• A GUIDE TO HIKING UDZIRO LAKE

    RACHA, GEORGIA

    A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
  • UDZIRO LAKE

    A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara

A GUIDE TO HIKING UDZIRO LAKE

RACHA, GEORGIA

Nestled among fantastically shaped mountains in Upper Racha, Udziro Lake is small but perfectly formed. It spills over the hillside like a natural infinity pool at one end, and a large grassy patch perfect for camping sits at the other. On a fine day Shkhara, Tetnuldi, and other snowy peaks of the Greater Caucasus Range are reflected in its clear blue water – a spectacular sight. As with most such special places, getting to Udziro requires a bit of leg work.

While it’s possible to hike there and back from Glola in one full day, a better option is to camp, splitting your hike over 2 or 3 days to fully appreciate the lake and its unique surroundings. Here we outline a 3 day loop hike, starting at Shovi and finishing at Glola. We think this is the ideal itinerary, but if you want to shorten it to 2 days, it’s certainly possible to hike from Shovi to Udziro Lake in one day instead of two.

In this guide we cover everything you need to know about the Udziro Lake hike. This includes a detailed outline of the route, trekking distances and times, camping and accommodation options, packing lists, transport info, and more. We also provide a map and our GPX track download to help you find your way.

*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!*

UDZIRO LAKE QUICK FACTS

            • Distance | 17.5 km
            • Duration | 2 – 3 days
            • Start/End | Shovi/Glola (or vice versa)
            • Min Elevation | 1338 m (Glola)
            • Max Elevation | 3068 m (Geske Pass) 
            • Total Ascent | approx. 1770 metres
            • Total Descent | approx. 1920 metres
            • Hiking Season | July – September (poss. late Jun – early Oct)
            • River Crossings | Streams (cross on stones)
            • Water Sources | Streams and lakes

UDZIRO LAKE HIKE QUICK FACTS

Distance
17.5 km

Duration
2 – 3 days

Start/End
Shovi/Glola
(or vice versa)

Min Elevation
1338 m (Glola)

Max Elevation
3068 m (Geske Pass)

Total Ascent
approx. 1770 metres

Total Descent
approx. 1920 metres

Hiking Season
July – September
(poss. late Jun – early Oct)

River Crossings
Streams (cross on stones)

Water Sources
Streams and lakes

 


WATCH OUR FILM

Watch the behind the scenes version of our Udziro Lake hike on Instagram stories

Watch the behind the scenes
version of our Udziro Lake
hike on Instagram stories 

UDZIRO LAKE HIKING MAP

UDZIRO LAKE

HIKING MAP

Use the map below to help guide you to Udziro Lake. Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view.

To use an offline version of this map, download our KML file for use with Maps.me (iOS/Android), or the GPX file for use with other offline mapping apps such as Gaia (iOS/Android) or OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android). See the expandable box below for tips on using these apps. 

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

Maps.me is our go-to offline mapping app. We find it straightforward to use for planning routes in advance, as well as navigating on the trail. It doesn’t drain our phone battery, and it’s quick and easy to save and organise ‘bookmarks’. There are many trails already marked on Maps.me, plus you can download and import a KML track of your route to the app. 

To use Maps.me, first download the app (iOS/Android). Hover over the region or country that you want to visit and the app will prompt you to download this map. Once downloaded, it can be viewed offline. 

You can tap anywhere and save it as a ‘bookmark’ by tapping the star symbol at the bottom. Hit ‘Edit Bookmark’ to personalise the bookmark colour, organise your bookmarks into different folders, and rename them. 

You can navigate easily or plan routes in advance by tapping your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tapping your end point and selecting ‘route to’. Tap the car, walking, or cycling symbol at the top of the screen to indicate your mode of travel. 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’. 

Maps.me shows the distance and travel time, plus elevation profiles for hiking trails. Note that the estimated time isn’t always reliable, but we’ve always found the distance and elevation gain/loss to be largely accurate. It only shows very basic contour lines.

