Beyond wine, hospitality and Stalin, Georgia conjures up images of mountain majesty. Soaring peaks are fronted by timeless highland tower-house villages that seem to call out for a Game of Thrones film crew. Only 20 years ago, the gem regions of Khevsureti, Tusheti and Svaneti were considered danger zones. Today they are a paradise for hikers.
Hiking from Svaneti in summertime Â© Maya Karkalicheva / Getty Images
No, not the Alps; Europeâs highest mountain range is in fact the Greater Caucasus. And while the tallest peaks over 5000m are on the Russian side of the border, Georgiaâs preening uplands are not far behind. With minimal bureaucracy (Georgia is visa-free for most nationals) and painless access from the marvellously quirky capital Tbilisi, itâs not surprising that travellers are already flooding into Stepantsminda, a small town still widely known by its old name Kazbegi, where an iconic church punctuates a skyline backed by the dazzling snow-cone of 5033m-high Mt Kazbek, and hiking routes abound.