• A GUIDE TO JAVAKHETI

    GEORGIA’S VOLCANIC PLATEAU

    A lone vehicle on the dirt track that leads to the western side of Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia
  • JAVAKHETI

    TRAVEL GUIDE

A GUIDE TO JAVAKHETI

GEORGIA’S VOLCANIC PLATEAU

A high altitude volcanic plateau, Georgia’s Javakheti region is littered with lakes big and small. Dominating the landscape is rust hued Didi Abuli, its conical form rising to 3300 metres and marking the southern end of the Abul-Samari Range. Paravani Lake, the largest in Georgia, sits at the centre of it all.

 Javakheti is a wild place perfect for nature-lovers, hikers, and outdoor adventurers. But wild though it is, the region has cultural points of interest too, with remarkable Bronze Age megalithic structures and comparatively modern turf-roofed homes scattered across the plateau. What’s more, although ethnic Armenians make up the majority of the population, Javakheti is home to Azeris, Adjarians, Pontic Greeks, Doukhobors, and Ossetians (among others), making it one of Georgia’s most culturally diverse areas.

Javakheti falls unders the greater Samtskhe-Javakheti region of southwestern Georgia, bordering Armenia and Turkey, and is best known for tourist hotspots like Vardzia, Borjomi, or Bakuriani. In this guide, we’ll focus on the more remote and lesser visited south-eastern corner, highlighting the cultural and natural attractions around Paravani Lake, Abul-Samsari Range, and the Javakheti Protected Areas. And of course, we’ll also cover practical tips for planning your trip.

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JAVAKHETI MAP

Use the map below to help lead you around Javakheti to all the places mentioned in this guide. You can also download an offline version to Maps.me (iOS/Android). Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle routes on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view.


To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps. On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version

Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this version of the map offline, but we’ve created a similar version for offline use as per below.


To use an offline map with all the same pins and routes marked, first download Maps.Me (iOS/Android), then download our Javakheti Travel Guide bookmarks, and select open with Maps.Me. 

You can easily navigate by tapping the bookmark for your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tap your end point bookmark and select ‘route to’. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’.

You can use Maps.me offline or online, but note that the attached photos and links for each bookmark will only appear when you’re online.


THE LAKES AND JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS

Javakheti is home to many of Georgia’s largest lakes, a number of them incorporated into the Javakheti Protected Areas. Along with the volcanic peaks of the Abul-Samsari Range, they are the region’s main scenic drawcard.

PARAVANI LAKE

Cresting the Tikmatashi Pass (2168 m), 29 km south-west of Tsalka, a glorious vista unfolds. Paravani Lake spreads out far and wide, the odd cluster of houses dotting the shore. A chain of colourful scree-sloped peaks form a wall to the west, with the grassy hillsides of the Javakheti Range enclosing the land to the east. It feels a world apart, despite being just a couple of hours from Tbilisi.

A view of Paravani Lake and the Javakheti Plateau from Tikmatashi Pass ( 2168 m)

First sight of Paravani Lake and the Javakheti Plateau from Tikmatashi Pass (2168 m)



A view of Paravani Lake and the Javakheti Plateau from Tikmatashi Pass ( 2168 m)

First sight of Paravani Lake and the Javakheti
Plateau from Tikmatashi Pass (2168 m)



A tarmac road winds along the eastern shore of Paravani Lake, connecting Tsalka to Ninotsminda, one of two main towns in the region. It passes through Rodionovka village (also called Paravani) and Poka, which sits at the southern tip of the lake. On the opposite side, a rough track leads through the lakeside villages of Akhali Khulgumo, particularly picturesque Tambovka, largely abandoned Aspara, and comparatively bustling Vladimirovka, before eventually merging with the tarmac road at Poka. You can make a 31 km loop around the lake, preferably with a 4WD. There are plenty of scenic viewpoints, plus lakeside camping and picnic spots on the quieter western side.

