Historically, the name Svaneti refers to the territory located in the north-western part of Georgia. Nowadays it is divided into the Upper and Lower Svaneti, with the Svaneti ridge considered to be the boundary between them. This region was given a beautiful name of "the legendry country of towers", and fans of active winter pastime praise it as the main center of winter sports of the Republic of Georgia.
Depending on the priorities, historical, natural or sportive, one needs to choose the time of travel. One can start visiting the local mountain slopes from the end of November, get acquainted with the natural beauties in the spring, and visit the architectural and historical monuments in the spring and autumn period.
Svaneti means the four components of tourism, nature and culture, history and sports. The visitors are focused on the ancient cities and towns of Tsageri, Lentekhi, Mestia, Oni, the unique natural attractions, mountains and gorges, cliffs and valleys, fast mountain rivers and mysterious lakes. The southern slope of the Greater Caucasus is occupied by the village of Mestia, the "capital" of the Upper Svaneti, the sportive, religious and cultural center of the region. Since 2010, it has been positioned as a ski resort, and in summertime it is extremely popular for mountaineering and alpine tourism.
Of interest for tourists are stone houses of ancient Svans (indigenous people), patrol and residential towers, temple complexes built back in the X-XIV centuries, part of which being under UNESCO tutelage as a world historical and cultural heritage. Important artifacts are on display at the Museum of Anthropology and History, most of them being associated with the culture of Svans. The collections include jewelry, religious and household items, tools and weapons, and coins. The rare items of the museum institution are the Gospel, the oldest in Georgia, and the ancient Georgian manuscripts made on parchment.
The largest settlement of the Lower Svaneti is Lentekhi situated on the banks of the Tskhenistskali river. Here, too, one can also see many architectural and cultural monuments of the Svani. Not far away is another interesting site, Ushguli, a community comprising four villages. It ranks second in the list of the most mountainous villages in Europe, situated at an altitude of 2,200 m above the sea level.
Interestingly, during 6 months (from November) it is often impossible to get there due to snow, however, the tourists who get to Ushguli will be rewarded by the stunning natural views and architectural ensemble, due to which this region drew attention of the UNESCO experts. There are preserved houses there built by the Svans in the form of stone towers. In the nearby village of Zhibiani one can visit the Lamaria Church (Our Lady) resembling a castle. The complex dates back to the XI century, and besides the church it includes the tower building, and a wall serving as a defensive structure.
One can make a stop to rest in the Ushguli community in the village of Chvibiani which offers a few guest houses, cafes and a museum. From there it is easy to get to the next village, Chashazhi, where there are no hostels and hotels, no restaurants and cafes, but instead, the stunning mountain scenery and the original local architecture, the same tower-houses, but covered with flagstones.