Tusheti Mountain Trails riding holiday in Georgia - Far and Ride
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Tusheti Mountain Trails, Georgia




Programmes


• Tusheti Ride

• Wild Tusheti

 

Horses



Type of horses:

Local mountain horses

Nature of horses:

Gentle, sure-footed, workmanlike

Height of horses:

14-15hh

Weight limit:

100kg / 220 lbs

Tack type:

Georgian saddles are simple affairs made of a solid wood tree over which a cushion is strapped for comfort. Your belongings are packed in bags and tied to the back of your saddle. Bridles are simple snaffles, many made of rawhide.

 

Weather



 

Ride Description

These adventurous treks on horseback take you through the heart of the Tusheti national park in the Caucasus mountains and riding over passes of 3,000m high. The scenery is spectacular and you will feel as though you are riding on top of the world. Drop down into flower-filled meadows and camp beside mountain streams. Meet local nomadic Tush people who spend their summers in the high mountains and their winters in the valleys.

These trails offer a fantastic insight into Tush people and the Georgian culture. Paganism was still present in this region until the middle of the 20th century and many pagan alters remain. The locals still honour some of the divinities, such as Otchpintre (God of nature) and Elia (God of weather).

Your guide is French but has lived in Georgia for many years and speaks fantastic English. She lives as the Tush nomads do, spending her summers in the mountains and moving her horses to lower ground for the winter. She knows many of the families you will meet and can introduce you to their way of life. Her knowledge of the history and culture within the region is astounding and she will regale you with tales around the camp fire.

The horses are all born and raised in the mountains. An oddity of these rides in Georgia is that the whole herd accompanies each ride, so foals and youngsters will run alongside their mothers who may be loose or may be carrying some packs/luggage. This enables the young horses to develop their knowledge and skills across the steep terrain so that when they become riding horses in later life they are already as nimble as mountain goats! It is a privilege to ride within the herd and watch the youngsters stretch their legs across the flower filled meadows.

The trails are not fast, as all your belongings and camp equipment and food are carried by the horses. This is an expedition into wild and remote areas where few people, never mind tourists, venture. You do not need to be a particularly skilled rider, but you do need to be in control, in balance and fit. Some of the paths are very steep and technically challenging, so this ride is not for those with a fear of heights, but you can certainly trust your horses to carry you safely. There are some sections where you have to dismount and lead your horse - mainly downhill, but occasionally on particularly technical uphill sections.

There are two itineraries, which are very similar, except that one is longer than the other so ventures deeper into the mountains - on this trail you cross additional high passes and so you need to be fitter and have prior mountain experience. In the autumn it is also possible to join the transhumance when the horses are moved from their summer pastures to their winter valleys - for this ride you must be an experienced rider and there is no set itinerary so please contact the office if you require more information.

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

You stay in a hotel in the centre of Tbilisi at the start and end of the trail. Once leaving the city, you spend a night in a local house with a family, in two or three large rooms with up to six beds in each room.

Accommodation is rustic once you are on the trail! Some nights are in two-man tents with no facilities, others are in basic houses high in the mountains, with one toilet for the whole group and no showers. The ride is very remote and these are the best accommodation options available - you are well and truly off the beaten track. Each nights camping is close to a river so you can bathe/wash if the weather is appropriate, but we recommend taking plenty of wet wipes too.

Single accommodation is not an option on the trail as all belongings are carried by packhorses and there is limited space for extra tents. However, you can pay extra for a single room for the two nights in Tbilisi if you wish.

All meals are included, except for alcoholic drinks on the final night, which is in a restaurant in Tbilisi (you can choose and buy your own).

Breakfast consists of bread, butter, eggs, cheese, jams, honey with tea/coffee. Lunch is usually a picnic and will include bread, cheese and salads. Dinner will be Tush specialities which can be cooked over an open fire. They will be based around plenty of vegetables as well as pasta, rice and buckwheat. Chicken and fish may be possible on some days but does not carry well on the pack horses.

At the start of the trail there are many fresh fruits and vegetables, such as delicious peaches and watermelons, ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, but there is no way of replenishing stock along the route, so the last few days will consist of pasta, cheese, rice and tinned products which can be carried on horseback. The same applies to the wine - Georgian wine is delicious, but once you have drunk what the horses have carried (in plastic containers), then there is no more wine until you return to civilisation - your guide tries to carry an adequate amount but it is not limitless.

Potatoes, cheese and sometimes meat can be bought from herdsmen/nomadic families in the mountains if you come across them.

