Welcome to Ushguli! This ancient village of some 50 families and nearly as many huge stone watchtowers is the highest continuously inhabited point in Europe at c. 2200 m altitude. It is located in the province of Svaneti, Republic of Georgia, Caucasus region (see map, roughly 43 degrees latitude and longitude). There are two roads to Ushguli, via Zugdidi and Mestia (generally open all the time) and via Kutaisi and Lentekhi (generally open late June-late October). The village is a famous stop on the Georgian tourist routes, and has much to offer. It has four hamlets: from top to bottom, Zhibiani, Chvibiani, Chazhashi and Murqmeli. The name of the village comes from the Georgian words for "fearless heart". Lileo is the home of Dato and Nanuli Ratiani and their family, and it has been active as a guesthouse since 1996, in Zhibiani hamlet. It has space for up to 20 guests in its many comfortable rooms, year round; full board - three meals including delicious Svan food - is included in the daily tariff, and vegetarian meals are possible by prior arrangement. Dato can also drive guests between the village and Mestia (45 km away) or Lentekhi (80 km away). The guestbook reveals visitors from the whole world. Ushguli offers much for the adventuresome tourist. Walking in, around and high above the village, as far away as Mt Shkhara, 7 km away and the source of the Enguri River; walking visits to the two museums, any of a number of watchtowers, seven ancient Orthodox churches and Queen Tamar's Tower fortress overlooking the village; drives or horseback rides with a guide from Dato's family - all are possible. There are quite a few festivals and other special events during the year, some of which correspond to the Orthodox Church calendar and all of which reveal much of the culture of the Svans.Come discover an ancient people and their traditions in the magnificent setting of the high Caucasus mountains. A warm welcome anytime!
Aside from what you would normally bring on a trip to high mountains, rubber boots are indispensable for getting around in Ushguli itself, as this is a free-range farming village. Also, when walking, a stout stick is useful - the large local Caucasus Shepherd dogs are guards, and can be fierce, although this writer has never had or even heard of a biting incident on his many visits.
Ushguli Calendar of Events
Jan. 1 - New Year (Akhali Tseli, western calendar) Jan. 7 - Christmas (Shoba, Orthodox calendar) Jan. 13-14 - New Year (Akhali Tseli, Orthodox calendar) Feb. 15 - Limpari (Festival of Lamps, traditional Svan bonfire event) February - St. Barbara's Day (Barbaroba, date related to Orthodox Easter) Lirhi ("Vigil", traditional Svan snow-tower event, Saturday 7 weeks before Orthodox Easter) Easter and Ascension (Orthodox calendar, spring, dates variable) May 6 - St George's Day (Giorgoba) Jul. 12 - Petre-Pavloba (Sts Peter and Paul Day) 1st week of August (though not every year) - Ushguloba ("Ushguli Festival", traditional Svan village festival) Aug. 28 - Maryamoba (St Mary's Day) Nov. 23 - St George's Day 2nd (Giorgoba) Dec. 31 - New Year's Eve (Akhali Tseli, western calendar)
Dato and his wife, Nanuli; Dato's mother, Tsiala, and sisters Nona and Nana; and their four teenage children in Ushguli, Lika, Anzor, Lana and Lile, who are now at a beginner level of English study.
Bookings: You can make arrangements either directly with Dato (in Georgian or Russian: tel. +995 (8)99 912256, email firstname.lastname@example.org) or through a tour company (see Links).