• VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL GUIDE

    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
  • VASHLOVANI

    TRAVEL GUIDE

    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

VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL GUIDE

Vashlovani National Park is home to some of Georgia’s most unique and diverse landscapes. Here you’ll find narrow canyons and jagged peaks, expansive savanna dotted with pistachio trees, bubbling mud volcanoes, barren plateaus, forested mountains, and a snaking river forming the border with Azerbaijan. This huge swathe of land, located in the very southeastern corner of Georgia, is spectacularly beautiful and full of surprises.

Throughout five days exploring the area it was all too easy to forget we were in Georgia, being transported instead to the wadis of Oman, the deserts of Iran, the bizarre rock formations of Upper Mustang, and the savannas of East Africa. It quickly became one of our favourite places in the country, and we highly recommend planning a visit. To help you do just that, we’ve put together this Vashlovani travel guide complete with practical advice, suggested itineraries, downloadable route maps, and other essential info.

WATCH THE VIDEOS





Watch behind the scenes videos of our 2 week off-road Georgia trip on Instagram Stories

Watch behind the scenes videos
of our 2 week off-road Georgia
trip on Instagram Stories

VASHLOVANI QUICK FACTS

    • Location | Accessed via Dedoplistskaro, 130 km east of Tbilisi
    • Number of days | Recommend min. 3 days
    • Best season | Spring/Autumn, dry weather only
    • Transport | No public transport beyond Dedoplistskaro. 4WD required to visit NP (private or tour)
    • Permits | NP permit & border police permit (arrange in Dedoplistskaro)
    • Accommodation | Guesthouses in Dedoplistskaro + Camping and/or Bungalows in Vashlovani NP
    • Contact | Nino (Vashlovani Visitor Centre)  +995 577101849, [email protected]

QUICK FACTS

Location
Accessed via Dedoplistskaro
130 km east of Tbilisi

Number of days
Recommend min. 3 days

Best season
Spring/Autumn, dry weather only

Transport
No public transport beyond Dedoplistskaro. 4WD required to visit NP (private or tour)

Permits
NP permit & border police permit (arrange in Dedoplistskaro)

Accommodation
Guesthouses in Dedoplistskaro + Camping and/or Bungalows in Vashlovani NP

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


VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK MAP

VASHLOVANI NP MAP

Use the map below to help lead you around Vashlovani NP to all the places mentioned in this guide. You can also download an offline version to Maps.me (iOS/Android).


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

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

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


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

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

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


HOW TO VISIT VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK

VASHLOVANI NP //

HOW TO VISIT

First things first, we want to clear up something that we found very confusing when planning our own trip to Vashlovani National Park. In our opinion, Vashlovani is NOT a trekking destination. This is despite numerous websites (including the National Parks of Georgia and Agency of Protected Areas) claiming that it’s ‘perfect for hiking’ and has ‘marked and well-arranged’ hiking paths from ‘one to several days’.

In reality, this just isn’t true. A trip to Vashlovani National Park requires a 4×4 vehicle and covers hundreds of kilometres, with opportunities for only short hikes here and there. Even though the map available at the visitor centre is labelled a ‘Trekking Map’, all routes are in fact primarily for vehicles. Unless you are extremely hardy or a glutton for punishment, you’re going to need your own 4WD. That or you’ll need to join a tour.

A UAZ Buhanka camper van follows a winding dirt track above cliffs in Vashlovani National Park

The points of interest in Vashlovani are separated by considerable distances, making a 4WD vehicle essential



A UAZ Buhanka camper van follows a winding dirt track above cliffs in Vashlovani National Park

Points of interest in Vashlovani are separated by
large distances, making a 4WD vehicle essential



Given the great distances and time involved in visiting the highlights of Vashlovani National Park, it’s best to stay at least one night in the area. You can camp at numerous spots, book a bungalow at two locations within the park, or stay in Dedoplistskaro itself. We have more info in the accommodation section below.

WHEN TO VISIT VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK

VASHLOVANI NP //

WHEN TO VISIT

The two main things to consider if you’re deciding when to visit Vashlovani National Park are temperature and rainfall. Vashlovani has a semi-arid climate and gets oppressively hot during the summer months (June – August). Encounters with poisonous snakes are also far more likely in summer which is another reason to avoid this time of year. Spring and autumn are far more pleasant times to visit. Regarding rainfall, a trip to Vashlovani should only be attempted in dry weather. If it has rained recently, or rain is forecast during your visit, it’s best to change your plans. Many of the tracks crisscrossing the vast park area turn to thick, clay-like mud in the rain. This makes it extremely slow-going at best and downright dangerous at worst.

The two main things to consider if you’re deciding when to visit Vashlovani National Park are temperature and rainfall.

