Shatili and Mutso
The vast and enchanting world of mountains beckons, if you crave exciting adventures and are interested in the history of the Middle Ages, then you must visit Khevsureti - one of the most mysterious regions of Georgia. Here, you will find steep winding roads, majestic mountains, turbulent mountain rivers, deep scenic gorges, and a unique culture of the freedom-loving Khevsurs.
Khevsureti is located on the northern and southern slopes of the Main Caucasus Range, which divides it into two parts: Piraketa (Outer) and Pirikiti (Inner). We will embark on an unforgettable journey to this amazing land steeped in legends. This route is recommended as a continuation of the tour "Roshka and the colorful lakes of Abudelauri." From the village of Roshka, in Inner Khevsureti, our off-road vehicle will head to Outer Khevsureti. The only road connecting the two parts of the region is a dirt road through the Datvis Jvari Pass, which means "Bear's Cross" in Georgian. The pass is 2,676 meters high, the road is quite challenging, but incredibly impressive. It is open from May to October, and the rest of the time, Khevsureti is cut off from the world.
We will cross mountain rivers whose streams intersect the road, a chaotic mosaic of shale mountains, picturesque waterfalls, and boulders of snow-capped mountains. The road will be remembered for its fantastic view of the jagged peaks of the Chaukhi mountain range (over 3800 meters high). From the top of the pass, marked by a composition of intertwined crosses, you can see all of Inner Khevsureti and partially Outer Khevsureti, which disappears into the Argun Gorge - a majestic and somewhat uneasy territory dominated by the Argun River.
In External Khevsureti, nature is changing, subalpine meadows are complemented by picturesque forests and piles of rocks, and the mountains in places lose their velvety cover, exposing slate. As you progress through the Argun Gorge, the impression of a deserted expanse is formed, but the occasionally encountered livestock on the pastures testifies that people have not left these places. In the gorge, we will come across the ruins of medieval villages, and in some places, surviving tower houses called "kvitkiri" to this day. They were built only from stone, narrow arrow slits served as windows, and on the upper part of the kvitkiri, stone balconies - char dahs - with openings for observation and shooting, protruded outward. The special architectural pattern testifies to the heroic past of Khevsurs.
After another bend in the road, a complex of tower structures appears on a rocky cliff, impressing with the militancy and grandeur of the architectural design in the wild nature, and this is Shatili - the capital of External Khevsureti. Looking at Shatili, it is impossible to say immediately whether it is a city, fortress, or castle. Residential buildings and defensive towers, there are about sixty of them, create a unified fortified city with a system of free movement from one building to another without going outside, some transitions are constructed in the form of bridges connecting buildings at the second or third floor level. The medieval walls of the citadel are laid out of slate slabs without the use of binding solutions. Fortifications began to be built here as early as the 10th-11th centuries and construction continued until the 19th century.
We will stop for rest and lodging in a fortress, a real medieval tower with all the necessary amenities. The owner of the guesthouse will tell us the family history of the tower and explain the complex code of honor of the Khevsur people. In Shatili, you feel the power of this ancient fortress, which has been battered by enemy raids. It washes away personal moods and immerses you in the mighty stream of its heroic past.
In the morning, we will continue our journey through the Argun Gorge and reach the hard-to-reach Ardoti Gorge, where the fortress of Mutso or the ghost city of Mutso is located, as it is called due to the absence of residents. When you see Mutso, conflicting emotions arise. The impression of the impregnability of a medieval castle with walls growing out of the rocks is combined here with the amazing beauty of the landscape. The stone walls and towers harmoniously blend with the rocks, and this beauty is crowned by the backdrop of mountains and sharp bends of mountain ridges with snow-capped peaks. This place is a natural impregnable fortress, with a roaring river below and steep walls of cliffs on the sides. Mutso is located 12km away from Shatili and is built on the same principle of a single residential and fortification complex.
The exact time of the fortress's foundation is unknown, but it is considered the oldest in Khevsureti. The fortress was built on a high, steep hill with a complex three-tiered relief above the Ardotisckali River. The ascent to the citadel requires good physical preparation, as the height here is 1880m. Today, restoration work is actively underway in the fortress. From Mutso, we travel back to the plain of Georgia.
In Shatili and Mutso, you come face to face with the centuries, pondering the relativity of time and understanding that life is beautiful and wise, and true beauty is the beauty of a noble soul.