kwadrat pankisi 2

Ancient Shepherding Trail

Georgia

1090 

An extraordinary, semi-wild expedition through the Caucasus lies ahead of us! We set out from the Pankisi Gorge to ride into the majestic Caucasus, cross mountains, camp under the stars and reach beautiful Tusheti. The trail follows shepherding paths used already in ancient times to drive flocks between Winter pastures in the lowlands and Summer ones high in the mountains. Today, those trails are almost forgotten, but sometimes shepherds still walk those secluded paths with their flocks and brave horse riders follow in their footsteps. Our guides and horsemen are Kists from Pankisi, who also host us in the lowlands, and Tushetian highlanders, our great friends up in the Caucasus. There has never been an adventure like this before!

  • Days overall
    10 days
    Days in saddle
    7
  • Group size
    10
    Available
  • Standard
    no limit, on horses:
    Luggage
    no limit, on horses: 12 kg
    Food
    local cuisine, vegetarian available
  • Skills
    walk, trot, canter

Once upon a time, today’s Georgia was divided into two lands: the famous Colchis, known from the myth of the Argonauts, and Iberia, the land of warriors defending Asia Minor against the Scythians. Both kingdoms nestled at the feet of the majestic Greater Caucasus. Mountain slopes and valleys cut off from the world were hidden from the eyes of the kings and chroniclers of that time. As a result, the Caucasus and its inhabitants became the stuff of legends. Some claimed that the labyrinth of valleys was inhabited by Sarmatians, others pointed to the Didoi peoples. There is also a map according to which it was the homeland of the heroic Amazons…

Today we know that the ancient Caucasus was inhabited by numerous ethnic groups. The oldest documented habitat was located at the sources of the life-giving Alazani River. Although the former inhabitants left no material legacy, we will follow in their ghostly footsteps, enjoy the same views, traverse the same passes and camp under the starry sky the same way they did and sometimes still do.

We start the adventure in the Pankisi Gorge, located at the foothills of the Caucasus. Today, Kists, i.e. Georgian Chechens, live here. They moved to this region at the beginning of the 19th century, and soon after, along with Georgian citizenship, they also adopted Georgian surnames and settled in their new homeland for good. The Kists are Muslims practicing Sufism, with the influence of animist beliefs typical of the entire region. Currently, their population is estimated at 5 to 7 thousand people.

We will ride in Pankisi for two days to explore the region before we start our journey through monumental Caucasus mountains. We will spend three days and three nights far from any human settlements. We will only rely on ourselves, our horses and the supplies we take with us. But don’t worry, our guides know what they are doing 🙂 Everything we need will be carried by our pack horses. Like historical explorers, we will wander through places untouched by progress and civilization.

The last part of the journey is Tusheti, the magical land of Georgian highlanders, where we have felt at home for years. We will be welcomed by old friends there, who will host us while we ride to Omalo, the target destination of our trail.

What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
  • 2 nights at a hotel in Tbilisi Tbilisi
  • 4 nights at guesthouses in Pankisi and Tusheti
  • 3 nights tenting in the mountains
  • Breakfasts in Tbilisi
  • Full board in Pankisi and Tusheti (brakfasts, lunches “to go”, dinners)
  • Full supplies for the crossing through the mountains, from which the group prepares meals together
  • Transfers to and from Tbilisi airport (on first and last days of the tour)
  • Transport from Tbilisi to Pankisi and from Tusheti to Tbilisi
  • Horsemen and guides during the entire ride
  • English-speaking pilot/guide during the entire tour
  • Horse with full tack and equipment
  • Pack horses
  • Tents and sleeping mats
  • Tourist insurance covering high-risk sports
What is not included in this tour?Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
  • Flight tickets to and from Georgia
  • In Tbilisi: two dinners – on the first and last nights
  • Minor personal expenses (souvenirs, additional snacks, admission tickets, etc.)
  • Optional: single room supplement (where available)
  1. Day 1 Arrival

    All riders are picked up from the airport (in Tbilisi) or bus stop in Tbilisi (for flight arrivals to Kutaisi) and taken directly to the hotel. Due to different arrival hours, no group activities are planned on that day. Riders are free to roam Tbilisi in their spare time. In the evening, around 8 PM, all riders go to a dinner together.

