• KVEMO KARTLI & JAVAKHETI OFFBEAT ITINERARY

    7 DAY 4X4 GEORGIA ROAD TRIP

    A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
  • KVEMO KARTLI & JAVAKHETI 4X4 ITINERARY

    A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary

KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI OFFBEAT 4X4 ITINERARY

GEORGIA ROAD TRIP

Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti probably aren’t the first places that spring to mind when planning a Georgia road trip. After all, they aren’t home to many of the country’s best known tourist sites, and their proximity to Tbilisi might make them seem less of an adventure. But with a wealth of cultural, historic and natural attractions – places largely inaccessible by public transport – these regions offer the perfect opportunity for a 4×4 road trip.

Following this adventurous 7 day itinerary you’ll explore dramatic canyons, Bronze Age fortresses, volcanic peaks, and a multitude of scenic lakes. You’ll journey through wine country, along mountain roads, and across a high altitude volcanic plateau, all the while passing in and out of towns and villages that are rich in cultural heritage. It’s an itinerary best suited to camping, although accommodation options are also suggested. The route is largely straightforward to drive, although some sections are quite challenging and it’s advisable to have a good 4×4 with a high level of control.

So, if you’re excited to explore somewhere a little different and far removed from the standard tourist trail, this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti offbeat Georgia road trip could be perfect for you. In this guide we’ll provide route maps, a detailed itinerary, and all the practical info you need to organise your trip.

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

ROAD TRIP FILMS





Watch behind the scenes videos of our Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4×4 road trip on Instagram Stories

Watch behind the scenes videos
of our Kvemo Kartli and
Javakheti 4×4 road trip
on Instagram Stories

KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI ITINERARY ROUTE MAP

KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI ITINERARY

ROUTE MAP

This map shows our Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4×4 road trip route, plus camp spots, accommodation options, and points of interest along the way. Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and to switch between satellite and terrain view. The map legend shows the order of the journey. You can highlight the route for each day or a particular pin by clicking on it in the legend or on the map itself. 

Note that it functions best in the desktop ‘My Maps’ version. If you save the map to open on your phone, you can only view the Google Maps version which has more limited functionality. You can save this Google map by tapping the star.

For navigation on the road, we find it easiest to use an offline version of this map. You can do this by downloading our KML file for use with Maps.me (iOS/Android), or the GPX file for use with other offline mapping apps such as Gaia GPS (iOS/Android), Guru Maps (iOS/Android) or OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android).

Download the entire route using the links below. Downloads for each day are available in the itinerary breakdown below.


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 provided a download for a similar version for offline use.


MAPS.ME
To use an offline map with all the same pins and driving routes marked, first download
Maps.Me (iOS/Android), then download our Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti Itinerary KML file, 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.


KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI 4X4 ROAD TRIP ITINERARY OUTLINE

Day 1Tbilisi → Bolnisi → Khrami River Camp (or Bolnisi accommodation)70 km

1.5 hours driving

Day 2Khrami River → Samshvilde Fortress → Tsalka (Dashbashi Forest Camp or accommodation)80 km

2 hours driving

Day 3Tsalka → Tambovka → Shaori Plateau/Fortress → Paravani Lake Camp (or accommodation in Ninotsminda/Akhalkalaki)55 km

2 – 2.5 hours driving

Day 4Paravani Lake Camp → Abuli Fortress → Levani’s Lake Camp (or accommodation in Olaverdi/Akhalkalaki)49 km

3 hours driving

Day 5Levani’s Lake Camp → Kartsakhi Lake Camp (or Sulda/ Flora Guesthouse)60 km

2.5 hours driving

Day 6Kartsakhi Lake Camp → Kanchali Lake → Gorelovka → Bughdasheni Lake → Madatapa Lake Camp (or Sameba Guesthouse)80 km

2.5 hours driving

Day 7Madatapa Lake → Tsalka → Kojori → Tbilisi190 km

4 hours driving

Day 1Tbilisi → Bolnisi → Khrami River Camp (or Bolnisi accommodation)70 km
1.5 hours driving
Day 2Khrami River → Samshvilde Fortress → Tsalka (Dashbashi Forest Camp or accommodation)80 km
2 hours driving
Day 3Tsalka → Tambovka → Shaori Plateau/Fortress → Paravani Lake Camp (or accommodation in Ninotsminda/Akhalkalaki)55 km
2 – 2.5 hours driving
Day 4Paravani Lake Camp → Abuli Fortress → Levani’s Lake Camp (or accommodation in Olaverdi/Akhalkalaki)49 km
3 hours driving
Day 5Levani’s Lake Camp → Kartsakhi Lake Camp (or Sulda/ Flora Guesthouse)60 km
2.5 hours driving
Day 6Kartsakhi Lake Camp → Kanchali Lake → Gorelovka → Bughdasheni Lake → Madatapa Lake Camp (or Sameba Guesthouse)80 km
2.5 hours driving
Day 7Madatapa Lake → Tsalka → Kojori → Tbilisi190 km
4 hours driving

DETAILED ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI 4X4 ROAD TRIP

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

DAY 1 | TBILISI → BOLNISI → KHRAMI RIVER CAMP

70 KM | 1.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 1

TBILISI
→ BOLNISI
→ KHRAMI RIVER CAMP

70 KM | 1.5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: KHRAMI RIVER

41.50512, 44.53933

SUGGESTED CAMP //
KHRAMI RIVER

41.50512, 44.53933

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION: BOLNISI

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION //
BOLNISI

This journey starts as any good Georgian road trip should – with a winemaking region. In Bolnisi you can taste flavourful wine, learn about the area’s Germanic heritage, and do a spot of Soviet mosaic hunting. End the day at a riverside camp in the steep-sided Khrami Canyon, or alternatively, spend the night at a guesthouse or hotel in Bolnisi and continue on to Khrami Canyon the next morning.

