If I was thinking about where to go for the next dose of adventure, be it trekking or mountaineering, skiing or mountain biking, or other outdoor pursuits, I really ought to think about Georgia. The country unfortunately saw serious tensions boil-over not so many years back, into the Russo-Georgian War, but the fighting of 2008, has been left behind and Georgia is looking set to develop into a playground for the adventurous.
Shannon O’Donnell’s message about Tbilisi last month spoke of a charming country, of beautiful endlessly explorable landscapes, fantasy architecture, great food and wine, and Nataly too, spoke of the warmth of the people, the atmosphere, and again about the cuisine. For me these are all great “to have” extras, but I want something different.
Adventure and Excitement
Georgia maybe one of eastern Europe’s most overlooked destinations, and not to everyone’s taste. I see it as a great place for adventure, amongst other things. However, if you are playing hard in the mountains the level of emergency response maybe scant, so prepare wisely. Accurate information about conditions on the mountains can be difficult to obtain. Seriously consider using specialist guides to help you get the most from any, more ambitious ideas. Look carefully at propositions, as companies might have dubious safety standards.
Some useful information, particularly about the mountains and about what to expect if Trekking or Mountaineering in Georgia can be found here on SummitPost
If trekking is your thing, touting themselves as specialist guides covering the Svaneti region is SvanetiTrekking. They offer a number of single day guided treks, and horse riding. They include a number of english speaking guides, and seem to be an group of families functioning in the tourism industry that are working towards higher standards, in cooperation with the Georgian Union of Mountain Activists (GUMA) and the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC)
If you want something with more duration, than the Svaneti guides are offering, you could do worse than taking a look at Caucasus Travel they have a “Hidden trails of Georgia” trek over 14 days, although it looks like it is more of a series of linked micro treks.
ClimbingGeorgia.com are another option, offering an immersive trekking experience, where overnight accommodation ranges from tents on the trail as the norm, to overnight stays in the traditional tower houses. Treks are 10 days plus and focussed on a number of locations Tusheti, Khevsureti, khevi, and again Svaneti.
If you want something more challenging, such as mountaineering, be sure to check out Climbing Georgia who I already mentioned. I can’t endorse them personally; you need to do your own due diligence, but Montem Adventure Productions had a great experience with them on Mount Kazbek
For skiing a couple of resorts to check out would be Gudauri and Bakuriani, the former in the Greater Caucasus and the latter the Lesser Caucasus. Climbing Georgia are not just into climbing; Ski-touring and Heli-skiing is also available from them.
What could it be like on an epic trail ride across Georgia?
Watch this: surely one of the best mountain bike trail videos I have seen, and man does it inspire you to want to make Georgia the next destination.
So if you want to do the mountain biking thing: check out Georiders who describe themselves as enabling of “off the beaten track” exploration amidst the beauty of Georgia. Georiders are operating in Svaneti, Tusheti and Gudauri and trips of between 3 and 6 days include transfer to the particular mountain. Take your own bike, or hire in Tbilisi.
What else is there?
Rafting from Jomardi Adventure club, who describe themselves as the pioneers of rafting in Georgia, since 2003. There is also paragliding, year round in Gudauri, Ananuri, and Kazbegi from Fly Caucasus. Balloon flights which Sky Travel in the Alazani Valley. Well I am sure I have only just begun to scratch the surface.
Keeping Safe in Georgia
The UK Govenment travel advice says effectively that Georgia has a green light, over most of its territory now. But South Ossetia and Abkhazia are two definite no-go zones.
Take care in Tbilisi in areas frequented by foreigners: Vake, Saburtalo and the bar area in Akhvlediani Street (Perovskaya) near Republic Square amongst others.
If you take a look in the entry requirements section on the UK Gov site, you might note that there are precautions you need to take, if you are carrying prescription medicines into the country, the consequence of failing to do so could potential mean criminal proceedings against you.
Medical facilities in Tbilisi are available but can be expensive, outside facilities are limited. Obviously then adequate travel health insurance and funds to cover the worst scenarios are something you need to treat seriously.
Poisonous snakes are common, particularly in early summer. Tap water is definitely not for drinking.
A last note on Getting around
The rail network is limited but will get you from Rustavi, via Tbilisi to Batumi economically, although take care, and lock your compartment.