Nakra - Another Svaneti Village to Discover

Probably everyone agrees that Svaneti is not only Mestia, Ushguli and towers. GEORGIA TODAY readers already know one of the prominent villages of Zemo Svaneti, Chuberi. In this article we will introduce you to Nakra, which according to a legend was a praised place by Caesar.


The Nakra administrative area is located in Nakra Valley and includes 11 villages. If you come across this narrow road for the first time, you will probably think that there is no village between the mountains. However, local residents chose this place because it is the only flat area in the valley. According to the locals, the name Nakra comes from the word "Nak" which means a flat area in the Svan language. It lies between three mountains: Shdavleri, Kvarmashi and Tsalgmali. People started settling here about 150 years ago. Currently, the Nenskra HPP project company-JSC Nenskra Hydro, is running an information campaign within the scope of social responsibility in order to let more people know about these places.

Every house there has a small yard with flowers and fruit trees, while corn fields and agricultural land is nearby. In the center of the village there is a school, a garden and a boardroom.

About 400 people live in Nakra and there are eight family-run hotels.

The Alpine Zone

The major beauty of Nakra is its alpine zone. "In the upper villages, the nature is so delightful that you really want to fly," said 79-year-old Shamili Gvamliani, recommending the 7 km road leading to alpine zone for those wanting a real taste of that beauty.

The road is of medium difficulty and, like Svaneti as a whole, is full of legends. If you go with a local tour guide, hiking will be even more interesting. The higher you go, the more you hear about the settlements, churches and people. To prove the bravery of Svans, the guide told us that when the enemy attacked, if Svans were out of bullets, they used chains to defend themselves. This valley was damaged three times by enemies, as it was easy to attack from the Basa Pass.

The route to the alpine zone passes through the woods. If you’re not up for the walk, locals will offer car and horse-riding tours. You will probably see wild horses in the alpine zone too. This is a place fully owned by animals and birds. If you see another person, it will likely be a seasonal herdsman.

From the point you can reach by car, the whole valley is revealed. Nakra Alpine Zone is 2500-2800 meters above sea level. There, you will find the Caucasus Ridge, Nakra Valley, forest and beautiful nature. You’ll have to continue your journey on foot from this point. Be sure to taste the wild berries: the higher you go, the more delicious they become.

Chuberi is also worth visiting, as, when visiting the alpine zone, it rained twice. The road is not difficult and without hiking equipment you can cover the distance, however, be sure to bring raincoats, strong shoes and warm clothes. When looking at the mountains, we were told another legend about giants. The legend says that giants lived in Nakra and when they sat on the tops of the mountains, their feet would stretch down to the valley. If you are lucky with the weather, you will see the beauty of the Caucasus- Mount Elbrus.

Yellow flowers give a real beauty to the alpine zone. Amidst the mountain snow and the harshness, these small, tender flowers tell us that the winter is coming. As we were told, this flower grows when the cold starts and disappears before the frosts, to emerge again the following year.

The Lone Svan Tower

Everyone thinks of Mestia and Ushguli when they hear about towers in Svaneti, however, Nakra Valley also has one: the Richgviani Family Tower, which dates back to the 10th century. This is the only tower in Nakra and you should definitely visit it. The Dadeshkeliani and Richgviani family had a dispute over this tower. The Dadeshkelianis were helped by Kaldani family and now the former owns the tower. This tower is distinguished by the fact that women plastered it. According to tradition, towers were to be built by men, but there were two famous women in this area who had a special hand, so they made an exception in the plastering work. As a matter of fact, only ruins of other towers are left, yet the tower plastered by female craftsmen still overlooks the valley.

Another outstanding building in Nakra Valley, as the Svans say, is the Church of God. Locals told us that this is the only church built in Svaneti in the name of God and tourists are advised to see this place before leaving.

After visiting the alpine zone, as you return to the village, you will find Nino Tsindeliani’s guest house. According to the host, the number of tourists increases every year, but many people still do not know about the area’s sights.

"This is a most beautiful place, our nature, the mountains. Tourists will meet local people, who are hospitable, warm, attentive and trustworthy. And, of course, visitors should taste delicious traditional dishes: Kubdari, Chvishtari and Millet Khachapuri.”

In Nakra, there is also a great chance to drink Dutsi Vodka. The visual of the drink shows its power. This is part of any journey in Svaneti which locals and tourists both enjoy.

Natela Tsindeliani, owner of another family-run hotel, recalls that tourists from Scotland and Singapore came to Nakra and one American tourist liked the place so much that he was happy to help harrowing. Shamil Gvamliani, who advised us to visit the alpine zone, says there were many interesting things to do in this area, but now it is all but abandoned. The locals in Nakra want the old climbers' schools to be built again, because the valley really has the potential for alpinism and the best athletes used to train there.

Bonus: Confucius and other interesting traditions

Svaneti is full of surprises. In a place where you’d think there are no humans, you may come across a village, see a mountain that is so warm that the snow never settles on its top, hear a language you will never hear elsewhere, and see how the Svans recall the thoughts of a Chinese philosopher. That is what happened when we talked to Shamil Gvamliani about Svan customs and traditions. According to him, the Svan tradition "set in place" is based on Confucius’ motives. The main formula of this rule is that you should not do something to others that you wouldn’t want done to you.

"This is a real human life and we have a Svan rule: two or four men will sit down and review the case. These men are chosen villagers. The name of this tradition is "Set in place." If I were you, I would forgive you or I would do it another way," he said.

This tradition is still used in Svaneti to solve problems - conflicts between families and other important issues. Natela Tsindeliani recalls another living tradition from old times, when people were fire-worshippers. This tradition is named as "Lamproba" in Svaneti which takes place on 28th of February. On this day, the village divides into brotherhoods with several families. The men bring big branches of Alnus, people gather in the village center, they light a big bonfire and say spells. In the evening a host family invites the whole brotherhood.

When you are in Svaneti, you soon realize that you are a part of these legends, these traditions. Watching the high, harsh mountains, empty, wide fields and beautiful wildlife makes you feel very small and very free. The key is to breathe in the fresh air, to take your time to watch the boundless greenery and then tell everyone what it is like to travel in places which many people don't know about.


By Salome Chikviladze, Translated by Ana Dumbadze

14 October 2019 15:59