• VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA ITINERARY

    7 DAY 4X4 GEORGIA ROAD TRIP

    A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary
  • VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA 4X4 ITINERARY

    A UAZ Buhanka camper van looking across a semi-desert expanse on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA 7 DAY 4X4 ITINERARY

GEORGIA ROAD TRIP

Looking for an adventure? Look no further. Our 7 day Vashlovani and David Gareja 4×4 road trip itinerary will have you off-roading through a wild and remote part of Georgia. You’ll explore the diverse landscapes of Vashlovani National Park, the Chachuna and Iori Managed Reserves, and the David Gareja cave monasteries.

Our route combines an existing network of off-road tracks into an adventurous 4×4 itinerary, starting and ending in Tbilisi. With limited tourist infrastructure in the region, it’s been designed primarily as a wild camping trip, best suited to those who don’t mind roughing it a bit and have some off-road driving experience.

Sound like your kind of fun? Read on for a detailed itinerary, route map, practical tips, 4×4 car and campervan rental options, and everything else you need to know to get out and explore this unique corner of Georgia.

*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!*

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Watch behind the scenes videos of our Vashlovani and David Gareja 4×4 road trip on Instagram Stories

Watch behind the scenes videos
of our
Vashlovani and David
Gareja 4×4 road trip
on
Instagram Stories

VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA ITINERARY ROUTE MAP

VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA ITINERARY

ROUTE MAP

This map shows our Vashlovani and David Gareja 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 Vashlovani and David Gareja 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.


VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA 4X4 ROAD TRIP ITINERARY OUTLINE

Day 1Tbilisi → Dedoplistskaro → Eagle Gorge/Khornabuji Fortress → Pantishara Canyon198 km

5 hours driving

Day 2Pantishara Canyon → Bear Canyon → Mijniskure45 km

3.5 hours driving

Day 3Mijniskure → Takhistskali → Shavi Mta/Black Mountain28 km

3 hours driving

Day 4Shavi Mta → Dedoplistskaro → Dali Mta Reservoir → Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes105 km

4 hours driving

Day 5Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes → Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes → Chachuna and Iori Managed Reserves → Sabereebi Cave Monastery58 km

3 hours driving

Day 6Sabereebi Cave Monastery → David Gareja Main Complex → Mravaltskaro Reservoir56 km

2.5 hours driving

Day 7Mravaltskaro Reservoir → Rustavi → Tbilisi60 km

1.5 hours driving

Day 1Tbilisi → Dedoplistskaro → Eagle Gorge/Khornabuji Fortress → Pantishara Canyon198 km
5 hours driving
Day 2Pantishara Canyon → Bear Canyon → Mijniskure45 km
3.5 hours driving
Day 3Mijniskure → Takhistskali → Shavi Mta/Black Mountain28 km
3 hours driving
Day 4Shavi Mta → Dedoplistskaro → Dali Mta Reservoir → Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes105 km
4 hours driving
Day 5Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes → Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes → Chachuna and Iori Managed Reserves → Sabereebi Cave Monastery58 km
3 hours driving
Day 6Sabereebi Cave Monastery → David Gareja Main Complex → Mravaltskaro Reservoir56 km
2.5 hours driving
Day 7Mravaltskaro Reservoir → Rustavi → Tbilisi60 km
1.5 hours driving

DETAILED ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA 4X4 ROAD TRIP

ITINERARY BREAKDOWN

DAY 1 | TBILISI → DEDOPLISTSKARO → EAGLE GORGE → PANTISHARA CANYON

198 KM | 5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 1

TBILISI
→ DEDOPLISTSKARO
→ EAGLE GORGE
→ PANTISHARA CANYON

198 KM | 5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: PANTISHARA CANYON

41.2376, 46.3655

SUGGESTED CAMP //
PANTISHARA CANYON

41.2376, 46.3655

First up on your Georgia road trip is a stop in Dedoplistskaro to pick up permits. This is followed by a couple of short hikes at scenic spots on the outskirts of town, before you end the day at a stunning canyon camp spot deep in Vashlovani NP.

TBILISI TO DEDOPLISTSKARO

The first 130 km stretch of this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4×4 road trip itinerary is uncharacteristically, on-road, and therefore best tackled in 2WD mode. From Tbilisi, head east on the Kakheti Highway and continue all the way to Dedoplistskaro. It takes about 2 hours to cover the distance, a speedy timeframe that won’t be possible again until the last day of this week-long itinerary. Exciting, right?

DEDOPLISTSKARO

In Dedoplistskaro you need to go first to the Vashlovani Visitor Centre (41.4625, 46.1036) and then to the Border Police building (41.4723, 46.0854), to collect permits and pay your NP and camping fees. You need to have your passport and car passport, plus your entry and exit dates for Vashlovani NP and Chachuna Managed Reserve. You also need to make sure you have cash for the payment.

