An introductory tour of Pankisi Valley accompanied by a local guide. It is useful hiring a guide for local information and navigating route, and provides easier access to local places and people. The route covers a number of Kist villages including Jokolo, Duisi, Kvemo Khalatsani, Dumasturi, Omalo and Birkiani. The aim of the tour is to discover and explore traditional Kist rural life, culture and visit key attractions in the Pankisi Valley. Languages spoken by guides are English, Russian, Georgian and Chechen. The tour is 8 hours (10:00 am to 6:00 pm) including walking times but can be shortened or extended. You can order a packed lunch or buy snacks at the shops on your walk. These initiatives provide young unemployed people opportunities to develop their language skills and make a small income. The cost for Discovery Tour is 50 Lari for full day tour and 25 Lari for half day (Jokolo, Birkiani & Duisi only). This initiative benefits young unemployed people and their families.
The tour starts from the guest house after breakfast. First stop is Saint George’s Church in Jokolo a hundred metres away. It was constructed in 1888 and served the needs of the Christian community. As the Christian population declined in early 1900s the church was looked after by local Muslims. The church has been preserved well inside and out. It is looked after by an elderly Christian Kist man living nearby with the support of the wider Muslim Kist community in Jokolo.
From Saint George’s Church go back towards to the guest house but head straight towards the river bank. At the stoney road turn left and walk north. A new metal bridge is being constructed over the Alavani River connecting Omalo with Jokolo at the centre of the valley. You will pass a rustic-looking corn mill situated near a stream to your right. Take a look to see how the mill drives the heavy mill stones to crush corn.
Shortly you will see a high stone wall and a tall stone tower house on your left. It is privately owned by a local resident. At the northern corner of the wall turn left into a dirt lane. Families subsist on small landholdings. The soil is cultivated in the traditional way using a plough (horses are used to drive it) and grow most of their food source from this. The region has a plentiful supply of water making the valley agriculturally fertile for growing range of crops. Depending on the season you can see various types of crops, vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers and trees growing across the valley.
The track leads to the main road (Akhmeta-Batsara). Cross over and walk along the track towards a small green where there sits a very large stone. It is believed the famous Georgian poet Vaja Pshavela inscribed his name in this stone in the 19th century but everyone is still searching for it! See if you can find it. Follow the stream south and follow a trail up the hillside until you are in a meadow near the old Kist cemetary. The text on the gravestones are inscribed in Georgian, some in Arabic, with Islamic motif of star and cresent moon.
The route heads downhill from the cemetary passed a football pitch near school, over a small bridge and mill until the track leads to the main road. Turn right (south) and walk a short distance and turn right into a dirt lane. This goes past a water well where you can draw water to drink. Further along a stream appears at the foot of the hill. Cross over the log bridge and follow the trail up the steep hill until you get to the ancient stone watch tower. This was used to signal the threat of invaders to the region.
From the watch tower you can see Duisi village below next to the Alazani River (west) and Dedispureli the only Georgian village to the east. Follow the hill side down (south) towards the small hill where the Amphitheatre with stone seating and a World War II memorial is located. The Amphitheatre is used for all key community festivals where singing, dancing, horse racing and wrestling matches are held. From here you get an excellent panorma of Pankisi Valley. Its a peaceful place where you can pause and have a picnik.
From the Amphitheatre head downhill along the track until you arrive at the main road. From here Zizi’s felt workshop is situated nearby on the main road in Duisi. Zizi has been producing felt products using traditional methods for many decades. She works with other Kist women to prepare the wool for making hats, bags, wall hangings, horse saddle mats and other things. Zizi demonstrates the different processes involved in preparing the felt and you can see the final products. She produces good quality items which can be purchased.
After walking south along the main road for about 10 munites you turn left onto a dirt lane opposite a secondary school. The old Duisi Mosque is a stones throw from the main road. It was built in the early 1900s and has since served the growing Muslim community of Duisi.
Duisi acts as the main administrative centre for the Pankisi Valley and is the most populated village. Walking through the maze of lanes you eventually get to the Ethnographic Museum which is situated next to the Duisi Police Station and Roddy Scott Foundation (a British Charity providing English and computer skills to children in memory of Roddy Scott, an English journalist).
The curator of the Ethnographic Museum is Khaso Khangoshvili. Khaso is the lead historian in Pankisi Valley. He has put on display a range of interesting items found in Pankisi Valley however, there is as yet no information explaining details about the museum or artifacts. It is nevertheless still interesting to see everday things used by people in this region and preserved in good condition. After the museum the route leads south along the road and left towards the dam. The Dam was built in the early 1900s but has not been operational for many decades. Children use the dam to jump in the river in summer.
Cross over the dam and take a left along the road. After a short distance a hill appears with a small stone monument on the top. Climb up the trail. The stone structure is in neglectful condition. It is believed to be linked to the reign of Queen Tamara. The panoramic views of the valley and Alazani River are good from here. Walk down to the road follow it north to Khalatsani. Passing through Khalatsani after about 20 minutes you arrive in Dumasturi village.
A small trail runs behind the village at the foot of the hills near a meadow and stream. Here you will come across ruins of old stone houses made by settlers centuries earlier hidden among the greenery. If you explore carefully you can discover ruins of ancient buildings in many locations in the valley. After a further 20 minutes you arrive in Omalo village. It has the second highest population in the valley. You can find and see traditional houses with woodcarved verandas here before heading down a steep path to the blue metal foot bridge.
This bridge connects Omalo to Birkiani. Walk stright ahead until you get to the stoney track then walk down the dirt lane towards the road. Take a right onto the road and cross over into a lane which takes you uphill towards a cemetery and forest. Here you will find old ruins of stone houses built a few centuries ago by wealthy families. After a walk around the area follow the road back to Jokolo.
Nazy's Guest House
Republic of Georgia