A lone vehicle on the dirt track that leads to the western side of Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

A lone fisherman battles the wind in a small boat on Paravani Lake in Javakheti

A huge flock of sheep clogs the dirt road in the village of Akhali Khulgumo on Georgia's Javakheti Plateau

A lone vehicle on the dirt track that leads to the western side of Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

A dirt track leads to the western side of the lake


A huge flock of sheep clogs the dirt road in the village of Akhali Khulgumo on Georgia's Javakheti Plateau

Sheep have the right of way in Akhali Khulgumo


A lone fisherman battles the wind in a small boat on Paravani Lake in Javakheti

A fisherman battles the wind on Paravani Lake



Life here largely revolves around seasonal farming, grazing, and fishing. Temperatures seldom rise above 20 degrees in summer and plummet well below freezing in winter, when Paravani ices completely over. The lake sits at an altitude of 2073 m, and the surrounding wind blasted landscape is notably tree-less, bar a few patches of artificially planted pine forests. It’s a harsh environment to live in.

TAMBOVKA VILLAGE

Tambovka sits on the northwest corner of Paravani Lake, consisting of two rows of houses running parallel to the shore. This small village is home to a large number of traditional dwellings, turf-roofed stone and wood buildings that are unique to the Javakheti region. Built to withstand the unforgiving climate, the grass roofs provide insulation and many of the homes are dug into the hillside for extra protection. Whether whitewashed or left with exposed stone, they blend nicely into the surrounding landscape, often so that you don’t notice them until the last moment.

The gable end of a whitewashed, turf roofed, wood carved house in Tambovka glows in the afternoon sun

A whitewashed, turf roofed house is decorated colourfully with green and blue stripes, sitting on the shores of Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

A thick layer of turf and grass on the roof of stones cottages like this provides insulation throughout the cold winter on the shores of Paravani Lake in Javakheti

Stacked dung drying inside the shell of a disused house in Tambovka on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

A thick layer of turf and grass on the roof of stones cottages like this provides insulation throughout the cold winter on the shores of Paravani Lake in Javakheti

Turf roofs provide insulation in winter


A whitewashed, turf roofed house is decorated colourfully with green and blue stripes, sitting on the shores of Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

Many Tambovka houses are colourfully painted 


The gable end of a whitewashed, turf roofed, wood carved house in Tambovka glows in the afternoon sun

Intricately carved wood is a feature of some homes



Many are over 100 years old, still standing but not always lived in these days. In many cases they function instead as a storage space or dung drying spot, with most families having a modern two-storey house built alongside the ‘old house’. The most beautiful have colourful wooden window frames with carved embellishments and painted balcony poles, usually in shades of turquoise and green. Most likely, these homes once belonged to Doukhobors, Tambovka being one of the few villages settled in the 1840s by the exiled community from Tsarist Russia.

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JAVAKHETI PROTECTED AREAS

Heading south from Poka, the main road passes picturesque Saghamo Lake before reaching Ninotsminda, the municipality’s administrative centre. 17 km to the northwest sits the Javakheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre, on the outskirts of Akhalkalaki, Javakheti’s largest town. Javakheti Protected Areas was established in 2011 and encompasses more than 16000 hectares across Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities. With over 260 species of resident and migratory birds sighted at the various lakes and wetlands, birdwatchers in particular are drawn here. But even if pelicans, eagles, storks, and vultures aren’t your thing, the scenery alone is worth the journey.

KARTSAKHI LAKE AND JAVAKHETI NATIONAL PARK

South of Akhalkalaki, towards the Turkish border, sits Sulda and Kartsakhi Managed Reserves, Kartsakhi Lake, and Javakheti National Park. The landscape here is markedly different to that around Paravani, with plenty of wide open views and farmland stretching for miles.

 Sulda and Kartsakhi Managed Reserves are both marsh wetland areas, primarily of interest to birdwatchers. Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit. Kartsakhi Lake, which straddles the border with Turkey, has more broad appeal to birdwatchers, fishing enthusiasts, and scenery lovers. The Georgian side of the lake falls within the western most boundary of Javakheti National Park.