COSTS & INFO

    • Entrance Fee | 5 GEL per person
    • Car Fee | 5 GEL per car
    • Camping Fee | 5 GEL per person per night
    • Bungalow | Dbl. 40 GEL per night, Tpl. 50 GEL per night
    • Permits | NP permit & border police permit (free, arrange in Dedoplistskaro)
    • Contact | Nino (Vashlovani Visitor Centre)  +995 577101849, [email protected]
    • PAYABLE BY CASH ONLY

COSTS & INFO

Entrance Fee
5 GEL per person

Car Fee
5 GEL per car

Camping Fee
5 GEL per person per night

Bungalow
Dbl. 40 GEL per night
Tpl. 50 GEL per night

Border Permit
National Park permit
& border police permit
(free, arrange in Dedoplistskaro)

Contact
Nino Seturidze
Vashlovani Visitor Centre
+995 577101849
[email protected]

PAYABLE BY CASH ONLY


The easiest and quickest way to arrange all of this is in advance, via Nino at the Vashlovani Visitor Centre. She speaks excellent English and can arrange everything for you beforehand, making it a quick and straightforward process on the day. Contact her on +995 577101849, or by email at [email protected]. Note that you will require two separate national park permits (Vashlovani and Chachuna), and two separate border police permits (one for the Vashlovani area, and one for the route connecting the mud volcanoes to Sabereebi cave monasteries). Explain your plans to Nino in advance and she’ll arrange the correct paperwork for you.

Allow at least 1 hour in Dedoplistskaro for finalising your permits at the two different locations.

If you need to stock up on food there is a shop next to the visitor centre and various others dotted around town. There are also facilities such as ATMs and petrol stations in town. You can fill up drinking water in the visitor centre.

EAGLE GORGE AND KHORNABUJI FORTRESS

After collecting your permits, you should have time to visit Eagle Gorge and/or Khornabuji Fortress, both on the outskirts of Dedoplistskaro. You can drive most of the way to each of them and hike the last section.

Eagle Gorge is a narrow, steep sided gorge with a short walking trail that leads along the top of the western cliff. There are wonderful views down into the tree-filled gorge and across to the limestone cliffs opposite. The area is home to over sixty species of birds, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot griffon vultures soaring above. The Alazani Valley can be seen to the north, beyond which lie the snow-covered peaks of the Caucasus. From the car park (41.4864, 46.0940) to the main viewing platform, it’s a 2-3 km roundtrip hike. Allow around 1.5 hours in total for the return trip from Dedoplistskaro.

The limestone tree covered cliffs of Eagle Gorge, part of the Vashlovani Protected Areas in Georgia

The limestone cliffs of Eagle Gorge are home to over sixty species of bird



The limestone tree covered cliffs of Eagle Gorge, part of the Vashlovani Protected Areas in Georgia

The limestone cliffs of Eagle Gorge are
home to over sixty species of bird


A jagged limestone karst, covered in autumnal trees, rises from inside Eagle Gorge in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Autumn colours inside Eagle Gorge



The ruins of Khornabuji Fortress are found in a separate location, atop a craggy rock that requires a bit of effort to climb. The fortress dates from the 5th century or earlier, its strategic position offering commanding views over the Alazani and Iori Valleys. You can drive as far as the base of the fortress (41.4865, 46.1348), then make the climb to the top (around 45 minutes), or drive to a nearby viewpoint instead (41.4881, 46.1337). Allow 1 – 2.5 hours for the return trip from Dedoplistskaro. It will depend on whether or not you climb to the top.

DEDOPLISTSKARO TO PANTISHARA CANYON

Now, the real fun starts. Head east from Dedoplistskaro, and if you haven’t already, fill up at the Gulf petrol station on the outskirts of town (41.4499, 46.1299). Note that there is nowhere to get fuel until you return here on Day 4.

The tarmac ends around 22 km after Dedoplistkaro. From here on there are only off-road tracks throughout Vashlovani NP (some in better condition than others). Continue in a straight line for 16 km, through farmland to the small settlement of Kasritskali. Then head southwest for 13 km to Pantishara Canyon and Datviskhevi (Bear Canyon). The initial 9 km track undulates across open land before an impressive canyon landscape suddenly appears as you top a rise. This more or less marks the entry to the Vashlovani Nature Reserve. From here the track descends into the narrow Pantishara Canyon, emerging at a camping/picnic area near the start of Bear Canyon, known as Datviskhevi in Georgian (41.2376, 46.3655). It takes about 2 hours to drive from Dedoplistskaro to Pantishara. 

A UAZ Buhanka camper van parked beneath the cliffs in Pantishara Canyon, Vashlovani National Park

Parked up in Pantishara Canyon



A UAZ Buhanka camper van parked beneath the cliffs in Pantishara Canyon, Vashlovani National Park

Parked up in Pantishara Canyon



Here, you can set up camp for the night. There are two drop toilets and some covered picnic tables at the designated camp spot, plus a small empty shelter.