You can track your progress on the trail using GPS. The arrow shows your direction of travel. Tap the compass at the top right of the screen to keep the map in a fixed position (the arrow will rotate). Alternatively, tap the arrow at the bottom right of the screen to rotate the map in the direction of travel (the arrow will stay in a fixed position).

GAIA

Gaia (iOS/Android) is another offline mapping app that is very useful. It shows the contours in much more detail than Maps.me, as long as you have previously viewed the section of map online. With a paid membership you can download various maps in advance for offline use. The app has existing OpenStreetMap trails marked and you can import GPX tracks and view them offline. You can also create new routes online yourself and export them as GPX or KML files. You can navigate easily on the trail using the arrow that shows your GPS location. Unlike with Maps.me, it isn’t possible to quickly check distances between two points (or at least we haven’t figured out a way to do it). There are a lot of useful features in the free version and even more benefits if you have a paid annual membership, so if you spend a lot of time outdoors it is worthwhile learning how to use the app to its full advantage. 

In our experience, Gaia drains your phone battery much quicker than Maps.me, even in flight mode, so it’s best to shut down the app completely each time you finish using it. 

OSMAND MAPS

OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android) is another great offline mapping app with lots of useful features. In our opinion, it’s not as intuitive as Maps.me, and it has so many features that it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Like Gaia, we recommend checking out the written and video tutorials on the OsmAnd website to learn how to fully use the app. The benefits of the app include being able to plot routes in advance and save them as GPX tracks, and to view detailed elevation and terrain information, including surface types. You can also import GPX tracks. One downside is that the free version does not include contour lines, but these can be added via a paid plugin.


UDZIRO LAKE HIKE BREAKDOWN

We’ve broken down the Udziro Lake hike into days and sections below.

We’ve also given approximate timings and distances for each day and section, as well as approximate figures for elevation gain and loss. The total daily figures for elevation gain and loss are based on our recorded route using Garmin and may not be 100% accurate, but they are a good guide of what to expect. The elevation gain and loss figures for each hiking section are estimates based on our recorded track and mapping apps.

The timings are based around average hiking speeds and are intended as a rough guide. If you’re a fast hiker it may take you less time, and conversely, if you’re a slow hiker it may take you longer.

ELEVATION PROFILE AND 3D ROUTE MAP VIDEO

Udziro Lake Hike Shovi to Glola Elevation Profile

The elevation profile of the Udziro Lake trek, starting at the roadside near Shovi and ending at the village of Glola



DAY 1 | SHOVI → CAMP BELOW GESKE PASS

7.3 km | + 1109 m / – 82 m | 4 – 6 hours

DAY 1

SHOVI
CAMP BELOW GESKE PASS

7.3 km

+ 1109 m / – 82 m

4 – 6 hours

Day 1 of this Udziro Lake trek starts with a steep, often muddy forest climb. The trail becomes progressively easier as you climb, emerging from the forest at around  2100 m. From this point a gently undulating trail heads up the valley to meet the river, then steadily climbs the hillside thick with vegetation. When you meet the river/stream for a second time, it must be crossed to reach the marked camp spot.

SHOVI → FOREST PICNIC SPOT | 1.9 km | + 521 m / – 11 m | 1.5 – 2 hours

SHOVI →
FOREST PICNIC SPOT

1.9 km | + 521 m / – 11 m

1.5 – 2 hours

The trail starts at a clearing by the side of the road and heads left into the forest. The first kilometre climbs steeply in parts, on a pretty muddy trail with numerous tree obstacles to climb over or under. After climbing 270 metres in elevation the trail reaches a ridge line within the forest. For the next kilometre it is generally wider, less muddy, and less steep. The trail leads to a small clearing in the forest with log benches  – a nice picnic spot.

