In 2003 the Tusheti National Park was established as a part of the Eastern Caucasus. Perfect for hikers, it possesses spectacular mountain landscape reaching up to 4,800m, where splendid alpine meadows, lakes and extremely well preserved pine forests lay.
Since April 2003, the Protected Areas of Tusheti include a 10,694-hectare (ha) Nature Reserve, an 83,453 (ha) National Park and a 27,903 (ha) Protected Landscape.
The home to a variety of rare and endangered animal species, the park also possesses endemic plant relics, unique pine forests and an array of forest-forming species, such as birch and high-mountain oak. The mammals inhabiting this area include the Caucasian endemic subspecies like the Caspian Sea wolf, Caucasian lynx, Caucasian chamois and species of both East and West Caucasian goat. One of main goals for creating the Tusheti Nature Reserve was to protect a remarkable wild goat. The bird species are varied and incredible. They include the lammergeyer, the Caucasian black grouse, Caucasian snowcock and pheasant to name a few. In addition, if these were not enough, the mysterious, and thought to be extinct leopard presumably lives there.
On designated tourist trails, visitors can explore this mountainous park by foot, horse or vehicle.
Since 2003 the park has been protecting and preserving the historic Tusheti Villages which border it. Visitors can tour the charming villages (Diklo, Shenako, Dartlo, Kvavlo, etc.) where unique monuments of cultural legacy still stand.
Currently 10 tourist trails are available to Tusheti Protected Areas.
Visitor Centre - length: 1 km, 3 hrs. Pedestrian, difficulty: easy
The visitor center is located in village Kvemo Omalo. In 100 meters from the board protected area signboard is situated the administrative complex of Tusheti Protected Areas – one of the most beautiful buildings in the area. To the east from the visitor centre there is a scenic viewpoint with panoramic view. Visitors will get information in visitor center about natural and cultural sightseeing of Tusheti Protected Areas.
Keselo-Kue - length: 10 km, 8 hr, pedestrian, easy
The trail starts from the Tusheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre and through the Village Zemo Omalo leads toward Keselo Fortress, where visitors can tour the fortress and the Ethnographic Museum. From Kue field (an area near Village Omalo surrounded by pine forsts) it is possible to watch bezoar goats and birds of prey. There is an Ethnographic Museum in Keselo Fortress (entrance is free, however there is a donation box) offering to visitors very interesting exhibits on Tusheti.
It is advisable to take the trail in the second half of the day, as there is greater possibility to see bezoar goats in the evening (05:00 pm – 07:00 pm). During the evening, bezoar goats come out in the open areas to feed, and one can easily spot them with binoculars. Besides bezoar goats, it is likely that you will come across rare birds of prey and the birds that feast on carrion. Potable water is available on top of Village Kvemo Omalo and in Village Zemo Omalo.
Dartlo-Kvavlo- length: 25 km, 2 days, pedestrian and horse riding, difficulty: average
The trail starts from the visitor centre, passes through Village Omalo and descends onto Kue, on the crossroad field of Pirikita, Gometsari and Chaghma communities. From here via horse riding trail of Tsitelta pine grove slope it goes up to Gometsari watershed overpass – to Sakrilobo (gathering) stream, at the base of which there is a field where Tushetians from above mentioned four communities have always held their gatherings.
From this field, the trail runs along northern slope of the watershed toward the overpass in the direction of Village Dartlo. Village Dartlo is one of the most remarkable places in Tusheti owing to its architecture and overall landscape.
An automobile road goes from Village Dartlo up to Village Dano, from where it leades to Village Kvavlo. The tower with a pyramid shaped roof overlooks the trail. The village is built on the rocky slopes of the mountain. Sections of it are connected with each other with paths built with stones and rock-cut pathways.
Dakuekhi- length: 73 km, 6 days, pedestrian and horse riding, difficulty: difficult
The trail starts from Village Omalo and mainly runs along the automobile road leading toward Dartlo. The road goes up to Pirikita-Gometsari watershed overpass and then descends into Pirikita Gorge. From Dartlo the trail runs along the left bank of Pirikita Alazani River. After passing through Girevi, the pedestrian trail moves onto the right bank of Alazani River and reaches the source of the river. Then the trail continues toward Atsunta Pass, which is located at the crossroads of Khevsureti and Tusheti and one must cross this pass in order to go to Khevsureti. The trail ends in the village of Shatili of Pirikita Khevsureti, from where one can reach Tbilisi by car.
Diklo Trail – length: 28 kilometers, 1-2 days, pedestrian and horse riding, difficulty: average
Diklo trail starts from Omalo, the driving road goes to the bank of the river Pirikita Alazani passes the village Shenako, and leads towards the village Diklo. One can cover the route on horse in one day. It is advisable to stay somewhere in the above-mentioned villages after the end of the first day. There are several guesthouses, as well as a historical brewery in the village Shenako, where visitors can taste local beer. The village is characterized by the narrow streets and old houses. Trek continues from Shenako to village Diklo. Diklo had been located on the steep rock until the 19th century. Nowadays the village is located 2 kilometers away from the former settlement.
Tsovata – length: 63 kilometers, 4 days, horse riding, difficulty: difficult
The trail starts at the visitor center in Lower Omalo. The path goes up to the Pirikita-Gometsari watershed range pass, and then leads to Dartlo – famous for its unique architecture. The trail runs along the left bank of the river Pirikita Alazani, goes into the village Dadikurta, which is considered one of the highest settlements in Europe, 2350 meters above sea level. The visitor will also see the tallest tower of Tusheti in the village Verkhovani.
Gonta – length: 49 kilometers, 3 days, horse riding, difficulty: difficult.
The trail starts at the visitor center, goes through Upper Omalo and descends to the Kue Valley, leads to Nakaicho Pass, 2900 meters above sea level.
The visitor has a chance to see several villages of Tusheti, the unique alpine meadows.
Dochu – length: 27 kilometers, 2 days, pedestrian and horse riding, difficulty: average
The trail starts at Omalo hills and descends into Khakhabo floodplain, goes through the deciduous forest, and leads toward Dochu floodplain. Dochu is located on the edge of a rocky mountain. The village is famous for its three storied houses with balconies. The trail goes up to the alpine zone. The end of the trail is in the village Omalo.
Oreti – length 18 kilometers, 1-2 days, pedestrian and horse riding, difficulty: average
The trail starts at the visitor center in Lower Omalo and goes along the driving road to the village Kumelaurti. From there, path goes up to the Oreti Lake. If the visitor rides on a horse, it is possible to get to the lake and return back to Omalo in one day. In case the visitor decides to walk, it is recommended to stay at the lake during the night. Almost the entire Tusheti province can be seen from this spot. Two endemic species – Caucasus grouse and Caucasus snowcock live near the lake. It is possible to come across the footprint of a bear or wolf as well.
Love Fortress – length 8 kilometers, 5 hours, pedestrian and horse riding, difficulty: average
Love Fortress trail starts at the visitor center in Omalo and the driving road heads to the village Shenako. The last destination of the trail is the ruins of the fortress. The place is called “Love Fortress.” Visitors can observe different species of the birds here.
Omalo-Alaznistavi-Khevsureti – length: 50 kilometers, 3 days, horse riding, difficulty: difficult
The trail starts at the administrative building and heads to Gometsari Gorge, where the visitor can sightsee the old villages. One of them is Dochu – famous for its architecture. One might spot brown bear and endemic East Caucasus Ibex in the wilderness. Last destination of the trail is mt. Borbalo, on the western border of Tusheti Protected Areas. Trail leads from Borbalo to Fshav-Khevsureti regions.