TBILISI TO BOLNISI

Our route for this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip starts and ends at Liberty Square in Tbilisi (also known as Freedom Square). Sticking to the west bank of the Mtkvari River, follow the Rustavi Highway south and turn off for Marneuli after 9 km. At Marneuli, turn west towards Bolnisi. Here the landscape becomes ever more attractive, the villages more characterful. The total distance from Tbilisi to Bolnisi is 63 km, and it takes around one hour to drive.

WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN BOLNISI

Bolnisi’s German Heritage

Bolnisi has an interesting cultural history. Swabian Germans settled the area in 1817, and the community flourished until forced into exile by Stalin in 1941. At that time, only Germans who were married to Georgians or Armenians were allowed to remain. Originally named Katharinenfeld after the Queen of Württemberg, the town was renamed Luxemburg in 1921 (after German Communist Rosa Luxemburg), before finally becoming Bolnisi in 1944.

Among many things, the German community established a Lutheran Church, an elementary school, a theatre group, a German language newspaper, and five football teams. They brought with them their own culture and traditions, including winemaking – something the region is particularly well suited to. These days, the local population is largely made up of Georgians, Azeris or Armenians, and few of German heritage remain. But, historic German homes can still be found lining the cobbled streets of Saakadze and Parnavaz, running parallel to the south of the town’s main road.

The brand new Bolnisi Museum opened in 2020, and among other historical exhibits, there is a section dedicated to the legacy of the German settlers. It’s well worth a visit and can be combined with a walk around the former German residential streets.

Wine Tasting

Although Bolnisi is Georgia’s newest designated wine appellation, the region’s winemaking roots go far back in history. A variety of white and red grapes are grown in the local vineyards, including Rkatsiteli, Chinuri, Saperavi, and Tavkveri. A number of small wineries have started producing traditional qvevri wine for sale over the last few years, and a visit to a local marani, or wine cellar, is a great way to spend the afternoon.

Our particular favourite is Brother’s Cellar, offering up excellent wine and a warm welcome from the gregarious Guram, one of the eponymous brothers. You can taste each of their wines and buy a few bottles for the road, or linger over a home-cooked meal accompanied by unlimited wine. This last option is better suited to those spending the night in Bolnisi itself, for obvious reasons!

Brother's Cellar in Bolnisi, a unique wine cellar to visit on this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip itinerary

Inside Brother’s Cellar, where wine is made in the traditional qvevri style



Guram, one of two owners, pouring wine at Brother's Cellar in Bolnisi, a unique wine cellar to visit on this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip itinerary

The gregarious Guram



Brother's Cellar in Bolnisi, a unique wine cellar to visit on this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip itinerary

Inside Brother’s Cellar, where wine is
made in the traditional qvevri style


Guram, one of two owners, pouring wine at Brother's Cellar in Bolnisi, a unique wine cellar to visit on this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip itinerary

The gregarious Guram



Just contact Brother’s Cellar in advance through Facebook or give them a call on +995 551 75 17 11 to arrange a visit. Note that Guram doesn’t speak more than a few words of English, but his English-speaking son will likely reply to any messages, and Guram himself is very adept at communicating through gestures in real life.

Soviet Mosaics

There are a number of Soviet-era mosaics in Bolnisi which are, for the most part, in great condition. A series of 12 decorative panels sits at the entrance to the Culture and Rest Park. Each one colourfully depicts people, animals, and aspects of local life, such as grapevines and qvevri, musicians and dancers in folk dress, and platters of pomegranates. The facade of the now defunct local cinema features a striking religious mosaic, one of just a few with this subject matter in Georgia. And yet another mosaic panel adorns a wine factory on the eastern approach to town, although this is not as easily accessible as the others.

Decorative mosaic panels outside the Culture and Rest Park in Bolnisi, possible to visit on Day 1 of this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti itinerary

Some of the decorative mosaic panels at the entrance to the Culture and Rest Park



One of the decorative mosaic panels outside the Culture and Rest Park in Bolnisi, possible to visit on Day 1 of this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti itinerary

One of the decorative mosaic panels at
the entrance to the Culture and Rest Park



BOLNISI TO KHRAMI RIVER CAMP

8.5 km north of Bolnisi, the Khrami River carves its way through a deep and narrow canyon. High above on both sides, farmland plateaus extend far and wide. A 4×4 track descends into this fractured landscape before crossing a bridge and climbing steeply up the other side. To access the informal riverside camping area, take the track to the right just before the bridge. Alternatively, on the way down to the river, there are a few grassy patches either side of the track which also make a decent camp spot.

DAY 1 SUGGESTED BOLNISI ACCOMMODATION

If you prefer not to camp, or want to take full advantage of Bolnisi’s wineries (remember there’s a 0.03% drink-drive limit in Georgia), the best option is to stay in Bolnisi.

