Overview for Mestia and the Trails of Svaneti
Situated on the southern slopes of the central Caucasus Mountains and surrounded by 3,000–5,000 meter peaks, Svaneti is the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus. Four of the 10 highest peaks of the Caucasus are located in the region. The highest mountain in Georgia, Mount Shkhara at 5,201 meters, is located in the province.
Svaneti is known for its architectural treasures and picturesque landscapes. The famous Svanetian tower houses erected mainly in the 9th-12th centuries are a highlight. In the province there are dozens of Georgian orthodox churches and various fortified buildings. Architectural monuments of Upper Svanetia are included in a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Bordering Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the region known variously as the Caucasus, the South Caucasus, or Transcaucasia is one of the most biologically, culturally and linguistically diverse regions in the world – yet one that few have had the chance to explore. Now, united by a shared vision of a long-distance trail network across the region, a growing community of local and international hikers, cartographers and conservationists is putting this hidden gem on the map to help ensure that the landscapes and heritage of the region can be enjoyed by future generations.
Itinerary for Mestia and the Trails of SvanetiGo to top of page
Day 1: Tbilisi – Mestia
A transfer will pick you early in the morning from your hotel in Tbilisi (not included in the package, an extra night in Tbilisi bookable as an option), and much of the day is spent driving. Mestia is a central and the biggest town in Upper Svaneti at an elevation of 1,500 meters. Historically and ethnographically, Mestia has always been regarded a chief community of Zemo, or Upper Svaneti province. The population is mostly Svans, a cultural and linguistic subgroup of the Georgians. Despite its small size, the townlet was an important centre of Georgian culture for centuries and contains a number of medieval monuments, such as churches and forts, included in a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Because driving will take most of the day, no activity is planned today. Mestia offers many restaurants with great local cuisine.
- Transfer time: around 9 hours.
- Overnight in a family-run guesthouse
Day 2: Mestia
You have 2 options how to spend the day in Mestia. You can either have a cultural day, visit museums and walk around the town (option 1) or hike to the cross above Mestia (option 2).
Option 1: Walk along the paths running between the fences of different family yards, pass by the famous Svanetian towers and observe a village life. Visit Mestia Historical-Ethnographic Museum, where unique manuscripts and icons are kept. Also visit Mikheil Khergiani House-Museum. He was a very famous Georgian alpinist. In his House-Museum you can learn about his career and also see a room which shows an old traditional Svanetian way of living and layout of the room.
Option 2: From Mestia you can hike to the cross which is located above Mestia and is visible from the town. It offers great views of Mestia and the surrounding area. Hike will take about 2 hours uphill (one way) and starts from the Seti square.
- Walking for the day: 4 hours (optional)
- Overnight in a family-run guesthouse
Day 3: Mestia – Zhabeshi
From the park in Mestia town center, head down the road southeast which leads towards the museum. Cross the bridge just past the restaurant Dror, immediately turning left after the river. Walk to the village of Lahkiri, cross the valley and reach Cholashi and its beer bar where you have a refreshment, and continue north of the Mulkhura to Zhabeshi at the end of the valley. This was the normal route before summer of 2017, when a major storm washed out the bridges. Until the fall 2017, the only way to cross the river in Zhabeshi was via a zip-line (Tyrolean traverse) set up and operated by a local mountain guide (ticket not included). An easier and more comfortable way to get to Zhabeshi is to cross the car bridge after Cholashi.
- Walking for the day: 15 km, 5-6h ↑730m ↓500m
- Overnight in a guesthouse
Day 4: Zhabeshi – Adishi
From Zhabeshi, the trail is marked with red and white signs following the road south from Zhabeshi. Walk past the Tetnuldi ski resort. Then follow the path to the village of Adishi.
- Walking for the day: 10 km, 4h ↑930m ↓430m
- Overnight in a guesthouse
Day 5: Adishi – Khalde – Transfer to Ushguli
Walk past the village of Adishi and up along the Adishchala River. Cross the river and follow the trail that leads up to the Chkhunderi Pass. It is a relatively steep ascent and It should take around two hours to reach the pass. Descend to the valley below where you will reach a 4×4 track that follows Khaldeschala River, following the north side as it flows down toward the village of Khalde. In Khalde, a driver will meet you and transfer you to Ushguli located at the foot of Mt. Shkara (highest mountain in Georgia, 5,201m).
