Being hidden from curious eyes by the Caucasian Mountainsin the north and the Svaneti Mountains in the south, this land has managed to keep the beautiful nature and the way of people's life the same way it used to be seen by rare for these lands travellers hundreds of years ago.
Historically Svaneti is divided into the Upper Land and the Lower Land, and the Upper Svaneti in its turn is subdivided into the Eastern Part and the Western Part.
In the 17th century princes from an ancient Georgian kin of the Dadeshkelianes conquered and brought under their control the lands to the west of the Dorla river, and the valleys to the south-east of the Zagar Pass found themselves under the supervision of the Dadiani princes. And only the eastern part of the Upper Svaneti stayed independent and free. Since then the western part is called the Princes' Land, and the eastern part is called the Free Land. In the eastern Free Land there are still Svan watchtowers and medieval villages almost unchanged since those times.
Since ancient times there's a communal way of life in Svaneti. Machvshi – the leader of the community – was chosen at the communal meeting. It could be anyone who would be met with respect of the community for his intellect, honesty, justice and courage.
One of the most ancient communities of Svaneti is the Ushguli community. It is located in the eastern part of the valley and is guarded in the north and in the south by the uniting mountain chains of the Svanetia and the Grand Caucasian Mountain Ridges. There are several villages in this community but there are only a few dozens of families living there. These lands were made part of the World Heritage List of UNESCO for the incredible beauty of these places and the well preserved medieval architecture.
If one looks from the side of Mestia, the villages of Murkmeli and Chadtshashi will be the first to see. And on the left, behind the slope – there's Dshibiani and Chvibiani hiding. On the top of the neighbouring mountain there are remains of the Upper Chadshash Castle. According to the legend, there was the summer residence of Queen Tamara in the middle ages there.
The centre of Ushguli is Chadshashi village, the main stronghold of Upper Svaneti. The higher land above the village, with a lonely tower and a small church is the Lower Chadshash Castle. It is believed that the name Ushguli derives from two Georgian words: “ushishari” - fearless, bravery and “guli” - heart.
Since ancient times Svans have been considered to be the best hunters and valiant warriors, and the fame of their unprecedented courage and nobility has gone far and wide beyond Swaneti. In the Time of Troubles kings and princes of the neighbouring countries would seek refuge and keep their treasures and holy relics there feeling safe about them. The free spirit of local people has often been the cause of bloody wars, neighbours trying to conquer the community and put it under their supervision. Thus, in 1875 the tzarist government brought in their active forces because of the refusal to pay higher taxes. Native people took up a defensive position in the village of Halda. After a week's siege, the village was burned down and ruined and the rebels were killed. In 1929 an American traveller and amateur-photographer William Osgood Field visited Swaneti, and thanks to his photographs we know what these places looked like in those times.
Dear friends! It is going to be a wonderfully beautiful and impressive journey. During the ten days in Georgia and 7 days in Svaneti we will be able to have a good rest, staying in hospitable homes of local people, to try local Svaneti cuisine and to hear drinking toasts for your health which you will for sure feel like putting down or memorizing. There are legends made up about the hospitality of local people, but it's worth seeing with one's own eyes anyway. We're going to take a lot of pictures during this tour but our main aim is to learn about the unique way of life of local communities, their traditions and everyday life, medieval architecture. In every house we are going to stay at there's a small museum where Svans keep their household articles, and often their holy Christian relics some of which come from the 14-15 centuries. We're going to take long walks breathing healthy mountain air, enjoy wonderful Svan cuisine and… write down drinking toasts. How can one do without them?
We're going to travel to Svaneti during the time of magic. The Land of Brave Hearts is awakening from its winter sleep. So, shall we pack our things?
TYPE OF TOUR: Ethnographic expedition, studying authentic culture
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS: 12 AVAILABLE: 7
VISA TYPE: Georgia (if applicable)
TOTAL PRICE: USD1850 per person DEPOSIT: USD850 SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT: USD300
DIFFICULTY CATEGORY: there's no need for any special skills for this tour. Weather conditions are usually wonderful this time of year. Temperatures will probably range between 0 and 10 degrees Centigrade.
