Tusheti, located northeast of the country, in the Greater Caucasus, is one of the most beautiful areas of Georgia.
The Tusheti National Reserve is a model of administrative integration because it performs three functions: the conservation of 28,000 hectares of forest where animals as threatened as the Caucasian Snowcock live; the protection of over 50 nomadic peoples, along with their historically valuable monuments; and the promotion of ecotourism. Tusheti, one of the most beautiful areas of Georgia, is in the north-eastern part of the country, and a visit to any of the seven main villages, such as Shenako, makes for an unusual experience. These people, who speak their own dialect, enjoy a joyful isolation and live in rudimentary houses that preserve the traditional charm of the past. They are always welcoming and they open their doors to visitors to share their everyday household tasks, such as preparing the delicious dumpling known as “khinkali”, a ball of dough that is filled with spiced minced meat and lightly twisted before boiling.
Life in the city is completely different to surviving 2,000 metres above sea level. Shenako, in which only two families live throughout the year, has very harsh winters that make shepherding almost impossible. In the face of such adversity, most Tushetian nomads move to the warm flatlands of Kakheti, and their simple huts reflect their ability to adapt.
Vashlovani National Park, in the south-eastern part of the country, has a semi-desert ecosystem and is an excellent example of the varied bio-diversity to be found in Georgia.
This Nature Reserve was created by two Georgian scientists in 1935 and has recently been developed to make it suitable for ecotourism. In the park there are some 60 species of birds, 45 species of mammals and with luck, you can see an exceptionally rare male leopard of a species that was thought to be extinct.
One of the 13 Assyrian Holy Fathers who arrived in Georgia in order to strengthen Christianity, David Gareja, is buried here, and on his tomb there is a stone that symbolizes the one that the distinguished Patriarch brought in his journey from the Holy Land. This is why it is said that a third of Jerusalem’s holiness can be found in this group of 19 monasteries carved out of the rock, named after their founder, David Gareja, and that are still inhabited by monks today.
This city, founded by David Gareja in the VI century A.D. has always been a centre of constant pilgrimage. Notwithstanding Mongol aggression and bloody Turkish attacks, religious activity was only interrupted during the Soviet era, when the neighbouring lands were used as a military base during the Afghan war.