A hiker walks through a glen on the Svaneti Trail, an hour out of Mestia, Georgia’s trekking hub.

Into The Caucasus, And Back In Time

A trek along Georgia’s Svaneti Trail offers a time-warp world of medieval villages and jaw-dropping scenery.

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My first sight of the Greater Caucasus appeared like a crepuscular dream. I was asleep, prostrate on the rear seat of a minivan, when a bump in the mountain road jolted me into consciousness. Through the window, the dawn was all but obscured by a bastion of rock so endless I had to blink to check I wasn’t hallucinating. I couldn’t get back to sleep after that. For the next few days, I knew, views like this would fill the sky.

I had come to Georgia dreaming of days in the mountains. The small country of four million people, sandwiched between Turkey and Russia, is a land so synonymous with high-country that the wider geographical region is named for them. The Caucasus, denoting both a mountain range and the constellation of ex-Soviet territories that spans it, is a word which still seems shrouded in enigma.

I confess I was hoping for enigmatic, but the flattening world was not without benefits. In 2016, the budget carrier WizzAir introduced direct flights from London to Kutaisi, Georgia’s third city, four hours’ drive from its most spectacular mountain-country. Arriving in the early hours, friend Toby and I had hailed a taxi and barrelled northwards. By…

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Henry Wismayer

Essays, features and assorted ramblings for over 80 publications, inc. NYT Magazine, WaPo, NYT, The Atlantic, WSJ, Nat Geo, and TIME: www.henry-wismayer.com.