Abano Pass

Abano Pass is a Georgian treacherous road closed in winters

Abano Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.864m (9,396ft) above the sea level, located in the region of Tusheti, in Georgia. It's one of the highest roads of Europe.

Where is Abano pass?

Set high in the central part of the Great Caucasus Mountains, the road to the summit is totally unpaved. It’s classed as a national route and numbered M44 (მ44). The pass is 67.2km (41.75 miles) long running south-north from Pshaveli (in Kakheti region) to Omalo, (in the historical region of Tusheti). The main settlement in the region is Omalo Village (1850m asl). Due to Omalo's high mountain location, on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range, and the absence of well-maintained roads, it is largely isolated from the rest of Georgia for most of the year. Note for travellers: some homestays are often only open from July but a bit a preplanning will always ensure you have somewhere to stay.

Is the Abano Pass open?

At this elevation it is the highest drivable mountain pass in the Caucasus. It is only open during the summer months from around May to October (depends on weather conditions). It needs constant attention and there are many emergency call outs to clear landslides or spots where the road has slipped away. Landslips are a problem and can close the road for days. Due the weather and road conditions, especially in the mountains, caution is required. Once over the magnificent Abano Pass (don’t miss the wild flowers and keep an eye out for the cloud cover) the journey gets more exciting, depending on the previous winter that is. In the summer of 2008 the road cut through the previous winter’s snow approx 4 meters deep, and that was in July. In the summer of 2009 there was a period in late July when the rain fall made part of the road impassable for a while but this is not uncommon. The road will always dry out you might just be held up for a couple of days.

Is Abano Pass challenging?

The road to the summit is very challenging and difficult. It’s one of the highest roads of Georgia. The road is open to 4x4 vehicles with high clearance only. The drive features steep sections, hitting a 17% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Along the way are numerous roadside memorials to those who have perished on the road. 10 to 12 people attempting to cross the pass die every year. Situated deeply in beautiful Caucasus mountains, it is well known as a "death road" because of many fatal accidents. The road is a combination of a rough and unpredictable surface, seemingly endless tight turns, steep climbs, no guard rails, deep gorges, and waterfalls gushing. Animals are frequently encountered on the way.

When was the road to Abano Pass built?

The road was built by the Soviets in 1978. The summit hosts communication towers. The road appeared in an episode of the BBC’s World’s Most Dangerous Roads a few years ago.
Pic: Nickolay Omelchenko