Mestia is a city in Upper Svaneti of Northwestern Georgia.
Mestia is the regional capital of Svaneti. It is also the main centre of tourism for the region. It is a relatively small town of around 2,600 inhabitants, but it is the main tourist centre for the Svaneti region and as such has many of the characteristics of larger cities. It is tourist-friendly, in part due to several major construction activities including a new road (a twisty but well-maintained mountain road), a renovated town centre with a number of new buildings, and a new airport. There has also been a lot of investment in other infrastructure, such as a new district court, giving Mestia the feeling of a city rather than the rural towns it is. This has made travelling to Mestia much easier, but the main street has lost part of its former character. Exploring the streets just behind the main street immediately brings you to very rural areas with cows, pigs and chickens everywhere.
The town is very easy to navigate. It consists of three villages following the Mulkhra River, with a single main street lying through the entire town. Most guest houses, hotels and restaurants are along this street.
Prices are generally higher than other middle-sized towns around Georgia and haggling is not as normal as elsewhere.
- Tourist Information Centre, Seti Square (the main square in Mestia). Part of the country-wide network of tourist information centres. Provides information on activities in Mestia including high-quality hiking maps.
- Mountain Tourist Centre of Svaneti, Pereulok Stalina No. 7 (200 m from the main square in Mestia).
- 1 Queen Tamar Airport. Mestia's airport opened in 2010. Flights from/to Tbilisi (Natakhtari airfield) are available 4 times a week. Price is 90 lari one way (63 lari for children 3-12). Price includes free transfer from Tbilisi, M.S. Rustaveli and back. Transfer point is nearby Metro Station Rustaveli, near the fountain. Sometimes there are available flights from/to Kutaisi twice a week. Price is 50 lari one way (35 lari for children 3-12).
- Tbilisi to Mestia: M, W, F 09:30, Su 13:00
- Mestia to Tbilisi: M, F 15:30, W 11:30, Su 15:00
- Kutaisi to Mestia: Tu, F 13:30
- Mestia to Kutaisi: Tu, F 11:00
The registration time is 1 hr before the flight. Flight duration is one hour. Depending on weather conditions compliant to Visual Flight Rules VFR, flight can be postponed or cancelled (full refund). Limit of the hold luggage and for carry-on baggage in total is 15 kg/per person. It's impossible to pay for extra luggage but if there is free place on board, you can take your baggage along free of charge.
Reservations are available at:
There is always a high demand for tickets, so reserve tickets long in advance. For example, by the end of July 2015 the only tickets from Mestia to Tbilisi left were for the end of August. If no tickets are available, ask to be on the waiting list. Flights are dependent on weather conditions in the mountains between Mestia and Tbilisi. As the weather changes quickly, it is difficult to plan a flight to or from Mestia with certainty and it might be a good idea to have an alternative in case the flights are cancelled.
There is also an option to fly to Mestia from Tbilisi by helicopter. The duration of the flight is 1½ hr. There are a few companies organizing these flights.
- From Tbilisi, take the train reaching Zugdidi, costs 16 lari (Tbilisi 21:50 — Zugdidi 06:05, Tbilisi 07:20 — Zugdidi 12:55), then follow the #By bus section below.
- From Kutaisi you would have to take a marshrutka or taxi to Rioni station and catch one of the aforementioned trains. The price is 12 lari from Rioni. Tickets can be purchased on the train or at the Rioni station.
Trains can be full (especially private cabins), so book several days in advance.
- 1 Ticket kiosk, ☏ . You may buy tickets here or from driver directly.
From specific destinations:
- Tbilisi – Departures time: early morning, 05:00 and 07:00. From Didube bus station, and also from Station Square railway station. Price: 30 lari. Duration 8-10 hr, depending on the weather.
- Kutaisi – Departing in the morning from the main bus station (next to the train station, behind McDonald's). They have Mestia signs in the front window in Latin letters. The first one seems to leave whenever it is full (maybe around 09:00), while the next one seems to leave at 10:00 even if there are still seats open. Price: 25 lari.
