When I was last in Tusheti in the summer of 2008 eco- tourism was just taking off and there were just a few Guesthouses and a small number of welcoming Homestays. Since then new Guesthouses appear to be popping up all over Tusheti . With interest from travelers rapidly growing in Tusheti I thought it would be useful to list some of the places I've encountered and others I've recently discovered during conversations with fellow travelers and hard to find information from the web.
The following list is a simple introduction to Homestays in Tusheti plus a basic list of Guesthouses I understand can now be found around Tusheti . Please don't take this list as a recommendation but it might help fellow travelers when attempting to find somewhere to stay and possibly provide a little insight into what we have experienced as a family. I should add you can read between the lines the places I prefer.
What is the difference between a Guesthouse and a Homestay?
Tusheti now has a number of Guesthouses, these have either been built with government aid ( partially a rumour but I believe this to be the case) such as the Guesthouses in Upper Omalo, Dochu ,Verkhovani and Chesho or built independently as have the Guesthouses in Omalo ,Dartlo , Gogulta and Verkhovani .
Guesthouses are purpose built for tourists and managed by a family or dedicated staff. Rooms are often basic but clean and a shower is invariably provided . In my experience you will not stay directly with the family but I'm sure there are exceptions .
A Homestay is very different . One stays directly in your hosts home, a spare room is made up ,you may eat with the family and share their lives directly. The Mother of the household cooks and prepares all your food and you share all the families washing and toilet facilities. I have never experienced a shower in such situations, just a bucket of warm water heated over the fire or Calor gas stove.
On occasions there are blends between a Guesthouse and Homestay such as Lilies house in Gogurlta and possibly Patties house in Verkhovani ,both of which my family thought were excellent. However as time passes I suspect the more casual arrangements at some of the old Gueshouses will have become more professional .
Zao and Nino's Homestay center of the picture .
Zao and Nino run a small dairy farm in Shenako. Nino takes paying guest once and a while and the accommodation is simple . Nino's food is brilliant and as you would expect her cheese is first class , all from their own cows. Homestays are not yet publicised but if you ask around folk will often point you in the right direction. Ask for Zao in Shenako. I understand a number of villagers in Shenako now offer accommodation.
Homestays are invariably simple in Tusheti and eating arrangements are very casual . Don't be surprised if a couple of strangers sit down with you at your table.There is always plenty to go around and this is often the way well wishers will want to meet and share a Cha Cha (local vodka) or two with you . Remember by staying at a Homestay you are sharing your hosts family life and friends come and go. In Tusheti the kitchen table is sacred it's the place where tales are told, bread is broken between friends and a couple of glasses of the cherished Cha Cha are toasted.
Homestay kitchens in Tusheti are often very basic so don't expect to find five star service or any star ,just wonderful home cooking and a pride in Tusheti .
Not all Homestays have a gas stove and we frequently came across an open fire like this one which adds to the cooking flavours and the overall experience.
OK this might appear a scruffy Homestay room but this is Tusheti in the wilderness. Homestays have their charm but if you are after manicured comfort stay in the Gueshouses but be warned . Guesthouses lack the true grit and essence of Tusheti which I believe can only be experienced while living with the people of Tusheti .The choice is yours .
Toilets in Tusheti are an experience to behold. If you are looking for an exciting trip but want all the comforts of home perhaps Tusheti is not for you . Guesthouses will invariably have a respectable toilet but that's not guaranteed. Flushing toilet at Homestays would be exceptionally rare. A hole in the ground squat toilet with a dodgy shed is more likely . We used to place bets that there would not be a latch and often be right .Always take toilet paper with you although fresh moss is a refreshing change to paper. Seriously if you have problems in this area and expect all the modern convenience of western life in Tusheti think again. The up side is with the squat loo in a shed, going to the lavatory takes on a new meaning.
My family and I have been fortunate to stay in a number of other Homestays but I think it is inappropriate to provide personal details in case they have ceased providing the service. Ask around and someone will point you in the right direction. It's far better than camping.
The Guesthouses around Tusheti have developed significantly since 2005. Standards vary and accommodation is often rudimentary. As a basic rule expect little and you will be happy with what you find. Remember everything has to be driven by 4x4 over the pass which introduces a significant overhead for the Guesthouses and they are only open during the summer months.
