Bike and Hike Georgia
Georgia is a slice of sumptuous beauty, sandwiched between Turkey and Russia on the coast of the Black Sea. We bike and hike the abundant geographical diversity of this country steeped in history as we adventure from the heart of wine country, past monasteries that have stood for centuries, to the alpine meadows of the Greater Caucasus mountain range.
Georgia has benefited from a fascinating cocktail of influences, from Persia to Central Asia, and the result is sublimely perched old churches, watchtowers and castles dotting its fantastic mountain scenery. Perhaps the greatest treasure is the Georgians themselves: warm, high-spirited, cultured and obsessively hospitable; real experts at enjoying life. With exceptionally strong traditions of hospitality, chivalry, and codes of personal honour they believe that guests are a blessing and that friendship is the highest of all the virtues.
Our bike and hike route takes us along the ancient Silk Road visiting the villages on the old east-west trade route. Once we have reached the foothills of Tusheti National Park the climbing begins as we cycle on dirt roads into the Caucasus mountains and over 2,850 m-high Abano Pass where we are gifted magnificent views of snow-capped peaks. A thrilling half-day downhill ride following the course of the Chagma River will bring us to the fortified village of Omalo. One more day of climbing and descending through the ancient cities of Dartlo and Girevi before we set aside the bikes and begin our two-day hike across the wilderness. Accompanied by horses to carry our gear, we’ll meet shepherds and their flocks, as we reach our goal, Atsunta Pass (3,431 m). From there we continue downhill to our campsite in the Khevsureti mountain region. We return to our bikes for two more days of riding and cycle to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shatili before our last climb over the Datvis Jvari Pass and a transfer to Tbilisi for a farewell dinner. All in all, an amazing adventure through the Caucasus mountains!
We will cycle 313 kilometres in 7 days of biking. We also hike for two full days. This is a tough trip due to the altitude and the terrain. We gain elevation slowly to ease acclimatising and never sleep higher than 3,000 m. Due to the remoteness of the terrain we’ll be camping for five nights. it is the combination of conditions – altitude, weather, topography and overall environment – that makes this a challenging trip.
Included in the price of the trip
3 night’s accommodation in Tbilisi
Airport transfer in Tbilisi
3 night’s Guesthouse accommodation
5 nights camping
Qualified Mountain Leader (Groups 10+)
Qualified local trekking guide/s with first aid training
Local support crew and porters
National Park Fees
Expedition transfers to starting point
Satellite telephone and VHF radio back up
All meals whilst trekking
English Speaking Guide
Not included in the price of the trip
Flights to and from Tbilisi
Additional excursions outside the itinerary
Personal spending money
Upon arrival in Tbilsi we transfer to our hotel and meet up in the evening for a welcome dinner and trip briefing.
Hotel Kopala Tbilisi. D
After breakfast your morning is free to relax and recover from any jet lag; maybe with a traditional sulphur bath and massage. We then meet in the afternoon after you have had lunch for a tour of the town. Tbilisi is one of the most ancient cities of the Caucasus and walking through the well preserved old town is a distinctive pleasure. We’ll tour the city on foot and visit the Metheki Church, Sioni Cathedral– and stroll along the charming Rustaveli Avenue. On a clear day it is possible to see the mighty peak of Mt. Kazbek jutting from the Greater Caucasus in the north. We take an evening drive to the beautiful ancient town of Mthskheta for a traditional Georgian welcome dinner on the banks of the Mtkvari River. Hotel Kopala Tbilisi. B L D
We leave Tbilisi after breakfast for a 90minute transfer to the town of Signaghi. Nestled on the Kiziki Gorge, this is one of the most beautiful towns in Georgia. Overlooking the Alazani Valley, Signaghi is a rare and beautiful example of a historic city which has maintained its style through the years; open balconies, unique fortresses, towers and churches plus a friendly population. From Signaghi we have classic views of the Caucasus mountains and the wine region of Kakheti, where the Alazani River flows into the Mingechauri reservoir near the Azeri border. We will have lunch at Pheasants Tears winery and after some delicious fare we’ll saddle-up for our first fantastic bike ride to Lagodekhi National Park. Nana’s Guesthouse. Ride 37 km. B L D
Today is a long day of cycling, but our route takes us through the beautiful landscapes of the Kakheti wine region. After a short transfer we cycle on quiet back roads and part of the route takes us on paths through the surrounding vineyards. We visit the 16th century Gremi Monastery as today we follow the old Silk Road and pass through the towns and villages that once were the main trading centres in Georgia. We push on enjoying the refreshing landscapes and reach our overnight destination Laliskuri, where we have a grand dinner accompanied by some local vino. Darejan’s Guesthouse. Ride 76 km. B L D
After an early morning breakfast, a short transfer takes us to the start point of our ride toward Tusheti National Park. Now is when the real mountain biking starts as our entire route uses dirt roads which take us up through the high ranges of the Caucasus mountains. Today’s ride is a testing one, we ride predominantly uphill and it will take us about 7- 8 hours to reach our campsite at the top of the Abano Pass (2,850 m).