  2. Day 2 First ride in Pankisi

    After lazy breakfast we’re pick up by cars and leave Tbilisi. The drive to Pankisi takes about 3 hours. Upon reaching Jokolo we will move into a local guesthouse and have lunch. Then it’s time to change, meet our horses and mount up – we still have some time until sunset! We ride out for 3-4 hours and head to Duisi. On our way we will pass ruins of a 16th century tower and a World War II memorial. In the evening we will return to Jokolo and enjoy dinner with our hosts.

  3. Day 3 Waterfall and visiting the imam

    After breakfast we jump in our saddles and ride out of Jokolo towards the edge of Pankisi. We will pass Dzibakhevi and head towards a nearly 80-meter high waterfall. There we can dismount for a moment, we’re not in a rush. Then we’ll ride back to Jokolo and have lunch. In the late afternoon we will hava a walk to a nearby mosque, where our guide and a local imam will tell us a bit about Kists: their origins, religion and traditions. In the evening, at our guesthouse in Jokolo, we will enjoy our last dinner in Pankisi. Next morning we leave lowlands and ride into the wild of Caucasus.

  4. Day 4 Shepherds' trail

    In the morning we will prepare and have breakfast together, pack up the camp, saddle our horses and set out. Today’s part of the trail will take us around 6 hours to ride. All our belonging we won’t be needing for the next 4 days stay behind, we will have them delivered to Tusheti while the group rides. First we ride to Kchadori valley and head towards the Kochadili gorge. Here the old and mostly forgotten sheperding trails begin. We’ll stop by a stream for lunch before our first climb. In the late afternoon we will reach the top of the Small Lamazuri mountain. There, at 2500 meters, we set up our first camp away from civilization, tend to our horses and prepare dinner together.

  5. Day 5 The Iron Mountain

    We have 5 to 6 hours on the trail ahead of us. After breakfast we pack our camp and ride out. First we head towards the bigger sister of the mountain we’ve spent the night at. The trail will take us to a small path leading to the Iron Mountain. In a few spots along the way we will dimount and walk short bits of the trail with our horses. We’ll stop to rest and have lunch at a scenic spot to enjoy the view. Then we head out, pass Khada hills and reach another mountain, Masara, where we spend our second night in the wild. We set up camp close to a mountain spring, tend to our horses, prepare dinner together and enjoy our evening in the wild.

  6. Day 6 Sources of the Alazani river

    After breakfast it’s time to pack our camp and saddle up. From Masara mountain we head down to Alazani river gorge. Then we will climb Sakorne mountain, with another beautiful view to the Caucasus. We will stop for a break there. In the late afternoon we will reach a place called Alaznistavi – the ”Alazani river head”, where the life-giving Tushetian Alazani river springs from the eastern slope of Borbalo mountain. It’s a unique place where highlanders have brought their flocks already in the ancient times. We will set base next to the National Park Rangers’ post, prepare dinner and spend our last night camping.

  7. Day 7 Tusheti

    Today we have another 5-6 hours to ride, but today’s part of the trail is a bit easier. But first we will have breakfast and pack our camp for the last time. Then we ride deeper into Tusheti. We’ll follow the river for some time before reaching a forest where we will stop for a break. Then, near the village of Koklata, we will reach a local dirt road that will take us straight to Jvarboseli. This night be don’t have to set cam or cook. A nicely located guesthouse, ran by a Tushi family, awaits us there, together with beds, showers and… our luggage.

  8. Day 8 Centering to Omalo

    In the morning we gather for breakfast. All our luggage will go by car and we ride our last day lightweight. The trail is nice and easy, runs mostly on a local dirt road, with a stunning view to the Southern parts of Tusheti. The road is perfect for canters, so we will use the opportunity. On our way we will ride through Bochorna, one of the highest permanent settlements in Europe (2345 m elevation). We’ll stop for lunch on the way and then ride the very last part of our trail. In the late afternoon we will reach Omalo. It’s time to thank our horses for their amazing work, pet them for the last time and say goodbyes. Then, in a comfy guesthouse ran by our close friends, we will hold our last dinner and enjoy our last night in the Caucasus.

