Stretching between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus Mountains are in a blurry category of their own, with complex ties to Europe, Asia and the Middle East, but fully reflecting none of the above.
Driven by the heat, we first headed to the eastern mountain region of Tusheti, where locals still reminisce fondly about the days when farmers could pass freely from Georgian villages to Chechen ones. It has been decades since residents braved winters in the mountains and Tushetians now retreat to their family homes seasonally. As a consequence, returning locals make up the majority of the region’s tourists, escaping the heat for a summer of festivals, horseback riding, reunions and lengthy meals, all of which they are eager to share with a passing trekker.
Svaneti, on the other hand, is the country’s pride and top tourist destination for its massive glaciers and 360-degree mountain views. Stone defense towers and herds of sheep decorate the hillside and make the snowy peaks absurdly picturesque.