, in fact there are very few places in the world where the average trekker can get this close to the snow-covered peaks.
Day 1. Khalde – Chkhutnieri – Iprali hike. You arrive in Khalde by car. The car will drop you off in Khalde, and you will walk towards the high mountains along Khaldechala river with views of the Bezengi Wall and Khalde glacier. When you reach a large meadow with shepherds’ huts, you will see a path branching off to the left and going up in broad zigzag. Follow the path and it will take you to Chkhutnieri pass. From the pass you will be able to see awesome Adishi glacier from very close, all of Adishchala valley, village Adishi, the river and the lake, as well as a big portion of the Bezengi wall and Khalde glacier. In clear weather you will see the Caucasus Range as far as Ushba and even further. At the pass you will find a path turning right along the ridge for a few more hundred meters. You can follow it to reach the highest view-point. After that you return to Khalde the same way and walk on to Iprali. If you are interested in culture-heritage, you can visit Archangel’s church of Iprali to see 12th century frescoes by Royal Painter Tevdore (+ 10 GEL to the cost of the tour; the visit needs to be arranged with the key-keeper, so occasionally we may not be able to show you the church if he is away from the village). Distance for the day: 13 km. Elevation change: 1075 m. Overnight in Iprali.
BLUE: the walking trail from Khalde to Chkhutnieri pass and back.
Day 2. Latphari pass and Ushguli. The driver will meet you at 9 am near cafe Kala in Lalkhori (see map below) – just below Iprali. There is a straight path that children of Iprali take to go to school in Lalkhori. It is more pleasant than the dirt road most tourists take to get to Lalkhori. The car will take you up to Latphari pass at 2830 m above sea level. Don’t forget to stop for views of Ushba, Enguri valley and Kala on your right in the first part of the ascent.
There are 2 versions as to how to spend the rest of the day. Either you spend some time at Latphari and have the driver take you to Ushguli by car (this will give you more time in Ushguli) or hike on to Ushguli on your own (the car will leave you at Latphari and come to pick you up in Ushguli).
Version 1. Spend about 1.5 hours at Latphari to do a small circular panoramic route. When you reach the pass, the car will stop near St. Luke’s church at 2830 m, the highest built church of Svaneti. The view from the church is already magnificent, but if you want to get a 360* panorama, you will need to climb up the little hill behind the church. There is no single marked path, any path taking you to the hill is ok. On the map we showed a circular route: take the marked path that goes around the hill (the hill and the church stay on your left while you go around it and climb it from behind), then return by walking down from the hill straight to the church which you will see below you. This little route will take you about 1.5 hours at medium/slow pace. You will also see Ushguli below you, Ushba, the entire Bezengi wall, Lower Svaneti as far as Racha.
Then the driver will take you to Ushguli by car and you will have enough time to explore Ushguli thoroughly: visit 2 ethnographic museums, do the marked tourist trail around historic village Chazhashi and Zhibiani, go up to Lamaria monastery. You can even do a jeep-tour to Shkhara glacier (see JEEP-TOURS section) or a horse-riding tour to the same glacier (see HORSE-RIDING section). You need about 2.5 hours for the jeep-tour and 4 hours for the horse tour.
Version 2. You trek from Latphari to Ushguli on foot. This way you should still have about 1-2 hours to see Ushguli after you arrive and have lunch. The driver will pick you up at the bridge in Ushguli (there is only one car bridge in the centre, so no mistake possible).