An extended version of our popular Svaneti trekking tour, suitable for those who have enough time and want to truly explore the most scenic places of Svaneti region. It contains the best parts of the classic Svaneti tour - the crossing of Chkhunderi pass, an alternative, little-used crossing to Ushguli through 3000m high Lagem pass as well as extra time devoted to Ushguli village. And, thanks to the extra time, we were able to extend in the opposite direction and include more hikes, some of the best ones in Svaneti.
Over several days, we will trek in the vicinity of Mt. Ushba, the most photogenic mountain in Svaneti and we will also climb to Mkheri church tucked beneath Mt. Laila, which offers wonderful panoramic views of Greater Caucasus.
|Date||No. of participants||Duration||Deposit|
|09. 08. - 16. 08. 2023||7 - 15 (CANCELLED)||8 days||€150|
From Zugdidi to Mestia:
Marshrutkas to Mestia leave from Zugdidi every day, there is at least one in late morning and one in the afternoon. Morning marshrutka departs from the bus station situated by the bridge around 10 am (or even later if not full). Afternoon marshrutka waits for passengers of morning train from Tbilisi, which arrives around 14:30. Therefore, they wait in front of the Zugdidi train station. There might be some odd marshrutka in-between on you might get lucky and board marshrutka stopping at Zugdidi along its route to Mestia, but that cannot be guaranteed.
Either way, the price of the ride is 40 GEL and the trip takes almost 4 hours, mostly due to a rather large pause these buses tend to make around Khaishi.
If you get lucky or travel in a larger group, it could make more sense to secure your spot at shared taxi that depart from the station by the bridge (and in the afternoon from train station as well). The price tends to be 200 GEL per the whole car (50 GEL pp if the taxi is full), but varies depending on the situation. Trip is faster since any break is optional, takes 3 hours or so.
From Tbilisi to Mestia:
Few years ago, the best option used to be the overnight train to Zugdidi. However, it was cancelled in 2020 due to covid and there are no signs that it's going to be restored anytime soon. The only viable replacement used to be a long-distance night bus, which could also save you a lots of time, but won't be as comfortable as that cancelled sleeper train. Unfortunately, it seems that right now (summer 2023), they are not running them either, only bus leaving around noon, but it might be worth checking out Omnibus website to see if they were reinstated.
Currently, I would recommend the day train. It departs from Tbilisi at 8:40 and makes it to Zugdidi at 14:34, just in time to catch some of the last marshrutkas to Svaneti. The price of the ride starts at 16 GEL, which is less than 5 EUR. Tickets can be bought in advance at matarebeli.ge website (the official web is railway.ge, but that never worked for me). Just one important thing - tickets are released for the online sale only some 15 days in advance, but it's not explained anywhere. So don´t freak out if you can´t buy your ticket online because of the "no tickets available", "trains not found" or some similar error. Just try later :)
If you fail to secure the spot on the train, you may be forced to take a direct marshrutka - two minibuses depart at 7:00 from the area in front of Main Railway Station, come at least 30 minutes earlier to catch a spot. Another one departs at 8:00 from Samgori railway station and there should be something from Didube as well. The price is 40 GEL, so it´s quite cheap, but I can´t recommend it since this uncomfortable journey takes grueling 9-10 hours - basically, it's just slower, marginally cheaper and much less comfortable alternative for the day train.
If the are not travelling alone and don't mind spending some extra bucks, you might prefer a direct taxi. Those can be either arranged at bus stations or prebooked - looking at the prices of one of the most popular Georgian transport website, gotrip.ge, prices for the private transfer from Tbilisi to Mestia start at 650 GEL (230 EUR) for the group of 4.
The last option you could consider is flight - there are 4 flights a week from Natakhtari airport near Tbilisi, operated by VanillaSky company . You would see Caucasus from a completely different perspective and for 90 GEL it´s quite a bargain. On the downside, they occassionally get canceled because of the weather and during the summer, you should book at least month in advance since they get booked up pretty fast. For more info, pls check this excellent post about the flight (covers also flight from Kutaisi).
From Kutaisi to Mestia:
This depends on whether you want to get to Mestia from the city or from the Kutaisi airport.
In the first case, your best options is the direct minibus (the price is 40 GEL) departing from the station behind McDonalds. There is a fixed departure between 9:00 and 10:00 am, but if you want to secure your spot, better get there at 8:00-8:30 since it's popular among tourists and will depart much sooner if full.
According to locals, if this marshrutka gets full and leaves before 9:00 am, they will send another one. If it gets full later, they might not.
There may be also others during the day if there are enough tourists, but I wouldn´t rely on that. If you miss them and there is none other direct bus available, look for a marshrutka to Zugdidi (price 10 GEL) - it's the same way and you can find there transport to Mestia more easily (especially if you notify your driver in Kutaisi that you need to continue to Mestia).
