Natural beauty in Mestia, Svanetia

One of the highlights of Georgia! Svanetia via Mestia! Yes, really. I’ll tell you why. Svanetia has not been open to tourists for very long. Nevertheless, you can already see many enthusiastic sports enthusiasts heading toward this mountain area. You arrive in Mestia, the largest “city” in Svanetia. What can you do in Svanetia?

Mestia is the starting point for many hikers and day hikes. We met people from Israel, Croatia, America and, of course, the Netherlands. One planned to make the three-day trip to Ushguli and the other did day trips from Mestia. Since we didn’t feel like spending three days on a hike including hassles with backpacking for a while, we decided to do day trips from Mestia. Our Berlin friends are avid hikers, so an 11-hour trek was “normal” for them. Eeh…now I’m pretty athletic, but noticed after Annapurna Basecamp in Nepal and Torres del Paine in Chile that I didn’t need 11 hours of hiking in a day for a while.

Fortunately, there are several day hikes for everyone’s skill level.

Mestia #1 Day trip Chaladj Glacier

For example, we visited the Chaladi Glacier. The trail is not very scenic the first 1.5 hours. A dirt road where there is a lot of construction. From what we hear, a Turkish company is laying an oil pipe. But once you reach the forest, it’s a short hike up (1 hour maximum and perfectly doable even for less trained people) to the glacier. As you walk toward the glacier mouth, you see the clear blue ice. So beautiful! In total, it takes 6 to 7 hours anyway (there and back) and is mostly flat. If you have sturdy athletic shoes, that’s enough. Don’t feel like a walk that involves a lot of work? Then take a cab. Costs about 30 lari. Cabs are generally a lot more expensive than in rest of Georgia!

Svenetia #2 Day trip Ushguli

The next day we went to Ushguli. By cab because normally it would take you three days to get here on foot. But what a beautiful trip that is! Even by car. So we can well imagine that this one is even more beautiful on foot anyway. Do make sure your cab driver can be somewhat trusted. We had an “enthusiastic” cab driver let’s just say… Georgians are the best drivers and hoppa, another swig of beer. Um yeah…right. Fortunately, we made it back in one piece, after addressing him sternly, as far as we could in our flawed Russian (scared screaming works too 😉 ). The highlight was that he drove really hard into a herd of cows, assuming they would move aside. We were 5 years older in 10 seconds. Pooh!

Mestia-svenetia-georgia mestia-ushguli cows

For our cab ride we paid 120 lari (there and back) which was a bargain according to many people in Mestia. They usually ask for a minimum of 150. We also now know why. And so since there were four of us, it was quite manageable. After a bumpy and sometimes scary ride (we now understand why 150 lari is charged), we arrived in Ushguli. The highest village in Europe where people live all year round. Here you have fantastic views of the mountains of Svanetia. The food here is not very good (read I got spontaneous cramps) so bring your own just to be sure.

Our avid hiker friends stayed an extra day and made the 8- to 9-hour trek to the lakes. This seems to be a beautiful hike and they came back excited!

mestia-sventie-ushguli mestia-ushguli

How to get to Mestia?

From Tbilisi , you can catch the night train to Zugdidi. It leaves Tbilisi Railway Station at 9:45 pm and arrives around 6 am. The Railway Georgia site makes it easy to buy a ticket. Choose 1 class, modernized. You then get a1st class cabin for 2 people. You pay 30 lari (is less than 15 euros) per person. After you arrive in Zugdidi then catch a marshrutka to Mestia which takes about 3 more hours. Not a punishment because you’ll feast your eyes. Be smart and don’t forget to take your almond milk out of your suitcase like we did. Indeed, our view was somewhat obscured by the many white almond milk streaks that suddenly formed on the windows. Fortunately, we were able to stop and get the suit out. Damage wasn’t too bad, fortunately. Let’s call it “the almond milk disaster ” 😉


How to get out of Mestia again?

From Mestia, marshrutkas run to Tbilisi (6 hours approximately) and Batumi (theoretically 5 hours). We went from Mestia to Batumi and paid 30 lari and leaves at 8 in the morning. Unfortunately the ride did not go so smoothly (driver stopped every so often), we turned out to be on the bus to Tbilisi and had to change buses (like the other people who were also going to Batumi). All in all, it took much longer than the five hours, but that’s part of it! Our friends did just get to Batumi within five hours. Bit of bad luck we had, then.

When you go to Georgia , we really recommend going to Svanetia! Have fun and if you have any questions or have also been to Svanetia, let us know.

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