"My home is my fortress" - difficult to imagine any place where this saying comes as close to reality as it does in the Svaneti - in a land of fortified houses of highland warriors. The unconquered land of Svan people, defenders of high mountain passes of the Caucasus, is a must-see destination in Georgia. Stretching back over many centuries, Svans have built their tower homes for their personal as well as their family treasuries defense. The combination of the remoteness of high, snow-capped mountains, ancient culture, unique architecture and welcoming local people makes Svaneti a photographer’s paradise. Surrounded by the highest and majestic peaks in Europe: Elbrus (5.642m), Shkhara (5.200m), Tetnuldi (4.858m), Gistola (4.860m) and Ushba (4.710m) – gives the feeling that the sky is within reach of your hand, so close that you can actually touch the stars, or in our case photograph.
Thomas van Hemert, a Dutch photographer with more than 20 years of experience in photography, will run the tour personally. Years of living in Georgia and exploring Svaneti, have given him an intimate working knowledge of the landscapes, the light, the unique photo spots, and of the local people. Thomas guides you on an adventurous journey through the region’s different eras, architectural influences and geographic features. On locations, working alongside with you and inspiring you, he offers technical advice and practical help that will leave you with both great photos, a deeper understanding of Svaneti and unforgettable memories.
: Tbilisi – Zugdidi – Etseri
Take a morning train from Tbilisi
(08:10 – 13:50). Meet your guide on arrival at Zugdidi train station. From Zugdidi, you will take a scenic mountain road that connects Svaneti with the lower land. The road itself has a lot of spectacular views and numerous photo spots to offer. You will arrive before the dark and immediately seize the opportunity to take photos during the sunset. Overnight in a guesthouse in Etseri.
Driving distance: 110 km (3 hours), walking distance: 2 km.
: Etseri – Lakhushdi
In the morning you will explore Etseri, which is a collection of three villages with various Svan towers
, Medieval architecture, authentic village life and impressive mountain views. Afterwards, the jeep will take you to Lakhushdi. You will hike to the ruins of the forgotten city of Sgobuli and experience village life in Lakkushdi. The garden of your accommodation offers imposing views on mount Ushba, Mount Laila and the surrounding hills, perfect for photography. Overnight in a guesthouse in Lakhushdi.
Driving distance: 16 km (1,5 hours), walking distance: 7 km.
: Lakhushdi – Mestia
For the earlier riser, there is a beautiful sunrise visible from the garden. After breakfast, you will drive to the Becho Valley and visit the Shdugra Waterfall. Continue to Mestia
and visit the Chalaadi Glacier. A short hike will take you to the tongue of this huge valley glacier. In the evening, you will visit a high panoramic viewpoint above Mestia. Overnight in a guesthouse in Mestia.
Driving distance: 43 km (1,5 hours), walking distance: 8 km.
Very early in the morning, drive up to the impressive Koruldi alpine lakes at an altitude of 2.740 meters. You will spend the whole morning photographing the surrounding landscapes. In the midday, there is free time and you might want to explore Mestia, relax at the guesthouse, visit the Ethnographic Museum
or enjoy a drink in one of the local cafes. In the evening, you will visit another high panoramic viewpoint above Mestia. Overnight in a guesthouse in Mestia.
Driving distance: 25 km, (1,5 hours) walking distance: 5 km.
Continue the way in the direction of Ushguli
, the highest inhabited village in Europe. On the road, you will have several photographic detours. One of which will be the Tetnuldi Plateau – definitely one of the highlights. From there, at an altitude of 3.165 meters, you will have a stunning view of all the high peaks and populated valleys far below. In Ushguli you will visit the Shkhara Glacier and have a photo walk through the many narrow streets of Ushguli. After dinner, capture the sunset and appearing stars from the street of the village. Overnight in a guesthouse in Ushguli.
Driving distance: 52 km (2,5 hours), walking distance: 6 km.
: Ushguli – Kutaisi/Ambrolauri
You will leave Svaneti and go to lower lands taking an alternative road early in the morning. You will take an off-road that leads to the Zagaro Pass, at an altitude of 2,620 meters, through the wild nature of the High Caucasus, where hardly any people live or come to visit. Afterwards, we continue driving to Kutaisi
. End of the tour.
Alternatively, you can take a flight from Ambrolauri to Tbilisi.
Overnight in a guesthouse/hotel Kutaisi or Ambrolauri.
Driving distance: 163 km (6,5 hours) (to Kutaisi), walking distance: 2 km.
Morning transfer will be offered if you would like to return to Tbilisi.
Driving distance: 230 km (3,5 hours) (to Tbilisi).
1. All transfers on 4WD;
2. Accommodation (5 nights) in local guesthouses based on twin room sharing, breakfasts included;
3. Professional assistance of photography guide;
4. Lunches and dinners;
5. Ticket on train Tbilisi-Zugdidi;
6. Mineral water.