A campervan sits on the grassy shore of Kartsakhi Lake in Javakheti National Park

Early morning on the shores of Kartsakhi Lake



A campervan sits on the grassy shore of Kartsakhi Lake in Javakheti National Park

Early morning on the shores of Kartsakhi Lake



There is a ranger station at the entrance, and a 6 km return walking or driving route along the shore which passes a bird watching tower. There are a couple of newly built cabins at the far end, presumably belonging to the APA (Agency of Protected Areas). Perhaps these are intended for use as tourist shelters in the future? Far across the water you can see the Turkish village of Kenarbel, and on the northern shore, the Georgian and Turkish flags that mark the border.

KHANCHALI LAKE AND TIGER CANYON

Returning north to rejoin the main Akhalkalaki – Ninotsminda road, the next point of interest is Khanchali Lake, or Khanchali Managed Reserve. It lies just southwest of Ninotsminda. Again, this scenic spot is a breeding and resting spot for migratory birds. There is a trail along the southwestern shore, near the village of Patara Khanchali, and off-road tracks lead through farmland to the northern shore. Picturesque floating ‘islands’ of plantlife dot the southern half of the lake.

Cows graze on farmland with the town of Ninotsminda rising on agentle hill behind

Looking back towards Ninotsminda from the northern shore of Khanchali Lake



Cows graze on farmland with the town of Ninotsminda rising on agentle hill behind

Looking back towards Ninotsminda from
the northern shore of Khanchali Lake



Khanchali Lake is also the starting point for a 15 km return hike to Tiger Canyon, which lies within the eastern boundaries of Javakheti National Park. It’s possible to camp along the way, or complete the route as a day hike. The route isn’t marked on OSM maps but you can download a GPX track from Wikiloc. There are painted waymarkers along the route, but you shouldn’t solely rely on these. You can find out more information about the hike from the Javakheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre.

GORELOVKA VILLAGE

The Doukhobor village of Gorelovka lies 11 km southeast of Ninotsminda, on the road to the Armenian border. The Doukhobor, or Spirit Wrestlers as the name roughly translates to, are a Christian sect originating from Russia. Their rejection of the Russian Orthodox Church and belief in pacifism led to persecution and exile from Tsarist Russia in the 1840s. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, many Doukhobors from Javakheti have left Georgia, but a small community still remains. They gather on Saturdays in the grounds of the central meeting house, and recite hymns and verses by heart together on Sunday mornings.

Their traditional homes are beautiful, whitewashed with green and blue painted window frames and flower details on the shutters. The two-storey wooden museum house, once a Doukhobor orphanage, is colourfully painted and sits at the heart of their community grounds.

The afternoon sun casts elaborate shadows through the wood carved designs of the former Doukhobor orphanage in Gorelovka, Javakheti

The wood of the Doukhobor museum house is painted in green and blue and bordered by carved designs

A two storey pale blue and green wooden museum house in Gorelovka, once a Doukhobor orphanage

A flower design on a painted window shutter in Gorelovka, Javakheti

A two storey pale blue and green wooden museum house in Gorelovka, once a Doukhobor orphanage

The wooden museum house, once an orphanage


The wood of the Doukhobor museum house is painted in green and blue and bordered by carved designs

The old buildings are well cared for and
were being repainted while we were there


A flower design on a painted window shutter in Gorelovka, Javakheti

Flower design on a painted window shutter



While not a tourist attraction readily open to the public, the Doukhobor are, in our experience, very welcoming and happy to allow visitors into the grounds to admire the buildings from the outside. Just remember to ask permission first. You will most likely find the gate open and people around on Saturdays.

BUGHDASHENI LAKE

Bughdasheni Managed Reserve is on the southern outskirts of Gorelovka village, a shallow lake with a bird watching tower and picnic area on its southern shore. Although one of the smaller lakes in the region, it’s especially picturesque. Around the edge, scattered rocks rise from the water, their stony surfaces shot through with pink and grey hued striations.

