Abudelauri Lakes, Shatili & Mutso Towers
Great scenario of the Central Caucasus, Dozens of towers, wild nature, real homemade food, lots of driving on a dirt road and then some hiking on a steep rocky trails, stories about warrior tribe, unbreakable heroes of the past and extraordinary nights in a medieval war tower. This is short formulation of all what we will see and experience during Shatili & Mutso tour.
We will drive approx 160km from Tbilisi up to Shatili, 80km will be dirt road so don’t await comfortable drive. With stops on the way, we will reach Shatili in the evening, overall 6 hours drive.
First day just light walk within Shatili tower village, history of the place, those who like old myths stories about brave fighters will enjoy. Then relaxing evening at the house of local host, with real homemade food and moonshine. Overnight in a medieval tower which overlooks river Argun from the rocky cliff, unforgettable experience.
Anatori thombs, Mutso
Next day drive to Anatory vaults, where dozens of bodies stay in piece after devastating plague. We will continue the way via Andakistskali river up to Mutso towers. On the way we will pass other abandoned villages with large field of cannabis, nothing wrong, cannabis from those times when it was used as a material for ropes.
Mutso complex was reconstructed in current years, some reconstruction works still undergoing, it was heavily damaged after Russian invasion in 19th century. Trail goes up to the highest point, last lonely tower we will reach via narrow rocky ridge, for inexperienced real challenge, for climbers some fun. Views are incredible from this point.
Then we will come back by the same trail. If not tired too much, Abandoned Ardoti village another nice spot to see.
Overnight again in Shatili.
Next day we will drive up to high alpine village Roshka, where the river Aragvi starts from Rocky mountain Chaukhi. Thousands of travelers are coming to see beauty of the mount Chaukhi and major sightseeing Abudelauri lakes. But for this a little work we will need, hike 6km one way via steep trail through alpine meadows. Then we will have another relaxing evening with nice local family and enjoy night at the altitude more than 2000m.
History of the region
Khevsureti region Shatili tower village, my favorite, why? there are many reasons. First of all my routes go there, second_research of culture and traditions was part of my life, third_it's the closest place to the sky, how can you don't love mountains.
Khevsureti, actually part of the region, lays on the other side of Caucasus ridge. There was time when when these hardly accessible mountains were settled by brave warrior tribes-_Khevsurs and Pshavs (Khevsuri and Pshaveli in Georgian).
Many times, kings of Georgia, when lowland was invaded by enemies, found shelter here. And not only kings, there was evident migration from lowland regions to mountains as it was safer place than Kartli or Kakheti. Due to the harsh climate (winter in some places for 9 month) and terrain, local societies gone through natural survival process, only tough, strong personalities could survive here. Thus Khevsurs were best fighters and personal guard of King Irakli was formed by them.
While the major part of Khevsureti (Bude Khevsureti) situated on the Southern slope of Caucasus ridge, region is extended beyond this division line occupying several gorges (Piraketa, Migmakhevi, Shatili and Arkhoti).
Unfortunately not so much survived from the Southern side, but we are lucky as still have Shatili tower village. Mutso tower complex and Ardoti village on the Northern side. Exact dates of construction of these villages isn't known. Information about Khevsureti is very limited.
Shatili tower village is on the tentative list of UNESCO. Origin of the name Shatili is unclear, some are trying to explain with Georgian word "Shati"-"Dashatuli"-which means knot, I think will be hard to define meaning with Georgian words as most toponyms, especially on this side have Nakh origin, which belongs to Caucasian language group, while Georgian to the Kartvelian.
Non Kartvelian toponyms proof the theory about Nakh past of this region. No one knows what was the reason these places were abandoned and replaced by people who speak different language. Maybe kay to this dramatic change is buried within the well known Anatori vaults, near Shatili, where hundreds of bodies lay in peace in inside burial tombs. This type of burial method was not practiced by Georgians but was widely spread within Vainakhs (Chechen-Ingush).
Shatili is the only tower village where tower was not only stronghold but permanent residential place as well. Situation slightly different at Mutso, where towers were used only in Summer and they had winter houses as well as during the winter season there wasn't danger of enemy assault from the North.
Khevsurs were best fighters as I mentioned before. Shatili was last stronghold of Georgia which fell under Russian control years later of occupation of Georgia in 19th century.
Then again, when second time country was invaded by Soviet Russia 1921, untill 1924 Khevsureti was base camp uprisal leaded by Kakutsa Cholokashvili. In 1924 appraisal was defeated , many warriors were executed from Pshavi and Khevsureti.
Soviet rulle always had fear of these "Vikings" of Caucasus, thus partially by force,partially by promises Khevsurs were resettled from their land to lowland. Villages were left abandoned, traditional law and believes were punished by Soviet rule. Just in 70th government decided to remigrate back, but not so many returned. Now region, including Shatili starts life in Summer and with the begining of winter most settlers go to lowland. Rapid grow of tourism industry resurrected life in mountainous regions like Khevsureti. These people leave in full isolation during winter time. Only one family in Mutso, 1 in Khonistchala village, 1 in Ardoti will stay during winter.
Mutso was heavily damaged after Russian artillery shelling and just 200 years later got a new life, when complex gone through fundamental reconstruction. Hope Ardoti village will be reconstructed as well.
From November up to the end of May road to Shatili is usually closed. Every year it will be cleaned from avalanches, mud and rocky debris. Still condition of the major part of the road (160km from Tbilisi) is challenging. It takes roughly 5 hours to reach Shatili by 4x4 vehicle and of course very exhausting. For those, who are short on money, there is bus on some days of the week and can say more suits extreme lowers than who prefers comfort.