Wilderness Camping. Ride 42 km. B L D
After breakfast we have the prize of fantastic downhill biking for the first half of the day. We ride a dirt road following the Chagma River before an 8 km steep uphill ride from Kumelaurta to the village of Omalo, the capital of the Tusheti mountain region (2,100 m). Our guesthouse is located below the Keselo Towers, an ancient defence which offered protection to the inhabitants of old Omalo from the invading Mongols and later Daghestani tribes, and we have option to hike up in the evening up to the Keselo towers.
Hotel Shina. Ride 40 km. B L D
A fantastic biking day is ahead of us, full of unique villages, beautiful scenery, testing uphills and thrilling downhill biking. From the village of Dartlo we follow the Pirikiti Alazani River until we reach our campsite in the village of Girevi. This is the place where we say goodbye to our bikes for the next two days as we start on our hike to the village of Mutso.
Wilderness Camping. Ride 38 km. B L D
Early morning, we will leave the campsite, load our gear onto pack horses and start our two-day hike that will take us up and over 3,431m Atsunta Pass. After Girevi we will hike through the ruined village of Chontio, the last village we see as beyond here we only encounter far-flung shepherd’s homes in the remote high Caucasus. We have a long eight hour day of hiking, but the journey is full of enjoyable moments and fantastic scenery. For those who need a few minutes off their feet, we have a couple of willing horses to carry you for a few kilometres.
Wilderness Camping. Hike 8 hours. B L D
After a breakfast of champions we pack up and leave the campsite early. Today we cross the Atsunta pass and if the weather allows we will be able to see the beautiful Mount Kazbegi in the distance. From here we continue downhill to the Khevsureti Mountain region. Hiking from our campsite to the top of the pass will take us about 3 hours, and from the pass it is another 3-4 hours of mostly downhill, but not very steep, walking.
Wilderness Camping. Hike 7 hours. B L D
This morning’s hike will be short, around an hour, down through a birch forest to the Khonischala area where we will meet our waiting bikes and we will be riding through the Khevsureti mountain region. We head to the village of Mutso and will have to walk to see the medieval fortified dwellings arranged on vertical terraces above the Mutso-Ardoti gorge. From there we ride to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shatili. The village is actually a complex of medieval-to-early modern fortresses and fortified dwellings which functioned both as a residence and a fortress guarding the northeastern outskirts of the country. Some 60 towers cluster together to create a single chain of fortifications. We overnight at a guesthouse in Shatili.
Shatili Guesthouse. Hike 1 hour. Ride 30 km. B L D
Today is our last mountain biking day. After breakfast we will start our ride towards the Datvis Jvari Pass (3,047 m). From the pass we have a fantastic descent through alpine meadows. Around 5 pm we will get in our minibus and transfer to our Tbilisi hotel where we will enjoy a farewell dinner on the Hotel Kopala terrace.