FOREST PICNIC SPOT → RIVER | 2.85 km | + 229 m / – 60 m | 1 – 2 hours

FOREST PICNIC SPOT
→ RIVER

2.85 km | + 229 m / – 60 m

1 – 2 hours

Shortly after the picnic spot you’ll emerge from the forest. The trail leads up the open hillside, close to the edge of a landslide drop-off. There are views down to Glola and across to various glaciers and impressive peaks. The trail continues up through a grassy meadow then reaches a wide valley with open views of where you’re headed. From here, the fairly easy undulating trail continues up the valley. Soon you’ll reach the river itself, the first spot to fill up water along the trail.

A wide grassy valley with mountain views after emerging from the forest above Shovi on Day 1 of the Udziro Lake trek in Racha, Georgia

After emerging from the forest, the trail winds through an open, grassy valley to meet the river



A hiker in a wide grassy valley with mountain views after emerging from the forest above Shovi on Day 1 of the Udziro Lake trek in Racha, Georgia

After emerging from the forest, the trail winds
through an open, grassy valley to meet the river



RIVER → CAMP SPOT | 2.55 km | + 359 m / – 11 m | 1.5  – 2 hours

RIVER → CAMP SPOT

2.55 km | + 359 m / – 11 m

1.5  – 2 hours

From here until the camp spot the trail becomes overgrown or non-existent at times, making it slower going. Sometimes the red and white markers are clear, other times there are none, or perhaps they are obscured by vegetation.

Leaving the riverbank, the trail continues on the right side through an overgrown section of flowers and hogweed. It’s difficult to spot the trail from afar, but straightforward enough to follow when you’re on it.

A hiker climbs through a wide valley thick with long grass and overgrown flowers, climbing towards Geske pass on the Udziro Lake trek in Georgia

As the trail continues up the valley, expect it to be overgrown with flowers and vegetation



A hiker climbs through a wide valley thick with long grass and overgrown flowers, climbing towards Geske pass on the Udziro Lake trek in Georgia

As the trail continues up the valley, expect it
to be overgrown with flowers and vegetation



You’ll come to a point where a dry riverbed leads up the hillside to your right. From here any obvious trail disappears, so keep an eye on your GPS. Walk up the riverbed and turn off onto the grassy slopes to the left. You may find a semblance of a trail, but regardless, keep traversing the hillside until you reach the large stream.

A painted arrow on a rock directs you to the right (not across the stream), but we crossed the stream and followed our GPX track because we wanted to reach the camp spot above. If you’re heading straight for the pass and not planning on camping, this waymarked route is an option, but the GPX track we were following as well as the trail marked on OSM mapping apps both stick to the left side of the valley.

After crossing the stream there is no trail to follow. Simply carry on up the hillside, climbing on grass, rocks, and over numerous small streams. You’ll reach a perfectly flat camping area (around 2500 m) with fantastic mountain views and a stream for water nearby.

Impressively curved and layered rock formations on the mountains to the east of the camp spot below Geske pass, on the Udziro Lake trek in Georgia

Impressively curved and layered rock formations on the mountains to the east of the camp spot



Impressively curved and layered rock formations on the mountains to the east of the camp spot below Geske pass, on the Udziro Lake trek in Georgia

Impressively curved and layered rock faces
on the mountains to the east of the camp spot



DAY 2 | CAMP BELOW GESKE PASS → UDZIRO LAKE

3.1 km | + 561 m / – 259 m | 3 – 4.5 hours

DAY 2

CAMP BELOW GESKE PASS
UDZIRO LAKE

3.1 km

+ 561 m / – 259 m

3 – 4.5 hours

Day 2 is a short day in terms of distance, but it involves a steep climb to reach Geske pass and the terrain on the descent to Udziro Lake slows things down a bit. Saying that, if you want to do the whole hike in two days rather than three (as many people do), then the best approach is to hike from Shovi to Udziro Lake in one day.

CAMP → GESKE PASS | 1.85 km | + 554 m / – 6 m | 2 – 3 hours

CAMP → GESKE PASS

1.85 km | + 554 m / – 6 m

2 – 3 hours

Head south and climb the hillside behind the camping area, then curve around to the west. Continue across the hillside towards the stream. Cross it, then climb parallel to the stream for a while before climbing the hillside and curving round to the right. From here painted waymarkings are clearly visible on rocks up ahead.  