The German owned Hotel Deutsche Muehle is the swishest place in town. It’s a former mill with modern rooms and a lovely outdoor terrace, plus a restaurant open to non-residents. Within stumbling distance of Brother’s Cellar, Jeffrey+ is modern, clean and comfortable. The characterful Bolnisi Guest House dates from 1927. It has some original features such as an arched wine cellar five metres underground, and whitewashed stone walls with wooden beams. Guest rooms have been renovated. Bolnisi Prime House is cosy with a wooden interior, a large garden, and small outdoor pool.

The German owned Hotel Deutsche Muehle is the swishest place in town. It’s a former mill with modern rooms and a lovely outdoor terrace, plus a restaurant open to non-residents.

Within stumbling distance of Brother’s Cellar, Jeffrey+ is modern, clean and comfortable.

The characterful Bolnisi Guest House dates from 1927. It has some original features such as an arched wine cellar five metres underground, and whitewashed stone walls with wooden beams. Guest rooms have been renovated.

Bolnisi Prime House is cosy with a wooden interior, a large garden, and small outdoor pool.

See More From Georgia

A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A man emerges onto a pebble beach from the calm Black Sea in early summer after taking a refreshing dip while on a Western Georgia road trip
A UAZ 4x4 and a wooden house with mountain views behind in a summer settlement in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains
A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
Snow capped Mt. Kazbek shining bright at sunrise, as seen from the town of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in northern Georgia
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in 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.
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A man emerges onto a pebble beach from the calm Black Sea in early summer after taking a refreshing dip while on a Western Georgia road trip
A UAZ 4x4 and a wooden house with mountain views behind in a summer settlement in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains
A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary
A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
Snow capped Mt. Kazbek shining bright at sunrise, as seen from the town of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in northern Georgia
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in 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.

DAY 2 | KHRAMI RIVER → SAMSHVILDE FORTRESS → TSALKA

80 KM | 2 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 2

KHRAMI RIVER
→ SAMSHVILDE FORTRESS
→ TSALKA

80 KM | 2 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: DASHBASHI FOREST

41.59855, 44.11591

SUGGESTED CAMP //
DASHBASHI FOREST

41.59855, 44.11591

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION: TSALKA

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION //
TSALKA

The highlight of today is the historic Samshvilde complex, fortress ruins on a rocky promontory overlooking Samshvilde Canyon at the confluence of the Khrami and Chivchavi Rivers. In Tsalka you can enjoy a feast at Pontia, a bustling restaurant run by one of the few remaining ethnic Greek families in the region. End the day camping in a forest overlooking Dashbashi Canyon, or at accommodation in or around Tsalka.

KHRAMI RIVER TO SAMSHVILDE FORTRESS COMPLEX

From the riverside camp spot in Khrami Canyon to the ruins of Samshvilde Fortress, it’s a mere 3 km west as the crow flies. The journey by road is, not surprisingly, less direct and three times as long. First you need to ascend the steep and winding road out of the canyon to the plateau above. Follow the dirt track through farmland to the outskirts of Dagheti village, then head west along the main road to Samshvilde village. It’s a picturesque place, with red roof-tiled homes surrounded by spacious gardens gently tumbling down the hillside.

Turn off the main road at the bend near the village entrance (see map for location), go past the small shop and public water tap, and continue on the track leading downhill to Chivchavi River. Cross the bridge and ascend the other side. The track soon narrows and becomes much rockier, with old stone walls either side. It’s best to park up at this point and continue on foot.

SAMSHVILDE COMPLEX

There are a number of things to see at the Samshvilde complex, spread out across a naturally fortified rocky promontory above the Chivchavi and Khrami rivers. It’s one of Georgia’s oldest castle towns, dating back to the 3rd century BC.

After parking up, walk along the track, pass through the gate, and follow the path past two churches to the ruins of Samshvilde Fortress. The second church (Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) is particularly interesting, sitting in bucolic grounds alongside a beautiful horse shaped tombstone with detailed carvings.

An aerial view of the Samshvilde Fortress Ruins, a fascinating historical site on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti itinerary

The ruins of Samshvilde Fortress, with the Khrami Canyon falling away to the left



An aerial view of the Samshvilde Fortress Ruins, a fascinating historical site on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti itinerary

The ruins of Samshvilde Fortress



Although Samshvilde Fortress is partly in ruins, it doesn’t require too much imagination to picture it in its heyday. With its round corner defence tower, the west facing wall is particularly impressive. Passing through the gate, views of Samshvilde Canyon and the plateaus on either side open up. A path leads to the ruins of Sioni Cathedral, built between 759-777 AD, where an 8th century inscription can be seen on the eastern facade. Beyond the cathedral lies a stunning viewpoint. From here, you can look straight down the canyon towards our Day 1 suggested camp spot beside the Khrami River.

It’s around 1.7 km from the suggested parking spot (see map) to the furthest viewpoint, an easy walk along stoney and grassy tracks. Allow around 1.5 hours to explore the area.

SAMSHVILDE COMPLEX TO TSALKA/DASHBASHI CANYON

It’s 68 km from Samshvilde Complex to Tsalka and the drive takes around 1 hour 15 minutes, via Tetritskaro and Tbisi. The journey is on good road almost the entire way.

First, return to Samshvilde village, then head north to Tetritskaro. If you’re interested in Soviet mosaics, there are a couple to see here (41.5514, 44.4786 and 41.5521, 44.4825), including a particularly impressive decorative wall on a bend along the main road. Head east through Tetritskaro and join the main road near Saghrasheni, turning west towards Tbisi and beyond. It’s a scenic drive passing the fringes of Trialeti Planned National Park and Algeti National Park, with a few zig-zag hairpin sections keeping things fun along the way.

