A Bike Trip to Georgia

Biking in Georgia? Cool! Are there any good trails there?

For the locals, this must sound like someone asking us if mountain biking is good in the Alps. I wasn’t quite aware of it myself, but Georgia is big, and there are also really(!) high mountains on the border with Russia. So of course you can bike well there! The question is rather where to start and where to stop.

In the last few years, Georgia has become better known in Western Europe, mainly due to winter sports. For skiers, when we hear names like Gudauri, Mestia, Goderdzi Pass or Catsskiing in Bakhmaro, it rings in our heads. The fact that these areas are located in completely different regions of the country is again known to fewer people.

Tusheti National Park

In summer Georgia has made a name for itself especially with trekking tourism. Our local organizer said that his most frequent customers are women from America who come to Georgia alone to hike. The most famous region for this is certainly Svanetia. The landscape, with a view of the 5000ers, must be tremendous and apparently there is also really a lot going on there in terms of tourism. But we were with the bikes much further east, in the Tuscheti National Park, which is also located on the Russian border.

We spent the first day of the trip still on the trails above Tbilisi. This was very convenient, because after the previous arrival day, everyone was already hot for biking. The trails overlooking the sea of houses in the big city definitely have something going for them and were the perfect introduction to our trip. In the evening of the same day we left for Tuscheti. Shuttle destination of the next day was the 2800m high Abano Pass. The driveway is for all those who are more used to Western European roads, well let’s say: quite adventurous. It is hard to believe that this pass is the main road to Tusheti.

Medieval villages in Georgia

So it’s no wonder that the main means of transportation here are jeeps and horses, because you certainly won’t get very far in a classic German SUV, and if it’s raining you probably won’t get anywhere. Paved roads you look in vain, ground clearance is obglitaroisch and in wet (muddy) conditions it may be that you have to stay a night longer. It all sounds like great mountain bike terrain.

We spent the night in two different places in the national park. Omalo and Dartlo. Both are somehow reminiscent of medieval villages as you know them from movies. The only thing that does not fit into the picture are the jeeps and the modern clothes of the people who live here. Equipped with Adidia’s sweater, jeans and sunglasses, here you ride to the next village to visit friends. A bus does not go, of course. Our shuttle driver is from the area and knows virtually everyone, which is not so difficult with a handful of families per village. By the way, Georgian guides and drivers are highly recommended, because English is absolutely useless here in the backcountry. Coke, beer and food can also be ordered quite well with sign language. So it is a bit touristy after all. However, the rush is very limited and the largest guesthouse in the village has only about 15 beds, but it is currently being diligently expanded.

Bike and Hike and Jeep Shuttle

I expect the region to become much more popular in the coming years, because the landscape is impressive. Above all, impressively unspoilt, as far as the eye can see only mountains without infrastructure. In addition, the food is delicious, the prices are reasonable and the residents are becoming more and more attuned to guests. So the area has a lot of potential.

And what about the bike potential? A typical Tuscheti Enduro tour looks like this: Shuttle, push, carry, cool downhill, carry, next cool downhill. So I would say there is excellent bike and hike potential. Of course, you could also pedal the numerous dirtroads uphill, but you also like to take the jeep shuttle for this in order to still have strength for the following climbs (and descents). Also, the ‘roads’ are often pretty darn steep.

Holy Trail

But an absolute bike highlight is definitely the Holy Trail, as our guides called it. After a very steep jeep shuttle follows a 12km climb always along the ridge. Several hours of pushing, carrying and pedaling lead to the panoramic entrance of the Holy Trail, which then leads down into the narrow valley as if drawn with a brush on the steep mountainside. The length of the tour is not to be underestimated, especially because of the absolute altitude of 3000m on which you move for a long time. At the very end, a really exciting bridge awaits, which can almost only be mastered with teamwork.

Should one now visit Georgia just because of this trail? No, definitely not just because of the trail, because just to get to the start of this trail you need 5 hours by train from Innsbruck, 3 hours by plane, 8 hours by car (most of it on bumpy dirt roads) and then you have to push your bike for another good 2 hours. Quite a bit of effort for a trail. So that’s not why anyone comes here. But, this trail is actually just the icing on the cake. For the long journey to the Tusheti National Park you get much more: unique landscape, foreign culture of a country steeped in history, culinary highlights and extremely friendly people. This trip is not just a bike trip, but an experience, you could also say bike adventure.