Katitsvera mountain with Geske pass (the route to Udziro Lake) to the right

After traversing the lower slopes, Geske pass is reached by climbing the narrow gully to the right of Katitsvera mountain



Katitsvera mountain with Geske pass (the route to Udziro Lake) to the right

After traversing the lower slopes, Geske
pass is reached by climbing the narrow
gully to the right of Katitsvera mountain



Continue up the grassy hillside in the direction of the pass. From here the terrain gets steeper and steeper. The waymarkings are excellent at this section, guiding you up a gully with no confusion over which way to go. Around 130 metres in distance from the pass, when the terrain becomes too steep, leave the gully and climb to the grassy slope on the right (look for the waymarkings). Continue up the slope all the way to the pass which is marked by a large cairn. The views at the top are wonderful, with Udziro Lake ahead, imposing Katitsvera (Cat Whiskers) mountain towering to the left, and the distinctive curved mountains rising from the valley behind.

Hikers descend the steep slope from Geske pass with dramatic mountains marking the distant skyline

Hikers going the opposite way, about to descend into the steep gully below Katitsvera mountain



Hikers descend the steep slope from Geske pass with dramatic mountains marking the distant skyline

Hikers going the opposite way, about to descend
into the steep gully below Katitsvera mountain



GESKE PASS → UDZIRO LAKE | 1.85 km | + 7 m / – 253 m | 1 – 1.5 hours

GESKE PASS →
UDZIRO LAKE

1.85 km | + 7 m / – 253 m

1 – 1.5 hours

From the pass the trail leads down to the left, switches back to the right, then heads down towards a boulder field. Look carefully for the waymarkings when you reach the boulders and stay high, following the markers. Crossing the rocks is a bit slow going and it’s prime ankle twisting territory. When you reach the grassy hillside on the right side of the valley, ignore the waymarkings leading you across endless rocks to the left, and head right to the hillside instead. You’ll see a faint trail and pick up more waymarkers soon enough. Follow the trail along the hillside and down into the gully, and soon you will emerge at the lake.  

A hiker descends across rocky terrain from Geske pass to Udziro Lake, a few patches of snow still lingering in late August

The trail descends from Geske pass and sticks to the right side, across the rocks and down the grassy hillside to the lake



A hiker descends across rocky terrain from Geske pass to Udziro Lake, a few patches of snow still lingering in late August

The trail descends from Geske pass and sticks
to the right side of the valley, across the rocks
and down the grassy hillside to the lake



There is a large grassy area at the eastern side of the lake that is perfect for camping (and a pretty popular spot). You can get water from a stream running into the lake, but if it’s dry (which it could be late in the season) then the lake water is clear and suitable for drinking if treated.

Note that earlier in the season (late June to mid-July), much of this route down from Geske pass may still be covered in snow and the waymarkers hidden. If so, best to stick to the right side of the valley and pay attention to your GPS to avoid difficulty among the boulders.

Katitsvera mountain reflected in Udziro Lake an hour before sunset

The afternoon sun lighting up the eastern end of the lake, with Katitsvera rising behind



Katitsvera mountain reflected in Udziro Lake an hour before sunset

The afternoon sun lighting up the eastern end
of the lake, with Katitsvera rising behind



DAY 3 | UDZIRO LAKE → GLOLA

7 km | + 97 m / – 1583 m | 3.5 – 4.5 hours

DAY 3

UDZIRO LAKE
GLOLA

7 km

+ 97 m / – 1583 m

3.5 – 4.5 hours

Day 3 involves a short climb to Udziro pass and a long descent to Glola. The trail is largely in good condition and is easy to follow (this is by far the most well used route to and from the lake). Open valleys give way to pine forest, with the final section the most steep and potentially muddy.