A person stands on a rock at the edge of Bughdasheni Lake in Javakheti

The picturesque Bughdasheni Lake is bordered with scattered stones and is a haven for birdlife



A person stands on a rock at the edge of Bughdasheni Lake in Javakheti

One of the most picturesque lakes in Javakheti


A string of rocks extends out into the water on Bughdasheni Lake in Javakheti

Stone patterns extend out into the lake 



MADATAPA LAKE

Continuing about 5 km southeast on the main road from Gorelovka, Madatapa Lake (Madatapa Managed Reserve) sits just shy of the Armenian border. The small villages of Epremovka, Zhdanovakani, and Sameba are situated along its southern shore, with volcanic Mt. Madatapa dominating the landscape to the north. More traditional turf-roofed houses can be seen in the villages, and in Sameba, a guesthouse offers meals and accommodation.

Red and orange sunrise hues light the sky beneath dark clouds at Madatapa Lake in Javakheti, Georgia

Sunrise on the northern shore of Madatapa Lake



Red and orange sunrise hues light the sky beneath dark clouds at Madatapa Lake in Javakheti, Georgia

Sunrise on the northern shore of Madatapa Lake



It takes about 5-6 hours to walk around the lake, or you can hire horses in Sameba. With a 4WD you can off-road across the plateau above the northern shore. To do so, first turn off the main road at Epremovka to drive up the western side of the lake. It’s also possible to hike up Mt. Madatapa (2714 m), although there is no marked trail.

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A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau
A person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
Two people watch something in the distance from outside a parked 4x4 vehicle in the hills of Racha, Georgia.
A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau
A person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
Two people watch something in the distance from outside a parked 4x4 vehicle in the hills of Racha, Georgia.

ABUL-SAMSARI RANGE

Not only is this volcanic range a spectacular backdrop to Javakheti, it also provides excellent opportunities for hiking and off-road explorations in the summer months. Didi Abuli (3300 m) is the tallest peak, sitting at the southern end of the range with Paravani Lake to the east and a string of villages to the west. To the north of Didi Abuli, Samsari (3285 m) sits on the boundary of Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli. Scattered across the range, small lakes lie hidden away below the slopes of numerous rocky volcanic peaks. And atop Shaori and Patara Abuli mountains, cyclopean fortresses dating from the 2nd Millenium BC can be found.

SHAORI FORTRESS AND SCENIC VIEWPOINTS

From Apsara on the western shore of Paravani Lake, you can climb the slopes in a 4×4 to the alpine meadows above, where shepherds graze their animals in summer. The views of the lake and surrounding landscape are spectacular. It’s straightforward enough to drive as far as the foot of Shaori Mountain (also marked as Mount Koroghli on some maps). From this point you can hike to the top and visit the ruins of Shaori Fortress (2757 m), a megalithic structure that dates from the 2nd millennium BC.

A person walks across the rolling grassy Javakheti Plateau beneath the scree covered slope of Shaori Mountain (Mount Koroghli)

The scree covered slopes of Shaori Mountain (Mount Koroghli)



A person walks across the rolling grassy Javakheti Plateau beneath the scree covered slope of Shaori Mountain (Mount Koroghli)

The scree covered slopes of Shaori Mountain



A wide flat ‘road’ can still be made out, along with underground shelters outside the main fortress wall. Note that there’s no marked trail and plenty of boulders to negotiate (a common theme on this volcanic range). Allow about 1.5 hours to cover the 2.8+ km distance, with an elevation gain of around 350 metres. There is a route marked on maps.me and other open source mapping apps, and we’ve also included it in our Javakheti travel guide map.

A little further west from the southern foot of the mountain is a small lake and seasonal shepherd camp. Beyond this the obvious vehicle track disappears, and rockier terrain makes it wiser to explore on foot before returning to Aspara.

  • A person walks down a faint track towards a small lake surrounded by scree covered mountains on the Javakheti Plateau, Georgia
  • A person walks down a faint track towards a small lake surrounded by scree covered mountains on the Javakheti Plateau, Georgia

The small lake and surrounding mountains



If you don’t wish to drive at all, you can leave your vehicle in Aspara and hike all the way up from Paravani Lake (approx 15.5 km return to Shaori Fortress, with an elevation gain of 670 metres). Allow at least 6 hours for the return hike.

