The highest permanent settlement in Europe, 2,200m above sea level, Ushguli in Northern Georgia is an experience to visit. Home to the greatest concentration of thousand year old stone towers in the Svaneti region, it is easy to imagine what life was like when they were built. Don’t be surprised to turn a corner here to find a herd of cows, or family of pigs, in the street. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, work is underway to replace by 2018 the newer metal roofs with traditional stone.
Ushguli is two and half hours from Mestia along patchy roads requiring 4WD vehicles. On the hillside overlooking the villages lies the remains of Queen Tamar’s Tower, an atmospheric spot, with masses of beautiful wild flowers along the track up to it. A ~16km return walk along the valley takes you to the glacier at the base of the highest mountain in Georgia, Mt Shkhara (5,068m). As with most glaciers it was a lot less white that you’d expect to see, but made for a good picnic spot before returning along the flower filled valley, dodging a few cows and horses.