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

Regarding rainfall, a trip to Vashlovani should only be attempted in dry weather. If it has rained recently, or rain is forecast during your visit, it’s best to change your plans. Many of the tracks crisscrossing the vast park area turn to thick, clay-like mud in the rain. 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 off-road tracks deteriorated. Our vehicle was slipping and sliding all over the place, even on flat ground, our wheels spinning and completely coated in gloopy mud. It took a great deal of time and effort to get unstuck on a narrow canyon track heading towards Mijniskure, and we had to abandon some plans as the wet terrain was too risky to continue on. Nino at the visitor centre can advise on current conditions and if any parts of the park are closed due to 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 



Another factor to be aware of is that shepherds migrate from Tusheti to spend the winter in Vashlovani (approx. October – April). They are accompanied by their flocks and their aggressively protective sheepdogs, and encounters with these dogs can be really unpleasant. Of course, if you’re in a car then the worst they can do is chase after your vehicle. But if you are on foot or travelling by bike, then you’ll want to avoid stepping on their territory.

HOW TO GET TO VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK

VASHLOVANI NP //

HOW TO GET THERE

The gateway to Vashlovani National Park is the small town of Dedoplistskaro, 130 km east of Tbilisi in the southeastern part of Kakheti. It takes around 2 hours to drive from Tbilisi to the Vashlovani Visitor Centre (41.4625, 46.1036), which you must visit before entering the park. It takes a further 1.5 – 3 hours to drive from the visitor centre to one of the points of interest in the park, such as Pantishara Canyon (41.2376, 46.3655) or Mijniskure (41.1117, 46.6462)

A UAZ Buhanka camper van entering Vashlovani National Park in Georgia

Heading off road through farmland towards Kasristskali and Vashlovani National Park



A UAZ Buhanka camper van entering Vashlovani National Park in Georgia

Heading off road through farmland towards
Kasristskali and Vashlovani National Park



Public transport will only get you as far as Dedoplistskaro. You can take a marshrutka from Tbilisi Ortachala Bus Station (41.6749, 44.8347). They leave hourly between 08:00 – 16:00. The journey takes around two hours and costs 7 GEL. From Dedoplistskaro it’s still a long way to the park itself, with no onward transport options other than hitchhiking or hiring a private car and driver.

VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK PERMITS & FEES

VASHLOVANI NP //

PERMITS & FEES

All visitors to Vashlovani National Park are required to pay entrance fees at the visitor centre in Dedoplistskaro before venturing into the park. And if you plan to visit anywhere close to the border, such as Mijniskure, you’ll also need a border permit from the Border Police in Dedoplistskaro (41.4723, 46.0854).

THE COSTS

    • 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 | Free
    • PAYABLE BY CASH ONLY

THE COSTS

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
Free

PAYABLE BY CASH ONLY


You will need to know how many days and nights you intend to stay in the park, and provide your passport and car passport details. You may also need to show your entry stamps into Georgia. The quickest way to arrange all of this is to contact the very helpful Nino Seturidze at the visitor centre in advance. She speaks perfect English and will prepare everything for you, ready to pick up on the day.  You can phone her on +995 577101849, then email copies of the required documents to [email protected]. If you are renting a vehicle, the rental company should be able to provide details of the car passport in advance for you to pass onto Nino.

A person covers their hands in viscous wet mud at Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes in Georgia

Extra permits are needed to visit the outlying Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes, which can be arranged via the visitor centre



A person covers their hands in viscous wet mud at Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes in Georgia

Extra permits are needed to visit the
outlying Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes



Note that if you plan to visit the Kilakupra Mud Volcanoes (further west than the more commonly visited Takhti Tepha Mud Volcanoes), or drive off-road along the Iori River towards David Gareja, you will need separate Chachuna Managed Reserve and border police permits. This is in addition to the Vashlovani permits. You can advise Nino at the visitor centre of your plans in advance, and she will arrange the correct permits for you.

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK

VASHLOVANI NP //

THINGS TO KNOW

There are a few important things to know before venturing off on your Vashlovani adventure. This section will help ensure that you are well prepared and have a safe, enjoyable trip.

FUEL

There are a number of petrol stations in Dedoplistskaro, the closest to the national park being the Gulf station where the Kvemo Kedi and Dalis Mta roads meet (41.4499, 46.1299). You must ensure you have a full tank when heading into Vashlovani and plan your itinerary accordingly, as there is nowhere to get fuel within the park.

FOOD & WATER

There are no shops beyond Dedoplistskaro so you must take all the food (and cooking equipment) that you need. In Dedoplistskaro itself there are a few small markets where you can stock up, but the options are more limited than what’s available in Tbilisi supermarkets.

The only water source within Vashlovani National Park is at Mijniskure. There are no water sources at any of the other ranger stations or designated camp spots. If you are desperate then the border police or rangers will no doubt give you some of their water from bottled supplies, but you should plan to have enough to cover your trip itinerary before/after Mijniskure. This lack of water is one of the reasons why multi-day treks in the park are just not practical.

