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Let Yourself Be Guided By Your Own Two Feet

Abano Pass: Crossing one of the most dangerous roads in the world

Abano Pass: Crossing one of the most dangerous roads in the world

This year, in the beginning of October, we decided to try to cross Abano Pass, in Georgia, by ourselves. We rented a 4×4 (Pajero) and we were on our way!

ABANO PASS

Abano Pass is a high mountain pass located in the region of Tusheti, in the central part of the Great Caucasus Mountains, at an elevation of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above the sea level and is the highest drivable mountain pass in the Caucasus and is considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world!

The pass is driveable only by 4×4 cars. Conditions can change quickly and be harsh. Road closures can be frequent, so check conditions before traveling to this area!  Usually, due to weather conditions, the road is closed between October and May (although this dates are flexible), so the best time to try to cross it is in Summer.

The road to reach the pass starts in Pshaveli and ends in Omalo. It has a length of 84,5km, but people will tell you that the expected driving time is over than 12 hours. We’ve done it in 7.5 hours (4h hours to Omalo and 3.5 hours back), but we encountered perfect road and weather conditions (dry road and sunny days).

The pass links the Georgian regions of Kakheti (south) and Tusheti (north). Tusheti is the most pristine and remote mountain region of Georgia at 900-4800 meters above sea level. It is covered with ravines and two main river valleys, Gometseri Alazani and Pirikiti Alazani.

Once reaching the top of the pass, you can see the border mountains to Russia, Chechenya and Daghestan. From the Abano pass the road takes the same steep downturn into the Chanchakhovani gorge before reaching Omalo. In this area there are no electricity, and people use solar energy.

 

THE TUSHS

The Tushs were sheep herders, and the region is famous for its Tushetian Gouda cheese and high quality wool. Now many work on tourism but there are still many local shepherds. Most of them spend the summer months in the highland areas of Tusheti but live in the lowland villages of Zemo Alvani and Kvemo Alvani in wintertime. Only 11 families remain in Omalo in Winter, completely isolated from the rest of the world.

OMALO

Omalo is located on a natural plateau, connecting four main gorges: Chanchakhovani gorge (with villages Shtrolta, Khiso, and Khakhabo), Chaghma gorge (with the villages Omalo, Shenako and Diklo), Pirikiti gorge ( with villages Dartlo, Chesho, Parsma and Girevi), and Gometsari george (with villages Dochu, Beghela, Jvarboseli and Verkhovani). The fortress of Keselo, with it’s towers, is a landmark in Zemo (upper) Omalo. It served as refugee for families when attacked by rivals.

When we arrived at Omalo the night was already falling and we discovered that there were already only a few people living here. Most of them already had left Omalo to spend the winter in warmer villages. Althought it was cold we decided to camp under some pine trees with a wonderful view over the village and the mountains that surround it.

  

Before going to sleep we decided to search for a place to eat. Everything was closed so we asked the only man we saw and he pointed to a house. We shouted to see if anyone opened the door for us. A man and a woman appeared a few minutes later, surprised at the two strangers that greeted them in the darkness.

We noticed that they were not expecting company but still invited us to enter. The woman, Nino, was cooking in a warm rustic kitchen lined with stone. She was the only one who spoke english and we had a nice conversation as we all ate the delicious lamb she served us. She explained to us that she ran the Guesthouse “Keselo” and at the end of October or November they would go away, as most Tushs. She also explained that, sometimes, when there are people enough, it’s possible to reach and leave Omalo by helicopter, so if the road suddently closes, they can leave Omalo this way. We had a wonderful dinner and we felt that we should come back one day and stay more time here.

The next morning we could see the sunrise over the mountains and enjoy the unique beauty of this remote place.

It is totally worth it to cross Abano Pass. Don’t be discouraged by the time it will take you to get to Omalo and back. The Tushs are very friendly and the scenery is just breathtaking! And the road itself is beautiful and with good conditions it’s not that difficult nor that dangerous! Just take your time and enjoy the ride!



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6 thoughts on “Abano Pass: Crossing one of the most dangerous roads in the world”

  • Hi there, I was wondering if altitude sickness is an issue when traveling up to Omalo? How was your experience and what did you do to prepare?

    • Hi Beth 🙂
      Upper Omalo (like the locals call it) it’s about 1893m/6209ft. The highest you will get on Abano Pass is around 2,826 m/9,272 ft. We didn’t prepare at all and we didn’t get sick. I don’t think you have to worry about altitude sickness here. And you don’t have many options to climb it slow. It starts at Pshaveli at 460 m/1,510 ft so you can not acclimatize there and there aren’t many spots where you can camp on the road. It is really narrow with huge cliffs. So you probably have to do it in the same day. Maybe you could take something with you for possible symptoms and plenty of water, but apart from that there is not much that can be done. You should take food with you since it is possible there isn’t any place to eat in Omalo. There are some guesthouses but there isn’t restaurants and snack bars or supermarkets how we are used to.
      We had read something about Abano Pass before we went to Georgia but we did not make great preparations. Usually we travel without much planning and then on the spot we talk to people and decide where we want to go. Regarding Abano Pass we went to a Tourist Information Office that told us that the road was already closed for the winter. We had to insist that she confirms the information, and when she did, the road was still open so don’t be afraid to ask here and there about this. The only thing we wanted to be sure of was that the road was open and that it was fine weather. The road is dangerous when it snows and rains. It creates mud that can lead to fatal accidents. We were fortunate enough because the road was really dry and in this conditions it is not difficult to cross as long as you have a 4×4. Without a 4×4 the crossing is impossible. Do not try it. We had a tent and we camped there. It was cold but we had good clothes so it was fine. But if you don’t want to do this you should book your accommodation before you go because it may be booked or guesthouses may be closed. When we went there it was low season and everything was closed. There were not many options besides the one I talk about in the post. We didn’t take food and we were really lucky because Nino made us dinner.
      If you have any other questions just let me know. 🙂
      I hope you enjoy your stay in Georgia. It is a beautiful country and people are really nice!

  • Hey, I was wondering if it is safe to take children up through the Abano pass? My family and I are going to Georgia next week and hope to get to Omalo.

    Do you think it is too risky or safe enough to do?

    • Hi Daniel. Sorry for the late reply but we had some issues with our website and I couldn’t access it. I hope the answer doesn’t come to late! I see that you are now in Georgia. If the weather is fine and if you have experience with a 4X4 you could consider it. But I am not gonna lie. It is a dangerous road, so it will be up to you and your family. There is some degree of risk involved since it is true that are a lot of accidents on that road, but probably because of bad weather conditions. It’s considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world because of it. If you decide to go you will have to go slowly and carefully. We didn’t think it was that difficult. But the weather conditions were great. Sunny day, no mud. Dry road and sunny day, with no fog, is the best. But if you are a little bit concerned and you don’t have experience driving with a 4×4 but you really really want to go I would recommend you to go on a tour. If the group is large enough (20 people) some times there is a helicopter in Tbilisi that does the trip but I don’t know much about this.
      I hope you are enjoying your holidays. I would love to know where you’ve been since I would like to return to Georgia one day. I wish you a great time!

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