UDZIRO LAKE → UDZIRO PASS | 0.4 km | + 68 m / – 3 m | 15 – 20 mins

UDZIRO LAKE →
UDZIRO PASS

0.4 km | + 68 m / – 3 m

15 – 20 mins

The trail leads up the northern side of Udziro Lake, climbing the hillside towards a pole with a camping sign. From here you can see Udziro pass above, also marked with a trekking signpost.

At the pass you can drop your bag and head up the craggy hilltop to the left for fantastic mountain views. It takes around 20 – 30 minutes to get there and back and enjoy the views. The last section is a little exposed – not for those with a fear of heights.

Aquamarine Udziro Lake in the morning sun, with tents set up at the eastern end

The trail to Glola climbs this rocky slope behind the lake; the pass is on the ridge above, the scenic detour is to the craggy hilltop on the left



Aquamarine Udziro Lake in the morning sun, with tents set up at the eastern end

The trail to Glola climbs this rocky slope behind
the lake; the pass is on the ridge above, the
scenic detour is to the hilltop on the left



UDZIRO PASS → STREAM | 2.7 km | + 17 m / – 582 m | 1.5 – 2 hours

UDZIRO PASS → STREAM

2.7 km | + 17 m / – 582 m

1.5 – 2 hours

Back at Udziro Pass the start of the trail is slightly hidden – look for it to your left – but you can clearly see it winding its way down and across the valley below, then climbing towards a ridge. Follow it down, across, and up to this ridge, then carry on down into the neighbouring valley to the east. The trail continues down the valley to meet a large stream. This is the first and last water source of the day, so fill up enough to get you to Glola.

A hiker descends the winding trail from Udziro Lake to Glola

The easy-to-follow trail winds down from the pass and through the valley, before crossing the ridge ahead into the neighbouring valley



A hiker descends the winding trail from Udziro Lake to Glola

The easy-to-follow trail winds down from the
pass and through the valley, before crossing
the ridge ahead into the neighbouring valley



STREAM → GLOLA | 1.85 km | + 12 m / – 998 m | 1.5 – 2.5 hours

STREAM → GLOLA

1.85 km | + 12 m / – 998 m

1.5 – 2.5 hours

Cross the stream and follow the trail into the beech forest. The trail here is narrow with a steep-sided slope to the left, and it’s crowded by small trees, overgrown bushes, and flowers. It can be muddy and slippery after rain, with plenty of roots and branches to trip you up, so take care. After a kilometre of undulating around the hillside among the beech trees, the trail crosses a grassy meadow, hits a short forest section, descends through an overgrown grassy meadow, and finally enters a lovely forest of fir trees.

This forest trail continues all the way to Glola, descending around 700 metres over a distance of 2.2 km. The trail is mostly in good condition, although there are a few detours around fallen trees here and there. There are also some slippery muddy sections, particularly during the final 350 metre descent and after periods of rain.

See More From Georgia

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 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.

WHEN TO HIKE TO UDZIRO LAKE

The most reliable time to hike to Udziro Lake is between mid-July and mid-September. There can still be snow in June and even early July, usually on the western slope below Geske pass and the northern slope below Udziro pass, making it difficult and potentially dangerous to complete the loop. Snow around Udziro Lake also makes it tricky to find a camp spot. From late September the snow starts to return.

In July the hillsides are awash with colour as wildflowers bloom. August is generally the busiest month, and you may encounter groups camping at the lake with 15 tents or more. In September the trail is quieter, but the temperature can really drop at night so make sure you have plenty of cold-weather gear with you.

After heavy rain, the trail can be very muddy and slippery in the forest sections above Shovi and Glola.

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UDZIRO LAKE TREK PRACTICALITIES

We’ve covered a few practicalities below to help you prepare for your Udziro Lake hike.

FOOD

There is nowhere to buy food along the trail so you need to carry everything with you. You can stock up in shops in Oni or Ambrolauri. Your guesthouse can also provide a packed lunch (expect it to be huge and very satisfying if staying at the amazing Family Hotel Gallery in Oni!).