 

Activities

There are many beautiful sights to see along the route, with remote villages, defensive towers and churches to visit.

This is primarily a riding trail, but non-riders who are fit and active walkers/hikers could join the trail on foot. There may be times when non-riders need to sit on a pack-horse to cross a river, but if you are fit for mountainous hiking then you could join as a non-rider.

 

Further Details

Languages: English, French, German, Georgian, some Russian.

Health requirements: You must be fit and healthy. You are riding at altitude and there are some long sections on foot as well.

Age limit: Due to the rustic nature of this trail, it is not suitable for children, however teenagers who are used to camping trails can be accommodated.

Tuition: No

Included: Accommodation, riding, all meals, all drinks on the trail, transfers

Not included: Drinks on the final night, flights, travel insurance,

 

Travel Information

There are no direct flights from the UK to Tbilisi, but the most popular route with one stop is with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Flights do tend to arrive very late at night or early in the morning, but you are collected from the airport and transferred straight to your hotel to rest. You may wish to add an extra night at the start to recover from the flight and explore the capital city.

Airport: Tbilisi

 

Programmes


Tusheti Ride



Day One: Arrival in Tbilisi

You will be met on arrival at Tbilisi airport and transferred to your hotel. Flights usually arrive late/midnight so you may wish to add an extra day/night to recover.

Day Two: Tbilisi - Kakheti - Laliskhuri

You will be collected from your hotel at 10:30am and driven to the Kakheti region. This historical region contains some interesting sites which you can stop and view en-route. Firstly you visit Shumta - there is Old Shumta (three churches from the 6th and 7th century) and New Shumta (a church and nunnery from the 16th century with well preserved frescoes). You visit New Shumta only and then continue by road to Telavi which is the main city within the Kakheti region. Here you have c. 1 hour to walk around the colourful market or perhaps visit the fortress of King Erekle II.

After a picnic lunch you are transferred to Tsinandali where you visit a historic winery which once belonged to the 19th century aristocratic poet, linguist and wine-maker Alexander Chavchavadze (1786-1846). You visit both the beautiful house and the gardens.

Your next stop is Gremi - once the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries and a lively trading town on the Silk Road, it was destroyed by Persian armies in 1615. The town never regained its prosperity and the kings transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid 17th century.

Eventually you reach Laliskhuri, a small village at the foot of the Caucasus mountains. Here you are welcomed by a Tush family and spend the night in their home. Before/after dinner you will re-pack your belongings into waterproof sacks which can be carried by the pack horses - your remaining luggage will stay here for safe-keeping until you return from your riding trail.

Day Three: Laliskhuri - Tusheti

After breakfast you set off in a 4WD vehicle into the Tusheti region but ascending the path which was carved into the rocks after the second world war. You drive over Abano Pass at 2,926m which marks the border between the Kakheti and Tusheti regions and offers spectacular views across both. Eventually you reach Omalo, the main village with the Tusheti national park at 2,000m. Here you visit the fortress and then continue by road to Dotchu.

Your destination, Gogrulta, cannot be reached by car and so you meet the horses at Dotchu and unload the vehicles. After loading the horses and mounting, you descend into the valley and then ride steeply uphill to Gogrulta. The climb takes c. 30mins and the view from the top is spectacular. Your accommodation for the night is a typical village house which has few comforts but is very authentic.

Riding time: c. 40 mins. Walking time: c. 25 mins. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Four: Gogrulta

Depending on the weather and mountain conditions you will either ride to Iliurta and the Gometsari river, or up to the crest. The crest is only accessible in clear weather and the pathway is quite strenous at the start. You begin by descending for 40 mins and then ride uphill to the crest for a beautiful panoramic view of the region. Then walk on foot downhill for one hour, cross the river and ride back through the lost villages of Tusheti to Gogrulta for a second night.

Riding time: c. 6 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour 40 mins. Possibility of one trot/canter

Day Five: Gogrulta - Karola

Leave Gogrulta behind and ride up a ridge from where you have spectacular views. You spend the whole day riding on the roof of the Caucasian range at around 3,000m (the highest point is 3,200m). The location of your camp depends on the weather but will be at an elevation of c. 2,500m.

Riding time: c. 6 hours. Walking time: c. 40 mins. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Six: Karola - Koklota

Ride downhill to Koklota where camp will be set up. Time allowing, you can ride into the Zovata Valley in the afternoon, without the pack horses, to discover some hidden places and to try a trot/canter on your horse.

