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The Corners of Georgia: The Magical National Park that Tourists Forgot

Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia
Photo taken by Paata Vardanashvili / wikimedia.org.  Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia

The Vashlovani National Park is located in the south-east of Georgia, on the border with Azerbaijan. It’s rather odd that this park of “light forests” (so called due to its steppes and interesting woody spaces) be undeservedly forgotten by Georgians and largely unknown to tourists – it’s as though it got lost in a small corner of the Kakheti Region, between the rivers Alazani and Iori. But if you’re after nature, unusual sceneries, tranquillity and adventure, it’s well worth coming here.

Vashlovani is quite another world. It does not resemble the Georgian symbols found on most promotional brochures, such as Svanetia, Tushetia, the Caucasus Mountains, Alpine meadows or mountain glaciers. What you’ll see in Vashlovani is rather surreal – a number of dried-up riverbeds, orange-coloured soil, fertile meadows and unusual tree species.

Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia
Photo taken by Paata Vardanashvili / wikimedia.org.  Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia

Founded in 1935 as a natural reservation, in 2003 Vashlovani was renamed and called a national park. Its climate is fairly dry with annual precipitation at just 470 mm, and the average yearly temperature around 11.6 degrees above zero. During summer, though, the weather gets very hot. The territory of Vashlovani is comprised of deciduous forests, wooded steppes, regular steppes and semi-deserts. Its relief is mostly composed of valleys (some of them in canyons) and badlands, and karst caves are quite numerous here as well.

Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia
Photo taken by wikimedia.org.  Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia

The park has 664 different species of plants, 40 of which are found only in Caucasus. The most popular trees are pistachios, junipers, cherries, maples, pears, figs and pomegranates. Here you can also find 80 species of birds, some hedgehogs, foxes, rabbits, wild cats, wolves, brown bears, badgers, boars, jackals, weasels, hyenas and gazelles. In 2004, in one of the most remote parts of the park, a group of tourists also spotted a leopard.

Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia
Photo taken by Paata Vardanashvili / wikimedia.org.  Vashlovani State Reserve, Georgia

Vashlovani is located 150 km from the capital city Tbilisi, and can be reached by following a well-maintained road from the town of Dedoplistskaro. As you reach the town, you’ll still have to navigate another 50 km, half of which is paved, and half comprised of gravel that eventually turns into an open meadow, but that’s where the adventure and the real journey begins. The park has two campsites, each of which with eight new, cosy little houses equipped with a kitchen, shower and soft beds. Spending a night in one of these double-bedded houses will cost you around 13 euros.

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