Ushguli: the highest mountain community in Europe

Ushguli: the highest mountain community in Europe 7 July 2018

The stone towers of Ushguli, the most remote community of Svaneti, rise above 2000 meters high. Unlike the lively Mestia, there are not so many tourists here, and you can experience the greatness of the mountains that surround the villages and inimitable Svan color. This community includes such villages as Murkmeli (it is almost uninhibited now due to avalanches), Zhibiani, Chvibiani and Chazhashi – there is something to see in every single village!

Ushguli Ushguli

Ushguli - the highest inhabited village in Europe. Caucasus, Upper Svaneti - UNESCO World Heritage S by Milosz Maslanka on 500px.com

What is Ushguli famous for?

Both Upper Svaneti in general, and Ushguli are included in the UNESCO heritage list – the beauty of the local territories was officially recognized as the heritage of the humanity! Here you will find a striking combination of pristine natural beauty and ancient architecture, which has no analogs anywhere. This is also the ancient men monastery of Lamaria, built at the very foot of the mountains – the Svans believe that Queen Tamara is buried under the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Virgin. And the memorial of WWll, occupying one of the towers of the Lower Castle of Chvibiani village, - the hill, where the monument is erected, offers the best panoramas of Ushguli. And the highest point of Georgia is Mount Shkhara, the peak of which is hidden under a layer of snow and clouds even in summer, and the slopes are covered with ancient glaciers (you can walk to one of them using a popular trekking-route).

In clear weather, another legendary peak can be seen from Ushguli – the “damned” Ushba mountain.

What must be done in Ushguli and the surrounding area?

  • Count all the old towers – “branded” defensive structures that were used by the Svans both as shelter and as guarded posts. The “youngest” of them has turned 700 years old! Secretly, we say that most of these towers were preserved in the village of Chazhashi. You can also find ancient castles there – one of them (the Upper Chazhash Castle), according to the legend, was used as the summer residence of Queen Tamara.
  • Celebrate Kvirikoba – the main religious holiday for the Svans. Everyone gathers on July 28, in the village of Kala, in the church of Kvirike and Ivlita (Lagurka, as the locals call it). This is one of the most ancient temples in Svaneti – the walls inside still have unique frescoes of the XII century, and also the icon of Shaliani. In the old days, all important political decisions were made in front of this icon: it was believed that the icon does not allow you to lie and violate the oath.
  • Visit the ethnographic museum of Ushguli and look at old pieces of furniture, dishes and the other household utensils. In fact, you will find yourself in a real Svan house.
  • Try the apple vodka – the locals prefer strong drinks due to the fact that there are no vineyards in Svaneti. However, they use not only apples – it is also possible to find vodka from tkemali, pears, wheat and even elder on sale.
Ushguli GEO_528

When is it worth to go to Ushguli?

The best time for your trip is summer and September, the warmest period in Svaneti. Really, there’s no such thing as enervating heat here – even in the driest August the temperature in Ushguli does not rise above 18-20 °С. As early as the end of September, it starts to snow, and it lasts until April. But few people will risk to go to Ushguli in winter – snow-covered passes and mountains look spectacular, but because of the avalanches, the trails can simply be closed, leaving the community in complete isolation for several weeks.

Ushguli is the “wild” Svaneti as it is. You can hardly find refined tourist routes here, but the medieval architecture is preserved. You will not be greeted with a sumptuous meal with shish kebabs, wine and fruits from Pirosmani’s paintings here – the harsh climate makes the Svan cuisine much more reserved. Many people just do not get here – Ushguli is too far from the “civilization”. But it was thanks to its isolation from the rest of Georgia that this small Svan community cherished the traditions and spirit of proud ancestors.

Ushguli Ushguli Shkhara (2) Ushguli Svaneti - Ushguli Church of the Lamaria. Ushguli (Svaneti, Georgia) Village Murkmeli, Ushguli Community, Georgia

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