You may wish to explore more of the area if you have time, or save it for the morning instead. We’ve covered the nearby sights in the Day 2 itinerary below.

DAY 2 | PANTISHARA CANYON → BEAR CANYON → MIJNISKURE

45 KM | 3.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 2

PANTISHARA CANYON
→ BEAR CANYON
→ MIJNISKURE

45 KM | 3.5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: MIJNISKURE RANGER STATION

41.1111, 46.6467

SUGGESTED CAMP //
MIJNISKURE RANGER STATION

41.1111, 46.6467

Day 2 of your off-road adventure has some of the best scenery of the whole trip, with jagged badlands, peaks, and ridges stretching far and wide. The driving is more challenging, particularly the final descent through a narrow, steep-sided canyon to Mijniskure. But, it’s also the most fun.

BEAR CANYON

Start your day with a short walk up Bear Canyon. A mostly easygoing track up the narrow canyon takes around 1 hour return. There is one section where you have to climb up through a narrow gap in some rocks, as the wooden walkway above is partially destroyed. Supposedly there are fossilised bones of the Southern Elephant here, but with no information boards or signs, good luck finding them!

ALESILEBI & ELDARI LOWLANDS VIEWPOINT

Returning to the camp spot, continue south through the Pantishara Valley. The narrow wadi-like canyon opens up as you go and amazing rock formations appear on either side. These ancient seabeds are known as ‘Alesilebi’, and they are a favourite hangout spot for griffon, eagles and vultures. Wind erosion has sculpted these cliffs into bizarre shapes, shot through with bands of colour. They are quite spectacular. About 4 km from the camp spot, you can park up and take a short walk across the elevated plateau to your left, giving you a view of the vast Eldari Lowlands beyond. Allow around 1 hour to explore this area.

A UAZ Buhanka 4x4 camper van on the stony track in Vashlovani's Pantishara Canyon, with the ancient seabed known as Alesilebi rising in the background

Once ancient seabeds, the wind has sculpted the rock formations of Alesilebi into fascinating shapes



A UAZ Buhanka 4x4 camper van on the stony track in Vashlovani's Pantishara Canyon, with the ancient seabed known as Alesilebi rising in the background

Once ancient seabeds, the wind has sculpted the
rock formations of Alesilebi into strange shapes,
where griffon, eagles and vultures hangout



PANTISHARA CANYON TO MIJNISKURE

Retrace your route through Pantishara Canyon and back up to the plateau above. When you reach the junction with the Kasristskali track, veer off to the right, heading east. In less than 2 km, you’ll reach the Pantishara Viewpoint (41.2234, 46.4061). Here, flat farmland stretches out to the north, while the jagged, wind-eroded Alesilebi cliffs fall away to the south. The track continues along the very edge of the cliff top, before gradually descending to reach a wide, grassy, and tree-studded valley.

Continue following the track southeast to the border guard post (41.1390, 46.5798). You must show your passport, car passport, border police permit, and paperwork from the Dedoplistskaro Visitor Centre in order to pass through this checkpoint and on to Mijniskure.

About 4.4 km beyond the border guard post is the spectacular Usakhelo Viewpoint (41.1272, 46.6070).

  • The winding dirt track descends through a badlands landscape towards Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park
  • The winding dirt track descends through a badlands landscape towards Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

The road to Mijniskure



From here, incredible views of the badlands extend south and east. A triangular viewing platform has been built over one outcrop and there’s an info board nearby (which actually has some info on it, unlike most others in the park!). From this vantage point you can see the track descending right through the middle of the amazing landscape. It disappears into a narrow twisting canyon before emerging at an open plain leading to the Mijniskure ranger station.

Allow at least 3 hours to drive from Pantishara to Mijniskure Ranger Station, with plenty of extra time for stops.

MIJNISKURE

There is a camping area near the ranger station at Mijniskure, and a few bungalows with private bathrooms too, if you fancy an upgrade. There is also a water well – the only water source in Vashlovani so be sure to fill up. A few picnic benches sit on the tree lined banks of the Alazani River, which marks the border with Azerbaijan. There are some designated fire pits too. The surrounding landscape is beautiful, with dramatic mountains rising either side of the wide, flat plain.

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.

DAY 3 | MIJNISKURE → TAKHISTSKALI → SHAVI MTA/BLACK MOUNTAIN

28 KM | 3 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 3

MIJNISKURE
→ TAKHISTSKALI
→ SHAVI MTA/
BLACK MOUNTAIN

28 KM | 3 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: SHAVI MTA RANGER STATION

41.2711, 46.6285

SUGGESTED CAMP //
SHAVI MTA RANGER STATION

41.2711, 46.6285

Day 3 of this 4×4 road trip starts in the lowlands surrounded by dusty mountains, and ends in the highlands with spectacular views of the Caucasus Mountains and Alazani Valley.