The following list is not definitive but I think it's a good starting point.
Upper and Lower Omalo
Lower Omalo is the administrative centre for Tusheti and the first major village on arrival in Tusheti. Upper Omalo is the old village dominated by the Keslo towers recently restored and worth the extra walk up the hill . The walk between the Upper and Lower Omalo is about 15 mins to 20 mins.
'Upper Omalo 2005 ' Guesthouse - we stayed 2008
Upper Omalo 2005 is run by Micheil Othiuridze and can be found ,as you might expect, in Upper Omalo, just below the Keselo Towers. This Guesthouse offers full board, clean rooms and magnificent view of the Caucuses. I think we were only the second visitors to have stayed in this newly converted building in 2008. Upper Omalo 2005 is a two-storey building featuring a dining room on the ground floor ,which is nice and snug, with a number of bedrooms on the first floor. They serve good food and Cha Cha, mainly traditional Georgian dishes, although I understand European meals can also be arranged. There is hot and cold running water plus electricity, which is very unusual. The beds however are hard but don't be put off , this is quite common.
Good English is spoken by the landlord who, if I remember correctly, used to be a forester or something similar . Contact Mob: 899 67 - yes I realise this is possibly a digit short.
The following contacts also provide Homestays or Guesthouses, I'm not sureNugzar Idoidze Mob: 899 272265
Toma Antandze Mob: 899 389080
Elisabed Ichilauri's Homestay Lower Omalo - we stayed in 2007
Elisabed Ichilauri's place is referred to as a Homestay but it is really a nice simple Guesthouse with no frills. It provides all basic amenities you will need . Toilets were outside in 2007 accompanied by some friendly frogs but I understand they now have toilets and washing facilities indoors .The house is two-storied with an excellent view of Omalo. This family-run guesthouse has a nice family feel and the food is good. The hostess cooks traditional local meals and plays the accordion if you are lucky, I thought she was brilliant. They can arrange tours to local villages and family members will guide you to any specific destination in Tusheti, well within reason. They have close contacts with the stables in Omalo.
We brought some wonderful Chitti (slippers) and socks during our stay but I understand they also sell local hats, bags and mats made from Tushetian felt.
Fairly good English spoken by one of the sons but this could have changed .
Hotel Kamsuri in Lower Omalo
I’ve never visited Hotel Kamsuri but I understand it is close to Elisabed Ichilauri's place up on the hill overlooking Omalo village.Hotel Kamsuri is referred to as a family-run hotel ( most likely Guesthouse ). The first floor features a dining area, while the bedrooms are on the second and third floors. Electricity is provided along with, hot and cold water, clean and comfortable rooms, and yes satellite television. The dining area is shared with other travellers ,which is common place and there is a TV .Why you would go all that way to watch TV goodness knows ?English is spoken
Hotel Tusheti in Lower Omalo
A very swanky hotel to be discovered as you approach Lower Omalo from the main road into Tusheti . If you like gold lame bedcovers this is the place for you.
Contacts:Vaja shabalaidze and Soso Babulaidze (+995) 99 23 11 32, 99 79 00 92
Georgian and Russian spoken no English
Pirikiti valley Guesthouses
Shenako is the first village after Omalo when traveling up the Pirikiti valley with the only working Georgian church in Tusheti .I've written extensively about Shenako in my travel Blog 'Travels in Tusheti'. Try this entry http://travelsintusheti.blogspot.com/2008/09/our-first-destination-shenako-and-party.html .A wonderful place and well worth the visit.
Contact :Irakli Bukvaidze
Irakli Bukvaidze mob: 899 48 18 12
English, Georgian and Russian spoken
Dartlo is halfway up the Pirikiti valley and used by many as a mid way stop off point until reaching Parsma . I understand there is a new Hotel called ,surprisingly, Hotel Dartlo and one Guesthouse called Samtsikhe which is almost the first building you come cross after crossing a small bridge before entering the village.
Samtsikhe guest house - we stayed 2007
Samtsikhe is clean with a shower and inside toilet but no sense of it being a family run affair ,which I’m sure they owners would be mortified to hear.
