Breathtakingly wild and mysterious, Svaneti is an ancient land locked in the Caucasus, so remote that it was never tamed by any ruler. Uniquely picturesque villages and snow-covered, 4000m-plus peaks rising above flower-strewn alpine meadows provide a superb backdrop to the many walking trails. Svaneti’s emblem is the koshki (defensive stone tower), designed to house villagers at times of invasion and local strife (until recently Svaneti was renowned for its murderous blood feuds). Around 175 koshkebi, most originally built between the 9th and 13th centuries, survive here today.
The geographical location and setting of this exceptional medieval landscape highly contribute to preservation of the forms of local intangible heritage, such as traditions, customs, beliefs, rituals of everyday life, language and folklore of the Svan community.
Svan people living in harmony with the surrounding natural environment. The origins of Svaneti tower houses go back to prehistory. Its features reflect the traditional economic mode and social organization of Svan communities. These towers usually have three to five floors, and the thickness of the walls decreases, giving the towers a slender, tapering profile. The houses themselves are usually two-storeyed; the ground floor is a single hall with an open hearth and accommodation for both people and domestic animals, the latter being separated by a wooden partition, which is often lavishly decorated. A corridor annex helped the thermal insulation of the building. The upper floor was used by the human occupants during summer, and also served as a store for fodder and tools. A door at this level provided access to the tower, which was also connected with the corridor that protected the entrance. The houses were used both as dwellings and as defense posts against the invaders who plagued the region.
The property is also notable for the monumental and minor arts. The mural paintings are outstanding examples of Renaissance painting in Georgia.
The region of Upper Svaneti is an outstanding example of an exceptional mountain landscape composed of highly preserved villages with unique defensive tower houses, examples of ecclesiastical architecture and arts of medieval origin.
The individual architectural elements as well as entire villages of the Ushguli community (Chazhashi, Jibiani, Chvibiani and Murk’meli) remain listed as national monuments under the National Law on Cultural Heritage. The law prohibits any interventions on monuments without a prior permit from relevant state authorities and at the same time provides the highest level of protection zoning for these structures as to the elements of the World Heritage property.