Juta Georgia and the Chaukhi mountains: a travel guide
Most likely you have never heard of Juta in Georgia. This small mountain village is high up in the Caucasus mountains in a rather remote region of the Kazbegi National Park and close to the border with Russia.
The story of Juta Georgia
For years, Juta in Georgia was isolated. The famous Georgian Military highway that connected Tbilisi with Russia was only 15 kilometers away, but few people had reasons to go all the way up to Juta.
Juta is one of the highest settlements in Europe together with Ushguli in Svaneti and Xinaliq in Azerbaijan. The altitude meant a harsh existence for the people that lived there. There was no motorway and horses were the main means of transport. In winter a thick blanket of snow covered the village and the simple road up the mountain was completely closed down.
Juta is home to the Khevsur people. A small ethnic group that lives in the northern regions of Georgia. Due to their remote locations they have kept much of their own culture and they speak their own dialect.
As with so many mountain villages in Georgia, the younger generations left. After the fall of the Soviet Union people went for education and jobs to the bigger cities to never return, except for the occasional family visit.
A new future for Juta Georgia?
When the country opened up for tourism, most tourists flocked to Kazbegi to see the beautiful mount Kazbek and the picturesque Gergeti trinity church. Still, Juta was often overlooked, despite its stunning scenery and spectacular views on the Chaukhi mountains.
Slowly things changed and with the opening of the ZETA camping more and more tourists found their way to beautiful Juta. As I am writing, new tourist facilities are being built to accommodate the increasing number of visitors.
Juta makes a great day trip from Kazbegi, but is also a destination in its own right. After two visits to Georgia it is among my favourite places in the country.
Why visit Juta Georgia
The spectacular journey through Sno valley
Juta Georgia can be reached by driving through the spectacular Sno valley. The Sno valley starts in the small town of Achkoti, only 4 kilometers south of Kazbegi and on the famous Georgian military highway.
The 15 kilometer road from Achkoti to Juta is mostly unpaved and there are only a few villages in between. The first village is Sno and it is certainly worth a stop, because of the ancient watch tower and the giant Sno head sculptures. They look old, but are a recent project of Merab Piranishvili. Each sculpture represents an important person in Georgian history, art or literature.
The further you go into the valley, the more spectacular the views into the protected areas of Kazbegi National Park.
Highest settlement in Europe?
Juta has an altitude of 2200 meters, which makes it one of the highest settlements in Europe together with Bochorma in Tusheti and the more famous Ushguli in Svaneti. Controversy remains over who can really claim the title.
This does mean that Juta is hard to reach in winter when there is a thick blanket of snow. Most tourist facilities will also be closed in winter, but winter tourism is also slowly developing in Juta.
Gateway to the Chaukhi mountains
Juta lies at the foot of the impressive Chaukhi mountain range. The Chaukhi mountains are incredibly scenic and are sometimes called the Dolomites of Georgia. In Juta the mountains are all around you and you don’t need to go far for the most spectacular views on the Chaukhi massif.
Hiking in the Juta valley
Juta is a great place to base yourself to do several day hikes. Below I will mention some of the hiking opportunities that start in Juta
Juta to Roshka (19 kilometers, 9 – 10 hours, moderate difficulty): this is one of the most popular treks in Juta. This 19 kilometer trail connects the area of Kazbegi with Khevsureti over the Chaukhi pass. The steep climb up the 3341 meter high pass makes this a moderately difficult trail. The hike ends in Roshka where you can arrange transport back to Tbilisi. Most people do this hike in 2 days with a visit to the beautiful Abudelsauri lakes where you can go camping.
Juta Abudelauri lakes loop (30 kilometers, 17 – 18 hours, difficult): it is also possible to visit the Abudelauri lakes from Juta through the Chaukhi pass and back to Juta via the Sadzele pass. This is a challenging hike that should be done in 2 days. You can spend the night camping at the Abudelauri lakes.
Juta Valley day hike ( 8 – 15 kilometers, 4 – 8 hours, easy) : If the above treks sound too difficult for you and you are simply looking for a beautiful day hike you can follow the first part of the Juta to Roshka trail alongside the Chaukhistskali River.
You will hike through the beautiful Juta valley towards the Chaukhi pass, but you can turn back before the steep climb to the pass begins. It offers beautiful views and lots of flexibility as you can see how far you want to go, before returning back. A great point where you can have a rest and turn back is Chaukhi lake right before the Chaukhi pass.
Artkhmo Gorge hike ( 12 km, 4 – 5 hours, easy) : this hike doesn’t start in Juta, but in Akhaltsikhe village that lies midway between Sno and Juta. This is an off the beaten path trek away from the crowds. It’s a beautiful gorge with abandoned villages that were once inhabited by ethnic groups speaking their own Kartli languages.
Horse riding in the Juta valley
Horses used to be the main means of transport in Juta. Nowadays it is easy to arrange horseback riding trips and Juta certainly is one of the best places in Georgia to do. .
Juta Georgia Travel tips
How much time in Juta
Juta is a really small village, but because of its spectacular surroundings and peaceful atmosphere I can really recommend spending at least one night in Juta. As you can read in my post there are plenty of things to do here from hiking to horseback riding.
If you have limited time you can also visit Juta as a day trip from Kazbegi. Mountain Freaks runs daily shuttle buses bringing you to Juta in the morning and returning to Kazbegi in the afternoon.
Where to sleep in Juta
For beautiful views on the Chaukhi massif I can recommend the easygoing Zeta Camping. A great place where it’s easy to meet other travellers. You can stay in tents or cabins and they have glamping options too. For a bit more comfort and a more quiet and peaceful place you can also choose the Fifth Season. It is a bit further into the Juta Valley and has even more spectacular views.
Zeta Camping and Fifth seasons are about 1 kilometer from Juta. To get there you have to do a small hike climbing up the mountain to reach the valley plateau. If you rather stay in the village of Juta itself, the Levan & Megi guesthouse has good reviews.
How to get to Juta
Juta is easy to reach when you have your own car. Only 4 kilometer south of Kazbegi lies the village of Achkoti. Here you can leave the Georgian Military Highway towards the village of Sno and Juta. It is about 15 kilometers on an unpaved road. It is better to have a car with high clearance, but a 4 by 4 is not necessary.
If you don’t have your own transport you can either arrange a shared taxi in Kazbegi or make use of the daily morning bus from Mountain Freaks.
When to visit Juta
It is best to visit Juta in late spring, summer or early autumn when temperatures are pleasant and the weather is great.
If you want to hike all the way up to the Abudelauri lakes to go camping, the trekking season runs from the end of June till the beginning of September. For the easier day hikes you can visit Juta from May till October. I visited Juta in October and the weather was great and the fall colours made it even more beautiful.
Because of its high altitude, winters are long in Juta and there will be snow from November till April. Winter tourism is still in its infancy in Juta, but slowly developing.
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