When to Hike
The hiking season in Upper Svaneti generally lasts from July through September (sometimes mid-October). Because of the altitude of the passes and the high levels of precipitation in the Western Caucasus, the trail does not become completely snow-free until July. Hiking in mid-June can be possible, although you are likely to need to navigate some lingering snow on the higher passes.
Mountain weather is unpredictable, and forecasts change constantly. Be sure to check the forecast before you depart on your hike each day and always be prepared for inclement weather.
Getting To & From The Trailheads
The TCT is accessible from numerous villages along the trail. The most direct way is to get a marshrutka in Zugdidi that is headed to Mestia and, if planning to begin between Chuberi and Mestia, get dropped off at the closest spot to the part of the trail you wish to hike. You will have to walk from the main road to the trail, but it is usually only a few kilometers. See each section’s individual trail notes for more specific information.
Where To Stay
Guesthouses are frequent along this route, particularly between Mestia and Ushguli. TCT Trail Passports, which will be available in Tbilisi and Mestia in 2024, provide discounts on a range of partner guesthouses across the region.
Wild camping is also a popular option, and camping spots are plentiful and easy to find. Due to the increasing popularity of the trail, we ask that you choose your campsites carefully to minimize impact, and be sure to leave no trace.
Gas canisters for camping stoves are available at several souvenir shops in Mestia, but if you begin your hike from another point on the trail, make sure to bring one from Tbilisi. You can use a multi-fuel or alcohol-burning stove, which are generally easier to resupply in the Caucasus, although you must still plan ahead as you will go several days in between pharmacies and gas stations.
Carrying more than 2 days’ worth of food is unnecessary for this section, as you will pass many towns and villages along this section, many of which have small markets. These local markets do not carry a wide variety of food and other products, but you can buy basic staples. Some guesthouses along the way also sell food (like khatchapuri, Georgia’s widely-beloved cheese bread) you can take with you. You can stock up properly at one of the many bigger chain stores in Mestia.
As in many parts of the Caucasus, you can find some springs along the route, and water that is piped into villages is safe to drink. Other water sources along the route, such as rivers and streams, should generally be filtered due to the presence of livestock in the region. Carrying a water filter is recommended.
Health & Communication
The Georgian Emergency Services phone number is 112.
The nearest hospital is in Mestia, but its services are severely limited. Larger hospitals are located in Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
Aversi is one of the pharmacies in Mestia, and you can find most medicines and basic medical supplies in this chain store.
This section has pretty good cellphone service, particularly for Magti subscribers. Guesthouses may or may not have wifi, so relying on that for internet connection is not recommended.
Aggressive dogs can be by far the biggest animal threat to TCT hikers. Many villagers keep guard dogs for security and train them to bark at potential intruders, but thankfully, such dogs are territorial and will rarely stray beyond their property boundaries. Beyond the villages and farms, dogs often accompany livestock herds as protection from predators, and you should monitor their behavior closely. If they show aggression, it means they consider your presence a threat to their herds. If you proceed calmly without sudden movements, they will usually back off once you are far enough from the herd.
While the sight and sound of one or more barking dogs running towards you can be frightening, the correct course of action is to stand your ground and wait for the herder (who will usually be nearby) to call them off. Shout forcefully and throw stones or wave your trekking poles if you need to assert dominance. Do not run away, as this will trigger the dog’s instinct to chase.
To avoid these encounters in the first place, try to skirt around grazing herds at a wide distance, or, if there are farmers around, to seek out them as quickly as possible and approach with a friendly greeting.
We also recommend a precautionary rabies vaccination, remembering that this does not make you immune to the disease but does give you more time to receive treatment.
Keep an eye out for giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), a relative of cow parsley, whose stem juices rid your skin of its ability to protect itself from sunlight, resulting in severe burns on exposed skin and potential blindness if it gets in your eyes. Learn to identify this plant and either avoid it or move gently through patches to avoid breaking the stalk and releasing the juice inside. If you get hogweed juice on you, wash your skin as soon as possible and cover it from the sunlight.
Storms in the Caucasus can be sudden and extremely intense, with lots of lightning and often hail. You should be familiar with best practices for choosing a campsite to minimize the risk of a lightning strike, stay attuned to the weather while hiking, be prepared to get to a lower elevation or to shelter if necessary, and be familiar with first aid practices for treating lightning-related injuries.
In midsummer, the heat can be intense. Make sure to carry plenty of water. Shifting your schedule to compensate, such as starting very early in the day and resting in the afternoon, is a good way to avoid the worst of the heat. Make sure you are familiar with the symptoms, prevention strategies, and treatment for dehydration and heat stroke.
Extending Your Stay: Nearby Areas Worth Visiting
To download the GPX tracks and waypoints from CalTopo, click “Export” in the top left corner. Then select the relevant sections and export in GPX or KML format.
Partners & Sponsors
This section of the Transcaucasian Trail was first developed between 2016–2017 with the support and hard work of volunteers from around the world.
The trail has been maintained by the Transcaucasian Trail NGO of Georgia with the support of the Transcaucasian Trail Association, the U.S. Embassy Democracy Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, and dozens of volunteers.
To become a TCTA member and support more trail development projects like this one, join here.