Riding time: c. 6-8 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour - 1hr 30 mins. Possibility to trot/canter in afternoon.

Day Seven: Koklota - Pirikiti Valley

Ride up a 1,000m pass for incredible views over the Pirikiti Valley. Then walk downhill for the same distance to set up camp next to a river.

Riding time: c. 6 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Eight: Pirikiti Valley - Dartlo - Gogrulta

Ride through the village of Dartlo which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and then ride up the Mirgvella pass and onto Gogrulta to complete your circuit in the mountains.

Riding time: c. 6-7 hours. Walking time: c. 20 mins. Some trot/canter possibilities.

Day Nine: Gogrulta - Laliskhuri

A short ride from Gogrulta back to the road and after your farewells you are transferred back downhill to Laliskhuri. You will welcome the shower and being reunited with your luggage and clean clothes!

If time allows you can visit the complex of Alaverdi - built on the site of Pagan worship, this cathedral was built in the 6th century and then re-built in the 11th century. It was the highest cathedral during the Soviet Union period and the architecture is typical of the region.

Dinner and overnight with the family in Laliskhuri again.

Day Ten: Laliskhuri - Tbilisi

After breakfast you are driven back to Tbilisi, aiming to arrive in the early afternoon. You are then free to explore the city, which is surprisingly chic and interesting. Dinner is in a local restaurant where your guide will choose specialities for you to try. You can choose your own wine this evening from some wonderful Georgian vineyards. Overnight in a hotel.

Day Eleven: Departure

You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home, which is likely to depart in the early hours.



Accommodation: Two nights in a hotel in Tbilisi.
Two nights in a guesthouse in Laliskhuri.
Three nights in a traditional village house in Gogrulta.
Three nights camping.
Minimum group size: 3
Maximum group size: 7
Ability description: You need to be an intermediate rider who is comfortable for long hours in the saddle and balanced during steep ascents/descents. The pace is not fast due to the terrain and pack horses, but there are occasional opportunities to trot/canter on some days. It is important to be fit as you have to dismount and lead your horse over tricky sections and for some long descents.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 5 days riding of 6-7 hours each day
Departure dates: 2017: 8-18 June (confirmed), 20-30 June, 11-21 September.
 
Pricing: 2017:

£1438 per person sharing

Single supplement for Tbilisi: £77 per night (two nights)

Additional hotel nights before/after ride (if you wish to extend your stay):
£77 per night SINGLE room; £95 per night TWIN/DOUBLE room




Wild Tusheti



Day One: Arrival in Tbilisi

You will be met on arrival at Tbilisi airport and transferred to your hotel. Flights usually arrive late/midnight so you may wish to add an extra day/night to recover.

Day Two: Tbilisi - Kakheti - Laliskhuri

You will be collected from your hotel at 10:30am and driven to the Kakheti region. This historical region contains some interesting sites which you can stop and view en-route. Firstly you visit Shumta - there is Old Shumta (three churches from the 6th and 7th century) and New Shumta (a church and nunnery from the 16th century with well preserved frescoes). You visit New Shumta only and then continue by road to Telavi which is the main city within the Kakheti region. Here you have c. 1 hour to walk around the colourful market or perhaps visit the fortress of King Erekle II.

After a picnic lunch you are transferred to Tsinandali where you visit a historic winery which once belonged to the 19th century aristocratic poet, linguist and wine-maker Alexander Chavchavadze (1786-1846). You visit both the beautiful house and the gardens.

Your next stop is Gremi - once the capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti in the 16th and 17th centuries and a lively trading town on the Silk Road, it was destroyed by Persian armies in 1615. The town never regained its prosperity and the kings transferred their capital to Telavi in the mid 17th century.

Eventually you reach Laliskhuri, a small village at the foot of the Caucasus mountains. Here you are welcomed by a Tush family and spend the night in their home. Before/after dinner you will re-pack your belongings into waterproof sacks which can be carried by the pack horses - your remaining luggage will stay here for safe-keeping until you return from your riding trail.

Day Three: Laliskhuri - Tusheti

After breakfast you set off in a 4WD vehicle into the Tusheti region but ascending the path which was carved into the rocks after the second world war. You drive over Abano Pass at 2,926m which marks the border between the Kakheti and Tusheti regions and offers  spectacular views across both. Eventually you reach Omalo, the main village with the Tusheti national park at 2,000m. Continue by road to Dotchu.

