It’s been two years since I accidentally moved to Georgia, the tiny Caucasus country known for big landscapes and even bigger adventures. It was never exactly my intention to settle down here, but when the pandemic hit and living the life of a nomad was no longer an option, Georgia found a way to satisfy my craving for the unknown.
With sprawling landscapes tucked between two magnificent mountain ranges, the Greater and Lower Caucasus, Georgia delivers big when it comes to spending time outdoors. From incredible hiking to unbeatable overlanding, I find my list of things to do here getting longer every day, not shorter.
So, while I’ve crossed many, many adventures off my list—trekking to Black Rock Lake and exploring Lagodekhi National Park for three days by foot; immersing myself in Pagan-like traditions such as Mestia's annual Lamproba festival, a day of the dead-like celebration in the coldest months of winter; traversing Atsunta Pass, one of the most treacherous mountain passes in the country, by horseback—I still have so much more to explore.
Below, you'll find a glimpse of some of these adventures, which are among my favorites from the last two years. Plus, a little background on what drew me to each place—and why Georgia is an adventurer’s paradise.
Vashlovani National Park
If you ask me, Vashlovani National Park is Georgia's most underrated National Park. Often overlooked by both tourists and locals, the park’s views, open dirt roads, and overnight cabins make it one of the best places to escape to—especially solo. Sitting in the far southeastern corner of the country on the border with Azerbaijan, Vashlovani offers a safari-like experience with hiking and incredible flora instead of big game animals—especially in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom and the nearby lake is peak pink.
Abudelauri’s Three Colored Lakes
The 16-kilometer hike out to the lakes and back from the tiny village of Roshka rewards hikers with views of three different colored lakes set against the looming Abudelauri Glacier and the Greater Caucasus Mountains. From here, you can see the threatening Chaukhi Pass high above, which is an alternative multi-day hike to the lakes from the opposite direction, starting in Juta. While I enjoy the lakes as a one-day trip from the city, staying overnight at one of the guesthouses in Roshka and getting the full village experience is a much better way to go, if you have the time.
When it comes to wild, treacherous beauty, there’s no place like Tusheti. Mountains make the region uninhabitable and hard to reach, which inadvertently draws most people to it, myself included. Tiny villages dot this sprawling region—Omalo, Dartlo, and Girevi, to name a few—where locals and shepherds live for nearly four months before relocating to a lower altitude during the winter.
Each May (and September), a transhumance takes place where thousands of sheep, goats, cows, and horses are led up into the mountains in search of better grazing for the summer. June is also when the road to Tusheti opens, marking the beginning of the hiking and trekking season in the region. But keep in mind the road is also half the adventure—it’s known as one of the most dangerous roads in the world for a good reason.
Not long ago I found myself trekking by horse over Atsuna Pass, a very difficult and hard to scale 3,530-meter (roughly 11,580 feet) pass, in September, just as snow was starting to set in. I can still hear my guide Gio yelling “Wilson, is dangerous!” as we crested the pass during a thunderstorm, moving down into the golden valley below where we drank chacha (Georgian homemade brandy) and heard stories from shepherds before settling into a makeshift campsite for the night.
They say 21 days in the Bakhmaro air will cleanse your body. That’s how clean the air is, which is partially why Georgians are eager to keep the secret of this Soviet-style resort town to themselves, filling up the wooden cabins that have been here for decades every summer. But, come winter, most locals don’t dare take on the snow-covered roads, which only become navigable by Snowcat or snowmobile.
This, however, is precisely when I found myself in Bakhmaro. Because as backcountry skiing becomes more widespread across Georgia, so do visits to these once untouched and undisturbed small towns. For the still small number of people brave enough to make their way up here, the reward is some seriously fluffy pow and epic snowshoeing to places like the appropriately named Sunrise Mountain.