ABULI PASS AND DIDI ABULI

Another off-road track leads from the village of Vladimirovka (between Aspara and Poka) to Abuli Pass and down to Abuli village. Not only is it a fun way to link the villages on either side of the Abul-Samsari Range, it’s also an exceptionally scenic route. Early summer is a particularly good time when the fields and high pastures are ablaze with wild flowers. Just be aware that the final section of track leading down to the village of Abuli is quite rocky and slow going in a vehicle.

An off-road track leading towards Abuli Pass on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

The off-road track winding towards Abuli Pass



An off-road track leading towards Abuli Pass on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

The off-road track winding towards Abuli Pass



From Abuli Pass (2312 m), or further up the slopes of Didi Abuli, it’s possible to hike to the summit (3300 m) for fantastic views over Javakheti. Again, there’s no trail and it’s a fairly steep rocky climb. You can refer to trails on OSM maps like Maps.me or Gaia for suggested routes, which are also marked on our map. Allow about 5-6 hours for the return hike.

The colourful south face of Didi Abuli on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

The south facing slope of Didi Abuli, seen from the Abuli Pass off-road track



The colourful south face of Didi Abuli on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

South facing slope of Didi Abuli, seen
from the Abuli Pass off-road track



ABULI FORTRESS

A cyclopean (an ancient form of masonry) fort dating from the 2nd Millenium BC, Abuli Fortress sits on the southern slopes of Patara (little) Abuli mountain at 2670 m. Its dry stone structure is more complete than that of Shaori Fortress, and the hike is also easier. With a 4×4 you can approach from the west on a track between Ujmana and Eshtia villages, or from the north on the Abuli Pass track. If driving most of the way, the hike shouldn’t take more than 1.5 hours return (around 4-5 km). It’s also possible to approach on foot from Gamdzani village in the east.

LEVANI’S LAKE

Nestled amongst the colourful volcanic mountains of the Abul-Samsari Range is one particularly scenic lake. Only accessible on foot or via a lofty off-road track, elongated Levani’s Lake sits at an altitude of 2565 m. It’s surrounded by rocks, boulders, and scree slopes on its southern and western sides, with a flat grassy patch stretching out from its northern shore that is perfect for camping. A small stone shepherd’s shelter sits above the lake at the southern end, this area being used for grazing in the summer months.

A person stands on a rock strewn slope admiring the blue water of Levani's Lake on the Javakheti Plateau

Taking a moment to appreciate Levani’s Lake



A person stands on a rock strewn slope admiring the blue water of Levani's Lake on the Javakheti Plateau

Taking a moment to appreciate Levani’s Lake



Around 14 km to the east lies Aspara village, on the banks of Paravani Lake. And about 13 km to the west, a rough track leads to the secluded farming village of Olaverdi. Levani’s Lake makes a great destination for a multi-day hike, 4×4 adventure, or a mixture of the two.

LEVANI’S LAKE OFF-ROAD TRACK

 If you want to drive to Levani’s Lake, the easiest approach is from Olaverdi in the west. An existing track leads up through farmland before passing a small lake and climbing to a plateau with panoramic views. From here, the trail then continues up towards the lake. It’s a pretty big climb, gaining 640 metres in elevation, and the state of the terrain varies from flat grassy slopes to rough and rocky narrow tracks. There are a couple of steep sections, and also the potential for getting stuck in mud in wet weather.

While the semblance of a track does lead all the way to the southern shore of the lake, the last 1.6 km is very rocky. Our advice is to park up at the spot between the southern slope of Mt. Korogli and the northern slope of an unnamed peak (41.4833, 43.6500). From there, walk the 30 minutes or so to the lake, which is hidden from sight around the corner at the foot of Mt. Korogli’s eastern slope.

A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau

The trail leading down the grassy hillside from Levani’s Lake



A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau

The trail leading down from Levani’s Lake



Alternatively, it’s possible to approach from Paravani Lake on the eastern side. You can drive as far as the shepherd’s camp below Shaori Fortress (Mt. Koroghli on some maps), then tackle the remaining 8 km on foot. This can be done as a day trip (approx 16 km return walk to your car), or you can take camping gear and turn it into an overnight trip. Note that there are is no actual trail, but the route is marked on OSM map sources like Maps.me, OSMAND Maps, Gaia, etc., as well as the map in this guide.

