Walkers, climbers, horse-riders and birdwatchers will be in heaven in Georgia. There are also opportunities for skiing, mountain
biking and rafting. The Caucasus mountains stretched along Georgia’s northern border provide a vast playground for anyone looking for active travels.
The outstanding hiking regions are Svaneti, Tusheti and the Kazbegi area in the Caucasus, and the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park in Samtskhe-Javakheti. There are also good walks around Bakuriani in the hills near Borjomi, and a fascinating new network of trails has been developed in the upper Mtkvari valley near Vardzia, south of Borjomi. On many routes it’s fine to go without a guide, though guides are available almost everywhere and recommended for some of the more difficult and remote routes.
Serious trekkers will want to do part or all of the route between Kazbegi and Tusheti via the little-known region of Khevsureti. Many walking routes can be done on horseback too, and horses can be rented in many of the same areas.
Give dogs a wide berth everywhere: Georgian mountain dogs are bred for fending off wolves. Peter Nasmyth’s Walking in the Caucasus – Georgia is an excellent guide to over 40 day routes all around the country. Under Eagles’ Wings by Katharina Häberli and Andrew Harker covers mountain, horseback and ski touring routes as well as hikes. The Georgian Speleologists Union (www.speleo.ge) has a useful website with interactive maps describing walking and horse-riding routes around the country.
The 5047m Mt Kazbek, near Kazbegi, is a classic adventure for climbers, and not too technical. Mt Chaukhi, east of Kazbegi, also presents many exciting routes. Svaneti is another great mountaineering area: twin-peaked Mt Ushba here is the country’s hardest climb – potentially dangerous and only for very serious alpinists.
Georgia has two popular ski resorts, with prices much lower than their European counterparts. Bakuriani is Georgia’s favourite ‘family skiing’ destination, while Gudauri, in the high Caucasus, offers longer runs, more developed facilities and the exciting possibility of heliskiing.
Bird-watchers have a huge variety of habitats to head for, from the wetlands of Kolkheti National Park or the mountains of the Caucasus, with their eagles and vultures, to the semi-desert terrain around Davit Gareja. Excellent resources include Caucasus Birding (www.birding-georgia.com) and Lexo Gavashelishvili’s Birdwatching Guide to Georgia, Raptors & Owls of Georgia and Vultures of Georgia.
Rafting is growing in popularity on rivers such as the Pshavis Aragvi , Tetri Aragvi, Mtkvari and Rioni. A day’s outing from Tbilisi can cost as little as US$20 per person. Two recommended rafting outfits are Georgian Adventures and Tours (www.geoadventures.ge) and Jomardi Club (www.joma rdi.ge).