MIJNISKURE TO SHAVI MTA

From the Mijniskure camping area, keep driving north along the Alazani towards Takhistskali (41.1567, 46.6512). On the way, you’ll get up close to wind-sculpted cliffs rising above the scenic savanna, with the river snaking alongside. The views here are spectacular, so take your time.

MIJNISKURE TO SHAVI MTA

From Takhistskali, the track heads inland to the west, climbing towards Shavi Mta (Black Mountain). After about 12 km and 500 metres in elevation gain, you’ll reach a plateau with flat farmland stretching out before you. The track turns to the east and continues to climb up the forested slopes of Shavi Mta. There is a picnic area (41.2626, 46.6284) and a short hiking trail to a monastery nearby (trailhead 41.2644, 46.6346). 1 km beyond lies the Shavi Mta Ranger Station (41.2711, 46.6285), with great views of the Alazani Valley below and the snow capped Caucasus Mountains to the north. It’s possible to camp here, or at the previous picnic area.

Allow around 3 hours to drive from Mijniskure Ranger Station to Shavi Mta Ranger Station, plus extra time for any stops you make along the way.

Alazani Valley view at sunset from Black Mountain in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Golden hour glow on the ridge near Shavi Mta, with the Alazani Valley spread out below and the Caucasus Mountains floating high in the sky



Alazani Valley view at sunset from Black Mountain in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Golden hour glow on the ridge near Shavi Mta,
with the Alazani Valley spread out below and the
Caucasus Mountains floating high in the sky



DAY 4 | SHAVI MTA → DEDOPLISTSKARO → DALI MTA RESERVOIR → TAKHTI-TEPHA MUD VOLCANOES

105 KM | 4 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 4

SHAVI MTA
→ DEDOPLISTSKARO
→ DALI MTA RESERVOIR
→ TAKHTI-TEPHA MUD VOLCANOES

105 KM | 4 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: TAKHTI-TEPHA MUD VOLCANOES

41.2655, 45.8138
41.2459, 45.8439

SUGGESTED CAMP //
TAKHTI-TEPHA
MUD VOLCANOES

41.2655, 45.8138
41.2459, 45.8439

On Day 4 of this itinerary you’ll leave the eastern part of Vashlovani NP behind and explore the lunar landscapes to the west. There is a chance to refuel and stock up on supplies in Dedoplistskaro on the way.

SHAVI MTA TO DEDOPLISTSKARO

After (fingers crossed) a gorgeous sunrise view from Shavi Mta, continue along the ridge towards the village of Kvemo Kedi, 18 km away. From there it’s tarmac for the next 40 km, passing through a string of small villages to Zemo Kedi, then back to the Gulf petrol station on the outskirts of Dedoplistskaro. Allow up to 2 hours to drive this section.

If you already have the required permits there’s no need to go into Dedoplistskaro itself, unless you need to stock up on food or other supplies as you won’t pass another village until Day 6 at Udabno. You must refuel here too, as there isn’t another petrol station until Day 7 in Gardabani.

DEDOPLISTSKARO TO TAKHTI-TEPHA MUD VOLCANOES

From the Gulf petrol station, head southwest on a badly deteriorated road. The tarmac is broken up and full of holes, so use the tracks next to the road when you see them. After 2 km you’ll see the 6th Century Elia Monastery to your right, seemingly stuck onto the side of a limestone mountain. A further 32 km beyond Elia Monastery is the scenic Dali Mta Reservoir (Dali Mountain Reservoir) (41.2822, 45.8983). Most people enjoy the views of shimmering blue water against the mountain backdrop, but personally I was pretty enamoured with the abandoned (presumably) Soviet-era structures rising from the water. Either way, it’s a nice spot to stop for lunch.

From the reservoir it’s a further 14 km through an increasingly lunar-esque landscape to the Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes (41.2459, 45.8439). Dramatic mountains rise in the distance while occasional narrow canyons mark the otherwise flat and barren land. The mud volcanoes are spread out across a small knoll and vary in size, the largest bubbling cauldron of mud being about 2 metres in diameter. The mud itself is not hot, and some of the mini-volcanoes have it oozing down the side, creating fascinating patterns in the earth. From the hilltop there are fantastic views of the surrounding landscape, back towards Dali Mta Reservoir and beyond.

It takes about 2 hours to drive from the Gulf petrol station to the mud volcanoes, plus extra time for stops.

The ground is pockmarked by clusters of variously sized mud volcanoes, some more lively than others

Little bubbles gently popping away in this low mud volcano in the Vashlovani Protected Areas, Georgia

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

The ground is pockmarked by clusters of variously sized mud volcanos, some more lively than others

The little mud volcanoes clustered together


Little bubbles gently popping away in this low mud volcano in the Vashlovani Protected Areas, Georgia

Gently bubbling away


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

The views go on forever



There is a covered picnic table at the end of the track, but no other facilities. You can camp here, or pretty much anywhere that takes your fancy. The area next to the mud volcanoes is more sheltered than the barren expanse leading up to it though, so in windy weather this is a better option.

