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WHERE IS SVANETI?

Georgia is situated on the South slopes of the Greater Caucasus Range and Small (South) Caucasus Highland. The radially oriented Surami Range, dividing Georgia into two parts - East and West Georgia, connects these two mountain massifs. The highest and the roughest mountains of Caucasus are on Georgia's side of the range, stretched on the area of about 700 km. It's more than one third of the whole country's territory and its average elevation equals 3,520 meters.

The mountainous massif of Caucasus is stretched over 1,300 km from Taman peninsula to Apsheron. There are hundreds of snowy and icy peaks and passes on its main range and side branches. The fifteen of the mentioned peaks are higher than the highest peak of Alps - Mont Blanc (4810 m) and six of them are more than five thousand meters in height: Elbrus (5642 m.), Shkhara (5068 m.), Distau (5200 m.), Jangha (5059 m.) Mkinvartsveri (5033 m.) and Koshtantau (5152 m.)

The central, 125 km part of the West Caucasus, starting from Kodori range and ending at the Pasi Mountain, is called Svanetian Caucasus. Svaneti, which is the highest region in Georgia settled by people, is located on its South slopes. Svaneti includes gorges of the rivers Inguri and Tskhenistsqali from their midstream to the headwaters. Zemo (or upper) Svaneti is presented by the district of Mestia, which is a small town and the administrative centre giving the name to the district; Kvemo (or lower) Svaneti is likewise presented by the administrative district of Lentekhi.

Svaneti harbours the major Caucasus peaks and the largest glaciers, the total area of which equals 300 sq. km. They hang over the Caucasus Mountains like an icy crown. The most important mountains are Tsurungala (4220 metres above the sea level), Ailama (4550 m.), Shkhara (5068 m.), Jangha (5060 m.), Gestola (4860 m.), Tikhtingen (4620 m.), Tetnuldi (4860 m.), Mazeri (4010 m.) and Chatini (4370 m.) that are neighboured by a well-known steep rock massif of twin-headed Ushba (4700 m.). Ushba is a paragon of a natural beauty and complexity among the Caucasus Mountains, similar to Matterhorn (4478 m.) in Alps.

The average absolute elevation of the Caucasus ridge is up to 4125 m. The maximum altitude is 5068 m. (Shkhara), and minimum altitude is 3168 m. (Donghuzoruni pass). There are some twenty passes of different complexity in this area of Caucasus that are directed towards the North side - the territory of Russian Federation. The height of the passes varies from 3160 meters to 3860 meters above the sea level. Some of the paths are good for pack animal hiking: horses or mules, but most of them could only be used on foot, yet, there are the paths that could be surmounted only by the mountaineers and alpinists.

The highest among the branches of the South Caucasus is the Svaneti range (with the highest peak of Lahili - 4010 m.) that is a watershed between the rivers Inguri and Tskhenistsqali. It is 120 km. long and approximately 2630 meters above sea level.




Shkhara (5068m)


Shkhara Glacier


Tetnuldi (4860m)


Tetnuldi (Adishi) Glacier


Ushba (4700m) view from the south
(V.Naveriani's photo)


Ushba view from the west
(G.Tikanadze's photo)


Shikhra Valley, Dolora river gorge


Svaneti Range (4010m) view from Tchokhuldi village

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