The Alazani River runs past dusty rock pinnacles at Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

The mountains of Azerbaijan can be seen across the Alazani River near Mijniskure, the only place in the park to fill up water



The Alazani River runs past dusty rock pinnacles at Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

The mountains of Azerbaijan can be seen
across the Alazani River near Mijniskure,
the only place in the park to fill up water



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.

Our go-to offline mapping app is Maps.me (iOS/Android), and the various off-road tracks within Vashlovani are all marked on this app. We find it the easiest to use for real-time navigation, as well as route planning in advance. Gaia (iOS/Android) is also useful as it shows much more terrain and contour detail, while also being available offline. OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android) is another good option.

GPX Track Downloads

The easiest way to navigate around Vashlovani is by downloading GPX tracks of your route in advance. These routes can be imported into Maps.me (download the KML files), or Gaia/OsmAnd Maps (download the GPX files), and used offline when you’re in the park. You can download the various Vashlovani routes using the links below.

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, 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 in the park. 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 speak Georgian and Russian).

COME JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM

WHAT TO SEE IN VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK

VASHLOVANI NP //

WHAT TO SEE

The Vashlovani Protected Areas total 35292 hectares and encompass the Vashlovani National Park, Vashlovani Nature Reserve, and three Natural Monuments (Eagle Gorge, Kakliskure Alazani Floodplains, and Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes). To keep things simple, we’re just referring to the whole area as ‘Vashlovani’ or ‘Vashlovani National Park’. As previously mentioned, the highlights of Vashlovani are spread out across vast distances. Here we’ll break down what to see in each area and outline a few personal highlights not to be missed.

AROUND DEDOPLISTSKARO

Eagle Gorge and Khornabuji Fortress are the only sights accessible from Dedoplistskaro itself (and therefore by public transport). If you have your own transport, you can get close to the trailheads, otherwise you’ll have to walk the extra kilometres from town. A walking loop from the visitor centre that takes in Eagle Gorge and Khornabuji is around 16 km.

Eagle Gorge is a narrow, steep sided gorge with a short walking trail leading along the top of the western cliff. There are wonderful views down into the tree-filled gorge and across to the limestone cliff opposite. The area is home to over sixty species of birds, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot griffon vultures soaring above. Views of the Alazani Valley stretch into the distance, all the way to the snow-covered peaks of the Caucasus beyond. You can drive to a car park near the ranger station (41.4864, 46.0940), then walk 2-3 km to the main viewpoint and back. Alternatively, it’s an 8 km return walk from the visitor centre in town.

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



Khornabuji is a ruined hilltop fortress dating from the 5th century, possibly even earlier. It’s a steep climb of about 45 minutes up to the ruins themselves, perched atop a rocky outcrop. Otherwise there are good views of the fortress from the nearby viewpoint (41.4881, 46.1337). You can drive to the viewpoint or to the base of the fortress (41.4865, 46.1348), or walk from Dedoplistskaro (approx. 10 km return from the visitor centre).

EASTERN VASHLOVANI

The eastern part of Vashlovani is where the majority of sights are found. After following the road southeast from Dedoplistskaro, a track leads into the national park itself, where it continues through flat farmlands all the way to the small settlement of Kasristskali (38 km from the visitor centre). From here the scenery gets more interesting, with one track heading southwest towards Pantishara Valley and another heading southeast towards Mijniskure.

Pantishara and Bear Canyon/Datviskhevi

It’s around 13 km from Kasristskali to Pantishara Valley and Bear Canyon/Datviskhevi. The initial 9 km track undulates across the 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 entrance to Bear Canyon, known as Datviskhevi in Georgian (41.2376, 46.3655).

You can walk up Bear Canyon and back again in about an hour. Mostly it’s easy going, but there is one section where you have to climb up and 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!

A hiker climbing through a rocky gap in Bear Canyon in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Climbing through the narrow gap in Bear Canyon



A hiker walking a narrow trail between high rock walls in Bear Canyon in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Walking the Bear Canyon Trail



A hiker climbing through a rocky gap in Bear Canyon in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Climbing through the gap in Bear Canyon


A hiker walking a narrow trail between high rock walls in Bear Canyon in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Walking the Bear Canyon Trail



Personally, we found the area to the south of the camping spot far more scenic than Bear Canyon, so be sure not to miss it. As you continue driving, the narrow wadi-like canyon opens up and amazing rock formations appear on either side. These ancient seabeds are known as ‘Alesilebi’, and they are a favourite hangout spot for eagles and griffon vultures. Wind erosion has sculpted these cliffs into bizarre shapes, shot through with bands of colour. It was views like this that took us right back to Upper Mustang.

