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Caucasus Trekking Guide

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Georgia is perhaps best known for it's picturesque medieval architecture, dating back to the 9th century, that still stands proud in the remote valleys of forgotten mountains. They mark the way for scenic paths, weaving through alpine meadows and over stunning high mountain passes, to the tell tale clanging of cows bells. Here, the borders hold a turbulent past, and yet, the people of Georgia are famed for their warm, welcoming attitudes and gentle nature. Discover the magic of this majestic place with expert guides, incredible itineraries and like-minded explorers seeking unforgettable adventure.



How to get to Georgia & Armenia


Kutaisi

In order to reach Kutaisi it is necessary to have a stopover in Europe. For those travelling from the UK, there are indirect flights from London and Manchester with Pegasus, Ryan Air and Easyjet with layovers in Instanbul or Budapest. If travelling from Glasgow, you will need to go via London. 
From the US, Norse Atlantic and French Bee offer the most options, with indirect flights from New York and Miami with short stop overs in Europe.  Flights from Atlanta will need to be via New York and Los Angeles.

Yerevan

In order to reach Yerevan from the UK, it is necessary to have a stopover in Europe. For those travelling from the UK, Wizz Air and Pegasus offer flights from London and Manchester via Vienna or Instanbul. Air France offer flights from Birmingham via Paris. From Scotland, you will need to fly via London.
From the US, Delta and Air France offer flights from New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Atlanta via Paris. From Dallas the flights with the least stop overs are with Qatar going via Doha.

If you are changing airlines or re-checking your luggage at an airport on route, please ensure you leave a minimum of 3 hours between flights. This will account for any delays on arrival, travel time across airports (this can take longer than you think) and time taken to re-check baggage.


Trekking in the Caucasus


The Caucasus Mountains divide the continents of Europe and Asia; crossing through Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. The highest peak in the range is Mount Elbrus (5642m) which sits just north of the Russian/Georgian border. The range contains 200 peaks over 4000m, 30 over 4,500 and 7 over 5,000m. With plenty of scope for exploration, Kandoo have created a range of Caucasian adventures which stretch from the high mountains of the Kazbegi region to the soft, rolling hills of Dilijan.

Here we have outlined our trekking routes in the Caucasus: 

TREK THE SVANETI REGION | Immerse yourself in the ancient traditions and hidden wonders of alpine Georgia. Discover the quaint ruins of abandoned villages and beautiful traditional buildings, interspersed with proud Svan Towers, as your trek through the remote landscapes of the Upper Svaneti, treading the path less taken.


TRANSCAUCASIAN TRAIL | In recent years, a small group of enthusiastic locals have been creating a trek that takes in breathtaking panoramas, visits hidden delights and celebrates the Caucasian culture. They have named it the Transcaucasian Trail. We venture into some of the beautiful landscapes this trail has to offer. Beginning in Armenia we discover the sweeping passes and abundant nature of Dilijan National Park, taking in grand monasteries and scenic viewpoints as we trek from point to point. We then cross into Georgia, visiting the ancient sulphur baths in Tbilisi old town before journeying up into the Caucasus mountains. Here we explore the untamed landscape of the Kazbegi region, marvelling at the deep valleys etched into the sides of this mountainous wilderness.



When to trek


You can find detailed advice on when to trek in our Caucasus Travel Guide.


This a brief summary. Weather should be the first thing you think about when you decide when to trek. The Caucasus generally have pleasant temperatures in summer as the elevation of the mountains cools the heat from the valleys as it rises. In the autumn and winter, the temperatures can be very, very low particularly at night. In spring, the snowmelt can cause the rivers to swell, and there is a greater likelihood of rockfall due to rocks become unstable on the peaks. This means that, as a general rule, the best weather for trekking in the Caucasus is summer. 


Training for your trek in the Caucasus




The trekking in the Caucasus is generally over amenable gradients but on on uneven, rough terrain. Poles are recommended for anyone who struggles with knee or hip pain or has weak ankles. Our trekking routes don't require any technical equipment and are doable by anyone with trekking experience and a good mindset, however we would stress the importance of some form of training prior to your trip. Occasionally the mountain passes will involve ascents of up to 1000m, but it is the distances covered which are the greater challenge on our Caucasian trips. You may be walking distances of up to 20km and doing this over consecutive days for which you will need to have good physical fitness when you arrive. We recommend getting out into your local mountains or hills and doing some long walks of 5-6 hours at the weekends to prepare. During the week having a solid exercise plan to build up your general fitness will really help with your enjoyment of the trip. 






HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF IN CAUCASUS


Accommodation and food in the Caucasus


Our hotels in the Caucasus are all to a high standard. They are clean and comfortable and are chosen because of their great locations and accessibility. All rooms are en-suite and will offer a continental breakfast as part of their service. 

Guesthouses are run by local hosts who offer a warm, friendly service. The rooms will be on a twin basis with shared bathrooms. Single supplement isn't always available whilst staying in these. 

 

Whilst camping, we provide a high quality 3 man tent per 2 people to allow for maximum space and comfort.  We will also provide a sleeping mat per person and a dining tent for use at meal times and as a communal area. We will be camping in wild spots with no facilities, so on these nights don't expect to be able to get a shower. The toilet situation whilst wild camping will be a case of finding somewhere hidden, away from camp or the path and digging a hole. Please remember to bring toilet roll and a lighter to burn it after use.



Caucasian gastronomy consists of rich pastries, meats and cheeses, eaten alongside fresh, vegetable salads. A continental style breakfast is served at your hotel each morning and whilst camping you will be provided with cereals, cheeses, cold meats and fruit along with plenty of tea and coffee. Each day whilst trekking you will receive a picnic lunch for you to carry in your daypack.  Our lunches are all made with fresh local produce and will include fruit, vegetables, cold meats, cheese and lovely fresh bread. Evening meals will be taken at the hotel or in a mess tent whilst camping.  There will be a range of starters, main courses and desserts for you to choose from at the hotels and you will get to try local delicacies such as Gata, Khakali and Chirbuli. Whilst camping, we will provide a three course meal each evening using locally sourced, fresh ingredients. In the cities, your evening meal isn't included. This is an opportunity to head into one of the local restaurants and sample the locals favourites. 

During the trip you will be given 2 bottles of water per day. Any other drinks, including additional water, are your own responsibility. You may wish to carry a water purification system such as a filter or tablets to treat water from natural springs or villages whilst trekking. There are plenty of places to refill your water bottles both in towns and in remote mountain areas, your guide will advise you when and where to refill. Please be aware that tap water in Armenia and Georgia may not be safe to drink, so you may wish to bring a filter/purification tablets to treat this also. 

If you have special dietary requirements please inform us as soon as possible after booking your trip.  We will work with you to ensure your needs are met.



Budget


The currency in Armenia is Armenian Dram (AMD) and it's symbol is ֏. In Georgia, the currency is the Georgian Lari (GEL) and it's sign is ₾.  For the latest exchange rates please see www.xe.com

The Armenian Dram is an open currency so you will be able to exchange some money before you leave your home country and take it with you. Georgia has a closed currency which means Lari cannot be imported or exported from the country. You can exchange currency at the airport, banks, exchange offices, or with currency exchangers. However, the latter isn't recommended as some exchangers will provide you with counterfeit money.  US Dollars and Euros are the easiest currencies to exchange. The National Bank of Georgia and TBC bank are considered to be credible banks to exchange your money with. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at restaurants and larger shops in the big cities. If you are planning to carry a credit card for emergencies, please inform your card provider in advance. ATMs are also available in the bigger cities to withdraw cash, if you have a pre-paid card such as Monzo or Revolut this can often be done without exchange charges.

The only way to pay for things in the smaller towns and villages is in cash. Cards are not accepted in these areas so you will need to carry enough cash for snacks, drinks and any personal expenses. 

The average cost of a three course meal is around ֏8000-12000 / ₾60-80 ($20-30). A taxi ride will generally start at ֏300 / ₾2 ($0.75) whereas a one way bus ticket for a 10 minute journey will be around ֏60 / ₾0.4 ($0.15). It is fairly cheap to eat out and travel compared to Western standards and if you are wanting to buy some suluguni cheese or churchellato take home then these generally cost anywhere between ֏2,000-40,000 / ₾15-270 ($5-$100) for gifts that will pack into your main bag. Don't forget you will also need to budget for drinks too. A bottle of water might cost you $1 to $2, while a local beer can be around $2 to $4. We would recommend a budget of $300 for your time in Armenia and Georgia. 


Tips


Tipping when you are satisfied with the service you have received is customary in Georgia. However, it is not mandatory and should be left to the discretion of each individual. Tips are not a substitute for good wages: our guides are all well paid and well looked after. Tipping is completely voluntary, and at your discretion. We recommend a budget of $3 to $4 per person per day for tips to be paid in the local currency.  On the other hand, if you receive bad service or have not been treated well, you would not be expected to tip at all.