Your destination, Gogrulta, cannot be reached by car and so you meet the horses at Dotchu and unload the vehicles. After loading the horses and mounting, you descend into the valley and then ride steeply uphill to Gogrulta. The climb takes c. 30mins and the view from the top is spectacular. Your accommodation for the night is a typical village house which has few comforts but is very authentic.

Riding time: c. 40 mins. Walking time: c. 25 mins. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Four: Gogrulta

Your ride starts by descending for 40 mins before climb uphill to a beautiful crest from where you will get your first outstanding panoramic view of the region. Continue on foot for c. 1 hour downhill to cross the river and then ride back uphill through the lost villages of Tusheti until returning to Gogrulta for a second night.

Riding time: c. 6-7 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour 40 mins. One possibility to trot/canter.

Day Five: Gogrulta - Gometsari

Leave Gogrulta behind and ride up another crest from where you have great views. You spend the whole day riding on the roof of the Caucasian range at 3,000m (highest point being 3,200m). Your camp location is decided on the day, depending on local weather conditions but will be at an elevation of c. 2,500m.

Riding time: c. 6 hours. Walking time: c. 40 mins. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Six: Gometsari - Zovata

You start the day on foot, descending for c. 30 minutes. Continue riding through Gometsari valley and then cross another pass into Zovata valley. Today you will need to mount and dismount many times for some technical sections.

Riding time: c. 6 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour 30 mins. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Seven: Zovata - AZ Valley

Ride uphill more than 900m elevation to a pass which leads to the beautiful AZ valley. Ride alongside the river through some very wild landscapes. You may have to dismount a few times before reaching camp which is beside the river.

Riding time: c. 6-7 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Eight: AZ Valley - Saidumlo

Ride up a third pass, ascending 800m. Once at the top you walk down through some beautiful gorges before riding down into the valley and setting up camp near Saidumlo.

Riding time: c. 6 hours. Walking time: c. 1 hour. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Nine: Saidumlo - Pirikiti Valley

Ride to the Pirikiti valley which contains several Tush villages. The first inhabited one is Girevi. Visit Parsma and ride through Tchecho and set up camp between Parsma and Dartlo near the river. There are some difficult passages today, with some pathways carved into the rock alongside the ravine. You should have some previous mountain experience to complete this itinerary.

Riding time: c. 6-7 hours. Walking time: c. 50 mins. No possibility to trot/canter.

Day Ten: Pirikiti Valley - Omalo

Visit the village of Dartlo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ride up the Mirgvella pass to Omalo, arriving late in the day. You can visit the fortress and some other places of interest. Spend the night in a traditional Tush house in Omalo.

Riding time: c. 6-7 hours. Walking time: c. 20 mins. Some trot/canter possibilities.

Day Eleven: Omalo - Laliskhuri

Say your farewells before being transferred back downhill to Laliskhuri. You will welcome the shower and being reunited with your luggage and clean clothes!

If time allows you can visit the complex of Alaverdi - built on the site of Pagan worship, this cathedral was built in the 6th century and then re-built in the 11th century. It was the highest cathedral during the Soviet Union period and the architecture is typical of the region.

Dinner and overnight with the family in Laliskhuri again.

Day Twelve: Laliskhuri - Tbilisi

After breakfast you are driven back to Tbilisi, aiming to arrive in the early afternoon. You are then free to explore the city, which is surprisingly chic and interesting. Dinner is in a local restaurant where your guide will choose specialities for you to try. You can choose your own wine this evening from some wonderful Georgian vineyards. Overnight in a hotel.

Day Thirteen: Departure

You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home, which is likely to depart in the early hours.



Accommodation: Two nights in a hotel in Tbilisi
Two nights in a guesthouse in Laliskhuri
Two nights in a typical house in Gogrulta
One night in a traditional house in Omalo
Five nights camping
Minimum group size: 3
Maximum group size: 7
Ability description: You should be an intermediate rider who is balanced in the saddle and has some previous experience of riding in the mountains. There are some technical sections where paths are carved into rocks and you may need to mount/dismount many times. There are also sections of walking on foot each day so you need to be fit.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 7 riding days of c. 6-7 hours riding each day.
Departure dates: 2017: 2-14 July (confirmed), 16-28 July, 30 July-12 August (confirmed), 14-26 August (fully booked), 28 August-9 September.
 
Pricing: 2017:

£1864 per person sharing

Single supplement for Tbilisi: £77 per night (two nights)

Additional hotel nights before/after ride (if you wish to extend your stay):
£77 per night SINGLE room; £95 per night TWIN/DOUBLE room