WATER

There are streams situated along the trail, near the suggested camp spots, and feeding Udziro Lake itself. Later in the season the streams at the lake can run dry, in which case it may be necessary to take water directly from the lake. Personally, we always sterilise drinking water when hiking (using a Steripen), and we recommend you use your prefered sterilisation method to do the same, especially if drinking lake water.

MAPS AND NAVIGATION

Although the Udziro Lake hiking trail is waymarked and signposted, it can suffer from confusing or contradictory waymarkings, with multiple routes marked at times. This is particularly true on the Shovi side, between leaving the forest and reaching the bottom of Geske pass. The steep ascent up to Geske pass is very clearly marked however. The trail on the Glola side is mostly obvious, assuming it isn’t covered in snow or visibility is poor.

It’s advisable to use an offline mapping app such as Maps.me, Gaia, or OSMand to follow the route via GPS. You can download our KML/GPX tracks to use with these apps. 

Sunny morning view of Udziro lake and the Greater Caucasus from the eastern end of the lake

Udziro Lake seen from the east, with the Greater Caucasus marking the skyline beyond



Sunny morning view of Udziro lake and the Greater Caucasus from the eastern end of the lake

Udziro Lake seen from the east, with the
Greater Caucasus marking the skyline beyond



MONEY

You won’t need any cash on the trail, but you may need cash to pay for a taxi to/from the trailhead. The closest ATM to Glola or Shovi is in Oni, about a 35 minute drive away.

PHONE RECEPTION AND INTERNET

Generally speaking, Magticom has the widest coverage in the mountains. You are unlikely to have phone and data connection throughout the hike though. We didn’t have any service at our camp below Geske pass, at Geske pass, or at the camping area at Udziro Lake. However we did get a connection on the hill at the western end of the lake. Remember to set any webpages you want to reference on the trail to ‘read offline’ beforehand.

WEATHER FORECASTS

Yr.no is the best weather app (iOS/Android) we know of. It doesn’t work offline but you can check the weather in advance for Shovi, Glola, and Mq’invarivari Dolomisi (near Udziro Lake). If you have a Garmin InReach like us, you can get weather reports at any location.

TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR TREKKING AT ALTITUDE

It’s important to note that most travel insurance providers will only cover hiking up to a certain altitude as standard (often 2500 m or 3000 m). In order to be covered for hiking above this, you will probably need to add on an ‘activity pack’ or such like. The highest point on the Udziro Lake hike is over 3000 m, so make sure you check in advance whether your travel insurance policy covers you or not.

Whether you are currently in your home country or are already travelling, two travel insurance policy providers that can cover for hiking up to and above 3000 m are World Nomads (for residents of 140+ countries) and True Traveller (for UK and EEA residents only). We have purchased travel insurance policies from both of these companies in the past. We have found their policies to be comprehensive, and their online claims and extension processes straightforward.

 If you still need to organise your travel insurance, we’d suggest getting a quote from each to see which suits you best.

TREK THE TRANSCAUCASIAN TRAIL IN UPPER SVANETI

UDZIRO LAKE HIKE PACKING LIST

Regardless of the length of your hike, you’ll need a refillable water bottle, sun and rain protection, food, good footwear, and an online map of your route (along with a power bank to keep your phone charged).

Weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable, change quickly, and vary greatly between the lower and higher altitudes. You should have waterproofs and layers (including a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer). Ideally your base layers should be made from merino wool or sweat-wicking material. Avoid jeans or any cotton materials – if they get wet they are heavy, take forever to dry, and you’ll get cold easily. Make sure you have proper footwear (ideally hiking boots) that are broken in already. It’s a good idea to pack a pair of sandals too for wearing around camp. Remember toilet paper, hand sanitiser, and rubbish bags to carry out all of your waste.

We have some suggested packing lists below.

