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 service centre for the Svaneti region and as such has many of the characteristics of larger cities. It is a very tourist-friendly town, 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 traveling to Mestia much easier, but the main street has lost part of its former character. This said, 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 is made up 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 main street.
Prices are generally inflated compared to 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. Price includes free transfer from Tbilisi, M.S. Rustaveli and back. Transfer point is nearby Metro Station Rustaveli, near the fountain. As of March 2016, there is a flight from/to Kutaisi available twice a week. Price is 40 lari one way.
- Tbilisi to Mestia: Mon,Wed,Fri - 09:30, Sun - 13:00
- Mestia to Tbilisi: Mon,Fri - 15:30, Wed - 11:30, Sun - 15:00
- Kutaisi to Mestia: Mon,Fri - 13:30
- Mestia to Kutaisi: Mon,Fri - 11:00
The registration time is one hour 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 absolute certainty and it might be a good idea to have a plan B 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 hours. There are a few companies organizing these flights.
Trains can be full (especially private cabins), so book several days in advance.
2 Bus station, ☎ .
- From Tbilisi marshrutkas (mini buses) go every day from the "samgori-navtlugi" bus station . Departure time: 7:00. Reservations are available at Tel.: +995 595 700 892 Beqa. Also marshrutkas go from "Vagzali" bus station. Number of seats 16, ticket price 30 lari per person. Departure time: 5:00. Duration 8-10 hours (depending on the weather conditions).
- From Kutaisi there are marshrutkas in the morning departing from the main bus station (next to the train station, behind McDonald's). The mini buses have Mestia signs in the front window. 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. (August 2018)
- From Zugdidi marshrutkas to Mestia wait in front of the train station (during the high season only). Since there is only one road, the marshrutka drivers running this route have a monopoly and will try to overcharge (a normal starting price is 25 lari). Try to haggle them down to 15. It is possible, but stand your ground. Note that these marshrutkas will only go if there are enough passengers. Therefore expect some hours of waiting in the worst case. Duration: 4 hours. The place is clearly marked "Mestia" and there is a live information available via the personel there. As of December 2016, there is one marshrutka from Zugdidi at 9:00 (departs only if sufficiently enough passengers at the stop!), one around 11:00 (from Kutaisi) and one around 12:00 (from Tbilisi).
From Mestia, there are 3 daily marshrutkas at 8:00 - 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: +995 568 999 968, Russian: +995 599 707 094). There may be more during the high season (to Zugdidi for example at 08:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00). Later, you need to use a private taxi.
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 hours, 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. Drive with high attention if you are not an experienced driver.
Mestia – Tbilisi can be driven in about 6½ hrs.
The city is small enough to be covered by foot.
- Svaneti Historical-Ethnographic Museum, 7, A.Ioseliani St., ☎ . Till December 11, 2018 the museum is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm.. 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. Admission is 7 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. Admission free.
- 1 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.
- 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 hrs one way).
- Walk to the Mountain Ushba glacier, takes around 6 hours, starting from a beautiful mountain village Mazeri.
- 4 Days Mestia to Ushguli Trek
- Trip to the 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 hours one-way, concentrate on the way back to avoid detours. You can also continue to the Koruldi lakes (2 hours more with some very steep hills to climb). No map needed for this route.
- Walk to Chalati (Chalaadi) Glacier: walk to the airport and follow the road. After approx. 2h30min you reach a bridge. There's no border post anymore, but a cafe offers refreshments. From the bridge it's a good 1 hour more to the glacier. No entrance fee, no map needed for this route.
There are two ski resorts close to Mestia.
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 11AM, which is also free, it returns when the lift closes, around 5PM.
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, so you should 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.
There are Liberty bank branch, two ATMs and 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.
Mestia has several restaurants and cafés in town.
Of course, 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, 577721211, 590721211.
- Muradi Chartolani's Guesthouse, Ushba St. 2, ☎ , e-mail: Transfer-Mestia@mail.ru. Guesthouse with TV, garden. US$10-20.
- Nest Hostel Mestia, Kakhiani st. 16, ☎ , , e-mail: 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, ☎ , , e-mail: 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. Putting up a tent may be possible for 5 lari per person. 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 (April 2014). US$20-25 per person (including three meals).
- Nino Tstulukiani's Guesthouse, Guladi Japarise Street no 8, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Nice family run guesthouse with spacious rooms, shared sitting room and bathroom with hot water. The owner is an excellent cook. In summer 2011, the family was building a hotel, located next to the guesthouse. 30 lari per person (includes dinner and breakfast).
- Roza Guesthouse, 17 Vittorio Sella Str. (About 200 m on the left just when entering Mestia.), ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. 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 (Tel. +995 599-56-93-58)
- House of Malkhaza Argviliani (Tel. +995 599-25-90-80)
- House of Irma Khergiani (Tel. +995 598-97-72-38)
- 1 Gurami Khvintelani's Guesthouse, Nugzar Japaridze street N1 (entrance of Mestia), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 knows English and French and can help you to make plans for your trips, to find guides according to your interests and to get any kind of information you'll need. 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. Day trips to Mestia, Ushguli, and other areas in Svaneti are easy, and Irine can arrange transport. 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), e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
- Mazeri - 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. The marshrutka to Zugdidi leaves from the central marshrutka station in Mestia every two hours. Just ask and the driver will drop you off in Jvari. This journey will take up to three hours and will probably cost 15 Lari, because that is price to the slightly further destination of Zugdidi.
- Mestia is also the embarkation point for a trip to Ushguli, the 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).