TSALKA

Tsalka is a regional hub and the last big town you’ll encounter for the next couple of days. You can stock up at the market here, and be sure to refuel as the next petrol station isn’t until Akhalkalaki on Day 5.

In Tsalka, we’d certainly recommend a meal at Pontia, a bustling place by the river with a scattering of outdoor tables nestled in private cubicles. The owners are one of the few remaining ethnic Greek families in the region, and while it mostly serves Georgian food, you may be able to try moussaka if you call ahead and ask in advance (+995 599 45 74 00). Elena speaks excellent English. Otherwise, the fried fish and mtsvadi are excellent, and it’s very budget friendly.

DASHBASHI CANYON

Just outside of Tsalka is Dashbashi Canyon (also called Tsalka Canyon), where the now familiar Khrami River flows beneath tall cliffs. The forest lining the western clifftops is ideal for camping. There is a picnic table area with bins, or you can tuck yourself in somewhere secluded among the trees. A dirt track running through the forest makes for easy access.

A view down into Dashbashi Canyon, close to the wild camp spot on Day 2 of this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti Itinerary

A moody and overcast morning at Dashbashi Canyon, seen from the western clifftops



A view down into Dashbashi Canyon, close to the wild camp spot on Day 2 of this Kwemo Kartli and Javakheti Itinerary

A moody and overcast morning at Dashbashi
Canyon, seen from the western clifftops



From Dashbashi village, you can hike down into the canyon and get to a series of waterfalls. However, during our own visit to the canyon this was not possible, as there was a massive construction project underway to build a glass bridge spanning the canyon, and to develop tourist infrastructure in the immediate area. At the time of writing, we understand that access into the canyon is again possible, and that the glass bridge is set to be opened in Spring 2022.

DAY 2 SUGGESTED TSALKA ACCOMMODATION

Tsalka and Dashbashi are very close, so substituting the suggested camp spot for accommodation doesn’t require any major alterations to the itinerary. Options are more limited than in Bolnisi, and more basic.

Within Tsalka is Hotel White House (+995 595 99 87 95), and a little further west in Tbeti village is CouCou Hostel (+995 599 98 52 33), set on the shores of Tsalka Reservoir. It’s also possible to camp here.

At the canyon itself, the swanky new Kass Land complex will have both high-class modern cottages and a premium hotel.

DAY 3 | TSALKA → TAMBOVKA → SHAORI FORTRESS/MEADOW → PARAVANI LAKE CAMP

55 KM | 2 – 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 3

TSALKA
→ TAMBOVKA
→ SHAORI FORTRESS
→ PARAVANI LAKE

 

55 KM | 2 – 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: PARAVANI LAKE

41.43061, 43.77955

SUGGESTED CAMP //
PARAVANI LAKE

41.43061, 43.77955

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION: NINOTSMINDA

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION //
NINOTSMINDA

Day 3 of this 4×4 Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip is when it starts to feel wilder, colder, and much more remote. You’ll ascend to the Javakheti volcanic plateau, pass through lakeside villages with unique turf-roofed houses, have the chance to hike to a Bronze Age cyclopean fortress, and end the day camping on the shores of Paravani Lake, the largest in Georgia. For those looking for accommodation, you’ll need to stray off this itinerary and continue south to Ninotsminda.

TSALKA TO TAMBOVKA

Heading west out of Tsalka, the main road passes through numerous villages before turning south and climbing to Tikmatashi Pass (2168m). Here, 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. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line runs right by here, currently only for freight but due to incorporate a passenger service some time in the future.

The tarmac road continues down the eastern side of the lake, but you’ll be turning off onto the rough track following the western shore, approximately 31 km from Tsalka. Continue along the track, passing first through the village of Akhali Khulgumo before arriving at the particularly picturesque Tambovka. It takes around an hour to drive from Tsalka, but factor in extra time to enjoy the views along the way.

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

Driving towards the western shore of Paravani Lake, the Abul Samsari Range rising above



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

Driving towards the western shore of Paravani
Lake, the Abul Samsari Range rising above



TAMBOVKA

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.

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 some 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.

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

A layer of turf on the roof provides insulation throughout the cold Paravani Lake winter



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

Dung drying in a disused Tambovka house



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

A layer of turf on the roof provides insulation
throughout the cold Paravani Lake winter


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

A classic Tambovka house



It’s a lovely spot for a wander, and we found the local families to be very welcoming and friendly, despite our language barrier. At the southern end of the village there’s an ideal grassy picnic spot by the lake.

TAMBOVKA TO SHAORI FORTRESS

Continue south, following the rough road running parallel to the lake as far as the largely abandoned village of Aspara. From here, a track leads up the hillside to the alpine meadows above, where shepherds graze their animals in summer. The views of the lake and surrounding landscape from this vantage point are spectacular. From Aspara to the shepherd camp near the base of Shaori Mountain, where the vehicle track more or less disappears, it’s around 6.6 km and a climb of 370 metres. It takes about 30 minutes to drive one way, not including stops to enjoy the views.