DAY 5 | TAKHTI-TEPHA MUD VOLCANOES → KILAKUPRA MUD VOLCANOES → CHACHUNA AND IORI MANAGED RESERVES → SABEREEBI CAVE MONASTERY

58 KM | 3 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 5

TAKHTI-TEPHA
MUD VOLCANOES
→ KILAKUPRA
MUD VOLCANOES
→ SABEREEBI
CAVE MONASTERY

58 KM | 3 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: SABEREEBI CAVE MONASTERY

41.4685, 45.5539

SUGGESTED CAMP //
SABEREEBI CAVE MONASTERY

41.4685, 45.5539

Today you’ll explore another set of mud volcanoes before traversing the Iori Plateau to reach a series of cave monasteries carved from dramatic cliffs.

TAKHTI-TEPHA MUD VOLCANOES TO KILAKUPRA MUD VOLCANOES

First, retrace your route for 9 km back towards Dali Mta Reservoir, enjoying views of the fantastically shaped and coloured mountains ahead of you. Then, head off in a northwesterly direction, following the track to Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes for 13 km. You’ll pass some dilapidated farmsteads and a watchtower, before rounding a bend and catching sight of the Border Police compound up ahead (41.3177, 45.8053). Here, you must show your passport and permits to continue on.

A UAZ Buhanka camper van driving the track between Takhti-Tepha and Kilakupra mud volcanos, close to the Azerbaijan border in southeastern Georgia

Driving the track between Takhti-Tepha and Kilakupra mud volcanoes, close to the Azerbaijan border



A UAZ Buhanka camper van driving the track between Takhti-Tepha and Kilakupra mud volcanos, close to the Azerbaijan border in southeastern Georgia

Driving between Takhti-Tepha and Kilakupra
mud volcanoes, close to the Azerbaijan border



The final stretch of track to the mud volcanoes is a little steep as you climb a small hill. At the top, there are incredible views over the surrounding landscape and into Azerbaijan, the invisible border just 1.5 km away as the crow flies. Park here (41.3325, 45.7710) and continue the short distance on foot up to the Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes themselves. The first set you come to ooze black, the smell of tar thick in the air. Further on, mud flows from variously sized volcanoes, like chocolate fountains dotted across a moon-scape. From this vantage point, you have spectacular 360 degree views.

Allow around 1 hour to drive to Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes, plus up to an hour to explore the area.

Jagged patterns in the cracked ground at the Kilakupra Mud Volcanos in southeastern Georgia

Mesmerising patterns in the cracked ground



A person walks among the tar and mud volcanoes at Kilakupra, a stop on the Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip

Walking among the tar and mud



Jagged patterns in the cracked ground at the Kilakupra Mud Volcanos in southeastern Georgia

Mesmerising patterns in the cracked ground


A person walks among the tar and mud volcanoes at Kilakupra, a stop on the Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip

Walking among the tar and mud



KILAKUPRA MUD VOLCANOES TO SABEREEBI MONASTERIES

Return to the main track 2.5 km away, then turn left and follow it right up through the middle of a small ridgeline. As you approach the highest point (41.3355, 45.7997), a fantastic view overlooking the Iori Plateau opens up ahead. It’s worth jumping out here and climbing a little higher up the hillside for even more majestic views.

The track descends steeply to the plateau, then continues in a northwesterly direction, crossing the Iori River on a bridge to the northern bank. You now enter grazing and agricultural land, passing numerous farm buildings, herds of cows, and flocks of sheep. About 19 km from the Iori Plateau viewpoint, the track makes a sharp left and returns to the Iori River. After 2 km you’ll reach the riverbank. You can cross on an iron bridge (41.4419, 45.6690), or ford the river nearby (41.4409, 45.6660).

From the Iori River, it’s a further 12 km west to the Sabereebi Cave Monasteries (41.4707, 45.5615). You’ll spot numerous caves in the mountains to your right on the approach to the main complex, all of them once used for monastic purposes.

Park underneath the caves (there were two small fenced-in huts being built here when we visited). From here it’s a short, steep hike up the hillside to the five caves, a somewhat precarious trail linking each of them. There are frescoes to be seen, and wonderful views looking back out over the semi-desert landscape. The light is especially nice around sunset, when the golden hued mountains are positively glowing. Note that there is no entrance fee, safety barriers, or information boards – you are just free to explore.

Sabereebi cave complex glowing in the sun, on the off-road route between Vashlovani and David Gareja

Sabereebi cave monastery complex glowing in the late afternoon sun



Sabereebi cave complex glowing in the sun, on the off-road route between Vashlovani and David Gareja

Sabereebi cave monastery complex
glowing in the late afternoon sun



It takes around 2 hours to drive between Kilakupra and Sabereebi, not including scenic stops along the way. Allow at least 1 hour to explore the cave monasteries themselves.

