Pankisi Valley is easily reached following the Akhmeta-Batsara Road from Akhmeta and is located 40 minutes’ drive from Telavi, the administrative center of Kakheti. Many travelers visit and stay in Pankisi on their way to and from Tusheti, Lagodekhi and Signaghi, and helps to break up the journey coming from and going to Tbilisi. It is suitably located for getting to all main attractions in Kakheti making it a great base for short or long stays.
Pankisi Valley is situated just south of Tusheti and Khevsureti making it perfect for walking and horse-riding enthusiasts to explore and enjoy a range of spectacular landscapes from mountain meadows, alpine and sub-alpine, to bare rock and stone. It is possible to organise multiday walking or horse-riding treks from Pankisi Valley to Tusheti and Khevsureti from late June to early October. The highest peak close to Pankisi Valley is Tebulos-Mta (4494m) with many peaks towering over 3000m in this part of the High Caucasus. This is a remote region possessing beautiful yet challenging environments. Trekkers and climbers are advised to use local guides and horses.
Among Pankisi Valley’s many attractions is the mighty Alazani River, which flows down from the main High Caucasus ridge on the Russian-Georgian border into the gorge and through the valley, eventually reaching Azerbaijan in the east. It provides opportunities to do fishing and tyre-rafting with local people, and a perfect place for kayaking and white-water rafting too.
Exploring around the village settlements and forested foothills there are hidden ruins of ancient stone houses, churches and monuments waiting to be discovered, each telling the story of Pankisi Valley’s early settlers and how they lived. Ancient artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age found in the valley are exhibited in the Ethnographic Museum in Duisi, Pankisi Valley’s main administrative village.
Pankisi Valley is a great place to promote relaxation and restore health, which is why many tourists love it here. There is no noise or light pollution in the valley and the air is clean and fresh. The water is refreshingly tasty and abundant everywhere. Visitors can enjoy therapeutic springs in the mountains and eat the finest organic food grown at home.
The peace and tranquility of rural village life in Pankisi Valley is a treasure for those wanting to get a break from the chaos and pollution of towns and cities. The maze of lanes in the sleepy villages, running streams, cool forests, green meadows and riverbank, offer a variety of places for gentle exercise and contemplation while watching horses, cows, sheep, geese and turkeys graze. For the active and adventurous there are many trails to explore the high mountain pastures, waterfalls and wildlife.
Pankisi Valley is known for its love of horses and riding, and tourists can experience short or long horse-rides with local guides. This region is also rich in wildlife including roe deer, chamois, wild boar, brown bear, wolf, lynx, jackal, red fox and badger. There are 60 species of birds including wood-pigeon, thrush, blackbird, raven, gold finch, several kinds of woodpecker, bearded vulture, griffon vulture, black vulture, goshawk, sparrow hawk, golden eagle and kestrel. The Batsara Protected Nature Reserve situated at the north eastern end of the valley has one of the oldest preserved groves of Yew tree in the world. Beech, hornbeam, maple, lime and Georgian oak trees cover the foothills around the valley. This biodiversity makes Pankisi a truly special place to visit.
The best time to visit Pankisi Valley is between May and November. The climate is similar to that of the southern Italian Alps. Higher up in the valley the climate is more severe and colder. Spring time is warm, summers are hot and the autumns are mild, each season bringing a rich tapestry of colour to the valley. Summer months are ideal for heading up into the cool mountain pastures where it is possible to stay overnight in a shepherd’s hut and watch Kish shepherds use traditional processes to make different kinds of cheese, butter and cream, which are highly esteemed in Georgia.
Kist cuisine is peculiar to borderland culture. It is composed of Chechen and Georgian dishes. Typical Kist cuisine includes mutton, goat, beef or chicken. Kists make a great variety of dairy products such as different types of cheese, cream and yoghurt. They also bake their own bread using wheat or maize flour, as well as many mouth-watering vegetarian dishes lavishly spiced with walnut, plum, garlic and herb sauces. Kist cuisine is a culinary sensation, which has tourists coming back for more.
Tourists interested in Sufi music and traditions can see Kist women from Pankisi Valley perform the Zikr, similar to the famed whirling dervishes of Turkey, offering unique cultural experience and entertainment. An outdoor amphitheater with panoramic views of the villages, valley and mountain scenery, hosts festivals throughout the year where tourists can see horse racing, wrestling, dancing and singing.
Across Pankisi Valley tourists can find home-workshops producing a range of quality hand-crafted felt (wool) products using traditional methods and tools including hats, waistcoats, wall hangings, which tourists can see and purchase. Delicious local honey and home-made sweet preserves are also produced which can be purchased.
Pankisi Valley offers a range of attractions that will appeal to all sorts of tourists visiting Georgia and easily accessible. Nazy’s Guest House is the most established in the valley however there are a small number of other guest houses and home stays serving tourists. Local villages have shops selling basic provisions, pharmacy and medical center. There is a police station in Duisi and an ATM cash machine. Compared to other regions in Georgia there is virtually no crime in the valley. This is due to the Kist community being small and close-knit with strong clan structure and social values. The tradition of hospitality and protecting guests is very important to the Kists who say, “A stranger is a gift from God”.
Come and discover the gem of the Caucasus – Pankisi Valley – and have the most memorable experiences of your travels in Georgia!
Nazy's Guest House
Republic of Georgia