It’s straightforward enough with a 4×4 to drive as far as the foot of Shaori Mountain (also marked as Mount Koroghli on some maps) and from this point you can hike to the ruins of Shaori Fortress at the top (2757 m). This megalithic structure dates from the 2nd millennium BC. 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 1.5 hours to cover the 2.8+ km return distance, as there is around 350 metres to climb. A route is marked on maps.me and other open source mapping apps, and we’ve included it in our map as well for your reference.

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) in late October; the fortress ruins lie hidden from view on top



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) in late October; the fortress
ruins lie hidden from view on top



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

SHAORI MOUNTAIN TO PARAVANI LAKE CAMP SPOT

From the foot of Shaori Mountain, return to Aspara the same way and continue south. The road rounds a bend high above the water, then drops down to lake level. Head away from the road on any of the tracks leading towards the lake. There is plenty of flat ground here suitable for camping, just watch out for boggy areas close to the shore. This area is used for fishing by the locals, mostly ethnic Armenians, so don’t be surprised if the fishermen come and say hello. It’s also home to migratory birds, including pelicans and flamingoes, who stop off here in late spring and early summer. 

A Toyota Expedition Camper parked up on the shores of Paravani Lake on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip itinerary

Parked up for the night at Paravani Lake in early May



A Toyota Expedition Camper parked up on the shores of Paravani Lake on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti road trip itinerary

Parked for the night at Paravani Lake in early May



Paravani Lake sits at an altitude of 2073 m, and the surrounding wind blasted landscape is notably tree-less, making for a rather exposed and potentially windy camp spot. If you need somewhere more sheltered, your best bet is a narrow clearing tucked in between a small hill and artificially planted pine forest just north of Aspara. Turn off the gravel road at the coordinates 41.4668, 43.7873 to reach it.

DAY 3 ALTERNATIVE NINOTSMINDA ACCOMMODATION

There are no accommodation options around Paravani Lake, so if you don’t want to camp the best option is to continue 37 km south to Ninotsminda, about a 40 minute drive. There are a few options here, including Hotel Triumph, Javakhet, Hotel Sonya (+995 574 80 93 83), and Ararat (+995 599 23 84 23, +995 361 22 23 84).

To rejoin this itinerary the next day, return to Paravani Lake or join the route from the west via Eshtia village.

DAY 4 | PARAVANI LAKE CAMP → ABULI FORTRESS → LEVANI’S LAKE CAMP

49 KM | 3 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 4

PARAVANI LAKE CAMP
→ ABULI FORTRESS
→ LEVANI’S LAKE CAMP

49 KM | 3 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: LEVANI’S LAKE

Next to Car: 41.48327, 43.65419

Lakeside: 41.49977, 43.67052

SUGGESTED CAMP //
LEVANI’S LAKE

Next to Car: 41.48327, 43.65419

Lakeside: 41.49977, 43.67052

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION: OLAVERDI OR AKHALKALAKI

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION //
OLAVERDI OR AKHALKALAKI

This day is spent entirely off-road, exploring the Abul-Samsari Range. You’ll get up close to the highest mountain in the region, Didi Abuli (3300 m), explore another Bronze Age cyclopean fortress, pass through a number of small villages, and end the day camping at remote Levani’s Lake beneath extinct volcanic peaks. For those looking to stay in accommodation, it’s possible to make a return trip to Levani’s Lake and overnight in a guesthouse in Olaverdi village, or various hotels in Akhalkalaki.

PARAVANI LAKE CAMP TO ABULI FORTRESS

Follow the road south from your chosen camp spot as far as Vladimirovka village, then turn your back on the lake and start heading westwards up the track towards Didi Abuli. It’s about 10 km to Abuli pass, sitting at 2312 m between Didi (big) Abuli and Patara (small) Abuli mountains. You could hike up Didi Abuli, but with a 1000 metre ascent and return hike time of around 5-6 hours, it’ll make for a full-on day if you also intend to continue to Levani’s Lake as per this itinerary.

A shorter, more manageable hike is to Abuli Fortress (2670 m) on the southern slopes of Patara Abuli. Like Shaori Fortress, it dates from the 2nd millennium BC, but its dry stone structure is much more complete. You can drive most of the way and hike the final 2 km to the ruins. Allow up to 1.5 hours for the return hike.

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



ABULI FORTRESS TO LEVANI’S LAKE CAMP

Return to Abuli Pass and carry on westwards to Abuli village. The last section of track is very rocky and slow going, best tackled in low gears with plenty of control. Continue through Abuli village to Kartikami, then head northeast through Buzaveti towards Olaverdi.

There is a track heading off to the east just before you reach the village of Olaverdi. It climbs for 12 km to Levani’s Lake, initially through farmland before passing a small lake and ascending 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, so check the forecast before setting off.

A UAZ Buhanka campervan descending the wide grassy slope from Levani's Lake on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary

The grassy track that climbs towards Levani’s Lake, the van pictured here on the way back down



A UAZ Buhanka campervan descending the wide grassy slope from Levani's Lake on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary

The grassy track up towards Levani’s Lake,
the van pictured here on the way back down



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 grassy spot between the southern slope of Mt. Korogli and the northern slope of an unnamed peak (41.4833, 43.6500). From here, it’s a pretty easy 30 minute walk to the lake, which is hidden from sight around the corner at the foot of Mt. Korogli’s eastern slope.

LEVANI’S LAKE

Nestled among the colourful volcanic mountains of the Abul-Samsari Range, elongated Levani’s Lake sits at 2565 m and is particularly scenic. 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. There’s a seasonal spring here, too. A small stone shepherd’s shelter sits above the lake at the southern end, this area being used for grazing in the summer months.