There are numerous spots suitable for wild camping around here. We set up in a little side valley adjacent to the caves, tucked in by the mountains behind us and a raised hill on either side.

DAY 6 | SABEREEBI CAVE MONASTERY → DAVID GAREJA MAIN MONASTERY COMPLEX → MRAVALTSKARO RESERVOIR

56 KM | 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 6

SABEREEBI
CAVE MONASTERY
→ DAVID GAREJA
MAIN COMPLEX
→ MRAVALTSKARO
RESERVOIR

56 KM | 2.5 HOURS DRIVING

SUGGESTED CAMP: MRAVALTSKARO RESERVOIR

41.5391, 45.2470

SUGGESTED CAMP //
MRAVALTSKARO RESERVOIR

41.5391, 45.2470

Today you’ll leave the little visited Sabereebi cave complex behind and off-road through plateau and canyon landscapes to reach the more popular David Gareja complex. You’ll end the day surrounded by colourful striped mountains and a picturesque reservoir.

SABEREEBI TO UDABNO

Leaving Sabereebi, the track climbs to the top of a ridge where you get wonderful views back down over the mountains. A little further on, you’ll reach a stretch of track where flat farm and grazing land spreads out across a plateau to the north, and more badlands fall away to the south. Heading roughly west, the track descends from the plateau, crosses a valley, and ascends to a plateau on the other side. It’s a fairly big climb with a few short, steep sections that can be muddy after rain. From the top, you can see the town of Udabno ahead. It takes around 1 hour to cover the 19 km distance  from Sabereebi to Udabno.

UDABNO TO DAVID GAREJA

Udabno has numerous shops, restaurants and accommodation options (but no petrol station). Oasis Club is our recommended place to stop in for some food. From the town there is a newly completed tarmac road leading all the way to the main monastery complex. Enjoy the smooth 20 minute/14 km ride as you pass through scenic landscapes, including colourfully striped bulbous mountains near the parking area at David Gareja (41.4485, 45.3768). This 6th century monastic cave complex is a popular tourist attraction, and likely the busiest spot you’ll visit on the whole Vashlovani and David Gareja itinerary.

The Lavra Monastery is a short, easy walk from the car park. Visiting Udabno Monastery involves a 3 km roundtrip walk and a 200 metre climb. It also requires good relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan, as the monastery sits on the border and access to it is restricted during times of tension. Border Guards halted our explorations just beyond Lavra. If all areas are accessible, allow up to 3 hours to see everything.

David Gareja Main Complex Lavra Monastery

Lavra Monastery and the semi-desert landscape beyond, seen from the trail to Udabno Monastery



David Gareja Main Complex Lavra Monastery

Lavra Monastery and the semi-desert landscape
beyond, seen from the trail to Udabno Monastery



The semi-desert landscape and colourful mountains that surround David Gareja are as much of a draw as the cave monasteries themselves (in our opinion). You can get closer to the striated hills below by descending a dirt track about 500 metres before the car park.

UDABNO TO DAVID GAREJA

23 km west of David Gareja sits Mravaltskaro Reservoir, backed by another stretch of ‘rainbow’ mountains. It’s an attractive spot to spend your last night camping, with the opportunity to explore the colourful hills up close on foot. Allow around 1 hour for the drive.

To reach it, drive back along the tarmac road for about 6 km then head west onto a 4×4 track. Follow this track northwest towards John the Baptist Monastery (41.4952, 45.2923), with its notable round watchtower atop the hillside. You can make a detour to visit the monastery if you like. Otherwise, carry on for another 13 km to Mravaltskaro Reservoir.

There are dirt tracks leading along the western and eastern sides of the reservoir, with the eastern side being a quieter spot to camp at (eg. 41.5391, 45.2470). If you want to hike, take the trail behind the dilapidated water-side shack and along the straight track on the reservoir dam. This will take you to the foot of the colourful hills (41.5390, 45.2389) where you can start climbing. There are some steep, slippery sections so take care. Up top there are wonderful views of the reservoir and colourfully striped hills. You can also spot the less attractive chimneys of industrial Rustavi in the distance.

A person standing on the rainbow hills at Mravaltskaro Reservoir, the last place to camp on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

Hiking up on the striped hills next to Mravaltskaro Reservoir



A person standing on the rainbow hills at Mravaltskaro Reservoir, the last place to camp on this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

Hiking up on the striped hills
next to Mravaltskaro Reservoir



DAY 7 | MRAVALTSKARO RESERVOIR → RUSTAVI → TBILISI

60 KM | 1.5 HOURS DRIVING

DAY 7

MRAVALTSKARO
RESERVOIR
→ RUSTAVI
→ TBILISI

60 KM | 1.5 HOURS DRIVING

The final day of this Vashlovani and David Gareja 4×4 road trip itinerary is mostly spent on highways, looping back to the end point in Tbilisi. The distance can be covered fairly quickly, so take your time at the reservoir in the morning and explore the area before returning to civilization.

