I travelled to Lagodekhi National Park Georgia and found nature at its finest!
Nestled quietly in the east of the Georgia, with the border of Azerbaijan on one side and the border with Russia in the north I stumbled unwittingly across the green and mossy forests of the Lagodekhi National Park. I was just planning on passing through the small, unassuming border town of Lagodekhi itself before crossing quickly into Azerbaijan and moving onto Sheki and Baku. As with a lot of my travel plans, things didn’t play out as swiftly as I imagined they would, as the old Soviet minibus I jumped on from the town of Telavi where I’d been staying took longer than anticipated to arrive, forcing me to spend the night in what looked like a wild frontier town.
This though, turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me in Georgia, as I discovered that Lagodekhi is home to one of the country’s most beautiful National Parks…
I swiftly extended my stay to explore Lagodekhi National Park Georgia.
Lagodekhi National Park Georgia
The protected area of Lagodekhi is small, only around 95 square miles overall, but like the small country of Georgia that it lies in proves, size isn’t everything. It is spectacular, a reserve of forest, waterfalls and lakes in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains hidden away on the very border of Georgia itself.
Lagodekhi is made up of two separate protected areas, the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve and the Lagodekhi Managed Reserve. Both are a real haven for unique and rare wildlife, as historically, these areas are some of the oldest protected regions in the entire country, with active conservation beginning at the start of the 20th Century.
Lagodekhi has been long protected for very good reasons. The mossy, verdant forests are spectacular to hike through and the wildly different variations in altitude- from only 590 metres to 3,500 metres above sea level- produce a wide range of habitats and scenery to support an array of different ecosystems. From forests at the base of the mountains, to icy lakes on the high altitude border with Russia, Lagodekhi has a wide range of hikes and walks to attempt!
Beware of the weather in Lagodekhi!
I travelled to Lagodekhi at the start of summer, and the lower altitude forests were spectacular in the sunshine and bursting with colour. I couldn’t venture too far up the mountains though, as even in June snow was still blocking the walks up towards the Russian border. I missed out on one of Lagodekhi’s best hikes, a 3 day walk to Black Rock Lake, an incredible looking lake which straddles the border with the Russian province of Dagestan and which lies at high altitude. I will definitely return another year to complete this epic trail, but for this trip, I was still more than content exploring the forest trails.
The Hike To Black Grouse Waterfall
The river was flowing in full force when I explored the park, with the snow higher up melting and rushing down the mountains. Along the hiking trails, rustic wooden bridges helped me to navigate the icy cold waters, and where there were no bridges there were rocks and fallen trees to clamber over. The melting snow also fed Lagodekhi’s spectacular waterfalls, so I set out to hike to Black Grouse Waterfall, a five kilometre walk- each way- through towering trees and across thunderous rivers.
I was hoping that I would encounter some of the many different species of wildlife along the trail. Lagodekhi is home to an array of animals, even grey wolves and brown bears- these two I wasn’t particularly keen to see- but my clumsy walking and crashing through trees and bushes would have scared anything away from me long before I reached it.
The hike was wild- despite the lack of wildlife appearances- with the trail slowly winding up hill, following the river and taking me along fallen logs, rocky precipices and then eventually into the dark green and cavernous clearing where I found the Black Grouse Waterfall in all its glory.
Georgian Nature At Its Best!
Lagodekhi National Park Georgia was a glimpse of the country’s finest nature, and being a fairly remote and quiet park, I found myself enjoying the hiking trails with very few other travellers around. It was great to be able to walk and walk through the forests with little disturbance. Lagodekhi really is Georgian nature at its best!
HOW TO TRAVEL TO LAGODEKHI NATIONAL PARK GEORGIA
- Busses- well old Soviet minibuses- run from Tbilisi direct to Lagodekhi daily. This should only take around 3 hours. Technically… There are also transport options from other Georgian towns, I travelled from the wine town of Telavi for instance.
- Lagodekhi is the last town before the border to Azerbaijan, and the crossing point if you wish to travel onward to Sheki. The border here was easy to cross and fairly quiet, just make sure you have an Azerbaijani visa of course. Take a taxi from the town to the border itself, walk across, then catch a taxi on the other side to the closest Azeri town of Balakan. From here find a share taxi to Zaqatala, where you can catch a bus to Sheki or Baku. Not the simplest route, but certainly adventurous!
- There are a few options to stay in Lagodekhi, mostly locally run guest houses which offer dinner too. Anything in the town itself is walking distance to the park entrance. You can also camp at certain spots in the park too. Have a look at a few accommodation options HERE!
- There are 4 main hiking trails which vary in length and duration, head to the superb visitor’s centre at the park entrance to ask the Rangers for more information and to advise on longer walks and camping. You can also find detailed walking routes by clicking on this link HERE.1- Black Grouse Waterfall: 9.5 Kilometre return hike through forest. Allow 3-5 hours. Trail well marked and a fairly easy hike to a small waterfall.
2- Ninoshkevi Waterfall: 8.5 Kilometre return. Allow 4-6 hours. A more difficult hike, but to a larger 40 metre high waterfall in Lagodekhi.
3- Machi Fortress: 10.5 Kilometre walk. This does not start in Lagodekhi, but in the nearby village of Matsimi which is a car ride away. Leads to an old medieval castle.
4- Black Rock Lake: This is an epic 3 days, 48 Kilometre return hike to Black Rock Lake on the Russian border. Very weather dependent!
All Photographs Property Of Richard Collett
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