Mestia is the central town of Georgia’s Upper Svaneti region. It’s located 1,500 meters above sea level and about 450 km. away from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital city. Mestia is often the starting point for various trips all over the region. In winter, hikers would trek from Mestia towards the bottom of Ushba, known for its beautiful glaciers. The town is also the passage to the most remote village of Georgia, Ushguli.
Visitors who love nature and are interested to learn more about the history and culture of Svaneti should visit Mestia. The town has plenty of hotels, guesthouses, and ski resorts that make it a convenient place to visit.
Brief Overview of Mestia
Mestia is located in the northwest area of Georgia. It’s the capital of the Upper Svaneti region. The administrative centre is Daba Mestia and encompasses the entire territory of Zemo Svaneti including the Enguri River that flows towards the border of Samegrelo. The municipality of Mestia is a mountainous region that has up to 200 glaciers, the highest of which is the peak of Shkhara.
Mestia is known for its picturesque landscape consisting of gorgeous mountains and an abundance of historical and cultural monuments. All over the town, you’ll find ancient Svan towers and some old churches. The tower plays an important role in Georgian culture and history. Some are attached to the residential houses while others are in a separate area. These towers are defensive dwellings that were built around the 9th Century.
What to See in Mestia
There are tons of attractions and historical sights to visit in Mestia. If you want to learn more about the culture and history of the Svans, check out the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography. Opened in 1936, this museum showcases some of the most significant historical artifacts collected all over the region.
If you’re here to hike, then Mestia is definitely your paradise. One of the most popular hiking routes is the one that goes towards the Chaladi Glacier. This route only takes 5 to 6 hours and is relatively moderate. Thus, it appeals to hikers of all skill levels. There are also lots of beautiful lakes in Mestia that are truly worth a visit for nature lovers. Some of these lakes can be found at the foot of Mount Ushba, which is 2,000 meters above sea level and surrounded by the most scenic views of the mountain.
Another exciting thing to do in Mestia is to dine at the highest restaurant in Svaneti, which is located in Mount Zuruldi. Getting here requires some adventure. You’ve got to drive for about 8 km. to Hatsvali. From here, you’ll take a 1.5 km long ropeway. But once you get there, you’ll be rewarded with the breathtaking views of the Caucasus Mountains range.
If you have more time, go visit Ushguli, said to be the most remote settlement in Europe that’s continuously inhabited. This charming village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located more than 2,000 meters above sea level. It’s right at the base of Mount Shkhara and surrounded by breathtaking views of snow-peaked mountains.
How To Visit Mestia
There are various ways to reach Mestia from the capital city of Tbilisi. But the most popular option is to take the minibuses, also known as marshrutkas. These buses depart every day from Navtlugi Intercity Bus Terminal and the earliest departure time is 7 AM. The journey should take 4 - 5 hours.
It’s also possible to travel by train. You can take the night train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi. From Zugdidi, you can take the marshrutka going to Mestia. This will take around 3 - 4 hours.
Mestia is a truly wonderful place to visit, especially if you’re someone who loves adventure. Your treks will be rewarded with the most gorgeous views of nature. If you’re a history and culture buff, Mestia has also tons of things to offer for you. Here, you’ll learn more about the colourful history of Georgia, most especially the Svaneti region.