 If, like us, you’re interested in Soviet mosaics and architecture, there are a number of things to see between Gardabani and Tbilisi. We’ve noted some key works below, which you may want to stop at. Otherwise, just head straight back to Tbilisi along the fastest route.

MRAVALTSKARO RESERVOIR TO RUSTAVI

From the reservoir, head southwest on rough tracks for about 30 minutes/14 km. This will take you to the main road heading north to Rustavi, which is a further 16 km away. If you are in desperate need of fuel, or want to see the Soviet mosaics, head west from the main road to the small town of Gardabani. Here you’ll find petrol stations and shops.

You can continue to Rustavi via the small towns of Ambartafa, Akhalsheni, etc., passing some interesting Soviet mosaics along the way (notably at 41.4695, 45.0849, 41.4923, 45.0598 and 41.5139, 45.0398). In Rustavi itself, the Metallurgical Headquarters is particularly impressive. It dates from 1948 and has bas reliefs crowning the main building, plus there’s a lovely mosaic nearby (41.5400, 45.0216).

Detail of the mosaic on a wall near the Metallurgical Headquarters in Rustavi, one final stop on our Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

Across from the Rustavi Metallurgical Headquarters



Detail of two motorcyclists from the Autodrome mosaic on the outskirts of Rustavi

Autodrome mosaic outside Rustavi



Detail of the mosaic on a wall near the Metallurgical Headquarters in Rustavi, one final stop on our Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

Near the Rustavi Metallurgical Headquarters


Detail of two motorcyclists from the Autodrome mosaic on the outskirts of Rustavi

Autodrome mosaic outside Rustavi



RUSTAVI TO TBILISI

After passing through Rustavi, you’ll join the main Rustavi Highway which leads straight to Tbilisi, around 20 km to the north. Mosaic fans will want to detour to the Autodrome where two large mosaics can be found (41.5658, 44.9515).

COME JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM

PLANNING YOUR VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA 4X4 ROAD TRIP

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

SEASONS & WEATHER

We can’t stress enough how important it is to have dry weather to tackle this off-road itinerary. With rainfall, many of the tracks crisscrossing these vast and remote areas turn to thick, clay-like mud. This makes it extremely slow-going at best and downright dangerous at worst.

On our own trip we had rain throughout the second night and couldn’t believe how quickly the state of the tracks deteriorated. Our vehicle was slipping and sliding all over the place, even on flat ground, the wheels spinning and completely coated in gloopy mud. It took a great deal of time and effort to get unstuck on the narrow canyon track heading towards Mijniskure, and we had to abandon our attempt to reach Shavi Mta via Takhistskali as the wet terrain was just too risky to continue on. Nino at the Vashlovani Visitor Centre will be able to advise on current conditions, and if any parts of the park are closed due to impossibly muddy tracks.

A person scrapes thick, clay-like mud from the tyres of a UAZ Buhanka camper van in Vashlovani National Park

Scraping clay-like mud off the tyres after a night of rain



A person scrapes thick, clay-like mud from the tyres of a UAZ Buhanka camper van in Vashlovani National Park

Scraping mud off the tyres after a night of rain 



Vashlovani and David Gareja have a semi-arid climate which gets oppressively hot during the summer months (June – August). This makes spring and autumn far more pleasant times to visit. Encounters with poisonous snakes are also far more likely in summer, another reason to avoid this time of year.

CAMPING GEAR RENTAL IN GEORGIA

This Vashlovani and David Gareja road trip itinerary involves camping most nights, so you’ll need to have your own camping gear. 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.

FUEL

There are a number of petrol stations in Dedoplistskaro, the closest to the national park being the Gulf station at the crossroads of the Kvemo Kedi and Dali Mta roads (41.4499, 46.1299). You must ensure you have a full tank when heading into Vashlovani, and refuel before setting off for the mud volcanoes, as there is nowhere to get fuel between Dedoplistskaro and Gardabani. Be sure to consider the tank size and fuel efficiency when choosing your 4WD rental. We had no problems with our UAZ Buhanka (rented from Overlando) and its 70L capacity.

FOOD & WATER

There are no shops outside of Dedoplistskaro (Days 1 & 4) and Udabno (Day 6), so you must take all the food (and cooking equipment) that you need.

The only water source within Vashlovani National Park is a well at Mijniskure. There are no water sources at any of the other ranger stations or designated camp spots. Of course, if you are desperate then the border police and rangers will no doubt give you some of their water from bottled supplies, but you should plan to have enough water to cover your trip itinerary. You can also fill water at the Vashlovani Visitor Centre in Dedoplistskaro, and from the bathroom taps at David Gareja. Be prepared before you set off with multi-litre vessels for storing water. For example, we had water bladders, water bottles, and a 10L water container.

