Best Attractions in & Around Mestia
Written by Daniel Cohen
When you travel to the Svaneti region and visiting Mestia, you will find different activities and experiences you would love, including some extreme activities for those thrill-seekers among you. Mestia is often used as an excellent base for trekking in the area but also offers 4*4 jeep tours, horseback riding, bike trails, ski resorts, museums, history, green landscapes, fresh air, and more.
To make it easy on you, here are our top picks and best attractions in Mestia:
Hatsvali cable car Mestia cable car
Hatsvali ski resort opened in 2011 and is located about 10 km from Mestia. Since 2017, The site can be reached by cable car starting in Mestia itself. First, use the cable car in Mastia to reach 1,800 meters above sea level and then take another cable car that will take you to the observation point and restaurant Zuruldi. If the Mestia cable car doesn't work, use a taxi and drive 10 km to Hatslavi cable car. The lower station of the Hatsvali cable car is located at an altitude of 1,835m while the upper station is located on Mount Zuruldi at an altitude of 2,347m meters above sea level. Hatslavi Top Station offers stunning panoramic views of snow-capped mountains including the summit of Mount Ushba. You can walk around the restaurant and discover different spectacular views everywhere you look.
The restaurant is not recommended so you visit while on a full stomach and drink coffee or a glass of wine and let your eyes enjoy.
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Hatsvali and Tetnuldi ski resorts
Ski resorts are still developing in Georgia when there is a plan to further develop the projects and build new cable cars in order to offer additional tails for all levels and attract more tourists to ski and visit Georgia during the winter. For now, Hatsvali and Tetnuldi ski resorts are suitable for advanced skiers with a variety of unmarked trails that can be done freely but at the same time, there are also basic trails for beginners. You can enjoy both sites on the same day or to divide it into 2 separate days to make the most out of it and explore every hidden trail of this site.
Hatsvali ski resort is about 10 km from Mestia and the super cool thing about it is it can be reached by cable car from Mestia itself using a cable car. It's named after the mountain it is located on. This is a small size ski resort with 5 km of trails while 4 km are more suitable for advanced skiers. The site's altitude is 1,868-2,348 meters above sea level. The first cable car that takes you to the site starts at 1,428 meters above sea level. There are 2 seating cables and 2 standing cables. There is a long and very fun trail with forest all around it. Hatsvali ski resort is open from 10:00 to 16:00 while the season usually lasts between the end of December and March.
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The ski resort is named after the mountain on which it is located. This is a new and basic ski resort but with more options for different levels as it offers its visitors about 15 km of skiing. Tetnuldi ski resort is located about 15 km from the Mestia and is the favorite ski resort in the area. Due to its height, which ranges between 2265-3160m, the upper part of it is above the tree line while its lower part is surrounded by trees. The site is open from 09:00 to 17:00 starting the end of December up-to mid-April in some cases. One of the best experiences on this ski resort is a 9.5 km long ski trail with an amazing view. There are 4 seating cables and one standing cable car for beginners.
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Savanti Ethnographic Museum in Mestia
The largest ethnographic museum in the region that displays items and pieces of Svaneti history, its people, culture, and more. You can find thousands of unique items that date back hundreds of years including ancient weapons, textiles, kitchen utensils, historical photos, jewelry, and other amazing items that will give you an idea of what it means to live in one of the highest places in the country and facing conquests throughout history. This is a new and innovative museum and a must experience when in Mestia. Open daily from 10:00 to 18:00 except Monday. It is worth considering using a guide that will explain the items in-depth and get a better understanding of the items displayed.
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The famous Alpinist Museum - Mikheil Khergiani
The famous alpinist who lived between 1932-1969, won the highest title in his field as a "master of sport". Mikheil Khergiani was born in Mestia and won 7 gold medals at the Soviet Championships in rock climbing and mountaineering. The museum is actually a fortified Svan house with a fortified tower that served as his home and is located about 2 km from the center of Mestia where his different items are displayed including climbing items, photos, competitive clothing, prizes and lots of other wonderful items. The famous alpinist was found dead while climbing the Dolomites in Italy and buried Mestia after his death. Part of the visit includes entry to the fortified tower in his home that served as his training ground. Open Tuesday - Saturday from 10:00 to 20:00.
