From Mestia to Chalaadi glacier

Popular trail in the proximity of Mestia exploring the valley of Mestiachala river.

Another popular trail in the proximity of Mestia, this one is exploring the valley of Mestiachala river. I didn't expect too much as the walk is quite easy, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised by beautiful nature in the proximity of glacier. On the other hand, if you don't take a taxi, most of time is spent just by walking there and back on the dirt road and I think there are more exciting ways to get tired in Svaneti.

Duration: 2-6 hours

It takes some 5-6 hours to walk from Mestia to the glacier and back. As you walk on the dirt road most of the time, this time can be greatly reduced if you take a taxi to the bridge in the upper part of the valley. In such case, a walk takes circa 1,5 hours.

Difficulty: Easy / Moderate

Moderate if you walk all the way from Mestia - it's almost 25 km with little elevation gain. If you take a taxi to the bridge, difficulty is easy.

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How to get to Mestia:

Marshrutkas to Mestia leave from Zugdidi train station every day. The first one departs around 7 a.m, after the arrival of the night train from Tbilisi, but there should be several others before noon. The trip takes about 3 hours - price is usually 15-20 GEL per person, depending on your haggling skills.
If you prefer hiking, you can reach Mestia also on foot from Mazeri village through Guli pass.
And if you want to save time, you can also consider a flight from Tbilisi and Kutaisi. They are quite cheap (65 GEL), but occasionally get canceled because of the weather.

How to leave Mestia:

Marshrutkas to Zugdidi depart every day in the morning. There are usually a few more during the day, depending on the demand. In a high season there should also be daily marshrutkas to Tbilisi and Batumi, departing in the morning). For actual timetables and booking of tickets, please visit Bus Office near the new gate leading to Seti Square.

Taxi to the bridge

You can greatly shorten the trip if you hire a taxi to drive you 10 km deep into Mestiachala valley to the suspension bridge, where the dirt road ends. This section is a bit dull (at least by Svaneti standards), so it's not such a bad idea.
However, Mestia taxi drivers are already quite spoiled by tourists and usually charge 40-50 GEL for this ride. But if you ask them to wait for you and take you back, you shouldnt pay much more.

Description of the route

Trail parameters

Distance 23,4 km
Trail type: Roundtrip
Max. elevation: 1835m
Min. elevation: 1394m
Total climb: 515m
Total descent: 515m

Trail starts at the Mestia main square and follows the main road to the east, over the bridge. There is nowhere to get lost, just follow the road. Walk by the airport, pass few more houses and barns. Road then dives into a young forest, views get gradually better as you make it deeper into the valley.

After two hours of walking you will come to the bridge over Mestiachala river - valley here splits into two. The main river flows from the one to the right - this valley leads to the Russian border and is therefore not accesible. To get to the Chalaadi glacier you need to cross the bridge and head into valley on the left. Nature here is really nice, you are surrounded by mountains from all sides. This is also farthest place you can reach by taxi.

Cross the bridge - right behind it lies military border post. There is a decent chance that soldiers will ask you for passports. Then turn to the right and climb a bit, path here is well marked.

Next section of trail leads through beautiful pine forest. After some 15 minutes path comes to a river again and goes through a forest of young willows. Soon you will come to the edge of a moraine and from here its not far to the actual glacier - you will see it right in front og you. Whole walk from the last bridge to the glacier takes some 40 minutes.

Don´t come too close to the glacier as rocks falling there could be quite dangerous, they had already wounded and even killed several people. To return to Mestia, use the same route you arrived.

Those nice photos of Chalaadi glacier and Mestiachala are published with courtesy of Marcin Chalupka. More of his photos can be found and on his personal website.

Chalaadi glacier Mestia and Layla mountain Chuch of the Archangel in Lanchvali Into the Mestiachala valley Into the Mestiachala valley Chalaadi glacier Ushba and the small ranger station Upper Mestiachala valley Chalaadi glacier Ushba close-up elevation

Copyright © 2016 Jozef Antala. All rights reserved

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