If you’re happy to leave the vehicle behind and carry your camping gear to the north shore of the lake (around 3 km), this makes an idyllic camp spot. Otherwise, you can camp at the spot where you park and walk to the lake unencumbered.

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



DAY 4 ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION AND SUGGESTED ROUTE

If you plan on staying in accommodation while tackling this 4×4 road trip, you’ll need to tweak the itinerary a bit.

If you stayed in Ninotsminda on Day 3, we suggest you approach from the west and rejoin the Day 4 itinerary at the foot of Patara Abuli. It’s 18 km from Ninotsminda to the spot where you can start the Abuli Fortress hike, driving via Khojabegi, Kaurma, and Eshtia. Before you reach the village of Ujmana, take the track heading northeast and pass by (largely dry) Abuli Lake to arrive at the foot of Patara Abuli.

After visiting Levani’s Lake, you’ll need to retrace your route back down to Olaverdi where there is a guesthouse, I.E. Hayastan Giloyan (+995 555 610 735), or continue all the way to Akhalkalaki (a further 10 km on rough roads). In Akhalkalaki there is more choice. Options include Hotel Ideal , Art-Seg (+995 362 2 37 07, +995 79 74 34 11), and Anank (+995 99 10 18 35).

DAY 5 | LEVANI’S LAKE CAMP → KARTSAKHI LAKE CAMP

60 KM | 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 5

LEVANI’S LAKE CAMP
→ KARTSAKHI LAKE CAMP

60 KM | 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: KARTSAKHI LAKE

41.22546, 43.25593

SUGGESTED CAMP //
KARTSAKHI LAKE

41.22546, 43.25593

 

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION: SULDA

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION //
SULDA

Today you’ll descend from the Abul-Samsari Range and head south to scenic Kartsakhi Lake on the border with Turkey. You’ll pass through the largest town in the region, Akhalkalaki. Here you can refuel, stock up on supplies, and pay a visit to the Javakheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre. You can camp by Kartsakhi Lake, or stay in a guesthouse in nearby Sulda village.

LEVANI’S LAKE TO AKHALKALAKI

Retrace your route back towards Olaverdi. When you reach the main gravel road, continue southwest towards the villages of Kulikami and Khulgumo. You’ll pass some small farms and a lake, where you can look back for great views of Didi Abuli. At Akhalkalaki you’ll join the main tarmac road, along with plenty of cargo trucks heading to and from the Turkish border. Allow around 1.5 hours to drive from Levani’s Lake to Akhalkalaki.

You can refuel in Akhalkalaki, and there are numerous grocery shops for stocking up on supplies. There is also a public water tap if you need to fill up drinking water for camping. We’ve marked some useful places on our map. If you want to visit the Javakheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre, continue south for about 3 km on the main road towards Ninotsminda.

AKHALKALAKI TO KARTSAKHI LAKE

Heading southwest from Akhalkalaki, you’ll pass the ruins of Akhalkalaki Fortress on a high point overlooking the town. It’s 30 km from Alkhalkalaki to Kartsakhi Lake and the road is paved almost the entire way, but with 300 metres to climb, it can take around an hour to get there. The landscape here is markedly different to that around Paravani Lake or the Abul-Samsari Range, with plenty of wide open views and farmland stretching for miles. You’ll go through a few villages and pass by the Sulda and Kartsakhi Managed Reserves, marshy wetland areas popular with birds and bird watchers alike.

The turn off for Kartsakhi Lake is a little beyond the village of Kartsakhi. The rough track leaves the road, leads past a ranger station, and continues along the shore for around 3 km, passing a bird watching tower. There is a lot of bird life here and fishing is also popular. The lake itself straddles the border with Turkey, and the Georgian side of the lake falls within the western most boundary of Javakheti National Park.

There are a couple of newly built cabins at the far end of the track, presumably belonging to the APA (Agency of Protected Areas). These will possibly be available for rent or for use as tourist shelters in the future, but they weren’t open yet when we visited. You can pick somewhere to camp along the shore, or higher up on the grassy slope above the lake.

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



DAY 5 ALTERNATIVE SULDA ACCOMMODATION

Sulda is on the road to Alkhakalaki, approximately 14 km from Kartsakhi Lake. This village is the ideal option for those looking to stay in accommodation. There are a couple of places to choose from, Guesthouse Sulda (+995 555 54 77 64, +995 599 49 29 67, +995 790 79 01 96), or Guesthouse Flora (+995 595 21 11 36, +995 790 94 58 19, +995 579 07 01 71).

DAY 6 | KARTSAKHI LAKE → KANCHALI LAKE → GORELOVKA → BUGHDASHENI LAKE → MADATAPA LAKE

80 KM | 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 6

KARTSAKHI LAKE
→ KANCHALI LAKE
→ GORELOVKA
→ BUGHDASHENI LAKE
→ MADATAPA LAKE

80 KM | 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: MADATAPA LAKE

41.19851, 43.78474

SUGGESTED CAMP //
MADATAPA LAKE

41.19851, 43.78474

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION: SAMEBA

SUGGESTED ACCOMMODATION //
SAMEBA

On your penultimate day in the region it’s time to explore more of Javakheti’s lakes, along with the Doukhobor village of Gorelovka. You’ll cover a bit more distance compared to the previous few days, but it’s mostly on paved roads, with short unpaved sections to reach the various lakes. Spend your last night camping by Madatapa Lake, or in a nearby guesthouse in Sameba village.