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Ushguli village, located at an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level, is the highest permanent settlement in Europe. The village is located at the bottom of Shkhara mountain in a spectacular valley and was chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Until the early 2000s, the road to the village was dangerous with robberies during the daytime but today, the road is safe and no such acts are seen. In comparison to other famous spots in Georgia, Ushguli has not yet been commercialized so there is special magic around it that will probably disappear over the next few years. Make sure you are ready with cash before reaching Ushguli as you won't be able to use your credit card almost anywhere.
The distance between the Mestia and the Ushguli is about 47 km of a bumpy road, so it is recommended to rent a 4*4 jeep (from Mestia) to complete the road. You can get to Ushguli from Mestia in a number of ways, 4*4 daily organized trips, the most famous Mestia-Ushguli trek that lasts about 4-5 days, organized horseback ride, etc. There is a shuttle going back to Mestia from Ushguli in the afternoon. It is recommended to get to Ushguli in the summer season as in winter, the weather is very cold with extremely low temperatures and no real option for hiking due to the extreme conditions.
You can choose to visit Ushguli as a day trip but we recommend spending the night here and explore the area in its beauty.
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Accommodation in Ushguli
As a small village in the middle of nowhere, the accommodation in it is quite limited in terms of design or uniqueness. most of the places run by the owner which also live there, and you should not expect something fancy. Enjoy the simplicity as you are in a remote atmosphere and leave your phone. Use the owner's knowledge and explore the area. We recommend the following 2 accommodation when traveling to Ushguli:
Probably the only hotel in the village (if you can call it that) with personal toilets and showers inside the room, nice design, great terrace with a panoramic view of the mountains, lovely breakfast, English speaking staff (most of the time) and lots of good tips for activities around Ushguli.
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A nice and basic guesthouse offering breakfast, 24h reception services, small rooms with toilet and shower, and balconies with an amazing view. The owner will be happy to share some great recommendations and answer any questions you want to know. The guesthouse is located right at the start of Ushguli.
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Recommended trek in Ushguli - Shkhara Glacier
Decided to stay in Ushguli? we would recommend hiking to Shkhara Glacier (about 6-8 hours). The famous Glacier is a part of Mount Shahara, the highest mountain in Georgia which rises to an altitude of 5200 meters above sea level and is considered very dangerous among professional climb. The trail starts from a church at the end of the village. Once you pass it, continue using the red and white marking along the river. Be careful not to get too close to the glacier, because it tends to fall apart and large chunks of it fall off on a regular basis.
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Recommended treks from Mestia
The best advice we can give you after reaching Mestia, is first, walking to Mestia tourist information center and arrange your stay here with great advice, explanations, recommendations, and maps. English speaking staff will tell you all you need to know about all the activities and hiking trails in the area. Whether you are looking to relax in nature, hiking around Mestia, skiing, horseback riding, or extra challenging treks, first visit the tourist information center, here you will find all the answers. Before you start a trek, take your time to prepare the equipment you might need including maps, water, thermal clothing, telephones, etc. Make sure you are ready for any scenario. Every hostel/hotel will allow you to leave the equipment and keep it there while you are out. You must bring a passport because sometimes you may meet the Georgian army and you will be required to present it.
Further information about trekking options including the best trail guides, photos, and more in this link.
Cross Pass - The cross trail
8 km round-trip trail with a medium level of difficulty (some climb required). Starting at an altitude of 1,400 and ending at about 2,100 above sea level, you will enjoy an easy climb that extends along about 4 km of an amazing view. The way to the cross takes about two hours while the return takes about an hour. When you reach the cross on the mountain you will discover a spectacular viewpoint overlooking Mestia and the wonderful mountains that surround it. You can sit in the shed next to the cross and enjoy the view. If you want to spend there a couple of hours, it is worth bringing a tea/coffee and some snacks to the summit. Sometimes there are cold winds at the top so bring the right clothes.