Hotel Kopala. Ride 50 km. B L D
Transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. B
The best times to visit Georgia is from May to September, when it is warm and sunny. July and August can be particularly hot and humid in many parts, and temperatures regularly reach 40°C, however, this is an excellent time to be in the mountains, where it is sunny and cool. This is also the peak season on the Black Sea. There is a surprising amount of rain year-round.
Wearing a helmet is required on all our biking adventures and is non-negotiable. If you do not wear a helmet you will not be allowed to cycle. Your tour leader is trained in first aid and emergency rescue, but to a large degree you must be responsible for your own safety while riding. It is therefore compulsory that you take out travel insurance that will cover you for a mountain biking tour.
We will be supported by vehicles for all but the two hiking days. It is very easy to get bikes on and off, so you can rest when you are tired and cycle whenever you feel like it. During the hiking days we will be supported by pack horses. The horses will carry the majority of your gear but we ask you to bring a day pack to carry your essential items.
You will be led by a local English-speaking guide and if the group is 9 people or more we will add another guide to the tour. All our guides are well informed in the history, culture and religions of the area where you are biking and are skilled at passing that knowledge on to you. Your guide is also medically trained and an experienced cyclist, able to handle most minor repairs en route.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
Citizens of EU countries, the US, Canada, Japan, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein do not need a visa to visit Georgia for up to 90 days. If you’re not from one of the above countries, you may obtain a visa from a Georgian embassy or consulate. The standard fee for a 90-day, single-entry ‘ordinary’ visa, which covers tourism, is 60 GEL or its equivalent. Adventurous Ewe is not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.
We insist that you have had the Tetanus jab and highly recommend vaccinations against Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Polio. You should always contact your GP or travel clinic for the most up-to-date information as world health situations do change.
This trip goes to high altitudes where there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Our itinerary is designed to enable you to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Whilst you may feel some initial effects of this you are unlikely to have any serious AMS issues. It is very important to drink plenty of water and maintain a good hydration level.
Meals are included as per the itinerary where B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner. Regardless of the reason for coming together, the Georgian table and its selection of dishes provides a fascinating insight into a unique culture. Georgian cuisine makes use of animal products in most dishes and is rich in herbs, spices, dairy products, and oils. Most key ingredients are easily recognizable but the methods of preparation, which are the time honoured secrets of the Georgian chef, lend a special taste and quality to each particular dish. There is no doubt that, regardless of your dietary preference, there is something to tantalize the taste buds. We shall make sure you sample as much local cuisine as possible. Any special dietary requirements can also be catered for as well, please let us know at the time of booking.
We recommend that you tuck away a few extra euros for possible incidentals that might arise. It is always wise to have some paper currency in case ATMs are out of order or credit card problems. This will save you a lot of unnecessary worries.
The currency of Georgia is the lari (GEL). One lari is made up of 100 tetri (still referred to by many people as kopecks!). ATMs, generally accept MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus and Maestro cards, are plentiful in cities and most towns. They all issue lari and a few will dispense US dollars as well. There are also plenty of small money-exchange offices in most towns and cities; they usually take US dollars, euros or Russian roubles. It’s useful to have some of these currencies in cash for times when there isn’t a convenient ATM nearby. You can make purchases with credit cards at the better hotels, restaurants and some shops in Tbilisi, but much less frequently outside the capital.
Because some people can’t imagine going on a trip without their own beloved bicycle, we do not provide them as part of this tour. However, you are able to hire bikes locally for the price listed on the front page of this document. The bikes are well-known makes of Mountain bikes with lightweight alloy frames, 24- to 27-speed gearing, v-brakes and Shimano components and front suspension. If you bring your own bike, please make sure it is a mountain bike, preferably with front suspension, and that it is in good mechanical order.
Basic spares and tools are carried by the guide and on the support vehicle, though we cannot guarantee having spares for every conceivable problem. Carrying a basic tool kit, a spare tube and a pump while riding is recommended.