  9. Day 9 Back to Tbilisi

    In the morning, after breakfast, cars will pick us up. It’s time to leave Tusheti and head to the capital city of Georgia. We have a 7-8 hour drive ahead of us, of which 4-5 hours on the famous road to Tusheti. In the evening we will check in the family hotel in Tbilisi we’ve spent our first night at, refresh and head out to the city center for our last dinner together.

  10. Day 10 Farewell to Georgia

    The group leaves Georgia. All riders are taken to the airport in Tbilisi or to a bus stop (Kutaisi airport flights).

The guide might modify the route according to weather conditions and group's riding skills
fot. z archiwum przewodnika
fot. z archiwum przewodnika
fot. z archiwum przewodnika

In Tbilisi, the group stays at a European standard family hotel. In Pankisi we stay at a local guesthouse in Jokolo village, in beds, with hot water and electricity. While hacking through the mountains we camp, spend nights in tents and sleeping bags, tending to our horses and cooking together. During these three days and nights we do not have access to any sanitary base: we will be in wild, uninhabited mountains, getting water for cooking and washing from mountain streams. In Tusheti we spend both nights under roofs, in beds and bed linen, with access to bathrooms and electricity.

In Tbilisi, we eat breakfasts at a hotel (on the second and last day). Other meals in Tbilisi (two dinners – on the first and last night) should be purchased individually. In Pankisi and Tusheti we are provided with meals – breakfasts and dinners in gueshouses, we take packed lunches and have them while resting. During the three-day crossing through the mountains, we prepare meals together on fire and on portable burners, from supplies carried by our pack horses.

Meals in Pankisi and Tusheti are traditional, typically pastoral dishes: mainly vegetables, mutton and local cheeses in all forms. Drinks include – in addition to crystal clear water – herbal teas, wine and chacha. In Tbilisi, there are restaurants serving dishes from all over the world.

 

Equipment

We use typical Caucasian saddles. They are quite different from the English and Western-style saddles and very comfortable for both horses and riders, especially for high mountain riding. Steel saddle bows are set on wooden benches. This construction is covered with a moderately soft “pillow” made of leather. The pillow is kept in its place by a strap, usually made of leather, which serves as a girth part at the same time. Tail docks are common.

Stirrup leathers in Georgia are quite short – Georgians practice a distinctive seat: legs in the front, knees high. Stirrups are quite simple and wide, allowing trekking shoes to fit inside well. Bridles are also simple, made the usual way. We use bits.

Caucasian / Georgian moutain saddles often raise interest, as they are different than classical, English or Western-style ones. Fairly unknown in the West these saddles are very comfortable for long and steep rides. Pommels and cantles are quite high to stabilize riders in mountainous terrain and the pillow seat absorbs bumps very well. This non-standard construction is also quite practical when it comes to attaching larger quantities of luggage.

What you should take with you

The trail between Pankisi and Tusheti leads through mountains inaccessible by car. All out luggage for 4 days and 3 nights has to be transported on horses. While it’s a good idea to travel to Georgia with a reagular suitcase, riders will need to re-pack for the horse trail. All belongings you won’t need for the trail will stay in Pankisi and will be transported to Tusheti while we are ont he trail. All your personal stuff for the trail goes on horses, so the overall weight of the trail luggage shouldn’t be more than 12 kg per person. All items should be packed in waterproof, soft bags or sacks that can be strapped to the saddle.

  • passport
  • cash, USD or EUR
  • electronic devices, e.g. camera
  • waterproof bag(s) for the trail (sailing or kayak type ones are great)
  • sleeping bag
  • handy backpack or bag (for documents, phone, etc.)
  • canteen or other water containers (it might be an empty plastic bottle)
  • flashlight; head flashlights are quite handy
  • sunscreen
  • head cover against the sun
  • trekking shoes, waterproof ones advised
  • raincoat / waterproof jacket
  • flip-flops for showering
Date Trip Status Price Spots  
16 June 2024 - 25 June 2024
Available
1090 
2
10 July 2024 - 19 July 2024
Available
1090 
7
20 August 2024 - 29 August 2024
Available
1090 
9