The alternative road to Svaneti

Last night we took a dirt track into the village following some old touristic signs to find our place to camp. This morning we continued in the same direction to find that mysterious tower and spring. We were told it was only 20 minutes walking from where we camped. Luckily we took the car since it took us at least twenty minutes driving (40 minutes from the main road) before we finally discovered the tower and the spring.

This region looks very promising for hiking because of all the green scenery as far as the hills allowed us to look. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any useful information in our guidebook and we were lacking time to explore ourselves. So we visited the few places that were mentioned in our book. Barakoni church in Chesi and the village of Oni.

20km beyond Chesi lies Oni, at the junction of the routes to North and South Ossetia. Oni is a village that was the stronghold of the mountain jews for over 2000 years. However, only a few Jewish families are left in the village. Many houses still have metal Stars of David on the rooftops and integrated in the fences. We also visited the synagogue and the cemetery with a mixture of Georgian and Jewish grave marks.

One of the most known regions in Georgia is probably Svaneti. Land of the Svans hidden in the High Caucasus where traditions have been better preserved than elsewhere in Georgia. It’s known for its many cultural and religious festivals. My guidebook tells us it’s best reached from Zugdidi. “However there is also, a very poor (probably impassable) road from Kvemo Svaneti.” Since we were just in Kvemo Svaneti, we thought we would give it a try.

We were heading first to Lentekhi. Nothing but a village, but still it’s the capital of Lower Svaneti. It was also the last mentioned place in our guidebook about the road to Svaneti. From there, we would be totally on our own. We didn’t have any confirmation so far there even is a road to Svaneti from here.

We bought some supplies in a small shop in Orbeli just beyond the Lajanuri Reservoir. (One of the last shops on this road) The woman working there was so nice to make dumplings (from the freezer in the shop) for us.

The road surface changed, we were now driving on a gravel road on the flank of the hill overlooking the valley.

We passed the village Tsageri. The main street in Lentekhi is again Paved. But that’s all for paved road for the next 100km to Mestia.

In the beginning the road goes still through some small villages with just a handful of houses but soon we left all these behind us. Still not sure where we would end up with following this road. We were surprised when we suddenly saw a sign for a hotel. Just a little further a small village appeared on the left side of the river. We decided to check out the hotel so we crossed the small bridge at the end of the village.

We started to knock doors to find out what house was actually the hotel. It turned out to be a homestay. Three kids spend the summer in this village with their grandparents. The have a big house with a room for guests. We were surprised to hear the kids spoke very well English. It was nice to be able to communicate with them. When we finished talking, we moved to the kitchen where the grandmother had prepared some food for us.

We were starving of the long drive today so we ate quiet a lot. Tomorrow would be still a long drive and probably on an even more difficult road so after dinner we went to sleep.