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The Corners of Georgia: Ushguli – Europe‘s Highest Inhabited Village

Ushguli village Caucasus, Upper Svaneti
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Ushguli village Caucasus, Upper Svaneti

Ushguli is a small village located in Georgia’s Upper Svaneti Mountains. It’s unique not just in its stone houses, breathtakingly beautiful landscape and friendly, but short-tempered people, but also because it’s the highest mountain village in Europe with permanent inhabitants. Ushguli is located 2,200 m above sea level in the Eastern part of the Svaneti Mountains.

The village sits right beside the source of the River Ingluri – the same river where the locals have been fishing for gold with thin woollen nets for centuries. It is this Svanian technique of finding gold that formed the basis of the Greek myth about golden wool, Jason and Medea.

Ushguli is situated at the base of the highest peak of the Svanetian mountain range called Shkhara (5068 m) and 33 km away from Mestia – the region’s centre. The Ushguli community consists of 4 little villages. If you ascend to Ushguli on the main road, first you’ll reach the village of Zhibiani with its ancient little church and grove. Right after this tiny village you’ll see an Orthodox church where you can observe some spectacular medieval frescos.

Hikers trekking in Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Hikers trekking in Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia

Chvibiani is located just a few hundred meters from Zhibiani. It’s the centre of the whole community. Here you’ll also find a guest house, a museum and a café called Koški that opens up on a vista of the Shkhara Peak.

Crossing the River Inguri you’ll find the Chazhashi Fortress and a couple of traditional Svanetian house-towers. The castle, located a little further away, used to be a summer residence of the Georgian ruler Tamara. The village of Murkmeli is situated around 1 km west of the Inguri bridge. There you’ll find a 10th-century Church of St. Barbara and a 12th-century resurrection temple.

Ancient svan towers in Ushguli village in the upper Svaneti region in Georgia
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Ancient svan towers in Ushguli village in the upper Svaneti region in Georgia

Due to its well-preserved medieval architecture, Ushguli became a UNESCO site. The oldest remaining buildings here date back to the 9th or 10th centuries, although, looking at archaeological findings, the settlement is probably significantly older. It is thought that Ushguli maintained its uniqueness due to its geography – the village is completely separate from all other communities. Today, Ushguli is home to around 70 families.

Comments (2)

LindaZPeters@gmail.com   16 days ago  Edited
Hello, Chvibiani is located just a few hundred meters from Zhibiani. It’s the centre of the whole community. Here you’ll also find a guest house, a museum Right after this tiny village you’ll see an Orthodox church where you can observe some spectacular medieval frescos....
Linda PetersS   16 days ago
Nice post .....