In terms of nature, Georgia is known primarily for its giant mountains and semi-tropical Black Sea coast. However, there is a little hidden gem in the eastern corner of the country that has rivers, waterfalls, lush green valleys, and wild forests. I came to Lagodeki without knowing much of the region and upon leaving immediately wanted to return. Although I only stayed for two nights, the town and surrounding nature left an impression on me, and in this post, I will try to explain why as I combine story with a semi photo album.
First, I must begin with the hikes and treks. I put them in bold to catch your attention. During my stay, I did two of these leg travel activities. The first of which turned out to be more memorable experience than the scenery (although the scenery was still pretty nice). It was a walk with my friends Teresa and Remi (see Awesome People) to an ancient ruined fortress right on the border of Azerbaijan. And by this, I’m not joking about right on the border. In order to get there, we actually had to pass through a Georgian military checkpoint, roughly one kilometer before the fortress/border. Atop a hill, they had a tent set up with a couple armed guards who checked our passports and recorded our names and the time we passed through. Teresa and Remi made it through in seconds, being EU citizens, but mine… took a bit longer. Being American, I got pulled aside for some questioning and had to sign about 5 legal papers. I’m not quite sure what I was agreeing to since the papers were all in Georgian, but I figured it couldn’t be any worse than Apple’s or Facebook’s terms and conditions. Eventually though, they let me through and we made our way to the fortress. The fortress itself wasn’t much, as it was mostly in ruin, but the views of the surrounding nature were really nice, and we were so close to the border, we could actually see into Azerbaijan (see photo below). There was also a small church on site that was in much better condition than the fortress, so we decided to walk in there and were greeted by a friendly live bat. Overall, it was a good adventure.
The second one was for the scenery. Again with Teresa and Remi, we decided to hike to a nearby waterfall. As several guidebooks to the region will tell, there are actually two main waterfalls in Lagodekhi, a bigger one and a smaller one. Naturally, we went for the bigger one. We were told the trail would be difficult, but at first, it was just a simple dirt trail through a forest. However, the nice trail did not last long. After about 20 minutes, we came to a excessively rocky stream. Most of it was dried up, therefore leaving a lot of large rocks exposed, but there was still one section of raging water that went up to our knees. Looking around, we saw no other way to cross but to take off our shoes and trudge through. The water was cold and the rocks were slippery, but we made it eventually and breathed collective sighs of relief.
Unfortunately though, this was just the beginning. Over the next two hours, we had to cross the stream back and forth at least another 7-8 times. Occasionally it was possible to hop across on large rocks, but sometimes it was not. Two times, the water was too high and rough to walk across so we had to jump from rock platform to rock platform as if we were paying homage to the old Super Mario games. Ankles were damaged, shoes became soaked, and a few waves of terror gripped each one of us, but before we fell into despair, we heard a noise of powerful rushing water. We had made it. The mighty waterfall, 40 meters (130ft) high stood right before us, crashing down upon the rocks. All the bruises, wet socks, cuts and scratches were worth it. Just see for your self.
Guesthouse Lago & Wine Cellar
Finally, there’s the question of where to stay. And for that, I highly recommend a place named Lago & Wine Cellar. Granted, this was the only place I stayed at while in Lagodekhi, but still, it was so nice that I am perfectly fine with disregarding all the other places. It’s family run, with two women (who I think were mother and daughter) pretty much overseeing everything. They were incredibly nice and funny, sharing homemade wine with us, sitting out at night and telling jokes, and always making sure we got to our destination safely.
The place itself was really nice too.. The house was large and wooden with rooms that were cozy and very well maintained, and the outdoor terrace was as welcoming as anyone could hope for. Best of all though, the place was not at all expensive. I stayed in a 3-person room with my friends Remi and Teresa that had it’s own bathroom and shower for just 70 lari total (23 euro, $27). There was a breakfast option for 10 lari too, which was 100 worth it. Anyway, I’m done rambling for now. Just do yourself a favor and go here.