ABUL-SAMSARI RANGE MULTI-DAY HIKES

There are some great multi-day hiking opportunities in the Abul-Samsari Range, where you can explore volcanic peaks and hidden lakes. There are no obvious trails and the terrain is made up of scree slopes, boulder fields, and alpine meadows. So if you plan on trekking here, you’ll need to be confident in your navigation and route-finding skills. You will also need to be self-sufficient and carry all your camping gear and food. Summer is the best time to hike in order to avoid snow, but beware of sheepdogs aggressively protecting their flocks. There is a spring at the camping spot by Levani’s Lake, but this can run dry so it’s advisable to be prepared to treat lake water for drinking and cooking.

DIDI ABULI + LEVANI’S LAKE

One option is to combine Didi Abuli and Levani’s Lake into a two day hike and camp at the lake. Ideally, this involves being dropped off by a 4WD vehicle at Abuli Pass, or even closer to the foot of Didi Abuli, and starting the trek there. This saves 10 km of walking up an off-road track from Vladimirovka. From the summit of Didi Abuli you can descend via Lake Natali to Levani’s Lake, spend the night, then return via the base of Shaori Fortress to the village of Aspara at Paravani Lake (about 6 km north of Vladimirovka).

The pointed, snow dusted peak of Didi Abuli stands above golden slopes at sunset on the Javakheti Plateau

Didi Abuli seen from the northwest, with sunset fast approaching



The pointed, snow dusted peak of Didi Abuli stands above golden slopes at sunset on the Javakheti Plateau

Didi Abuli, seen from the northwest before sunset



Distance wise, it’s about 6 km from Abuli Pass to the summit of Didi Abuli, a further 10.5 km to the camping area at the northern end of Levani’s Lake, and a further 14 km to Aspara. This totals around 30.5 km if starting from Abuli Pass, or 40.5 km from Vladimirovka. There’s around 1200 metres in elevation gain.

DIDI ABULI + LEVANI’S LAKE + PANDA AND DROMATAREBINE LAKES

A more challenging route from Levani’s Lake to Aspara goes via two smaller lakes to the north, known as Panda and Dromatarebine. From the camping area at Levani’s Lake, the route climbs the hill to the east, before heading north to Panda Lake then east again to Dromatarebine. A flat grassy area at the southern end of the lake is suitable for camping.

Continuing south and then east from Dromatarebine Lake leads to the foot of Shaori Fortress, and from there the track heads down to Aspara. It’s around 4 km from Levani’s Lake to Dromatarebine, and a further 12 km to Aspara. This is manageable in one day, or you could extend the whole trek to three days, camping on the second day at Dromatarebine or somewhere further south on the plateau.

A person walks across the flat grassy area at the northern shore of Levani's Lake on the Javakheti Plateau

The grassy area on the northern shore of Levani’s Lake is ideal for camping



A person walks across the flat grassy area at the northern shore of Levani's Lake on the Javakheti Plateau

The grassy area on the northern shore
of Levani’s Lake is ideal for camping



LEVANI’S LAKE (+ PANDA AND DROMATAREBINE LAKES)

Starting and ending at Aspara village on the shores of Paravani Lake, it’s possible to hike 28 km to Levani’s Lake and back. Alternatively, you could return via the small lakes of Panda and Dromatarebine, a 30 km round trip. You could also shorten this hike by driving to the foot of Shaori mountain and making a loop from there, shaving off around 12 km. This itinerary would be best tackled over 2 days, or even 3 if you want to spend extra time at the small lakes.

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WHEN TO VISIT JAVAKHETI

Generally speaking, the best time to visit Javakheti is from late spring until early autumn, with the temperature at its warmest in July and August. There are birdwatching opportunities throughout this period, but if you have an interest in a specific species, the Javakheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre can advise on when and where to see them.

Summer is the best time if you plan on hiking or off-roading through the Abul-Samsari Range. The terrain is likely to be snow-free and the temperatures more camping-friendly. Depending on the weather, the mountains may also be snow-free in June, September and October.