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The trail starts about a 40-minute drive from Mestia. In Mestia, take a taxi (jeep) that will take you there and wait for your return to take you back (or schedule a pickup time with your driver). The trail is marked in red and white, at the beginning of which you cross a bridge over the stream and continue hiking using the red and white signs. After a few km, you will reach a bridge at the end of which there is a hut that belongs to the Georgian army so there is nothing to panic about. The trek will take 6-8 hours so make sure you start early. When it comes to glaciers, this is one of the most beautiful daily hiking trails and possibly the most amazing.
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The trail to Chalaadi Glacier is about 15 km round-trip, which starts in Mestia and continues northeast (you can easily get directions from any local you meet on the way to the start of this trail or to use the tourist information center). You start this trek by crossing a bridge, then passing the airport (Tamar airport), and later crossing another wonderful wooden bridge. The trail starts at an altitude of 1,490 while the glacier is at an altitude of 1,920 meters above sea level so nothing to worry about climbing too much. When reaching the lower part of Chalaadi Glacier you will feel the power and the amazing colors appear from the ice cave at the bottom of it. Make sure you don't get too close to the glacier because there rockslides. Use the same trail to return back to Mestia. You can also take a taxi that will take you closer to the glacier, thus shortening the trail to two and a half hours (if you take a taxi in both directions).
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One of the best hiking trails that tourists love starts in a town called Mazeri and ends in Mestia. This is a recommended trek for those of you who are short on time and looking to see as much as possible. During the hike, you will see Koruldi Lakes, Mount Ushba, and more.
You can finish the trek in one full day or split it into two days (if you have camping equipment and you are well organized for it). The hike is 23.1 km long with a medium-high level of difficulty. The trail starts at an altitude of about 1,400 meters above sea level and reaches up to 3,000 Meters above sea level so prepare yourself for a good workout day in nature.
You can choose to start in Mastia and end in Mizra, or the other way around. we would recommend you to start in Mazeri and finish in Mastia but it is up to you. trail guide available in the link.
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Mestia to Ushguli
This famous trek is one of the main reasons tourists love this place and choose to visit it. The trek is designed for advanced hikers who have done some trekking in the past and are familiar with navigation and weather conditions as the road is not always easy (ascents, water crossings, smooth rocks). On the other hand, you can feel relaxed walking into it as it is not too complicated and you can even find families who completed the trek and enjoyed an amazing 3-4 days of walking in the wild nature of Sabanti Province. Mestia to Ushguli trek is 57 km long as the lowest part is about 1400 meters above sea level and the highest part (while crossing mountains) is around 3100 meters above sea level.
During the summer season, you can see many groups of people reaching the area to complete this wonderful trek so don't worry about feeling alone. Some hikers who are looking for a bit more comfort can choose to end each hiking day in a small town next to the trail and spend the night in a guesthouse (make sure you made all preparations in advance as there are only a few accommodations in those small towns along the way) while some hikers prefer the "hard way" and choose to sleep in tents (usually near towns).
The trek between Mestia and Ushguli takes 3-4 days and here is the way we recommend to do it (detailed trail guide in the link):
Day 1 - Mestia to Zhabeshi - The first-day hike is 16.1 km
Day 2 - Zhabeshi to Adishi - Second-day hike is 10.6 km
Day 3 - Adishi to Iprali - Third-day hike is 18.7 km
Day 4 - Iprali to Ushguli - Forth day hike is 12.4 km
The first and last days are the easiest days while the second and third are the hardest. Some of those tiny villages along the trail (such as Adishi) will offer you to use horses for a part or all of the trail for a negotiable price so you can combine several activities into one awesome trek.
It is important to note that you can also reach Ushguli from Mestia by jeep or by shuttle and return on the same day (for those of you who are in a hurry but still don't want to miss it). Try to arrange your trip so you can stay in Ushguli for a night or two (don't forget to book a place in advance) because there are places worth visiting around Ushguli such as the Shkhara Glacier mentioned at the top of the article. While you are here, don't forget to meet some new people, talk to the locals, and see how they live and enjoy the fresh air and unforgettable views.
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