KARTSAKHI LAKE TO KANCHALI LAKE

Retrace your route back towards Akhalkalaki, but after 30 km, bypass the town itself by taking the road to the right. This will bring you out at the Javakheti Protected Areas Visitor Centre (and a particularly fine Soviet Modernist building across the road which we presume used to be a train station).

Continue south to Ninotsminda, turning right off the main road to drive towards Didi Khanchali village and round to Patara Khanchali, on the southern shore of Khanchali Lake. This scenic spot is another breeding and resting spot for migratory birds. There are picturesque floating ‘islands’ of plantlife dotted across the southern part of the lake, and a short walking trail along the shore.

KANCHALI LAKE TO GORELOVKA

Return to the main road and continue south for about 9 km to the village of Gorelovka. Here you can see the beautiful homes and colourful community buildings of the Doukhobor people.

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. A few thousand Doukhobor settled in villages in Javakheti, with Gorelovka being the hub of the community. 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

Shadows on the old orphanage



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

The buildings are well taken care of and were being freshly painted during our visit



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

The Doukhobor buildings are well taken care of
and were being freshly painted during our visit


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

Intricate shadows cast by the elaborate
woodwork of the old Doukhobor orphanage



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.

GORELOVKA TO BUGHDASHENI LAKE

Bughdasheni Lake sits just south of Gorelovka. It’s about a 2.5 km drive to the picnic area with toilet facilities and a bird watching tower. 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. Cows graze nearby, and a snaking river on the southern side completes the scene.

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


BUGHDASHENI LAKE TO MADATAPA LAKE

The final lake of the day sits less than 10 km away, just shy of the Armenian border. To reach it, return to the main road and continue southeast. The small villages of Epremovka, Zhdanovakani, and Sameba are situated along its southern shore, with Mt. Madatapa dominating the landscape to the north. There are various off-road tracks leading around the lake, or you can hire horses in Sameba.

There is a nice lakeside camping spot on the northern shore which you can get to by turning off at Epremovka (another Doukhobor village with turf-roofed houses). Follow the track towards a red hued quarry and turn off onto the faint grassy track before the quarry itself (as detailed on our map).

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



DAY 6 ALTERNATIVE SAMEBA ACCOMMODATION

Sameba Guesthouse (+995 599 17 21 13, +995 568 02 00 92, +995 790 17 21 13) in Sameba village is a perfectly located alternative if you don’t wish to camp.

DAY 7 | MADATAPA LAKE → KOJORI → TBILISI

190 KM | 4 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 7

MADATAPA LAKE
→ KOJORI
TBILISI

 

190 KM | 4 HOURS DRIVING

Time to return to Tbilisi, breaking up the journey with a short hike to Kojori Fortress for fantastic mountain views. It’s paved road all the way so you can cover the distance in a few hours, leaving time for scenic stops along the way.

MADATAPA LAKE TO KOJORI

Return to the main road and head north towards Ninotsminda, then turn east towards Paravani Lake. You’ll pass Saghamo Lake on the way. In Poka, at the southern end of Paravani, you can stop by the nunnery and pick up some (seriously delicious) homemade cheeses, jams, local honey, and various gifts and crafts. The main road continues north along the eastern shore of Lake Paravani, passing Rodionovka (also known as Paravani) and leading back to Tikmatashi Pass.

From the pass, retrace your earlier route through Tsalka and beyond, before turning onto Road 36 towards Manglisi. Continue heading east all the way to Kojori, passing by Didi Toneti and Orbeti.

On the southern side of Kojori village sits the ruins of XI century Kojori Fortress, atop a rocky hill. You can drive most of the way, walking the last 10-15 minutes to the top (which includes climbing a metal staircase). From here, there are fantastic views of Tbilisi to the north and the surrounding hillsides to the south. On clear days, it’s even possible to see the snowy peaks of the Greater Caucasus Range in the far distance.

The crumbled ruins of Kojori Fortress sat atop a rocky outcrop

The ruined fortress rises from a rocky outcrop above the small town of Kojori



The crumbled ruins of Kojori Fortress sat atop a rocky outcrop

The ruined fortress rises from a rocky
outcrop above the small town of Kojori



KOJORI TO TBILISI

It’s just over 20 km from Kojori to Tbilisi and it takes around 30-45 minutes. At Shindisi, you can take a road to the east, emerging at the main highway at Ortachala in southern Tbilisi. Or, you can continue north and wind your way directly into the old streets of Sololaki. We think this way is a bit more interesting, and it’s the one marked on our route map.

WHERE TO STAY IN TBILISI

From dorm beds to design hotels, these are our top picks of Tbilisi accommodation.

Tbilisi Hostels

Budget to Mid-Range Accommodation

Design and Boutique Hotels

COME JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM

4×4 CAR AND CAMPERVAN RENTAL IN GEORGIA

4×4 CAR AND CAMPERVAN RENTAL

Fancy embarking on this 4WD road trip but don’t have your own vehicle? No worries. There are numerous rental companies with suitable 4x4s for hire, or go one step further and hire a 4×4 campervan like we did!

4×4 RENTAL CARS

This 4WD road trip itinerary covers some tricky terrain, especially on the Abul-Samsari Range, and a good 4WD with high clearance is recommended (not just an SUV). We always organise our rental cars through Holiday Autos, an aggregator with consistently good prices and customer service. They have plenty of options for 4×4 car hire in Tbilisi. Cars4Rent is a local operator with a wide variety of vehicles as well. You can search options below.

