Blog / Shatili village in Khevsureti Georgia, Blog | 06.05.2018

Shatili village in Khevsureti

In the extreme north-east of Georgia, less than three kilometres as the crow flies from the Chechen border, lies Shatili. The village has only about 20 inhabitants left, who defy the inhospitable conditions, especially in winter, and lead a simple life in harmony with nature in the seclusion of Khevsureti.

Already the way to Shatili is an adventure. From the capital Tbilisi you can reach the mountain village in about 3.5 hours. The road leads first along the Zhinvali Reservoir and then further and further into the mountains of the Great Caucasus. After about 2.5 hours or a little more than 100 km you reach the village Roshka. Shortly afterwards the ascent to the Datvisdshwari-Pass (English: Bear Cross Pass), which you cross at an altitude of 2,689 m. Half an hour later you reach Shatili, which is about 1,400 m above sea level.

Defence towers against invaders

Arriving in Shatili, one has the feeling to have landed in another time. In the midst of the Caucasian mountains, the impressive medieval fortresses with their fortified towers are enthroned above the Arghuni River. It is the old part of the village that not only looks like a fortress, but has been for centuries. If one follows the river Arghuni, one reaches the border to the Russian Caucasus republic Chechnya after about 5 km. The inhabitants of Shatili have always had to protect themselves against potential invaders. The inhabitants were able to close off the lower floors of the fortified towers earlier, where access was only possible via a wooden ladder. This was confiscated in the event of an invasion, making it difficult or even impossible to conquer Shatili. The houses and defence towers are so close together that the impression is created that Shatili is surrounded by a wall. Further up, the houses are not as close together. In this more modern part of Shatili, which can also be reached by car, people farm and keep animals. There is also a church in this part of Shatili.

Decline from 200 to 20 inhabitants

As beautiful as this corner of the Khevsureti region is, life can be so hard - especially in winter. The village is then cut off from the outside world for months, the climate is rough and cold. It is not surprising that Shatlili, like many other mountain villages in Georgia, shows a negative population development. Lived at the beginning of the 20th century. At the end of the 19th century there were still more than 200 people in the village, but today there are only about 20 inhabitants, making Shatili the largest village in the whole of Upper Khevsureti.
Since 2007 Shatili has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.

Who are the Khevsurians?

The inhabitants of the Khevsureti region in general are the Khevsurs, a sub-ethnia of Georgians. The Khevsurs speak Georgian, but a special dialect, and belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church. However, various pre-Christian customs and rituals have also survived in the remote mountain region.

Trekking in Khevsureti

Sparsely populated Khevsureti is a paradise for hikers. Georgia's wild north is an 11-day trekking tour through Khevsureti and Tusheti. The trip also takes us to Shatili, where we camp by the Arghuni River and spend the night in nature. The tour continues through the villages of Kazbegi, Juta, Chaukhi, Roshka, Anatori, Mutso, Girevi, Parsma, Chesho, Kvavlo, Dano, Dartlo and Omalo.

Facts about Shatili

  • Country: Georgia
  • Region: Mtskheta-Mtianeti
  • Municipality: Dusheti
  • Altitude: 1,420 m about sea level
  • Inhabitants: ca. 20
  • Towers: ca. 60

Distances from Shatili

Tbilisi: 148 km
Kutaisi: 322 km
Batumi: 466 km
Telavi: 165 km
Author: MyCaucasus