Adventurous 10 night rides exploring central Georgia, staying in simple camps, basic village houses and hotels. Available May to October. Suitable for fit, experienced riders.
Where North east of Turkey, bordered by the Great Caucasus Range and west of The Black Sea, Georgia has been described as a cross roads between east and west. These rides start with a night in the capital Tiblisi in the east, then follow a place-to-place route, looping to the south west.
What is it like Alpine meadows, ancient forests and magical, abandoned monasteries overgrown with wild flowers which are only accessible by horse or on foot. Georgia is the land of the Golden Fleece, invaded throughout history by races such as the Greeks, the Romans, the Turks, the Mongols and the Russians. A blend of cultures, it also boasts many remarkable archaeological sites, known to the local rural population who continue to live a subsistence life, farming goats and sheep, but seldom visited by foreign tourists.
Who does it suit Its definitely not for sissies! You must go with a sense of adventure, you should take each day as it comes, be reslient to bad weather, face logistical breakdowns and late changes of plan with good humour, be comfortable with service that can be rough around the edges - and most definitely be fit. After a night in Tbilisi, rides follow a circular route to the south west, taking you off the beaten track, deep into the hills, through high pasture, across rivers, along dusty tracks, past summer encampments of shepherds and small rural villages. The riding pace is often fast, you'll live country life as it is, camping at night or staying in basic houses with local families who live without mod-cons. Its full immersion, you are seeing this enthralling country as it really is.
Why do we love it Its easy to count on one hand the countries in which one can ride long distances, across country, without the restrictions of town barriers, roads, cars and fences. In very few of those can you really move, covering ground that is meant for horses on a horse that is meant to cover ground! These rides in Georgia offer just that - fast riding on athletic TB type horses, through undeveloped, untouristed countryside with miles of open, unfenced rolling pasture. You'll get tired, the ride is a challenge in all sorts of ways but that's part of the whole appeal.
Riding: 4-6 hours a day
Horses: TB, Akhal Tekhi and Arab crosses
Pace: moderate to fast
Riding ability: confident intermediate riders and above
Weight limit: 85 kg (13st 5lbs)
Accommodation: hotels, local b&b's and 3Δ camps
Group size: max 8
Season: late April to October
Price: 10 night trails from £1890 per person
Horses: The horses used for these rides are locally bred thoroughbreds, crossed with Arabs and Akhal Tekhi. They are generally between about 14.2 and 16hh, are responsive and forward going to ride but also adaptable and well suited to the terrain. Russian military saddles are used with some western saddles also available although tack is quite basic as little is readily available in Georgia. Saddle bags are provided. The horses are mostly ridden in snaffle bits.
Hours: The 10 night trips include 8 days riding and there is generally between 4 and 6 hours in the saddle each day, with breaks to rest and for lunch, although riding time does vary, particularly as the routes are fairly new and little used.
Pace and experience required: The rides are at a moderate pace overall with good opportunities for trots and canters most days. They are aimed at reasonably experienced and confident riders. The horses are sensible and well schooled but they have a generally lively temperament, so they suit capable, confident, relaxed and sensitive riders.
Accommodation for the first two and last nights is in a comfortable hotel or guest house in the capital Tblisi. On other nights accommodation is in camps which are quite basic although they are often set up in quite stunning settings. Small two man dome tents are used and you sleep on mats with sleeping bags. There are no shower facilities and only minimal hot water when camping (some water can be heated for you on the fire). Loos are out in the open air! Some b&b accommodation is also used during the ride all of which tend to be traditional Georgian houses and fairly basic. These houses usually have outside loos and shared showers which may be a short walk from the bedrooms.
10 nights - £1890
27th August to 6th September
|Itinerary in brief|
|Day 1||Arrive Tbilisi and transfer to hotel.|
|Day 2||A full day in Tbilisi to visit the old town. Own arrangements for lunch & dinner. Night at hotel in Tbilisi.|
||Breakfast and an hour or so drive to meet the horses. Set off riding through hay meadows full of wild flowers. Camp is set up near the village of Gudarekhi with its 16th century tower.|
||Ride up through ancient beech forest to the 12th century Gudarekhi monastery, then on to high summer pastures. A picnic lunch in the woods before riding on to the village of Ivanovka where you stay with a local famil.|
||Set off riding to the village of Dumanisi and then on, climbing steeply across open ridges with views of the southern Caucasus. Ride down from the ridge to Pitareti, another 12th century monastery. Camp is set up nearby.|
||Leave Pitareti, crossing the Khrami river and on over the crest of the hill and stop close to the Azerbaijan village of Darbasi for lunch. In the afternoon ride on to Patara Dmanisi. Dinner and night with a family in the village.|
||A chance to explore the fort and archaeological site of of Patara Dmanisi. In the afternoon ride on into the hills. Camp is set up near the village on Ukangori.|
||Breakfast in camp, then ride on through woods to the summer pastures of the Azeri shepherds and on towards Bolnisi Sioni. Camp is set up close to the ruins of St Tevdore church.|
||Ride on to the Bolnisi Sioni and stop for a picnic lunch in the gardens of the 4th century church. In the afternoon ride on to camp by the Khrami river.|
|Day 10||Breakfast in camp and after crossing the Khrami river ride across the plains to Jorgiashvili. Leave the horses at the stables and meet the cars that will drive you back to Tbilisi. Dinner and night in a hotel.|
|Day 11||Breakfast and transfer to the airport.|
|Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on tel (+44) (0)1837-82544 / 825440 for further information, detailed itineraries, dates and answers to questions.|
The meeting point for the ride is Tbilisi airport. There are no longer any direct flights from London to Tbilisi, but there are several options via the continent, eg with KLM, Lufthansa and also with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and Aeroflot via Moskow. For flights budget around £450 to £700 plus taxes depending on time of year and availability.