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Hidden Gems
Mestia and the Trails of Svaneti 33

Mestia and the Trails of Svaneti

Overview

Situated on the southern slopes of the central Caucasus Mountains and surrounded by 3000–5000-metre 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 5201 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.

Our Co-Founder Peter Duncan hiked in Georgia in 2019. You can read his blog post here.

Click to view map

Itinerary

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 1500 meters. Historically and ethnographically, Mestia has always been regarded as 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 for 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 two options on 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 village life. Visit the 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. The 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 | 15 km

From the park in Mestia town centre, 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 the summer of 2017, when a major storm washed out the bridges. Until autumn of 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 | 10 km

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 | 15 km

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 (the highest mountain in Georgia, 5201m).

  • 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 2100 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: Zugdidi – Tbilisi / Departure, Extra Night or Onward Travel

Zugdidi is the capital of the Samegrelo region and a busy town. Before departing to Tbilisi you can visit Dadiani Palace (an aristocrat family residence) which hosts multiple exhibitions including the 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.

What to Expect

Accommodation

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.

Click to view pictures of our default hotels

Meals

Breakfast is always included, as well as dinners in the mountains as listed in the Included section.

Difficulty & terrain

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 early June until mid-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. 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.

Visa Info

UK citizens and most West European citizens do not need to obtain a visa to enter Georgia. Detailed information regarding visa requirements can be found here. If a visa is required, travellers can apply for e-Visa here.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

The regions where our Georgia trips take place are completely safe, as they are located far from the conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended airport for this tour is Tbilisi.

By train or bus
  • Airport transfers to Tbilisi are not included, Tbilisi downtown is easily reachable from the airport using public transport (train, bus) or taxi.
  • Private airport transfers are available upon request

Inclusions

Included

  • Detailed holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps
  • Tbilisi to Svaneti arrival and departure transfers
  • Accommodation and breakgast in Mestia (2 nights)
  • Accommodation, breakfast and dinners in Svaneti (3 nights)
  • Accommodation and breakfast in Zugdidi (1 night)
  • All luggage transfers
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners not mentioned in the itinerary, drinks and snacks
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the program

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared
  • Entrance fees for attractions and museums
  • Extra nights in Tbilisi
  • Tbilisi guided walking tour
  • Extra nights in Kutaisi on the way from/to Tbilisi and wine tasting tours

Gallery

Reviews

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Rating

     

Itay & Roni

Mestia and the Trails of Svaneti
There are not enough words to thank the natural adventure company and their local team for a miraculous adventure.
Ani did above and beyond to make us feel at home in Svaneti region - Georgia.
Like a good magician she created new tour options, like the flight to Mestia, which was a wonderful surprise.
The Trek logistics, and the warm welcome we received in every guesthouse and hotel are really amazing - 5 stars!!!
Without any doubt the natural adventure company is the way to go for vacations like this.

Definitely we will meet again, and not in the far future.