Easy, and yet very scenic walk in the vicinity of Mestia.
A shorter version of wonderful Mestia - Tsvirmi walk. It climbs onto Zuruldi range and offers phenomenal views of some of the most prominent peaks of Caucasus such as Ushba, Tetnuldi, and Layla.
You walk to the transmitter on Mentashi hill and then return the same way you arrived.
It needs to be noted that this is not purely walking trip - you will have to use a cable car to get you to the top of the ridge. The hike can be prolonged to Tsvirmi.
Duration: 3-7 hours
It depends on whether you take a taxi from Mestia to Hatsvali station or not. If you do, you can finish it in 3-4 hours (taxi and cable car ride included).
If you don't, you will need about least 7 hours to hike to the transmitter and back.
Also depends on whether you take a taxi to Hatsvali or not. If you take it both ways, it’s just a short, easy stroll. If you don’t, it's pretty long hike.
I recommend a taxi at least for the way back - walk to Hatsvali is pleasant in the morning,
but returning the same way could be quite dull (especially in the afternoon when it's much hotter).
Taxi is not cheap, but even if you are solo, you can always approach other tourists and form a bigger group.
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 Hatsvali
You can shorten the trip if you hire a taxi to drive you first 9 km from Mestia to Hatsvali Ski station.
This section follows new concrete road so many people will be tempted to take a taxi.
Still, its a nice walk mostly in the pine forest with occasional views of Mestia and Ushba. And you can, as always, try to hitchhike.
Also here, the taxi drivers got used to tourists - they usually ask 30-40 GEL for 9 km ride. You can haggle it down to 20-25, but usually no less.
But if that's too much for you, you can, as always, hitchhike.
Hatsvali cable car
Modern cable car built in 2010. Price is 5 GEL for a roundtrip. Near the upper station is a restaurant with terrace and gorgeous views.
The cable car operates from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. It doesn't work in rainy or foggy weather.
If you are not sure, I recommend to ask at Visitor’s center at Seti Square and confirm if it currently operates or not.
Description of the route
The trail starts at Seti Square. Leave it by a street heading to the southeast, after 200 meters cross the bridge and turn right. Cross another bridge and walk by a museum.
Main road here bends to the east - follow it, pass few more houses and leave the village.
After 1,5 kilometers, the road splits. Turn right in the direction of Hatsvali. The next section is a bit tedious walk on a concrete road.
Ignore all smaller roads and after 6 kilometers and few more bends, you will come to the Hatsvali ski station.
There should also be one shortcut which climbs from Mestia directly through the forest and joins concrete road later.
I guess it´s the much better option, it´s shorter and you will spend less time on the concrete road.
However, I haven´t discovered it during my visit and only later found it on the online map.
If someone wants to scout it, here is the GPS log.
Please, let me know if you try it - I would like to rewrite the article once I get more info about it.
Take a cable car ride to the top of Zuruldi range, then head east. Walk between trees, cross the small meadow and you will come to a bigger dirt road.
It will take you all the way to Mentashi transmitter, which is already visible to the east. There is only one crossroad halfway, in front of a small hill -
if you take left branch, you will climb to the nameless transmitter (limited views), if you take the right one, the trail will bypass the mount.
But no matter which path you choose, both will merge again and you will have to climb a hundred meters to another transmitter.
Mentashi hill offers breathtaking views in all directions and is an excellent place for a break. Then its time to return back the same way you arrived.
However, there is still much to look forward to, especially the cable car ride. Views when riding downwards are even better as you see Ushba all the time without need to twist your neck.