Pankisi is found in eastern Georgia, located to the south of the Caucasus Mountain Range, on the Didgverdi-Nakerala Ridge, where the revered Alazani River begins from the confluence of two other smaller rivers. This region is characterized by beautiful nature, mountainous peaks, huge leafy forests, diverse fields, and glistening rivers.
Pankisi Gorge, in a 2-hour drive away from Tbilisi, is a great place for camping. After pitching your tent on the Alazani embankment or checking in in one of the local guesthouses, you can relax in a peaceful environment, or take a hiking tour in the area.
Alternatively, horseback riding is also popular here. If you don’t know how to ride a horse, don’t be afraid! The locals will teach you.
You can also rent a bike and explore the wild nature of the gorge, including the beautiful Khadori Waterfall, Tbatana, and other interesting places, while taking photos and meeting the extraordinary people of Pankisi.
As soon as you enter Pankisi Gorge, you will notice the striking sight of mosques next to churches, as well as graveyards very distinct from traditional Georgian ones, and towers built with stones not seen anywhere else. All of these elements prove that you are in a unique ethno-cultural environment.
People from Pankisi call themselves “Kistie Vainakhs,” which means “our people” and refers to Kists, Ingush, and Chechens.
These Caucasian tribes, some of which used to be Christian, have lived harmoniously with Georgians since ancient times. They began to settle in Georgia at the end of the 18th century, to remain Christian.
However, eventually, by the 2000s, Islam became the main religion in Pankisi.
When you hear the Pankisi natives singing, see them dancing, and taste their khinkali, chaabilgi (ultra-thick khachapuri) and Kistetian halva, and drink local non-alcoholic beer, you realize that you have discovered another Georgia in Pankisi.