A person making coffee from the back of a UAZ Buhanka while taking a rest on the Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

The more water you carry, the more times you can stop for coffee



A person making coffee from the back of a UAZ Buhanka while taking a rest on the Vashlovani and David Gareja 4x4 road trip itinerary

The more water you carry, the
more times you can stop for coffee



MAPS & NAVIGATION

Offline Maps

It’s essential to have an offline map of Vashlovani before setting off. The signs within the park are not frequent or accurate enough to solely rely on. Also, you will likely lose phone reception at various points so online maps like Google can’t be relied on either. The same is true for the route between Vashlovani and David Gareja.

Our go-to offline mapping app is Maps.me (iOS/Android), and the various off-road tracks from this itinerary are all marked on this app. 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.

Paper Maps

You can buy a paper ‘Trekking Map’ at the Visitor Centre in Dedoplistskaro for 3 GEL. This has some info about the park and shows various tourist routes (driving ones, not trekking), the ranger stations, picnic spots, etc. There is also a smaller APA Vashlovani map available, but it is less detailed.

You can buy a paper ‘Trekking Map’ at the Visitor Centre in Dedoplistskaro for 3 GEL. This has some info about the park and shows various tourist routes (driving ones, not trekking), the ranger stations, picnic spots, etc. There is also a smaller APA Vashlovani map available, but it is less detailed.

PHONE RECEPTION

Note that you will likely lose phone reception and internet data at various points throughout this off-road trip. Make sure you have set any useful web pages (like this blog post!) to read offline. It’s also a good idea to download a Georgian keyboard to your phone and have Georgian available offline on Google Translate (iOS/Android). This comes in handy if you need to communicate with the border guards or park rangers (who often only speak Georgian and Russian).

4WD CAR AND CAMPERVAN RENTAL IN GEORGIA

4WD 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!

4WD RENTAL CARS

This Vashlovani and David Gareja 4×4 itinerary covers some challenging terrain, and a good 4WD (not an SUV) with high clearance is required. 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 options as well. You can search options below.

SEARCH CAR HIRE OPTIONS HERE

4WD CAMPERVANS

If you don’t want to sleep in a tent then hiring a 4WD campervan is ideal for this off-road adventure. We hired our van through Overlando, a Tbilisi based company with a small fleet of UAZ Buhanka campervans for rent, a fancier Toyota HiLux Expedition Camper, and a few Lada Niva camping cars. Having had a mild obsession with UAZ-452 ‘loaf of bread’ vans since our trip to Mongolia, roaming around remote parts of Georgia in a campervan version was a dream come true.

Parked up near the Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Overlando UAZ Buhanka



Parked up near the Takhti-Tepha Mud
Volcanoes in the Overlando UAZ Buhanka



CAMPING AND ACCOMMODATION

We’ve marked all suggested camp spots and possible accommodation options on the map.

CAMPING

This 4×4 road trip is designed as a camping itinerary. It uses designated areas within Vashlovani NP plus wild camping spots too. Please ensure you Leave No Trace, which includes 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 (and helping you out of tricky vehicle situations!).

ACCOMMODATION

If you prefer not to camp every night, there are some accommodation options along the way. Staying at any of these would just involve a slight tweak of the itinerary.

Dedoplistskaro

The Vashlovani Visitor Centre in Dedoplistskaro offers rooms for 40-60 GEL per night. They have a shared kitchen you can use, but don’t offer any meals. Book direct with Nino at the visitor centre.

There are also a few guesthouses in Dedoplistskaro, including Savanna Guest House, Savanna Backyard, and Guest House Ruth, plus the quirky Teo’s Cottages near the entrance to Eagle Gorge.

Vashlovani National Park

There are three locations with bungalows for rent. The most convenient for this itinerary are those at Mijniskure, where you will end up on Day 2. You can book these in advance through Nino at the visitor centre. The bungalows cost 40 GEL per night for a double, or 50 GEL per night for a triple. Each has a private bathroom and solar heated shower.

Dali Mta Reservoir and Udabno

Hotel Dalis Mta next to Dali Mta Reservoir is a good option for Day 4. The next accommodation is in Udabno and it should be possible to get here on Day 5. A few good options are Oasis Club Cottages, Udabno Hostel, and Guesthouse Gareji.

VASHLOVANI AND DAVID GAREJA 4×4 ITINERARY

That’s the lot for our Vashlovani and David Gareja 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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Vashlovani and David Gareja Itinerary: 7 Day 4x4 Georgia Road TripVashlovani and David Gareja Itinerary: 7 Day 4x4 Georgia Road TripVashlovani and David Gareja Itinerary: 7 Day 4x4 Georgia Road Trip
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