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



After continuing about 4 km south of the camping area, you’ll reach a viewpoint over the vast Eldari Lowlands. From here it’s possible to drive a route looping southeast to Mijniskure, known on the tourist map as the ‘Hidden Water Trail’. But for first-time visitors to Vashlovani, the upper route via Pantishara Viewpoint is probably more scenic*.

*to be fair, we haven’t driven the Eldari Lowland route, so it could very well be incredible. We just know that the other route is pretty special. We’ll have to find out next time…

Pantishara Valley to Mijniskure

It’s about 37 km from the camping area in Pantishara to the bungalows/ranger station at Mijniskure, via the Pantishara and Usakhelo Viewpoints.

The route returns via Pantishara Canyon, heading east to reach the wonderful Pantishara Viewpoint after 9 km (41.2234, 46.4061). Here, flat farmland stretches out to the north, whilst 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. Bungalows, a ranger station, and picnic area are situated a little off the main track (41.1600, 46.5671). Less than 4 km south of here sits a border guard post (41.1390, 46.5798). You must show your passport, car passport, border police permit, and paperwork from the Dedoplistskaro Visitor Centre to pass through this checkpoint and continue on to Mijniskure.

The wind eroded tree covered layers of an ancient seabed seen from Pantishara Viewpoint in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Looking out from Pantishara Viewpoint



The wind eroded tree covered layers of an ancient seabed seen from Pantishara Viewpoint in Vashlovani National Park, Georgia

Looking out from Pantishara Viewpoint



About 4.4 km beyond the border guard post is the spectacular Usakhelo Viewpoint (41.1272, 46.6070), where incredible views of the badlands extend east and south. 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 we found in the park!). From here, you can see the track descending right through the middle of this amazing landscape. It disappears into a narrow twisting canyon before emerging onto an open plain that leads to the ranger station at Mijniskure.

  • 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



This section is particularly tricky in wet conditions, the hard-packed mud becoming a thick gloopy mess. The terrain is steep in parts, uneven, and winds through a narrow, steep sided canyon. This is definitely one of the more challenging off-road routes in Vashlovani, and 4WD experience is recommended if tackling it.

Mijniskure

The bungalows, camping area, and ranger station at Mijniskure lie right next to the Azerbaijan border, on the banks of the Alazani River. There are picnic benches, a water well, and fishing spots here. The surrounding landscape is beautiful, with dramatic mountains rising either side of the wide flat plain. But for the best views, keep driving north along the Alazani towards Takhistskali (41.1567, 46.6512). With the river snaking alongside, on this route you get up close to wonderfully sculpted cliffs rising above the scenic savanna.

Sandy cliffs and rock pinnacles towering above grassland near Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

Wind sculpted cliffs and tree studded grassland near Mijniskure, on the route to Takhistskali 



Sandy cliffs and rock pinnacles towering above grassland near Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

Wind sculpted cliffs and tree studded grassland
near Mijniskure, on the route to Takhistskali



Shavi Mta/Black Mountain

The scenery around Black Mountain (Shavi Mta in Georgian) is markedly different to that of Pantishara or Mijniskure. It is characterised by forest covered hillsides and an undulating ridgeline, with views of the Alazani Valley and Caucasus Mountains to the north, and of extensive farmland to the southwest. There is a (very) short hiking trail to a monastery that starts shortly after the designated picnic area (41.2644, 46.6346). The driving track continues on a muddy forest trail to the ranger station (41.2711, 46.6285), beyond which lie fantastic views over the Alazani Valley below.

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



Shavi Mta is connected to the rest of Vashlovani via a few different tracks. Coming from Mijniskure (34 km), most people approach it from the south via the Imeda Valley and the Central Entrance Ranger Station (41.2252, 46.5330). There is an interesting viewpoint about 3.5 km from the Central Ranger Station where the jagged badlands peaks can be seen to the south, and the flat farming land to the north (41.2321, 46.5654).

An alternative route from Mijniskure goes via Takhistskali before climbing up through the badlands and emerging close to the above mentioned viewpoint. It’s about 28 km from Mijniskure Ranger Station to Shavi Mta Ranger Station. This track is marked on the Vashlovani paper ‘Trekking Map’, but isn’t highlighted as a main route. We wanted to go this way, but the track was still too muddy so we decided to return via Usakhelo Viewpoint and the Central Entrance instead. If you’re interested in taking this route, it’s marked in the gpx track downloads.

A fiery sunset sky above a UAZ Buhanka campervan near Shavi Mounatin in Vashlovani National Park

Parked up to enjoy a fiery sunset near Shavi Mta (Black Mountain)



A fiery sunset sky above a UAZ Buhanka campervan near Shavi Mounatin in Vashlovani National Park

A fiery sunset near Shavi Mta



To the northwest of Shavi Mta there is a track running along the ridge which connects to Kvemo Kedi, and from here, a sealed road leads through various villages back to Dedoplistskaro (61 km from Shavi Mta Ranger Station to Vashlovani Visitor Centre). There are also tracks descending from the ridge to the Alazani Valley and Kakliskure Alazani Floodplain Natural Monument (13 km from Shavi Mta Ranger Station).

