Route Length: 18 km.
Route Duration: 7 hrs. 5 min.
Min./Max. Height: 1321/1873 m.
Total Ascent/Descent: 1167/1169 m.
Route Type: Circular
Route category of complexity: Moderate
The route starts at the center of the village Ota, near a small spring, leaves behind the dwellings and exits the village. The dirt road goes north towards the Gharta church. Initially, the itinerary passes through a bare field, gradually switched by a light forest. Eventually it approaches an old spring and a meadow, in the middle of which stands the church of Gharta, bounded by centuries-old trees and time flow.
The two-nave basilica, built in the IX-X centuries, is half-ruined today, the walls of the temple are surrounded by plants, and unique fragments of steles, splendid ornaments and stone crosses are scattered in the yard. The vast forested field near the church is an excellent camping site.
The route continues its way downhill towards Otisskali valley. The dirt road winds through a light forest, later crosses a vast field and broadleaved groves and finally comes to a crossroads. The right road returns to the village of Ota, while the left – leads to the Tsitelitsikhe Fortress. The dirt road flattened by forestry vehicles goes along the Otistskali valley until the silhouette of a red stone fortress appears, which seems to be hanging on a steep edge of the mountain shielded with dense coniferous woodland.
The road gradually descends and reaches the Otistskali River, follows it downstream, and soon reaches the point of intersection. You need special equipment to cross the river in springs, or you can simply take off your hiking boots, step into cold water barefoot and get to the other bank. The road enters the spruce forest, in about 300 meters turns left and follows a mountain trail leading the travelers directly to the fortress. The imposing, firmly built fort stones have reddish hue as if they had been rusted with the time flow. According to a legend, it was because of these red stones that the fort got its name. Noteworthy is planning of the fortress, at first glance it has the trapezoid shape, and its walls are slowly narrowing from the bottom to the top, creating the impression that the fort is flying into the sky. A striking view from the stronghold overlooks the entire Otistskali valley. It is not recommended to climb fortress walls in order to protect visitors’ safety and not to damage the monument.
The itinerary goes back the same way, crosses Otistskali and then follows the dirt road towards the village of Ota. If desired, from the crossroads, it is possible to continue the route in the direction of the Shoreti Monastery (please, refer to the Ota-Shoreti Monastery-Kokhta Fortress-Damala route).