Merino T-Shirt x 2
His/Hers

Merino Thermal Baselayer
His/Hers
(if hiking outside of summer)

Merino Thermal Leggings
His/Hers
(if hiking outside of summer)

Merino Underwear
His/Hers

Sports Bra

Fleece
His/Hers

Down Jacket
His/Hers

Rain Jacket/Shell
His/Hers

Waterproof Trousers
His/Hers

Quick Drying Hiking Trousers
(preferably with zip-off shorts)
His/Hers

Trousers to wear around camp
(Lightweight, similar to above)

Trekking Socks
His/Hers

Warm Socks for night

Buff

Gloves
Liner & Waterproof Outer

Sun Hat

Warm Hat

Sunglasses

Hiking Boots
His/Hers

Sandals
(for evening)


Backpack + rain cover

Hiking Poles

Water Bladder/Water Bottle

Water Purifier (eg. Steripen, purification tablets, LifeStraw, etc.)

First Aid Kit

Penknife

Maps (offline GPS)

Rubbish Bag(s)

Headtorch

Suncream

Basic Toiletries

Toilet Paper

Toilet Trowel

Hand Sanitiser

Power Bank


WHERE TO STAY BEFORE AND AFTER YOUR UDZIRO LAKE HIKE

There are a few family guesthouses in Glola and a couple of pricey hotels in Shovi, with more options in Oni (25 km away).

GLOLA

There are no options online, so it’s best to call ahead to book a guesthouse in Glola. Options include Family Hotel Rachuli Sakhli (+995591317777), Guesthouse Shovi (+995595850180), and Guesthouse Glola Shovi (+995577305290).

SHOVI

ONI

Hands down our favourite place to stay in Upper Racha is Family Hotel Gallery in Oni (also known as Guesthouse Gallery). We’ve stayed here three times so far, and love it so much we’ve written an entire story about it. We keep coming back for the delicious food, atmospheric accommodation, and super friendly family. It’s about a 35 minute drive from the trailhead, but the family can arrange transport to drop off and pick up if needed.

HOW TO GET TO UPPER RACHA

Shovi is about 330 km from Tbilisi, around a 6 hour drive. There is no public transport to Shovi or Glola*. The closest you can get by public transport is Oni, about 25 km south of the Udziro Lake trailhead. A taxi from Oni to the trailhead costs approximately 50 GEL. During summer there is plenty of traffic on the road, so it’s also possible to hitchhike.

* If you’re starting your hike on a Wednesday, you may be able to take public transport from Oni to Glola early in the morning. Wednesday is market day in Oni and a marshrutka travels to the villages north of Oni to pick up sellers and bring them back to the market. Ask at Family Hotel Gallery in advance and they can call the marshrutka driver to see if it’s possible.

HOW TO GET TO ONI

Marshrutka

The marshrutka from Didube Station in Tbilisi leaves for Oni at around 8 am. It costs 20-25 GEL and takes about 6 hours.

The morning marshrutka from Kutaisi departs at 9 am from the bus station near Jachvis Khidi (Chain Bridge), costing 15-20 GEL and taking 3 – 4 hours. The afternoon marshrutka from Kutaisi departs at 3:30pm from the main bus station near McDonalds at Chavchavadze, costing 15 GEL and taking 2.5 – 3 hours.

Taxi

You can book a private car and driver, making as many stops as you like along the way, through gotrip.ge. This is likely to cost around 170-180 GEL for the car from Tbilisi, or around 100-110 GEL from Kutaisi.

Flight

Vanilla Sky operates flights on Friday and Sunday between Natakhtari (around 40 minutes north of Tbilisi) and Ambrolauri (around 30 minutes south of Oni). Tickets cost 50 GEL one way. A taxi from Ambrolauri to Oni is around 30 GEL.

HIKING UDZIRO LAKE

That’s the lot for our Udziro Lake hiking guide. If you have any useful info to add 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 your own hike, good luck and enjoy!

ORGANISE YOUR TRIP


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Jura

Hi, firstly wanted to thank you for such detailed information and the map! It’s so great!
Wanted to ask if it is possible to start the route the other way round? Or the easiest path is what you picked?
Thanks!

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