When we were there in 2007 no English was spoken but I expect this will have changed
Hotel Dartlo has its own web site http://dartlo.ge/index.html and appears to be very professional although I’ve never been there. There are 12 standard and 1 luxury room and the interior and exterior are built in the traditional style of Tusheti albeit new. Apparently the hotel has permanent electricity and hot water. This no doubt will be solar power since there is no electricity in Tusheti .Hotel Dartlo is located high above the village .GSM and apparently internet connection works perfectly. My idea of hell, the last thing I want is my office calling me on my mobile with a perfect signal.
Administration: Mariam Otiuridze firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 898 174966
Another contact in Dartlo is Rapo Tsadzikidze who takes guest but I've no details
Contact (+995) 98 24 64 05, 98 17 49 66
Chesho - sorry no picture
When travelling up the Pirikiti valley from Omalo, the villages are separated by a comfortable distance from each other. After discovering Dartlo the village of Chesho follows a fair distance after. I’ve never had the reason to stay in Chesho village but I understand there are two guest houses. "Jiki" and "Komito". I’ve been told horses can be hired in Chesho. As with all things Tushetian take the information offered with a pinch of salt but I’m sure the hospitality will be excellent and I understand that these Guesthouses are very helpful.
Contact 899 67 42 10
Gomertsi valley Guesthouses
Dochu - in 2007 we stayed in the ajacent family house while this Guesthouse was being built
A view over Dochu from one of the Guesthouses .
Georgian and Russian spoken
Verkhovani - we stayed here in 2007 and 2008
The village of Verhovani is almost at the end of the road when travelling along the Gomertsi valley from Omalo .
Patties house can be found at the bend in the river looking back down the valley. One of our favourite places. Patties house has an excellent shower and toilet overlooking the valley. The rooms are clean and comfortable and I’ve spent many a wonderful time there. An excellent base for travelling further up country or off to Iliurta following the trail to Gogurlta. There is a nice church in Iliurta.
Although Patties place is slightly further from the Route down from Nakie - Khol pass her cooking and hospitality is well worth the extra walk or ride. Check out Patties bakery, she makes magnificent bread.
Conatct Vazha Karglidze Mob:(+995) 99 77 55 43, Tel: 8 249 24548;
There is a recently converted ( 2007) tower and old brewery which can be easily found when coming over the Nakie-Khol pass from Parsma.
Also try Vazha Karglidze
Tel: 8 249 24548;
Gogurlta - we stayed here in 2008
A view of Gogurlta . Lilies Homestay is at the centre of this picture.
Lily from Gogurlta runs a cross between a Guest House and Homestay . All the rooms are clean and newly built as are many Guesthouses. In 2008 all the meals were held with the family but this might have changed as Zocrat was building a dining room table for guests when we were there .
If you are trying to find this terrific place, Gogrulta is a small hamlet opposite Dochu off Gomertsi Alazani Gorge/valley with no direct road to, only very precarious and steep paths. You can get there from the main valley track from Omolo. Stop at Dochu and make you way down to the river valley below .The climb back up the othere side of the Gorge is very hard indeed but worth the walk . Alternatively you can take the trail from Iliurta to Khakhabo or the other way around.
We first saw Gogurlta from a distance in 2007 and wanted to make a visit in 2008 . Our host Lilly and her husband have made an excellent Homestay/Guesthouse and I think it is fair to say that Gogrulta is one of the most magical places in Tusheti and for us an excellent two day stay to just chill . A point worth making is the surrounding ancient birch woods are breathtaking as is the trail to Khakhabo . A place not to be missed and Lilly’s dairy and food are legendary.No English is spoken by Lilly or her husband Zocrat but a couple of Grandchildren are pretty good , you get the picture .I understand there are other places to stay in Gogurlta but I have no idea where or who to contact. A number of French riders arrived when we were there and they stayed in some nice looking rooms below Lillies but that is all I know.
I hope this account is useful . Of course I have my preferences but please take this as a personal opinion - this is after all a blog and not an official website . If you have any information on Guesthouses or Homestays please let me know.
Happy traveling and if you make the trip let me know how you got on.
Regards Chris Wills