Kakliskure Alazani Floodplain Forest

This area is one of the three ‘natural monuments’ in Vashlovani. It is a small bay peninsula on the Alazani River, on the border with Azerbaijan. It is notable for its wild walnut trees, as well as giant ash, oak, and elm forests. There is a picnic area and ranger station here (41.3536, 46.6502). We could see the area from the ridge above, but didn’t personally visit this spot in the end due to time restrictions. It’s 63 km from Kakliskure to Dedoplistskaro.

Enjoying our guide?
Pin it for later!


WESTERN VASHLOVANI

The third of Vashlovani’s Natural Monuments is the impressive Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes, situated in a completely different area to the west. It’s not possible to drive directly between the western and eastern parts of the park, so this site must be reached on a different route from Dedoplistskaro.

It’s 52 km from the Vashlovani Visitor Centre to Takhti-Tepha, mostly on rough track. The first point of interest along the way is the 6th Century Elia Monastery, seemingly stuck onto the side of a limestone mountain. It’s visible from the track, or you can make a detour to get closer (41.4417, 46.1088).

Elia Monastery perched on a rocky outcrop in the middle of the open plains in the Vashlovani Protected Areas

Elia Monastery, stuck on the side of a rocky hump on the dusty plain



Elia Monastery perched on a rocky outcrop in the middle of the open plains in the Vashlovani Protected Areas

Elia Monastery, stuck on the side of
a rocky hump on the dusty plain



A further 32 km beyond Elia Monastery is the scenic Dali Mta Reservoir (Dali Mountain Reservoir) (41.2822, 45.8983). Fishing is popular here, and there is accommodation nearby. Personally, I was pretty enamoured with the abandoned (presumably) Soviet-era structures rising out of the water, but maybe that’s just me?

  • Glowing orange from the setting sun, a seemingly abandoned blocky building rises from the water at the edge of the Dali Mta Reservoir in Georgia
  • Glowing orange from the setting sun, a seemingly abandoned blocky building rises from the water at the edge of the Dali Mta Reservoir in Georgia

Anyone else a fan of this beauty?



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. In wet weather, this is another track that becomes muddy and troublesome to drive on.

The mud volcanoes are spread out across a small knoll, with fantastic views back towards Dali Mta Reservoir and the surrounding landscape. They vary in size, the largest bubbling cauldron being about two 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. There is a sheltered picnic spot at the end of the track, but no other facilities.

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



BEYOND WESTERN VASHLOVANI

If you have your own 4×4 vehicle, it’s possible to continue further west on off-road tracks to a second set of mud volcanoes at Kilakupra, and then even all the way to David Gareja. You could then carry on to Tbilisi, making a loop from the capital to Vashlovani and back, rather than retracing your journey along the Kakheti Highway. Extra permits and border police permission are required, so be sure to discuss your plans and dates with Nino at the Vashlovani Visitor Centre in advance and collect these before leaving Dedoplistskaro.

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 second set of mud volcanoes, known as Kilakupra, are situated 22 km west of Takhti-Tepha (41.3342, 45.7698). They lie very close to the Azerbaijan border, and you must pass through a border guard checkpoint to reach them. These volcanoes are similar in many ways to those at Takhti-Tepha, but the views and setting are different and some of them ooze tar-like oil instead of mud.

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

Mesmerising patterns in the cracked ground



Black tar oozing out of a small crater at the Kilakupra Mud Volcanos in southeastern Georgia

Black tar oozing from this little crater



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

Mesmerising patterns in the cracked ground


Black tar oozing out of a small crater at the Kilakupra Mud Volcanos in southeastern Georgia

Black tar oozing from this little crater



From Kilakupra, it’s possible to continue on off-road tracks all the way to the extensive monastery complex of David Gareja (Davit Gareji). This route follows the Iori River through the Chachuna and Iori Managed Reserves, passing through farming and grazing land to reach the remote Sabereebi cave complex (41.4707, 45.5615), 36 km from Kilakupra.

From Sabereebi, you can continue another 29 km to the popular David Gareja site where the Lavra and Udabno monasteries are found alongside some colourful rainbow hills (parking at 41.4485, 45.3768). Only the final 14 km of this route is on tarmac.

Follow our adventures

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK


VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK HIGHLIGHTS & SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

VASHLOVANI NP //

HIGHLIGHTS & SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

We highly recommend giving yourself as much time as possible to explore Vashlovani National Park. Ideally this would be a minimum of three days. Four days would allow you to take things at a more relaxed pace, and five days are enough to see all of the sights. But anything less than three days, and you’re in for some very long drives and a rushed experience.

