The Latpari Trek starts in Ushguli, the highest European permanent settlement, and climbs up to the Latpari Pass before going down on the other side either toward the village of Chvelpi or Mami, depending on the chosen trail (here I will present the Chvelpi option). The climb up the grassy mountain side is completely open, offering tremendous sceneries on the mountain ranges, valleys and snowy summits around. One can walk the 25 km in one (exhausting) day, but we strongly advise to do it in two – mainly to enjoy camping on the pass.
Difficulty level: medium
Mestia’s tourism information office provides useful and free maps, but doesn’t have maps specifically for the trek from Ushguli to Chvelpi. You need to combine the Ushguli – Mami trekking map and the Iprali – Chvelpi one. As both itineraries cross on the Latpari Pass, it is easy to walk from Ushguli up to the pass following the Ushguli – Mami trek, and then go down to Chvelpi following the Iprali – Chvelpi trek, for a total of 25 km.
The climb from Ushguli to the pass is by far the most scenic part of the trail, while the way down toward Chvelpi is almost entirely on a tortuous dirt road on the mountain side, in the forest. It is then much more interesting to start in Ushguli than in Chvelpi. The trail is clear and easy to follow from the beginning until the end.
Water sources and streams can be found all the way down from Latpari Pass toward Chvelpi, but are not as frequent on the climb from Ushguli. Fortunately, a small pond/water area on top of the pass can provide water if you filter or purify it.
Where to sleep
Ushguli is a touristic village with loads of guesthouses to accommodate hundreds of visitors along with a few cafes/restaurants. One night in the most affordable places is usually around 40 GEL for a double room, meals in option (10-20 GEL per meal).
Although it is possible to hike from Ushguli to Chvelpi in one long day, we strongly advise to take a night to camp on the Latpari Pass and enjoy the tranquility and vastness of this little-traveled trek.
Chvelpi is made of a handful of houses and has only one guesthouse, advertised at the very end of the way down, right before a small bridge. Other options for lodging are the very nice (and cheap) Lagusheda family homestay about ten kilometers from Chvelpi (toward Mele), and the Rati guesthouse in Mele itself, three kilometers further. Both can be found on Google.maps and are reachable on foot or hitchhiking.
When to go
The climate in Northern Georgia implies long, cold and snowy winters. It is advised to hike in the region from spring to autumn, i.e. from late April to early October. The summer can be quite hot (regularly between 30°C to 35°C in the south), but the mountains in the north make it the best time to visit.
Comment s’y rendre
For hikers, the best and most logical way to get to Ushguli is to hike the Mestia – Ushguli trek, a classic four-day hike. The easiest and cheapest way to reach Mestia is the minibus – the marshrutka – leaving from Zugdidi’s train station regularly in the morning, every day for 20 GEL (2017). The new road allows for a long and winding journey, but a safe one.
It is also possible to take a one hour flight from Tbilisi to Mestia for around 65 GEL (without luggage) with the company Serviceair, and from Kutaisi for 40 GEL (2016). Four flights per week are available from Tbilisi and two from Kutaisi, but the tickets are sold out a long time before the dates.
For those who prefer to get transportation directly to Ushguli, local “taxis” can bring you from Mestia to Ushguli for around 200 GEL.
From Chvelpi, one can take the road toward Shkedi to start the Shkedi – Sadmeli trek or toward Lentekhi, where there are regular marshrutkas and taxis.
What to do next
From Chvelpi :
- The Shkedi – Sadmeli trek: a three days hike taking you from Shkedi (10 km from Chvelpi) to Sadmeli (near Ambrolauri) through the Kelida Pass and its 3048m above sea level. A harder trek for those looking for solitude and challenges!