- Zugdidi – Duration: 3½-4 hr including a coffee break. As of May 2019, it seems that previously competing drivers have reorganized into a cartel — they now cooperate and have since lifted the price twice: up to 20 lari in 2019 and then barefacedly increased price to 25 lari in 2020. They have to pay a big percent to the ticket office, even if the ticket was bought via driver. Almost no drivers agree to lower the price, because if someone in the cartel would find out, the driver would be severely punished. Some report that a "local's" price can be had by speaking Georgian to ask for 15 lari, but the guesthouses in Mestia say the price really only applies to Svan locals. Other marshrutka drivers seem happy to help locate a Mestia-bound marshrutka for visitors, below are several departure points:
- Regular marshrutkas (1–3 per day) to Mestia wait on Gulua street or Nikoladze street in Zugdidi. Go from the train station to the main road (Rustaveli street), turn left and follow it towards the city, just before the bridge turns left and go in the Gulua street about 200 m. There should be a sign saying "MESTIA" on the right hand side. These marshrutkas run from 09:00, but will only go if there are enough passengers—expect some hours of waiting in the worst case.
- Train-connecting marshrutkas wait in front of the train station, and the first one is schedule to coincide with the 06:05 or 12:55 arrival of the Tbilisi train (check here). If not arriving by train, one should be at the marshrutka by 05:45 in case the train arrives early. If arriving by train at 06:00, one should rush to the marshrutka to get whatever is left of the limited luggage space and a better seat.
- If the Zugdidi-based marshrutkas have already left or cancelled, you might try to catch marshrutkas originating in Kutaisi (~11:00) or Tbilisi (~12:00). Just wait by the side of an intersection nearby for the passing or ask other marshrutka drivers (please, provide the exact location).
A new highway from Zugdidi to Mestia has been opened and the trip has become relatively safe and comfortable by public or private transport. The view on the way is amazing. The usual driving time is about 2 hr, although it can be longer in winter following snow falls, or when the road is covered with ice. Whatever the season, it is not advised to drive yourself unless you are used to such mountain roads.
Driving between Mestia and Tbilisi takes about 6½ hr.
The city is small enough to be covered by foot.
Avoid the local taxi mafia and try to hitchhike instead if needed.
- 1 Svaneti Historical-Ethnographic Museum, 7, A.Ioseliani St., ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tuesday-Sunday, daily 10:00-18:00. Astonishingly extensive museum which has one of the oldest New Testament manuscripts in Georgian on display. The museum is equipped with modern display cases and has extensive written descriptions of exhibits in English. 10 lari.
- House and Museum of the alpinist Mikhail Khergiani, Khergiani Street 15 (2 km north-east of city center). Part of the tour includes going inside the Svan tower which Khergiani used as his training gym. free.
- 2 Ski lift (8 km from Mestia. It's possible to walk there following uphill asphalt road, altitude difference is 400 m. Or get a taxi for 30 lari, including 2 hrs of waiting time and a ride back). Year round, 10:30–18:00. It leads to the top of a mountain and offers splendid view. There is a restaurant on top. 5 lari return.
- Stone defensive towers. A typical fortified dwelling consisted of a tower, an adjacent house and some other household structures encircled by a defensive wall.
- Churches of 10th–14th centuries, including Mazhari, Trongsa and some others.
- Mineral springs.
The two most popular tracks with tourist and easy to medium are the one to the cross and the one to the glacier. Going back from the outer church, coming from the cross, there is a spring hidden in a wooden box along the way. The water has some specific taste and changes depending on the weather.
You can get high-quality hiking maps for free at Mestia Tourist Information center at the main square. Another good place is the souvenir shop at the Seti Square (behind the Koshki café), it sells hiking maps from several publishers (Geoland, Terraquest etc.).
- Ushguli – 4-day Mestia to Ushguli Trek
- Guli glacier and Ushba base path. Mountain Ushba is a main attraction, in a good weather conditions you can see it above. You can also get to its base (3½-4 hr one way).
Download coordinates: GPX, KML.
- Mestia–Guli Pass–Mazeri. The walk to the Mountain Ushba glacier, takes around 6 hr, starting from a beautiful mountain village Mazeri.
Download coordinates: GPX, KML.
- Cross and Koruldi lakes. The path is very easy to find and follow. From the main square go 500 m east and follow the road which forks uphill (just before the bank). Trip time is approx. 2 hr one-way, concentrate on the way back to avoid detours. You can also continue to the Koruldi lakes (2 hr more with some very steep hills to climb). No map needed for this route.