VASHLOVANI HIGHLIGHTS

Our top three highlights of Vashlovani (and those we think you shouldn’t miss!) are Mijniskure, Pantishara, and Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes (in that order). Of course, your interests may differ from ours, but we feel these areas of Vashlovani showcase the most spectacular and unique landscapes. There is also the opportunity to spot large birds of prey at each of these spots, as well as other interesting flora and fauna.

The wind eroded Alesilebi cliffs in Pantishara Canyon, Vashlovani Nature Reserve

The wind blasted Alesilebi cliffs in Pantishara Canyon



The wind eroded Alesilebi cliffs in Pantishara Canyon, Vashlovani Nature Reserve

Wind blasted Alesilebi cliffs in Pantishara Canyon



SUGGESTED VASHLOVANI ITINERARIES

SUGGESTED ITINERARIES

To help you plan your own Vashlovani adventure, we’ve put together a few suggested itineraries below. We’ve routed all of these to/from Tbilisi, but you could of course start or end elsewhere depending on your travel plans. The driving times noted are approximate and don’t include sightseeing. You can save time in Dedoplistskaro by contacting Nino at the visitor centre beforehand and providing your passport details, etc. That way your permits will be prepared in advance. 

Camping in Vashlovani allows you to be more flexible as there are many more camping spots across the park than there are bungalows. The 2 Day and 3 Day itineraries below are suitable for both campers and those staying in accommodation, but the 4 Day and 5 Day itineraries are only suitable for campers. Those wanting to stay in accommodation would have to tweak the itineraries.

1 DAY VASHLOVANI ITINERARY

In all honesty, we wouldn’t recommend visiting Vashlovani as a day trip. It’s a very long way to go, and you’ll be limited greatly in what you can actually see. But, if you’re very short on time and want to make the trip we would suggest focusing on visiting either the Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes or Mijniskure. You’ll need to make a very early start from Tbilisi, and expect a full 10-14 hour day.

Tbilisi – Dedoplistskaro – Mijniskure – Tbilisi
(10+ hours driving)

You’ll see: Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, savanna,
narrow canyons, Alazani River

OR

Tbilisi – Dedoplistskaro – Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes – Tbilisi
(8+ hours driving)

You’ll see: Elia Monastery, Dali Mta Reservoir,
interesting rock formations, mud volcanoes

Tbilisi
→ Dedoplistskaro
→ Mijniskure
→ Tbilisi
10+ hours driving

You’ll see: Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, savanna, narrow canyons, Alazani River

OR

Tbilisi
→ Dedoplistskaro
→ Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes
→ Tbilisi
8+ hours driving

You’ll see: Elia Monastery, Dali Mta Reservoir, interesting rock formations, mud volcanoes


2 DAY VASHLOVANI ITINERARY

Trying to whizz around Vashlovani in just two days is still pretty ambitious, and only to be tackled if you don’t mind a couple of long ones back to back! Combining Pantishara and Mijniskure is a great option. This itinerary would have you arriving at Mijniskure late in the afternoon on Day 1, giving you time to explore the area on the morning of Day 2.

Day 1 | Tbilisi – Dedoplistskaro – Pantishara – Mijniskure
(7+ hours driving //
camp or overnight in bungalow at Mijniskure)

Day 2 | Mijniskure – Dedoplistskaro – Tbilisi
(5+ hours driving)

You’ll see: Pantishara Canyon, Bear Canyon, Alesilebi rock formations,
Pantishara Viewpoint, Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, narrow canyons,
savanna, Alazani River

DAY 1

Tbilisi
→ Dedoplistskaro
→ Pantishara
→ Mijniskure

7+ hours driving
C
amp or overnight in
bungalow at Mijniskure

DAY 2

Mijniskure
Dedoplistskaro
Tbilisi
5+ hours driving

You’ll see: Pantishara Canyon, Bear Canyon, Alesilebi rock formations, Pantishara Viewpoint, Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, narrow canyons, savanna, Alazani River


3 DAY VASHLOVANI ITINERARY

Tagging on another busy day to the above itinerary will allow you to see our top three highlights of Vashlovani.

Day 1 | Tbilisi – Dedoplistskaro – Pantishara – Mijniskure
(7+ hours driving //
camp or overnight in bungalow at Mijniskure)

Day 2 | Mijniskure – Dedoplistskaro
(3+ hours driving // camp or overnight in accommodation in Dedoplistskaro)

Day 3 |  Dedoplistskaro – Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes – Tbilisi
(6+ hours driving)

You’ll see: Pantishara Canyon, Bear Canyon, Alesilebi rock formations,
Pantishara Viewpoint, Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, narrow canyons,
savanna, Alazani River, Elia Monastery, Dali Mta Reservoir, mud volcanoes

DAY 1

Tbilisi
→ Dedoplistskaro
→ Pantishara
→ Mijniskure
7+ hours driving
C
amp or overnight in
bungalow at Mijniskure

