Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia
Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia
Known as the most remote village in Georgia, Ushguli is located at an altitude of 2,100 meters, right at the foot of Shkhara, the highest summit in the Caucasus. The village was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the highest inhabited villages in all of Europe.
Getting to the village of Ushguli is a feat in itself. But once you get there, all the efforts are worth it since you will be rewarded with the most breathtaking views of nature. The village sits between two steep hills, with a river of crystal clear water on the side. It is surrounded by mossy stone houses and ancient stone towers that were built during the 9th and 12th centuries.
Brief Overview of the Community of Ushguli
The community of Ushguli comprises of four settlements dating back to the ancient times, in as early as 9th to 10th centuries. Surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers, Ushguli is, no doubt, one of the prettiest villages in Georgia. The landscape resembles that of a grandeur mountainscape painting.
About 70 families are residing in Ushguli or about 300 people. The village has one school, a few cafes and shops, and five different churches. For six months a year, the village is covered in snow, which is from November to April. During this time, the village is fully isolated from the outer world since the presence of snow will make it difficult to access the place.
Ushguli is part of the historic province of Svaneti. It has its own culture, tradition, and language, totally different from the rest of Georgia. Since ancient times, they make a living through hunting. Unlike the other mountain villages in Georgia, the Svans never ventured into farming or cultivating grape. Everyone here lives a modest and simple life.
What To See In Ushguli
Aside from the moss-covered houses with slate roofs, there are also medieval rock towers all over the village. The earliest structure dates back to 9th Century AD. It’s been said that every family in the village has a tower of its own. This serves as their hiding place whenever medieval invaders would attack.
There are also two museums in the village - the museum of icons and the ethnographic museum. Another attraction that’s worth checking out in Ushguli is the Lower Chazhash Castle, which was surrounded by several towers and ruins. The Upper Chazhash Castle is also worth a stop. According to legend, this castle used to be the dwelling place of Queen Tamara, a central figure in the history of Svans.
How To Visit Ushguli
The best way to reach Ushguli is through Mestia, a town in the northwest region of Georgia. From Tbilisi, Georgia’s Capital City, you can travel to Mestia by car. The journey is around 7 to 8 hours. It’s also possible to take the train or public bus. There are also a few local airlines that fly to Mestia coming from the various cities of Georgia.
From Mestia, getting to Ushguli will require taking the minibusses, which locals call the marshrutka. However, these buses don’t operate on a certain schedule. They just basically leave whenever they are full so it is best to get to the bus station as early as possible.
If you want a faster and more convenient way of getting to Ushguli from Mestia, consider hiring a taxi. There are hotels in Mestia that would arrange for a taxi to pick you up from your hotel and drive you to Ushguli. The driver will wait for you as you explore the village before driving you back to Mestia. It might be more expensive than taking public transportation, but it’s more convenient and can work best for those with a tight schedule.
Ushguli is a truly unique place to visit so you should include it in your itinerary when visiting Georgia. With its isolated location, this village is not like you’ve ever seen before. Furthermore, the community has managed to retain its cultural traditions, which makes it even interesting to explore.