Download coordinates: GPX, KML.
- Chalati Glacier (Chalaadi). There is a new bridge north of town that saves some kilometres from the previous route that passed the airport. Just follow the main road from town along the northern side of the river for approximately 2½ hr. You can try to hitch-hike to cut the time walking significantly. At the end of the road is a swinging bridge. The brave can cross that one, but there is also a normal bridge just next to it. There's no border post anymore, but a cafe offers refreshments. From the swinging bridge it takes approximately 1 hour to the glacier, but the path crosses a lot of glacial scree and other loose rock. Casual hikers should strongly consider taking some type of hiking sticks along as well as extremely sturdy shoes. No entrance fee, no map needed for this route. The signage at the beginning of the trail is poor but then there are numerous cairns and white-orange trail-marking paint. The critical juncture is near the very beginning where a flatter trail follows the smaller river (the one that the swinging bridge crosses), but that trail is not to the glacier and ends ½ km from the swinging bridge. As of May 2019, The glacier trail is the steep one to the left of the wooden "Welcome" sign.
Download coordinates: GPX, KML.
There are two ski resorts close to Mestia.
- Tetnuldi. Tetnuldi resort is still under construction. Four lifts are in operation and there is only one very easy slope finished. Usage of the lift is free. At the lift, there is no ski rental, so if you need ski, you need to rent in Mestia. There is a government bus from Mestia central square at 11:00, which is also free, it returns when the lift closes, around 17:00.
- Hatsvali. This ski resort features a single lift and also a single slope (there is a short beginners lift as well). The slope is more difficult than Tetnuldi's. The ski pass is 5 lari for locals and between 20 and 25 lari for foreigners (or season pass for 300 lari for either), but you should still ask a local, e.g. your taxi driver, to purchase the pass for you. Ski rental is available at the lift, though the skis are quite old and better ones can be had in Mestia. To take a taxi to Hatsvali is 40 lari at most for a return journey. The driver will take you there, go home and arrive again at a prearranged time. The cheaper way is to walk in the right direction and hitchhike, especially if you are without skis.
With the development of Mestia there are now sufficient ATMs in the city - including some without additional fee. One currency exchange office (with just marginally worse rates than elsewhere in Georgia).
- Beautiful works of folk art can be bought at the Mountain Tourist Centre.
- There is a small market for fruit, vegetables, drinks and necessity products, as well as a number of shops.
- Along the main road (in the direction to Zugdidi) you will find a few little shops with secondhand clothes. These are worth a look if you need something but hking clothes and shoes are seldom on offer.
Mestia has several restaurants and cafés in town. If you are on a budget keep an eye for the little shops such as bakeries and unnamed restaurants along the main road. These are cheaper than regular restaurants.
As anywhere in Georgia, marvelous Georgian wine, beer and chacha.
- Hostel Seti, Seti squ. 7 (Right in the center, next to the tourist information center and a restaurant). It's newly built. Have air conditioning in the hall and heater in the room. The room is large. €10 for a dorm bed.
- Hotel "Mestia", Zurab Devdariani, ☏ , .
- 1 Manoni's Guesthouse. Very popular with backpackers. There you will find people to hang around and do the tracks with, or to going to Ushguli. They also have a restaurant and can organise trips. 10 lari per dorm bed.
- Muradi Chartolani's Guesthouse, Ushba St. 2, ☏ , ✉ Transfer-Mestia@mail.ru. Guesthouse with TV, garden. US$10-20.
- Nest Hostel Mestia, Kakhiani st. 16, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Centrally located with balcony overlooking river mountains and 'Svan' towers holding the sky over Mestia. Friendly, English-speaking and very helpful staff. €9-11.
- Nino Ratiani's Guesthouse, 1 Queen Tamari Street Akhalsheni, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. Guesthouse with private and single rooms, free wifi internet, hot water and wonderful Georgian meals. Very comfortable beds. New building with additional guest-rooms. Calling ahead for vacancy is advisable during summer. Warm and friendly owners who speak English. Additional services and airport pick ups, meal requests, cooking lessons, etc. can be arranged. 80 lari for two persons including two very extensive meals per day. Putting up a tent may be possible for 5 lari per person.
