On the Road to Omalo : A Complete Guide to Visit Tusheti in Georgia

Ready to Conquer Abano Pass? Your Adventure Awaits on the Road to Tusheti!

Nestled in the heart of the Greater Caucasus mountains, Tusheti is one of the best-preserved natural areas in Georgia, notable for its magnificent alpine landscapes and the vernacular architecture of its fortified villages. The road to Omalo, also called Abano Pass, is known for being one of the most treacherous and dangerous roads in the world. Both challenging and dizzying, the route climbs through a series of twists and turns before plunging into the heart of the National Park. But is this road really impassable? In this complete guide, we answer all your questions and give you many tips for exploring this remote region of the country which offers a unique and unforgettable experience for those who are brave enough to make the journey.

  • If you are planning a trip to Georgia by van, 4×4, motorbike or bicycle, our book EXPLORE GEORGIA will be very useful.
  • If you want to rent a car in Georgia or find a local guide, you will find our recommendations in this article.
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Hello! We're Olivia & Victor, authors of the OunTravela guides.

Over the years, our passion for adventure has led us to create original travel guides sold in over 70 countries worldwide. Our mission is to spread a travel philosophy based on adventure, freedom, improvisation and exploration. Our guides inspire travelers to explore the world's forgotten paths, encountering wilderness and civilizations.
We hope you find this article, based on our own experience, useful.
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Why you should visit Tusheti National Park?

Tusheti is a mysterious and fascinating region. Nestled in the heart of the Greater Caucasus mountains, the region is completely cut off in the winter when its only access road is blocked by snow. Bordered by the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan, this remote Georgian region is inhabited by the Tushetians, Georgian mountain dwellers. The region is remarkable for its vernacular architecture, characterised by slate roofs and fearsome defense towers. But Tusheti is also one of the best preserved natural areas in the country. Surrounded by snowy peaks, it has spectacular mountain scenery. The slopes of its deep valleys are covered with thick forests and alpine meadows.  In addition, this province has no shortage of hiking trails where the only people you will come across are a handful of shepherds! If you love the great outdoors or want to discover one of Georgia’s best kept secrets, then don’t hesitate for a second 🙂

Camping at abano Pass on the road to Tusheti in Georgia

Things to know before you visit Tusheti

When is the best Time to Visit Tusheti?

Because of heavy snowfall, Tusheti becomes completely cut off in winter. Depending on the year, the only access road to Omalo is open from early June to late September.

In June, the meadows are covered with wild flowers and the peaks are still covered with snow. It’s absolutely beautiful, although there are a few drawbacks: the trails can be muddy and the rivers, full of water, can block some of the tracks.
July-August is probably the best time but it is also the period that attracts the most visitors. It is the most suitable time for hiking and camping. There are also many traditional summer festivals in the villages.
In September, the autumn colours arrive and the nights become cooler. The first snow usually arrives in early October, by which time the road is likely to be closed.

How many days should I spend in Tusheti?

It is a one-day drive to the Tusheti National Park. We recommend that you spend at least two days there, making a total of at least four days.

Is there any ATMs in Tusheti?

Bear in mind that there are no ATMs in Tusheti, so bring some money to cover your costs. Be sure to withdraw cash and pack some meals before your journey, the few supermarkets and grocer’s are very expensive (due to how remote they are).

Is there any Petrol Station in Tusheti?

There are no petrol stations in Tusheti so remember to fill up with petrol in the village of Kvemo Alvani, the last petrol station before Omalo. If you drive the entirety of Route 4 and Route 5 of our guide Explore Georgia, the total distance covered will be approximately 250 km. We advise you to take a few jerry cans of petrol for peace of mind.

Where to stay and eat in Tusheti?

Wild camping is allowed in the park and is an experience you do not want to miss out on! You will be alone in the middle of nature, and you will have the chance to gaze up at a star-filled night sky with no light pollution.

Near the main villages (Omalo, Dartlo, Diklo, etc.) you can easily find small guesthouses with prices ranging from 70 to 120 GEL per person (dinner and breakfast included). It is an opportunity to learn more about the Tush culture and to support the local community.

There are also many restaurants where you can enjoy local specialities. If you are camping, we recommend stocking up beforehand : there are only a few shops in Omalo, prices are higher and choice is very limited.

Is there electricity and WIFI in Tusheti?