INCLUDED: Airport pickup and dropoff, dinner the first evening, breakfast, lunch and dinner on days 2-9, breakfast on day10, professional photography guidance by professional landscape photographer, staying during 6 nights in guest houses in Svaneti, 3 nights in a comfortable hotel at the center of Tbilisi, bottled water during the trip, all-wheel-drive off-road vehicle or minivan rent during relocations, petrol, instructions and help with landscape and panoramic photography, concert of local singers, all entrance fees to local museums, local English speaking guide at Tbilisi .
NOT INCLUDED: Airfare to and from Tbilisi Airport(TBS), Insurance. It is MANDATORY to insure yourself against physical injury, and highly recommended to insure your photo gear. Tour leaders will not be responsible in case of any personal injuries or damage to photographic gear as a result of an accident during the workshop. A good insurance policy can make a big difference should something happen, and ensure a safe return home, alcoholic drink, non-meal-time snacks, non-meal-time soft drinks, Georgia Visa fees (if applicable)
PHOTO CREDITS Vladimir Kushnarev
Free and easy
Day 2 – 15 Mar Road trip to Svanetia. It takes about 10 hours to get to Mestia Village (centre of Svanetia), check-in to hotel.(B/L/D)
Short walk around the village.(B/L/D)
Day 3 – 16 Mar Excursion to Svan-ethnographic museum.Transfer to Lakhiry Village, Old Svan towers and local village.
Lunch with a local family. Transfer to Zhabeshi Village, Check-in guesthouse (3-4 participants per room with shared bath and toilet)
Dinner at guesthouse.(B/L/D)
Day 4 – 17 Mar Transfer to Adishi Village, Visit Adishi village and ancient towers, Lunch with a local family, Transfer to Iprali, Visit Cathedral Kvirica and Ivlitha
Check-in at local guesthouse (this is a bigger guesthouse than at Zhabeshi village),Dinner at local guesthouse.(B/L/D)
Day 5 – 18 Mar Transfer to Ushguli Village. This is the most beautiful village in Svanetia, Visit to an ancient Monastery, Check-in to a comfortable guesthouse (Ushguli is a big village and has better guesthouse facilities).
Dinner at guesthouse. (B/L/D)
Day 6 – 19 Mar Walking around Ushguli village, Visiting the vantage points for landscape photos
Dinner at guesthouse (B/L/D)
Day 7 – 20 Mar Transfer to Mestia, Lunch with local family, Concert of local singers in traditional costumes at family house
Check-in at hotel at Mestia.(B/L/D)
Day 8 – 21 Mar Visit home-museum of the most famous Svan climbers- Khergainy
Transfer to Tbilisi, Lunch on the way, Check-in hotel in Tbilisi.(B/L/D)
Day 9 – 22 Mar Morning walkabout at Tbilisi city centre with local English speaking guide, Shopping for souvenirs
Farewell dinner at one of the best restaurants in Tbilisi.(B/L/D)
Day 10 – 23 Mar Check-out and transfer to airport (B//)
The full amount (after discounts if applicable) must be payed via wire transfer 90 days prior to the workshop starting date.
In the case you need to cancel your participation, a 67% refund (excluding deposit) will be given up to 60 days prior to the workshop starting date and a 33% refund up to 45 days prior to the workshop starting date.
We reserve the right to increase the price of the workshop if costs rise due to unexpected changes in fees, taxes or exchange rates.
Important: In order to join the workshop, you will be required to sign a contract that establishes that the tour leaders are not responsible to physical or proprietary damages, and that you understand and accept several behavioral standards (including not taking excessive risk), necessary to ensure the workshop's success and your safe return.
Whale sightings arean't guaranteed, but they are very likely.
Land Of Brave Hearts
Up the Inguri river, in the vast highlands, a wonderfully beautiful and historically rich magic land – Upper Svaneti – is scattered.
DURATION: 10 days
Day 1 – 14 Mar (D) Pick-up at Tbilisi International Airport, Check-in Hotel, dinner. (D)
In order to secure your spot, you are required to transfer a deposit of USD850. This deposit will be refunded only in case the workshop gets cancelled for some reason. For your comfort, the deposit can be payed either through PayPal or via bank transfer (contact us for details).
The tour plan above is subject to change. If weather conditions are unfavorable we might not be able to fulfil some of the planned activities.