A UAZ Buhanka campervan descends a rough track towards Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

Off-roading above Paravani Lake in late October, a week before the onset of wintry conditions



A UAZ Buhanka campervan descends a rough track towards Paravani Lake on the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

Off-road above Paravani Lake in late October,
a week before the onset of wintry conditions



Winter in Javakheti is long and harsh. Temperatures have been recorded as low as -40℃ at Paravani Lake. Some roads are likely to be closed (like the Tikmatashi Pass between Tsalka and Paravani), and the lakes will be frozen over.

JAVAKHETI TRANSPORT

It’s best to travel to Javakheti with your own vehicle as public transport is very limited and sights are spread out across great distances, often in remote areas. A 4WD offers more flexibility to explore along dirt tracks and go off-road in the Abul-Samsari Range, but it isn’t necessary in order to visit the main lakes and villages of the region.

You can rent a car in Tbilisi, or other big cities like Kutaisi or Batumi. Our go-to for hire cars is always Holiday Autos, an aggregator we’ve found to have consistently good prices and customer service.

Hiring a campervan or camping car is also a possibility with Tbilisi based company Overlando. We travelled the region in one of their UAZ Buhanka campervans and loved the freedom and flexibility this gave us.

You can get quality fuel in Tsalka, Ninotsminda, and Akhalkalaki.

A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked up on the grassy slopes of the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

A 4WD campervan like this can get you to most places on the Javakheti Plateau



A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked up on the grassy slopes of the Javakheti Plateau in Georgia

A 4WD campervan like this can get you
to most places on the Javakheti Plateau



PUBLIC TRANSPORT

If you want to travel to Javakheti by public transport, there are daily marshrutkas (mini buses) from Tbilisi to both Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki. Just note that there is no onward public transport available from these towns to any of the points of interest outlined in this guide.

Marshrutkas to Ninotsminda (via Tsalka) depart from Samgori Metro Station twice a day at 08:00 and 17:30. Marshrutkas to Akhalkalaki depart from Didube Station at 08:00 (via Borjomi), 13:00 (via Tsalka), and 17:00 (via Borjomi). The journey takes about 2.5 – 3 hours.

JAVAKHETI ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation options are limited in Javakheti, with only a few hotels in the administrative towns of Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki. There are more options in nearby Tsalka, in the Kvemo Kartli region, as well as a few guesthouses in Sulda and Sameba villages. It’s important to plan your itinerary accordingly. Alternatively, (wild) camping is an option, and a good one for those looking to explore the wilder parts of the plateau. There are no official camp sites or facilities, so please make sure you camp responsibly and Leave No Trace.

SULDA ACCOMMODATION (BETWEEN AKHALKALAKI AND KARTSAKHI LAKE)

Guesthouse Sulda
(+995 555 54 77 64, +995 599 49 29 67, +995 790 79 01 96)

Guesthouse Flora
(+995 595 21 11 36, +995 790 94 58 19, +995 579 07 01 71)

SAMEBA ACCOMMODATION (MADATAPA LAKE)

Sameba Guesthouse
(+995 599 17 21 13, +995 568 02 00 92, +995 790 17 21 13)


SULDA ACCOMMODATION

(Between Akhalkalaki and Kartsakhi Lake)

Guesthouse Sulda
(+995 555 54 77 64,
+995 599 49 29 67,
+995 790 79 01 96)

Guesthouse Flora
(+995 595 21 11 36,
+995 790 94 58 19,
+995 579 07 01 71)

SAMEBA ACCOMMODATION

(Madatapa Lake)

Sameba Guesthouse
(+995 599 17 21 13,
+995 568 02 00 92,
+995 790 17 21 13)


FURTHER READING

This online Javakheti Guidebook is an excellent all-round resource. It includes plenty of detailed background information on historical and cultural sites in the region.

JAVAKHETI TRAVEL GUIDE

We hope you found our Javakheti travel guide useful. If you have any questions, just drop them in the comments below. And if you’ve been to Javakheti before, we’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.

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A Guide To Javakheti, Georgia\'s Volcanic PlateauA Guide To Javakheti, Georgia\'s Volcanic PlateauA Guide To Javakheti, Georgia\'s Volcanic Plateau
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