Most villages in Tusheti, such as Omalo, Dartlo, Shenako, and Diklo, have 4G coverage and reliable phone reception. We were pleasantly surprised by the excellent coverage throughout our trip, as we consistently had a strong 4G signal. While the drive to Tusheti may have low coverage, once you reach Omalo, the connection becomes relatively stable. In the region, Magti is the preferred service provider, it has the best coverage in Tusheti.

There is electricity in the main villages but its reliability is not guaranteed. This is due to the fact that the villages in the region are not all connected to the main power grid and instead depend on solar power and petrol generators as their primary sources of energy.

the most beautiful medieval fortified village in Tusheti : stone watchtowers and picturesque stone houses
discover the Tusheti region during your trip in Georgia : so wild and beautiful
discover the Tusheti region during your trip in Georgia : so wild and beautiful

How to Get to Omalo in Tusheti region? Abano Pass

Covered in snow for half the year, Abano Pass is the only way to access the mythical region of Tusheti. The road officialy starts in the village of Pshaveli at an elevation of 460m. Both challenging and dizzying, the mountain track first crosses narrow gorges covered with lush forests. Then it traverses meadows carpeted with wildflowers before a series of twists and turns that lead to the highlight: the magnificent Abano Pass (2,826 m). Next, the track drops progressively deeper into the national park of Tusheti, known for its alpine landscapes that are home to many rare and endemic species. Finally, the route ends in Omalo, the administrative capital of Tusheti, and the starting point for many hikes towards the nearby wild valleys and historical sites. 

The following points are highlights of a 4 to 5 day itinerary from Pshaveli to Girevi and Diklo. For details of this itinerary, see Routes 4 and 5 of our Explore Georgia guidebook. We spent ten days exploring the region, and have compiled the best of this trip on high resolution satellite maps with all the camping spots and viewpoints. You’ll also find historical information on the Tush culture, and explanations of the region’s landscapes, fauna and flora. For those who prefer, we provide GPS tracks and a foldable tourist map of the country.

The “death road”: is it really dangerous?

This road is commonly regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world, and sometimes referred to as the “Death Road”. Sadly, there have been many deaths on this road due to landslides and avalanches. However, it isn’t particularly difficult to drive with an all-terrain vehicle and off-road driving experience.

The Tusheti Road is unpaved for much of its length. The track, on the side of the mountain, is very narrow and steep, sometimes allowing only one vehicle to pass. The bends can be very tight, so drive carefully. Do not hesitate to sound your horn if you can’t see around a bend, to notify others of your presence. Many waterfalls flood the track, so be careful of little streams and puddles that will be in your way. Heavy rain often brings rocks falling onto the road, so watch out for the debris and the potholes. In theory, the track is regularly cleared by the government, but it is better to be safe than sorry! Avoid this road if the weather is bad (fog, heavy rain, snow). 

Which vehicle is recommanded to drive to Omalo ?

We recommend using a 4×4 all-terrain vehicle, a trail-type motorbike or a mountain bike as you will encounter difficult driving conditions: muddy sections, deep puddles, small fords (<50 cm), gravel, sand and sharp slopes.

How long does it take to reach Omalo?

The Tusheti Road, also known as the Pshaveli-Abano-Omalo road, is about 70km long and takes around 4-5 hours to drive, depending on the condition of the road and the weather.

Omalo is actually not that far – but because of the road conditions, you can only drive very slowly.

From Tbilisi to Omalo, expect 7-8 hours.

If you want to rent a 4×4 equipped with camping gear to explore Tusheti, we have listed the best rental agencies in Georgia in this article. Find our selection of the most reliable agencies in Tbilisi and Kutaisi. 

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When is the Tusheti road open?

Depending on the snow cover each year, the road to Omalo opens from early June to late September/early October. To be informed live about the opening of the Tusheti road, you can join our discussion group on facebook: Overland Georgia.

What are the road safety tips for driving the Tusheti Road?

  1. Check the condition of the road: The government starts clearing the road of snow in June and maintains it until the end of September. However, landslides are quite frequent so it is not uncommon for the road to be closed for a few days or for work to be carried out on the road.
  2. Check the weather – both for the past and the forecast: In case of rain, there is a greater risk of rockslides and the trail is flooded by the waterfalls coming down from the mountain. Moreover, because of the fog, driving becomes difficult and the tracks are muddy. Avoid taking this route in bad weather.
  3. Stock up on food, money and fuel before you leave.
  4. Start early in the morning: on average, the journey takes 4 to 5 hours, but it can be slowed down in the event of roadworks, rockslides, accidents or fog. It is best to start the journey early to be sure of arriving in Omalo before dark.