- Walking for the day: 15 km, 7h ↑640m ↓660m
- Overnight in a guesthouse
Day 6: Ushguli; Transfer to Zugdidi
Ushguli is one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the morning take a walk around Ushguli community which consists of five villages: Murkmeli, Chazhageshi, Chvibiani, Zhibiani and Lamjurishi, and feel the local life. Ushguli is located at an altitude of 2,100 metres. About 70 families (about 200 people) live in the area, enough to support a small school. Typical Svaneti defensive tower houses are found throughout the village. The Ushguli Chapel located on a hilltop near the village dates back to the 12th century.
- Walking for the day: optional walks in the Ushguli area. Afternoon transfer to Zugdidi (5 hours, part of them on a bumpy dirt road)
- Overnight in a guesthouse or hotel in Zugdidi
Day 7: Ushguli – Tbilisi / Departure, Extra Night or Onward Travel
Zugdidi is the capital of Samegrelo region and a busy town. Before departing to Tbilisi you will visit Dadiani Palace (an aristocrat family residence) which hosts multiple exhibitions including natural cultural heritage of Georgia, manuscripts from 13th -14th centuries, miniatures, memorial relics of Dadiani dynasty, etc.
- Driving time: 5 hours
- It is possible to split the transfer and stay in Kutaisi on the way to Tbilisi, where you could visit Prometheus cave and Bagrati Cathedral in Kutaisi. Optional extra nights in Kutaisi and/or Tbilisi bookable on request.
Hotels for Mestia and the Trails of SvanetiGo to top of page
6 nights in family run guesthouses. Although most guesthouses have private rooms (double or twin), they offer only basic amenities and facilities are often shared. However they are clean and offer genuine contact with the local culture and unique opportunities to experience the way of living in Svaneti. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality.
Breakfast is always included, as well as packed lunches and dinners in the mountains as listed in the What’s Included section.
Travel for Mestia and the Trails of SvanetiGo to top of page
Our recommended arrival airport for this holiday is Tbilisi.
Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
Transfers to/from Airports
Airport transfers to Tbilisi are not included, Tbilisi downtown is easily reachable from the airport using public transport (train, bus) or taxi.
All luggage transfers on walking days are included (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person).
Country and Visa Info
UK citizens and most West European citizens do not need to obtain visa to enter Georgia. Detailed information regarding visa requirements can be found here. If visa is required, travellers can apply for e-Visa here.
The region where our trips take place is completely safe, as it is located far from the conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Up-to-date travel advice on Georgia is available here.
Detailed travel information will be provided in your holiday information pack.
Trip Info for Mestia and the Trails of SvanetiGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Moderate
This holiday is appropriate for walkers with a good level of fitness (read more about difficulty grades).
We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to Go
This trip is available from June until September. Earliest departure date is 8 June; latest departure date is 17 September.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date in the season – so please indicate desired beginning date when booking.
The climate in the region is continental, cold and temperate. Svaneti has alpine weather with long, cold and snowy winters. In June and September snowfall is also possible. And even in summer it can become cold, especially during the night.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing not more than 20 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.
- Good hiking boots
- Hiking socks
- Several t-shirts (cotton or preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat/Baseball cap
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
Included for Mestia and the Trails of SvanetiGo to top of page
- Detailed holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps
- Tbilisi to Svaneti arrival and departure transfers
- 2x lunches on the way to/from Svaneti
- Accommodation for 5 nights in Svaneti
- Breakfast and dinner in the villages of Svaneti (excluding dinners in Mestia)
- Lunch boxes for the hikes
- Dadiani Palace entrance ticket in Zugdidi
- Hotel in Zugdidi (incl. breakfast)
- All luggage transfers
- GPS tracks to use for navigation on our smartphone app
- 24/7 phone assistance by our representative in Tbilisi
Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements
- Single room supplement: available only in Zugdidi upon request
- This holiday is available for solo travellers, there is a solo traveller supplement as transfer and hotel costs are not shared
Please click the CHECK AVAILABILITY button above to see the price of the holiday and the different options, extras and supplements for your desired dates.
Other Trip-Related Costs
- Entrance fees for attractions and museums
- Meals in Tbilisi
- Dinners in Mestia
- Dinner in Zugdidi
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the program
- Extra nights in Tbilisi
- Extra nights in Kutaisi on the way from/to Tbilisi and wine tasting tours
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