- Nino Tstulukiani's Guesthouse, Guladi Japarise Street no 8, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Nice family run guesthouse with spacious rooms, shared sitting room and bathroom with hot water. The owner is an excellent cook. 30 lari per person (includes dinner and breakfast).
- Roza Guesthouse, 17 Vittorio Sella Str. (About 200 m on the left just when entering Mestia.), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Very nice guest house above Mestia. Free Wi-Fi, hot water, nicely warmed in winter, and delicious Georgian food. Also, the view from the living room may be one of the most beautiful views on Mestia. Booking possible on booking.com, or by email. From 15 to 40 lari per person (depending on season and options).
Several people rent rooms in their houses as well:
- House of Elguji Jorjoliani.
- House of Ketevan Gabliani, ☏ .
- House of Malkhaza Argviliani, ☏ .
- House of Irma Khergiani, ☏ .
- 2 Gurami Khvintelani's Guesthouse, Nugzar Japaridze street N1 (entrance of Mestia), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Rooms are quite spacious, with shower, a big garden, free coffee and tea. Beautiful view. If you would like, you can cook by yourself in the big kitchen. play table tennis in the garden and enjoy rocking in rocking-chair. Hostess speaks English and French and can help you to make plans for your trips, to find guides and provide information. 5 lari tent, 10 lari tent+shower; 20 lari room, 15 lari dinner+breakfast.
- Shalva Kvitsiani's Ushba Homestay, ☏ . Guesthouse with private rooms, hot water and meals in picturesque village Becho. Convenient for a trek or climbing expedition to Ushba.
- Irine's Guesthouse (Turn off the Zugdidi-Mestia highway at Becho, then follow the main road in Becho for 2.5 km; the guesthouse is on the left.), ☏ . Irine Japaridze operates a friendly, welcoming guest house in Becho, open year-round, which is located near a roaring river, in a beautiful yard with a garden and fruit trees. There are great views of Ushba, one of the tallest mountains in the Caucasus, and you can walk to a nearby spring which has naturally carbonated water. The food is outstanding, cooked in the flavourful Svan style, and much of it comes fresh from the garden. Becho is a peaceful and quiet village even during the peak of the tourist season. The rooms are comfortable and there is hot water. Bring warm clothes: the bathroom is in another building, and nights in Svaneti can be chilly. 40 lari per person, including breakfast and dinner, add 5 lari if you want lunch. Pitch your tent in the yard and use the bathroom/shower for 15 lari per person, add meals for 5 lari per meal.
- Guesthouse Svaneti Peak-Mazeri (owners pick-up from the main road), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Great location under Mount Ushba, with gardens and meadows around, home-made natural traditional food. Horse-riding tours, trekking to waterfalls and Ushba glacier, and mountain river fishing are available.
Not much Wi-Fi access, but several cafés, restaurants and guesthouses offer free and decent Wi-Fi.
Geocell and Beeline both have quite decent signal in the area.
From Mestia, there are 3 daily marshrutkas at 08:00; one to Zugdidi (20 lari), one to Kutaisi (25 lari), and one to Tbilisi (30 lari). Seats can be reserved by your guesthouse or at the ticket office (at the main square), ☏ (English), (Russian). . There may be more during the high season (to Zugdidi for example at 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00). Later, you need to use a taxi.
Otherwise, checkout these interesting destinations:
- Mazeri – A Svaneti mountain village, surrounded by a stunningly beautiful landscapes and huge waterfalls. The starting point for a several exciting Svaneti trekking routes, including Mount Ushba glacier trek.
- Jvari – A small town with a couple of great attractions nearby, namely Enguri Dam and Silver Lake. The latter is one of the most impressive alpine treks that you can do in Georgia. Take the marshrutka to Zugdidi, and ask the driver to drop you off in Jvari (3 hr, 15 lari).
- Ushguli – Mestia is also the embarkation point for a trip to this highest altitude inhabited point in Europe. There is another small Ethnographic Museum there, containing 12th century religious artwork.
- To get a more authentic experience, also consider visiting nearby villages such as Lenjeri (many Svan towers), Latali (old and beautiful churches), and Becho (mountain hiking).