Geography

The Tusheti region extends beyond Abano Pass (2,962m a.s.l.), north of the main Caucasian ridge, which geographically locates it in the Northern Caucasus. Most of the mountain ranges in the region are formed by relatively homogenous loamy slate which breaks into slaty layers. This serves as the main building material in the traditional Tusheti architecture. At the highest elevations, we may find remains of unique glacial formations affected by Quaternary glaciation. The landscape is characterized by deep river valleys formed by erosion.

In its western part, Tusheti is separated from the historic region of Khevsureti - Pshavi by the Atsunta Ridge (with its peak Mt. Amugo, 3,839m a.s.l.) and strategic passes Atsunta (3,431m a.s.l.) and Borbalo (Andaki, 2,887m a.s.l.), lying at the foot of Mt. Borbalo (3,294m a.s.l.), which is considered sacred by Georgian highlanders. Apart from the road through Abano, the southern side of the ridge may be accessed on paths through Sakorne Pass (2,835m a.s.l.) to Pankisi Valley or through Samkinvrostsveri Pass (3,167m a.s.l.) to the valleys of Stori and Pankisi. The northern border with Chechnya and Dagestan is delimited by the massive Tusheti Ridge with the highest peaks in the region - Mt. Tebulosmta (4,492m a.s.l.), Mt. Komito (4,261m a.s.l.), Mt. Danosmta (4,174m a.s.l.) and Mt. Diklosmta (4,285m a.s.l.). In the east, the region is enclosed by the Batsibutsi Ridge (inaccessible frontier zone) leading from Mt. Diklosmta to the south along the Vebo Ridge and the adjacent peaks Mt. Khelta (3,188m a.s.l.) and Mt. Oncha (3,304m a.s.l.), dominating the entire area above Oreti Lake, and Mt. Shaviklde (3,578m a.s.l.) and the hills lacing the border towards Abano Pass. Pirikiti and Gometsari valleys are separated by the passable Makratela Ridge with its peak Mt. Tsiva (3,380m a.s.l.). In addition to the path along the Makratela Ridge, there is an important hiking path through Nakaicho Pass (2,903m a.s.l., in Tushetian dialect "ghele"), which connects the villages of Pharsma in Pirikiti and Verkhovani in Gometsari.

Tusheti is divided into three main river valleys (frequently referred to as "gorges") distinguished by substantial elevation differences. For example, the plateau of the central village of Omalo is embraced from three sides by deep river valleys. All three rivers are tributaries of the Tushetian Alazani and are called the same name Alazani. However, each tributary has its own respective attribute (the name Alazani apparently relates to the main river in general). The Pirikiti Alazani River begins below the abandoned village of Hegho near Girevi as a confluence of the Kvakhidis Tskali and the Narovanis Tskali (in some resources also called the Larovanis Tskali), which originate below the slopes of Mt. Amugo. This river flows through the entire Pirikiti Valley with its villages of Girevi, Pharsma, Chesho, and Dartlo, and meanders behind the village of Chigho through a deep gorge down to the confluence with the Gometsari Alazani River below the abandoned village of Ageurta. The main tributary to the Alazani - Gometsari Alazani - springs at the foot of Mt. Borbalo and finds its way through the virtually deserted Alaznistavi Valley (the Alazani spring area, once significant summer grazing land with light shepherd dwellings) to the confluence with the Tsovatis Tskali (passing through the important Tsovata Valley) before Verkhovani. From here, the Gometsari Alazani flows into an inhabited area below the villages of Verkhovani, Jvarboseli, Iliurta, Dochu, and Gogrulta. Passing deep under the villages of Gogrulta and Dochu, it meets its right tributary Ori Tskali (transl. "Two Waters", with its spring beneath Samkinvrostsveri Pass). Chanchakhovani (Khisos) Alazani originating at the foot of Mt. Shaviklde is another tributary flowing into the Gometsari Alazani river beneath the village of Khakhabo. A small but significant left tributary called Chabalakhi flows into the Chanchakhovani Alazani near a ranger station. The main road from the Kakheti region passes through its valley. The valley surrounding the confluence of the three mentioned Alazani Rivers is named Chaghma (not a hydronym but a name relating to the community inhabiting the valley). Created by the confluence of three above mentioned Alazani Rivers, the Tusheti Alazani River flows to Dagestan, where its name changes into the Andi Koysu (Ghandighor in Avar), and after meeting the Avar Koysu River (Avarghor in Avar) empties into the Caspian Sea as the Sulak River.