How to Get to Pankisi Valley from Telavi, Georgia
How to Get to Pankisi Valley from Telavi, Georgia was originally published in July 2023
I had wondered if there was a marshrutka from Telavi to Pankisi Valley.
Given the time I spent staring at a map of Georgia made it appear that you’d need to go over Gombori Pass and on through Telavi to get there from Tbilisi.
The day my friend Bekah and I decided to go to Pankisi Valley we headed over to Ortachala Bus Station to grab the afternoon marshrutka at 14:20 but I had a feeling that it might not go that day. Just a hunch because this is Georgia after all and it was an afternoon venture during the rainiest month of the year (March, in case you’re wondering).
We had decided to go up to Duisi on a Thursday (after many delays leaving the Gori area as we had ended up setting up camp there for longer than planned and with Bekah proclaiming that we were “Gori Girls” now) to make sure to give ourselves ample time to get to the Pankisi Valley in preparation for what we had excitedly been calling “Mystic Friday”.
The Kist people who populate the Pankisi Valley, a group related to the Chechens just across the border have distinct and unique Sufi traditions.
One of which is that women are allowed to perform Zikr, which is quite unusual as many cultures only allow men to perform Zikr.
So we set off toward the Pankisi Valley to eventually experience a mystical Friday Zikr with the women of Pankisi as they called for “Marshua Kavkaz”- Peace in the Caucasus.
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Going to Ortachala Station in Tbilisi to find out there was no Tbilisi-Pankisi Marshrutka that afternoon
We got dropped off in a Bolt at Ortachala and pointed to the spot where the Pankisi-bound marshrutka would typically lurk, only to discover from the woman selling tickets at the counter that there was no afternoon transport that day but said to go to Telavi and that we would surely find a marshrutka up to Pankisi from there.
So in a roundabout way, we figured out how to get to Pankisi Valley from Telavi by chance.
Telavi New Bus Station
Pankisi-bound marshrutkas can be found at Telavi’s New Bus Station (more or less you could call it the main or central bus station) which is conveniently located right at the Telavi Bazaar and leave when full.
You’ll need to ask which marshrutka in the lot will be going to Pankisi.
When we got to the marshrutka there were already a couple of people on it and within about 30-40 minutes it was full and we set off. It didn’t appear to have a regular schedule.
The driver and other passengers will likely figure out that you are foreign pretty quickly and ask which village you’re going to and which guesthouse. We let ours know we were at the Melissa Guesthouse in Duisi and he knew exactly where to take us.
How Long Does it Take to Travel from Telavi to Pankisi Valley?
The journey from Telavi to Duisi took about 90 minutes so expect roughly the same amount of time. The villages in Pankisi are clustered fairly close together so it’s only a short distance further if say, you’re staying at the popular Nazy Guesthouse in Jokolo.
Getting to Pankisi Valley
Akhmeta is sort of the start of the Pankisi Valley, if you will, with Duisi being the largest village once you’re in the valley.
As I had said before, the marshrutka drivers seem to know the main guesthouses along Pankisi Valley making arrival pretty easy.
We rolled to a stop in the middle of Duisi near an intersection where a crossroad met with the main valley road. The driver pointed out the sign posted there for Guesthouse Melissa and from there it was a short few minutes walk to our base for the next few days.
Cost of the Telavi-Pankisi Marshrutka
We paid 3 GEL each for a seat in the marshrutka to Pankisi from Telavi, so expect a similar price.
It’s standard to pay as you exit the marshrutka.
Getting Back to Telavi from Pankisi
Most mornings there is a marshrutka that takes passengers from Pankisi Valley to Tbilisi via Telavi. With that said, if you’re traveling outside the main May-September season you can expect it not to go daily if there’s just not enough demand on that day.
If this is the case and you need to get out of Pankisi, it would be wise to shell out for a taxi to take you.
A taxi to Telavi should cost around 45 GEL and a taxi directly to Tbilisi will cost 100 GEL for the entire car.
Whether you take the marshrutka or pay for a taxi, your guesthouse host will have the numbers of both and can contact them for you. I’d recommend having them call in the afternoon or evening the day before you plan to travel.
Getting to Telavi from Tbilisi by Marshrutka
Several marshrutkas leave Tbilisi’s Ortachala Bus Station daily to Telavi. They loosely run on a schedule but will leave when mostly full.
It’s possible to grab marshrutkas to Telavi from Isani Station in Tbilisi as well. Our marshrutka that started at Ortachala made a stop there on the way to pick up more passengers.
The cost of the Tbilisi-Telavi marshrutka is 15 GEL per seat.
The Tbilisi-Pankisi Marshrutka
Most of the time during the high season there are two marshrutka per day that go direct to the Pankisi Valley from Tbilisi’s Ortachala Bus Station.
The Tbilisi-Pankisi Marshrutka departs Tbilisi at 07:30 and 14:20 and takes about two hours.
The cost of the Tbilisi-Pankisi marshrutka is around 20 GEL per seat.
Have any questions about getting from Telavi to Pankisi Valley?
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