We leave Tbilisi heading south-east via the Rustavi Soviet Industrial Zone for "Colourful” and "White" Deserts, full of medieval monasteries and caves. Afterwards we take dirt roads to the nearby medieval monastery of Davit Gareji - centre of series of monasteries that span 70 km across this beautiful, semi-desert landscape. The final destination will be the majestic fortress of Khornabuji - overlooking the Alazani Valley and the Great Caucasus Range - reached via backroads through pristine farmlands and pastures of the Iori Plateau.
Today we visit Vashlovani National Nature Reserve - one of the most unique, breathtaking and wild areas in Georgia. After exploring some sites and enjoying views over different parts of the reserve, we head towards the Mijniskure Camp Site. Surrounded with moonscape, deep wadis and the Alazani River, it is the easternmost point in Georgia, located right at the border with Azerbaijan, on a small and cozy cape. There we can fish, relax and enjoy quiet evening and a night sky unaffected with light pollution.
Leaving the Vashlovani Reserve we blast through Dedoplistskaro and other towns on the main tarmac road. After a short stop in a beautiful, small town of Sighnaghi for a quick lunch and finest local wine supplies, we drive to the region of Kvemo Kartli and reach the archaeological site of "Gadatchrili Gora" - the 8000 years old Neolithic settlement. We camp there and devour our wines right at the birthplace of it all – at the find-spot of the (so far) earliest winemaking evidence in the world.
Either via gravel/off roads through small villages, or via main road through Marneuli, we drive towards Bolnisi/Katerinenfeld, an old German colony-town. We continue our road towards Dmanisi (we pop in to see 1.8 million years old site of the earliest hominines outside Africa within a spectacular Medieval town of Dmanisi, then head towards Dmanisi Municipality center). Here we visit a few Late Bronze Age fortresses. After getting supplies in town we set up camp at the archeological site or further up the road towards Tsalka on a very spectacular Zurtaketi plateau, with some beautiful lakes, green lush meadows and the Middle Bronze Age burial mounds.
We drive up to the town of Tsalka via some cool, crazy roads. Driving through this area best demonstrates how quickly could landscapes change within relatively small areas. After leaving behind alpine plateaus, lakes and green meadows, we descend deep into the largest canyon in Georgia and then through dense forests via rugged roads we drive up again to a highland plateau. This former part of the historic "Silk Road’’ simply has it all - ancient ruins, bronze age fortresses and huge burial mounds, medieval cobble roads etc. With short stops here and there at some old Russian and German villages, we head towards Javakheti and drive up to the ancient megalithic fortresses of Shaori and Abuli, located on dormant volcanos over 2700 meters above sea level, overlooking the largest lake in Georgia, Faravani - undoubtedly a couple of the most mysterious sites in the Caucasus. At the end of the day we drive down to Saghamo Lake ("saghamo" means "evening" in Georgian; no wonder beautiful evenings can be witnessed there at the shores of this lake) and camp there.
Today we cross the Samsari Range west of the Faravani lake and drive across the Akhalkalaki Plateau heading straight to Vardzia - the XII century cave town, located down in the Mtkvari Valley. We are going to have a fantastic view from the edge of the plateau over the site. We descend into the Mtkvari Valley, wonder through the caves of Vardzia and after exploring the rest of the valley a bit more, we camp right at Vardzia, or stay at nearby hotel/cottages.
Today we cross into Imereti across the Zekari Pass. With trails through the peaks of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains this is again ideal ground for some beautiful off-roading. Through the Spa town of Sairme we cross into Kutaisi. Today we can opt for a nice hotel in Kutaisi to enjoy some urban off time.
We drive towards Samegrelo. A region with its own customs, traits and even a unique local language. The areas around Martvili and Baldi are full of waterfalls and crystal clear natural pools. Today we take it easy and enjoy these natural wonders. A visit to the Nokalakevi fortress is a tempting idea nonetheless.. We drive on towards the Black Sea for an camping night not to forget: Right at the Black Sea with the sun going down the horizon.
We take the twisty and lovely roads of Higher Samegrelo. Further up North we enter the mystical region of Svaneti. A region known for its distinct culture and independence throughout history. Even the Soviets could never fully exert their influence out here. The regions remoteness and aversion to authority of locals contributed a lot to that. This is why Svaneti still feels like a different world altogether. It also insured that the local customs and pagan traditions are still intact. We camp on high moutains tops overseeing all of the greater Caucasus. Views that will stay in ones memory for a long time.
Today a rough yet beautiful off-road is on the menu. We drive down from Ushguli, the highest permanently inhabited village of Europe into Racha. A calm and serene mountains region with great cuisine and amazing wine. The dirt road down is awe-inspiring. In Racha we camp close to one of the many lakes that the region is famous for.
We start with checking out the Mamisoni Pass overlooking Russia and North Ossetia. Afterwards we take the new road down to Imereti thorough Shkmeri. This brand-new road is a wonder and takes you down South in a beautiful way. We set up camp in Imereti down in the fresh woods to offer some cooling on the hot summer nights.
We bugger off back to Tbilisi via small roads through Tchiatura and Gomi. Along the banks of the Mktvari we reach Mtskheta, Georgia’s former capital. With the sun setting behind us Tbilisi is getting closer and closer..