Conserved by its geographical isolation, the mountain landscape of the Svaneti region is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval villages and tower houses. It contains several villages forming a community that are dominated by the towers and located on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The most notable feature of the settlements is the abundance of towers.
The village of Chazhashi in Ushguli community has preserved more than 200 churches, castles and medieval tower houses, which were used both as dwellings and as defense posts against the invaders who plagued the region. The land use and settlement structure reveal the continued dwelling and building traditions of local Svan people living in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. Architectural monuments of Upper Svaneti have been included in a list of UNESCO world heritage sites since 1996.
The magnificence of this enchanting region was the inspiration behind one of the magical places in Studio Ghibli’s world-famous anime, “Castle in the Sky”, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
The main regional center of Svaneti is Mestia, situated 1,500 meters above sea level. Since the tourism industry reached the region, this historical village became one of the main tourist attractions in Georgia. Today, it offers visitors not only ancient churches and towers, but also modern hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and other travel services. It basically became a base for exploring the region.
When traveling in Svaneti, tourists can visit:
Svaneti Historic and Ethnography Museum – founded in 1936. It houses historic artifacts from the Svaneti
region, including unique icons and engravings, a rich collection of manuscripts, medieval weaponry, iron, silver and copper ornaments, jewelry, pottery and a collection of textile items, ethnographic artifacts depicting ancient life in Svaneti and more.
House-museum of the famous alpinist – Michael Khergiani. The museum houses climbing equipment, clothing, photos, awards and gifts – including several musical records by Vladimir Vysotsky and the song that he dedicated to Khergiani.
Local house-museum of Margiani, where tourists can explore the old Svan house “Margianis Machubi” and its tower.
UNESCO world heritage site Ushguli – the highest settlement in Europe (2060-2200 meters above sea level), located at the bottom of mountain Shkhara, near the confluence of rivers Enguri and Shavtsqala-Kvishara.
Svaneti will not disappoint hiking lovers as well. Beautiful nature of the region creates stunning hiking paths all around Svaneti. The most popular day hikes around Mestia are to Chalaadi Glacier, located on the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, and to Koruldi Lakes, located at an altitude of 2740 meters, offering spectacular panoramic views and the reflection of magnificent Tetnuldi Mountains.
And the last, but not least thing to experience in Svaneti is local cuisine. The must-try dishes are Kubdari – meat bread full of local flavors, Tashmijabi – cheesy mashed potatoes and Svanetian Chvishtari – stretchy corn bread with melted local cheese inside.