DAY 2

Mijniskure
Dedoplistskaro
3+ hours driving
Camp or overnight in
accommodation in Dedoplistskaro

DAY 3

Dedoplistskaro
Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes
Tbilisi
6+ hours driving

You’ll see: Pantishara Canyon, Bear Canyon, Alesilebi rock formations, Pantishara Viewpoint, Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, narrow canyons, savanna, Alazani River, Elia Monastery, Dali Mta Reservoir, mud volcanoes


4 DAY VASHLOVANI ITINERARY

Adding an extra day onto the above itinerary allows you much more time to explore Pantishara and Mijniskure, splitting the journey over two days instead of one (which we think is much more preferable!). You could also get an earlier start from Mijniskure, allowing you to take a longer route back to Dedoplistskaro via Shavi Mta/Black Mountain. 

Day 1 | Tbilisi – Dedoplistskaro –  Pantishara
(4+ hours driving // camp at Pantishara)

Day 2 | Pantishara – Mijniskure
(3+ hours driving // camp or overnight in bungalow at Mijniskure)

Day 3 | Mijniskure – Shavi Mta – Dedoplistskaro
(5+ hours driving // camp or overnight in accommodation in Dedoplistskaro)

Day 4 |  Dedoplistskaro – Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes – Tbilisi
(6+ hours driving)

You’ll see: Pantishara Canyon, Bear Canyon, Alesilebi rock formations,
Pantishara Viewpoint, Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, narrow canyons,
savanna, Alazani River, Shavi Mta/Black Mountain, Alazani Valley and
Caucasus Mountains views, Elia Monastery, Dali Mta Reservoir, mud volcanoes

DAY 1

Tbilisi
Dedoplistskaro
Pantishara
4+ hours driving
Camp at Pantishara

DAY 2

Pantishara
Mijniskure
3+ hours driving
Camp or overnight in
bungalow at Mijniskure

DAY 3

Mijniskure
Shavi Mta
Dedoplistskaro
5+ hours driving
Camp or overnight in
accommodation in Dedoplistskaro

DAY 4

Dedoplistskaro
Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes
Tbilisi
6+ hours driving

You’ll see: Pantishara Canyon, Bear Canyon, Alesilebi rock formations, Pantishara Viewpoint, Usakhelo Viewpoint, badlands, narrow canyons, savanna, Alazani River, Shavi Mta/Black Mountain, Alazani Valley and Caucasus Mountains views, Elia Monastery, Dali Mta Reservoir, mud volcanoes


5 DAY VASHLOVANI ITINERARY

Five days in Vashlovani gives you time to comfortably see pretty much everything. This includes Eagle Gorge and Khornabuji Fortress on the outskirts of Dedoplistskaro, plus the Kakliskure Alazani Floodplains Forest.

Day 1 | Tbilisi – Dedoplistskaro –  Pantishara
(4+ hours driving //
camp at Pantishara)

Day 2 | Pantishara – Mijniskure
(3+ hours driving //
camp or overnight in bungalow at Mijniskure)

Day 3 | Mijniskure – Shavi Mta – Kakliskure
(4+ hours driving //
camp at Kakliskure)

Day 4 | Kakliskure – Khornabuji Fortress – Eagle Gorge – Dedoplistskaro
(3.5+ hours driving //
camp or overnight in accommodation in Dedoplistskaro)

Day 5 | Dedoplistskaro – Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes – Tbilisi
(6+ hours driving)

You’ll see: Everything!

DAY 1

Tbilisi
→ Dedoplistskaro
→ Pantishara

4+ hours driving
C
amp at Pantishara

DAY 2

Pantishara
→ Mijniskure

3+ hours driving
Camp or overnight in
bungalow at Mijniskure

DAY 3

Mijniskure
→ Shavi Mta
→ Kakliskure

4+ hours driving
C
amp at Kakliskure

DAY 4

Kakliskure
→ Khornabuji Fortress
→ Eagle Gorge
Dedoplistskaro
3.5+ hours driving
C
amp or overnight in
accommodation in Dedoplistskaro

DAY 5

Dedoplistskaro
→ Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes
→ Tbilisi

6+ hours driving

You’ll see: Everything!


VASHLOVANI ACCOMMODATION

VASHLOVANI NP //

ACCOMMODATION

There are a few accommodation options in Dedoplistskaro, plus bungalows/tourist shelters to rent in two locations within Vashlovani NP itself. Besides these, camping is the only other option.

DEDOPLISTSKARO ACCOMMODATION

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.

Guesthouses in Dedoplistskaro offer a more homely welcome, often including meals. Savanna Guest House is a good option, with friendly owners and great food.  The same family also offers self-contained accommodation, Savanna Backyard, which is ideal for those looking for a bit more space and privacy. Guest House Ruth is another good option in town, or for something more quirky check out Teo’s Cottages near the entrance to Eagle Gorge.

