SVANETI or SVANETIA (SUANIA in ancient sources) is a historic province in Georgia, in the north-western part of the country. It is inhabited by the SVANS, an ethnic sub-group of Georgians.
Situated on the southern slope of the Central Caucasus Mountains and surrounded by 3,000 – 5,000 metre peaks, Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus. Four of the ten highest peaks are located in the region.The highest mountain in Georgia, Mount SHKHARA, at 17,059ft, is located in the province. Prominent peaks include TETNULDI (16,319ft), SHOTA RUSTAVELI (16,273ft), Mount USHBA ( 15,453ft), ALLAMA (14,842ft) as well as LALVERI, LATSGA and others.
Svaneti has two parts corresponding to two inhabited valleys ; (1) UPPER SVANETI and (2) LOWER SVANETI. The landscape of Svaneti is dominated by mountains that are separated by deep gorges. Most of the region which lies below 5,904ft above sea level is covered by mixed and coniferous forests The forest zone is made up of tree species such as spruce, fir, beech, oak and hornbeam. Other less common species include chestnut, birch, maple, pine and box. The zone which extends from 5,904 – 9,840ft above sea level consists of Alpine meadows and grasslands. Eternal snows and glaciers take over in areas that are over 3,000 metres above sea level.
The climate is humid and is influenced by the air masses coming in from the Black Sea, the region is spared from the extremely cold winter temperatures that are characteristic of high mountains.
Svaneti is known for its architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes. The famous Svanetian Towers, erected mainly in the 9th – 12th centuries, makes the region” villages more attractive. In the province are dozens of Georgian Orthodox Churches and various fortified buildings. The architectural monuments of Upper Svaneti are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites..