Upper Svaneti

Village of Chajashi, Mestia district, Region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svateni
N42 54 59.004 E43 0 41.004
Date of Inscription: 1996
Criteria: (iv)(v)
Property : 1.06 ha
Buffer zone: 19.16 ha
Ref: 709
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Preserved by its long isolation, the Upper Svaneti region of the Caucasus is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval-type villages and tower-houses. The village of Chazhashi still has more than 200 of these very unusual houses, which were used both as dwellings and as defence posts against the invaders who plagued the region.

Preserved by its long-lasting geographical isolation, the mountain landscape of the Upper Svaneti region is an exceptional example of mountain scenery with medieval villages and tower houses.

The property occupies the upper reaches of the lnguri River Basin between the Caucasus and Svaneti ranges. It consists of several small villages forming a community that are dominated by the towers and situated on the mountain slopes, with a natural environment of gorges and alpine valleys and a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The most notable feature of the settlements is the abundance of towers.

The village of Chazhashi in Ushguli community, situated at the confluence of the lnguri and Black Rivers, has preserved more than 200 medieval tower houses, churches and castles. The land use and settlement structure reveal the continued dwelling and building traditions of local Svan people living in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. The origins of Svaneti tower houses go back to prehistory. Its features reflect the traditional economic mode and social organization of Svan communities. These towers usually have three to five floors, and the thickness of the walls decreases, giving the towers a slender, tapering profile. The houses themselves are usually two-storeyed; the ground floor is a single hall with an open hearth and accommodation for both people and domestic animals, the latter being separated by a wooden partition, which is often lavishly decorated. A corridor annex helped the thermal insulation of the building. The upper floor was used by the human occupants during summer, and also served as a store for fodder and tools. A door at this level provided access to the tower, which was also connected with the corridor that protected the entrance. The houses were used both as dwellings and as defence posts against the invaders who plagued the region.

The property is also notable for the monumental and minor arts. The mural paintings are outstanding examples of Renaissance painting in Georgia.

Criterion (iv): The region of Upper Svaneti is an outstanding example of an exceptional mountain landscape composed of highly preserved villages with unique defensive tower houses, examples of ecclesiastical architecture and arts of medieval origin.

Criterion (v): The region of Upper Svaneti is an outstanding landscape that has preserved to a remarkable degree its original medieval appearance notable for its fragile traditional human settlements and land-use patterns.

Suggested Bases:

Ambrolauri is a town in Racha, Rioni. Ambrolauri is the capital and gateway to the Racha region. While there isn’t much to see or do in the town, there are many sights to see just a short drive away. Combined with its central location in the valley and availability of various services it is a perfect base for daytrips. Ambrolauri is also known for its Khvanchkara red semi-sweet wine which is popular throughout Georgia. The town is quite small and is easily covered on foot. Even the airport is only a 20-minute walk from the centre. Taxis are also available at the roundabout near the bridge to take you to your guesthouse or any other place in Racha. See Ambrolauri Museum of Fine Arts. Go next; Go deeper into Racha to Oni or discover Lower Svaneti in Lentekhi [read more].

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