Is there any public transport to Omalo?

You will find plenty of shared taxi drivers in Kvemo Alvani, the last town at the bottom of the Tusheti road. Expect to pay 60-70 GEL for a seat in a shared taxi to Omalo village. If you come from Tbilisi, you can take a Marshrutka to Telavi. The fare is 12-15 GEL, and the travel time is 1.5 hours. In Telavi, it is very easy to find a taxi driver to take you to Kvemo Alvani. This takes about 30 minutes, and costs around 10 GEL per person.

Is the Omalo road open? Is the road passable? Can I take my campervan there? We answer all these questions live in our Overland Georgia Facebook group. To chat with other travellers and share your best photos of Tusheti, join our discussion group!

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Drive tusheti road to Omalo. the most dangerous road in the world? Not really. The most beautiful? Yes surely!

What to Do in Tusheti? The must-sees

Visit the ancient village of Upper Omalo and the Keselo Fortress

The village of Omalo is basically the capital of Tusheti. It is an excellent base camp for visiting the area; it has lots of guesthouses and restaurants. With an influx of tourists in recent years, new accommodation is flourishing and the village is booming. To explore the ancient and typical parts of the village, go to its upper part, which is dominated by the fortress of Keselo.

The fortress of Keselo was built in the 16th century and is an excellent example of medieval Tushetian architecture. In summer, local inhabitants moved into the defensive towers for protection against attacks by neighbouring Dagestan or Chechnya. After the Russian annexation of Georgia in the 19th century, its inhabitants gradually settled in more comfortable houses that today make up the upper part of Omalo. The towers were falling into ruin, but they were restored in the 2000s. One of the towers has a fascinating ethnographic museum. The fortress can be reached on foot from Upper Omalo.

Explore the charming medieval village of Dartlo

Clinging to the mountainside at an altitude of 2,000 m, Dartlo is undoubtedly one of Tusheti’s most beautiful villages. It is particularly remarkable for its vernacular architecture, characterised by slate roofs, fearsome defence towers and charming carved wood balconies. Thanks to private and government funding, the village was restored in its entirety in 2012. Take a walk down the hamlet’s narrow streets and you will be transported back in time. A few petroglyphs are hidden throughout the village (signposted at the entrance to the village). There are several guesthouses and restaurants. This unique historical site, listed as a UNESCO heritage site, can be discovered on Route 5 of our guidebookk Explore Georgia.

Shenako-Diklo

As you approach the village of Shenako, you will be able to spot the abandoned houses dotted along the hillside, which were once winter houses and stables. The centre of the village of Shenako is still lived in by a few families, although only in the summer. The Saint George Church is a focal point. It was built in the 19th century by Orthodox missionaries. Diklo is the last inhabited village before the border with Dagestan. Dried bunches of wild marjoram, camomile and St. John’s Wort hang on the stone walls, alongside hand-knitted socks and slippers. With its quaint rural atmosphere and traditional stone houses, the village is absolutely charming. You will find a few guesthouses and souvenir stalls run by local people. A pagan shrine is also located in the centre of the village. On the mountain opposite Diklo stand the last remains of the Diklo Fortress.

Hiking Atsunta Pass between Omalo and Shatili

This five-day hike links the Tusheti and Khevsureti mountainous regions. Along the way, you will have the chance to admire ancient fortresses and villages, dominated by huge stone towers. Bring camping equipment with you, as there are only a few shepherd shelters along the way between Girevi and Shatili. The highlight of the trek is reaching Atsunta Pass, 3,431 m above sea level.
Distance : 70 km
Length: 5 days

Tip: Instead of walking along Route 5 on the first day, you can use a hiking trail that runs along the Pirikita mountains. It means that you will miss out on the village of Dartlo; however, you will get prettier views of the valley and you won’t be hiking next to any cars.

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If you have any questions, please feel free to join our facebook discussion group dedicated to exploring Georgia. You will also be able to share your experience of the country and/or discover the photos of other travellers.

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