Breaking prejudices and starting over:
Suppose you are thinking of going to Georgia and seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes, green mountains and flora and fauna in the world. In that case, you should probably know one of two things about the Kist people, who will host you in their beautiful territories. These areas are so culturally diverse that they have been in the middle of many controversies. Nevertheless, today, the Kists are determined to change what other communities think of these mountains of them.
Tusheti region, Georgia
They live close to the border with Chechnya, from where they are from, but they settled in Pankisi between 1830-1870. To escape deportation in 1944 carried out by the Soviet Union, they registered as Georgian citizens and adopted Georgian surnames. But that wasn't the only war going to mark their community indelibly. In the early 90s, the First and the Second Chechen War became the headline of most newspapers worldwide, and many refugees from Russia sought asylum in these same mountains. Already socially excluded, the Kists saw war, violence and an unfortunate raising distorted perception of their culture.
Local older people, Georgia
Today, however, war is a long-gone memory, and the Kists want to share their culture and traditions with all the people they host, breaking all prejudices. Warm and caring, they Kists are one of the most friendly community you can visit, and they will share with you all the secrets these mountains carry within them. Even younger generations are investing more in the community by studying tourism at the University of Tbilisi.
Kists' religion is mainly syncretisation of Sunni Muslim with animistic folk religion and some Christians. You should dress accordingly, covering legs and shoulders and alcohol is not permitted in the communities.
Trekking in the High Caucasus Mountains with Nomadic Tribe:
With Nomadic Tribe experience in Pankisi, you will immerse yourself with nature from day number one. The unforgettable trekking experiences (and horse riding) will give you the possibility to bring some of the most beautiful views of the High Caucasus back home with you.
The first peak you will reach is Tbatana; its village has an altitude of 2450 m, and you will see the Kakheti and the Pankisi gorge from all its beauty. Here, you will camp in a tent in the wilderness of these breathtaking mountains; you will rest after eating some traditional cheese made freshly from the pastures of the Caucasian Mountains.
Tusheti, touching the sky.
The second peaks you will reach are the mountains to Khevsureti and Tusheti. Be ready for an incredible trek, challenging, but fantastic. The final view will not only be worth the challenging ascent, but it will probably worth the trip altogether. The view from here is so great that you will feel like being on the top of the world at 4,800 m of altitude. The villages in the area will give you plenty of opportunities to meet local communities and experience their culture, from shepherding practices to tasting delicious and freshly made local food.
Local Musician, Georgia
Once you are back to Pankisi Gorge and Nazy's guesthouse, you will rest and experience the Kists' lifestyle of those who reside in the village. From felt-making to cooking classes, you will be able to immerse yourself culturally. For those of you loving the outdoors, they can plan biking experiences to enjoy this incredible natural hidden gems of Eurasia to its maximum potential.
Cheese and Herds:
While staying in the mountains, you will eat a large variety of cheeses. The herders of these areas are part of the Tush community. Their Gouda cheese has nothing to do with the European version, but it is known to be delicious thanks to the Pankisi mountains' grass quality. In summer, herders start the slow ascent to the highest peaks and leave cows free in the green fields. They usually only cheese and bread during these few months and they prepare cheese all day after milking the cows at least twice daily. Once the cheese is ready, they submerge it in salty water to preserve it, and this gives it its particular taste.
Nomadic Tribe Team
Cover photo, Performance, Men, Georgia, iStock.com/Ozbalci