If you are travelling directly from the airport, you also have some options. If you are travelling alone, you can arrange a transfer to Kutaisi at Georgian bus stand (5 GEL or so) and take marshrutka from there. Or, if you are willing to spend extra money and save time, find someone to share taxi with. It's actually pretty easy - do you see any people with hiking backpacks? If yes, there is a pretty high chance they are heading to Svaneti so this is a great chance to save some money and get to know some people.
If you are not alone and travel straight from the airport, you might want to book your taxi in advance. In this case, at gotrip.ge, prices of the transfer from the Kutaisi airport to Mestia start at 340 GEL, which is actually pretty solid. If you haggle with taxi drivers loitering around the airport and don't look to desperate, you might get a better price, but not by much.
From Batumi to Mestia:
Marshrutka is the only option, it departs from the main bus station. Since you will have switch the bus in Zugdidi (you may have to wait for several hours there), this ride takes a better part of the day. The first bus departs at 8:00 am, then there should be another one at 9:30 am.
In the morning, we will meet up at Mestia. From here, we will drive to Etseri, the seat of Dadeskheliani princes who ruled the western, "tame" half of Svaneti. From there, we will head northeast and scale 2428 meters high Baki pass. From here, the first views of Ushba open up. We follow the ridge to the south till we reach Meziri Archangel church. Soon afterward, we will descend through a beautiful pine forest to the Mazeri village. Night at Mazeri guesthouse
Today, we will follow the Dolra river deeper into the valley. The route flat at first, at least till be cross the bridge close to border guards camp. Not far beyond roars reach Shdughra waterfall, by our opinion the most impressive waterfall in Georgia. Then we will climb above the waterfalls and cross young forests, meadows and finally a moraine to the foot of Ushba glacier - the views of mountains around are unforgettable. To conserve energy, we won´t hike all the way to Mazeri - cars will pick us up halfway there, by a small snack bar with beer and refreshments. Night at Mazeri guesthouse.
Today, we will scale the Guli pass, one of the highest places of our tour. First, we will navigate the Gulichala valley, enjoying splendid morning views of Mt. Ushba. Then comes the steep climb to the pass. Once finally up, we will follow the ridge towards Mt. Gul, descent the bit and traverse the hillside to Lamaaja ridge. Here, we will rejoin the dirt track and descend to the viewpoint at Tshakazagari mountain, where we will board cars and drive to a small, non-touristy village Lakhushdi. Night at the local guesthouse.
Today, we will climb to the picturesque Mkheri church, using a new, little-known route, more scenic than the usual one. The church is situated at the top of a hill beneath Mt. Laila, the highest peak of the Svaneti range. If the weather allows, we will get an opportunity to admire its glaciers as well as a wonderful panorama of the mountain wall of Greater Caucasus. Then we will return to our Lakhushdi guesthouse and enjoy a special dinner prepared by our friendly landlords.
In the morning, we will be transferred to Heshkili village, from where we will begin our ascent onto the Zuruldi ridge. Once we reach the cable car station, the terrain flattens and we will be able to enjoy terrific views in all directions. After a steep descent from the Mentashi transmitter, we will follow a rarely used trail through until meadows until we connect larger track descending to Tsvirmi. Tsvirmi is a calm, atmospheric village, still undiscovered by mass tourism. We will spend a night at one of the local guesthouses.
In the morning, transfer to Adishi (or Tetnuldi resort, if a guide decides that the group is fit enough). Here, we will reconnect classic Mestia - Ushguli trail just in time to enjoy it´s most scenic section. First, we will follow the Adischala river towards the Adishi glacier, where it originates. We will cross it with the assistance of a horse and climb towards Chkhunderi pass (2600m). Then we descent to Khaldechala valley and soon reach almost abandoned Khalde village. Here, we will spend a night in one of the local guesthouses.
Today, we will be joined one more guide and our group splits into two - it will be up to you which route you would like to take. If you are up for a challenge, you will cross the Khaldechala river and climb Lagem pass. From here, you will enjoy great views of Mt. Shkhara, the highest Georgian mountain. Then you will descend to the Enguri valley and reach Ushguli. Night at the Ushguli guesthouse.
If you want to take it easy, you can also follow the classic route to Ushguli which follows the Enguri river. Both groups will rejoin in the afternoon at Ushguli.
In the morning, climb south towards the Gorvashi pass. From here, you can enjoy the wonderful mountain panorama of the Greater Caucasus. After a short hike on the ridge, return to Ushguli. Alternatively, since this is a roundtrip, this walk is not mandatory and you can also make your program. For example, if you are interested in a horse trip to Shkhara glacier or Zagar pass, our guide will help you to find providers of the service and negotiate it. Or you can just stay chilling in the village if you are really tired after the previous days. Either way, you will meet all again around 3 pm and be transported back to Mestia.
If you consider joining one of our tours, you should understand how our booking process works - so what happens after you fill in that form to the right.