Booking.com

VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK ACCOMMODATION

There are two locations within Vashlovani NP with tourist bungalows/shelters for rent. One is located between the Central Entrance and the Mijniskure Border Guard checkpoint (41.1600, 46.5671), and the other at Mijniskure (41.1117, 46.6462).

Two stone bungalows amidst the trees at Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

Tourist bungalows for rent at Mijniskure



Two stone bungalows amidst the trees at Mijniskure in Vashlovani National Park

Tourist bungalows for rent at Mijniskure



These cost 40 GEL per night for a double, or 50 GEL per night for a triple. Each has a private bathroom with solar heated shower, flushing toilet, and solar electricity for charging devices. The bungalows are rented on a self-catering basis. You must bring your own food and also cooking equipment. You can use your own sleeping bag, or request bed sheets free of charge from the Vashlovani Visitor Centre in Dedoplistskaro. Book direct via Nino at the Vashlovani Visitor Centre.

Between October and May, another accommodation option within the park is Soso Shetidze’s farmstay, approx 3 km south of Kasritskali village. Breakfast and dinner are provided, and it’s also possible to go horseriding. You can book via the website or Facebook.

Although it isn’t marked on any maps, there is a homestay in Kasritskali which you can book through Larisa via Facebook.

CAMPING IN VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK

There are numerous designated camping areas in Vashlovani NP (see our map for all of the locations). It costs 5 GEL per person per night to camp in Vashlovani.

 If you don’t have your own camping gear, you can hire basic equipment from the Vashlovani Visitor Centre (tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad). Alternatively, you can hire gear from MPlus in Tbilisi, including cooking equipment.

Another option is to hire a 4WD campervan. That will take care of both your transport and accommodation needs. We went with the UAZ Buhanka from Overlando.

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



VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK TOURS

VASHLOVANI NP //

TOURS

If you don’t have your own 4WD, you’ll need to join a tour or hire a car and driver in order to see the best bits of Vashlovani. You can find a variety of tour options on Viator. Alternatively, Nino at the Visitor Centre can put you in touch with a local driver and you can arrange a private tour to suit your needs.

VASHLOVANI NATIONAL PARK TRAVEL GUIDE

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

ORGANISE YOUR TRIP


Booking.com

*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!*

Was this useful?
Pin it for later!

Share Logo

FOLLOW US

LOVE THE GREAT OUTDOORS?

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 person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
A narrow trekking trail in Upper Mustang stretching off into the distance amidst some bizarre rock formations, with the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri in the background
Trekkers on a trail approaching a round orange rock formation with a plateau stretched out into the distance in Upper Mustang
A 4x4 vehicle drives towards the Western Hajar Mountains on a 1 month Oman road trip.
Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
Golden sunrise light hits the wall of the Omani Grand Canyon below Jebel Shams. A 4WD and tent sits on the rim of the canyon.
A house front in the village of Karakul in Tajikistan, shining in the early morning sun.
A orange, yellow and pink sunrise rises over Wadi Bih in the mountains of Musandam, Oman
A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
Yurts lined up at Tulparkul, in the shadow of Peak Lenin
Two small kids wandering the wide dusty streets of Karakul in northern Tajikistan
Looking out from wat Pha Lat over Chiang Mai, reflected in the still water and surrounded by lush green vegetation
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Pinks and yellows light the sky at sunrise in the mountains of Musandam. The flat area shows our campsite where the tent and our Toyota Fortuner gleam in the morning light.
The mirror-like blue surface of Khor Najd stretches into the distance, framed by sandy mountains and cliffs
Sunrise reflections on the mirror-like surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.
The Essential Guide to Visiting the Tsaatan Reindeer Herders, Mongolia
Budget Gobi Tour: Sunset over the Khongor sand dunes, the Gobi, Mongolia
A Week On The Olle: Jeju Olle Video
Hiking Hallasan: South Korea's Highest Peak
Yokjido A Korean Island Guide
Bijindo: Two local women protected from the hot sun walk in front of a sashimi shack
Looking towards one of Saryangdo Island's suspension bridges from the ridge hiking trail, with the road bridge and surrounding islands in the distance, South Korea

Still Not Sorted Your Travel Insurance?
It’s Not Too Late! Get A Quote Now

Still Not Sorted Your Travel Insurance? It’s Not Too Late! Get A Quote Now



2
Leave a Reply

avatar
1 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
3 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
Going the Whole HoggChris Heckmann Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Chris Heckmann
Guest

Just want to say that I found this guide super useful. The offline map was a life saver. We didn’t see another person (other than some government water supply workers) the entire day in the park. It was awesome but also sort of scary. I have a recently started travel blog and when I write about this I’m going to refer to your guide here, which is much more detailed than what I’ll write!

Vashlovani National Park Travel GuideVashlovani National Park Travel Guide
321 Shares
Pin227
Tweet
Share94
WhatsApp