SEARCH CAR HIRE OPTIONS HERE

4×4 CAMPERVANS

If you fancy camping, but want something more convenient and comfortable than a tent, hiring a 4×4 campervan is ideal for this off-road adventure. Look no further than Overlando, a Tbilisi-based company with a small fleet of UAZ Buhanka campervans, a Toyota HiLux Expedition Camper, and a few Lada Niva camping cars. We’ve explored many remote parts of Georgia (including the places in this itinerary!) in either their Buhanka or HiLux Expedition Camper, and loved the experience. We’ve travelled around Armenia in a Lada Niva too, and found it to be a nifty little 4×4, perfect for handling the roads in this itinerary.

CAMPING TIPS AND CAMPING GEAR RENTAL IN GEORGIA

This 4×4 Georgia road trip itinerary is designed around (wild) camping for at least two nights, at Paravani Lake and Levani’s Lake. If you don’t have camping equipment you can rent everything you need, including cooking gear, from MPlus in Tbilisi. You can buy camping gas at MPlus too, or at Geoland.

There are no official campsites or facilities, so please make sure you follow the Leave No Trace principles. These include bagging and removing all rubbish, and burying human waste when there is no toilet available. Be prepared in advance with rubbish bags and a shovel for digging a toilet hole.

We recommend travelling in summer when the weather is at its warmest, especially if camping every night. Ensure you have warm clothing and good camping gear as temperatures on the plateau are much colder than in Tbilisi or the lowlands, and it can get pretty windy.

KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI 4X4 ROAD TRIP PRACTICALITIES

There are some things to consider before starting your 4×4 road trip to help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time.

MAPS & NAVIGATION

Online Maps

Google Maps works well for navigation in this region. The satellite view function is handy for scoping out terrain and off-road tracks in more remote parts.

Offline Maps

It’s also a good idea to have an offline map of your route downloaded before setting off. You’ll likely lose phone reception at various points so online maps like Google can’t always be relied on.

Our go-to offline mapping app is Maps.me (iOS/Android). We find it the easiest to use for real-time navigation, as well as route planning in advance. Additionally,  Gaia GPS (iOS/Android) and Guru Maps (iOS/Android) are very useful as they show much more terrain and contour detail. OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android) is another good option.

GPX Track Downloads

The easiest way to navigate this itinerary is by importing our route map into Maps.me (download the KML files), or into Gaia/Guru/OsmAnd Maps (download the GPX files). These can be used online, or offline. You can also save our Google map above. We’ve provided a download for each individual day in the itinerary outline, or you can download all of the info at once using the links in our map section.

Other Maps

You can download a PDF version of Georgia National Tourism Association’s Samtskhe-Javakheti map here. There are also many maps (and lots of detailed background information on historical and cultural sites in the region) in this online guide. You can pick up a paper map of the Javakheti Protected Areas at the visitor centre in Akhalkalaki.

FUEL

You can get fuel in all of the main towns such as Bolnisi, Tsalka, Ninotsminda, and Akhalkalaki. There is nowhere to get fuel around Paravani Lake or in the Abul-Samsari Range. Make sure you plan ahead and fill up in Tsalka on Day 3 and leave enough fuel to get you to Akhalkalaki on Day 5. We’ve marked some petrol stations on our map so you can navigate to them easily.

Note that Google Maps, etc, may have fuel marked in smaller villages along this route (in Poka, for example), but from our experience these can’t be relied upon and are often of dubious quality. The fuel stations marked on our map are all well known companies, such as Wizzol, Gulf, or Socar.

FOOD & WATER

For dried goods that will last, taking what you need from Tbilisi is the best and most cost effective option, provided you have sufficient room in your vehicle. For everything else, you can stock up at shops in each of the main towns, or take advantage of restaurants, or meals at guesthouses if staying in accommodation.  Again, there is nowhere to get supplies around Paravani Lake or in the Abul-Samsari Range (besides some small shops in Poka), so it’s best to buy enough in Tsalka to last until Akhalkalaki. We’ve marked public water taps on our map where you can fill up drinking water.

PHONE RECEPTION AND EMERGENCY SERVICES

Magticom is the best SIM card to get for travelling in Georgia, with the widest network. However, there are a few sections on this itinerary where you may lose phone reception, so do make sure you have your route downloaded in advance for use offline, and any useful web pages stored for reading offline.

The emergency services number is 112.

KVEMO KARTLI AND JAVAKHETI 4×4 ITINERARY

That’s the lot for our Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4×4 road trip itinerary. If you have any useful info to add, suggestions, or stories to share, get in touch through the comments section below. Equally, if you have any questions, let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them. And if you’re planning to follow this itinerary, good luck and enjoy!

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A UAZ Buhanka campervan at Paravani Lake as the sun rises on this Kvemo Kartli and Javakheti 4x4 road trip itinerary

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Kvemo Kartli & Javakheti Offbeat Georgia 4x4 Road Trip ItineraryKvemo Kartli & Javakheti Offbeat Georgia 4x4 Road Trip ItineraryKvemo Kartli & Javakheti Offbeat Georgia 4x4 Road Trip ItineraryKvemo Kartli & Javakheti Offbeat Georgia 4x4 Road Trip Itinerary
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