Mestia

Mestia is a city in Upper Svaneti, Georgia.

Understand

Mestia

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.

Tourist Centre

Get in

By plane

  Queen Tamar Airport. Mestia's airport opened in 2010.

Note: 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.

By helicopter

There is also an option to fly to Mestia from Tbilisi by helicopter. The duration of the flight is 1.5 hours. There are a few companies organizing these flights. Unfortunately, these organizations suspended flights for the fall of 2014 due to various reasons, however, there are chances the flights will be started again in early 2015.

By train

From Tbilisi, take the 21:10 night train reaching Zugdidi at 6:25. From outside Zugdidi station, take a marshrutka to Mestia. Marshrutka ticket price: 15 Lari (Georgian) / 20 Lari (foreigners). Duration: about 4 hours + an unpredictable waiting time in Zugdidi (up to 7 or 8 hours) if you don't arrive with the overnight train.

Trains can be full (especially private cabins), so book several days in advance.

By bus

  Bus station.

From Mestia, one marshrutka leaves towards Zugdidi everyday at 5:00. Sometimes (but only sometimes!), other marshrutkas leave at 6:00, 7:00M, and even 8:00 during the high season (but probably not later than that). Later, you need to use a private taxi. Travel time is 2 - 2.5 hours.

There are also marshrutkas from Mestia to Kutaisi (not regular) and Tbilisi (daily).

As of August 2015, it appears that the only public option to leave Mestia to Zugdidi or Tbilisi is at 08:00 a.m. daily (according to several guesthouses and the tourism office). Seats can be reserved by your guesthouse, price to Zugdidi is 20 Lari. The bus stops at the train station in Zugdidi, connections to Poti, Batumi and other cities are available.

By car

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 6.5 hrs.

Get around

The city is small enough to be covered by foot.

See

Do

Hiking routes

Skiing

There are two ski resorts close to Mestia.

Tetnuldi

(This information applies to the winter season 15/16 and will change next season.) At this time, Tetnuldi resort is still under construction. Only one of three projected lifts is 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 11 am, which is also free, it returns when the lift closes, around 5 pm.

Hatsvali

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 GEL for locals and between 20 and 25 GEL 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 GEL 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.

Buy

There are Liberty bank branch, two ATMs and one currency exchange office (with just marginally worse rates than elsewhere in Georgia).

Eat

Mestia has several restaurants and cafés in town.

Drink

Of course, as anywhere in Georgia, marvelous Georgian wine and chacha!

Sleep

Several people rent rooms in their houses as well:

Becho village

Connect

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.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 27, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.