Again, we took a well-established trek, extended it and improved it as much as possible. In this case, even the "basic material" is more than solid - "Mestia to Ushguli" is the most famous Georgian trek, and for a good reason. It offers excellent views, passes through several traditional Svan villages and doesn´t involve any complicated logistics.
So what was improved? Most importantly, day 4. While the classic trail follows a river valley, we will take an alternative, virtually unknown route through the mountains and cross another 3000+ pass right beneath Mt. Shkhara. Also, while many people after reaching Ushguli make a short stroll around a village and hurry back to Mestia, we think it would be a crime not to spend a night here. So we added one more day - you will use it to climb to the top of Svaneti ridge so you can enjoy whole panorama of Greater Caucasus.
|Date||No. of participants||Duration||Deposit|
|09. 7. - 13. 7. 2019||7 - 15 (FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
|11. 7. - 15. 7. 2019||7 - 15 (GUARANTEED)||5 days||not necessary|
|15. 7. - 19. 7. 2019||7 - 15 (FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
|17. 7. - 21. 7. 2019||7 - 15 (GUARANTEED)||5 days||not necessary|
|29. 7. - 02. 8. 2019||7 - 15 (FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
|5. 8. - 9. 8. 2019||7 - 15 (FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
|6. 8. - 10. 8. 2019||7 - 15 (FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
|12. 8. - 16. 8. 2019||7 - 15 (GUARANTEED)||5 days||not necessary|
|26. 8. - 30. 8. 2019||7 - 15 (ALMOST FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
|19. 9. - 23. 9. 2019||7 - 15 (FULL)||5 days||not necessary|
From Zugdidi to Mestia:
Marshrutkas to Mestia leave from Zugdidi train station every day. The first one departs around 6:30 a.m, after the arrival of the night train from Tbilisi, but there should be several others before noon. The last one usually departs at 14:30. The trip takes about 3-4 hours (1-hour break included) and the price is 20 GEL per person.
From Tbilisi to Mestia:
In my opinion, the best option is the night train to Zugdidi and marshrutka from there. Train departs from Tbilisi at 21:45 and reaches Zugdidi at 6:05 am. Price of the ticket is 21 GEL, tickets for sleeper berths 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 20 days in advance. So don´t freak out if you can´t buy your ticket online because of the "no tickets available" error :)
There is also a day train option for those who don't like sleepers. This train departs from Tbilisi at 8:10 and makes it to Zugdidi at 13:45, just in time to catch some of the last marshrutkas to Svaneti. The price of the ride is 16 GEL.
If you want to save time, you could also consider a 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 ocassionally 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).
The last option is the 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. The price is 30 GEL, so it´s quite cheap, but I can´t recommend it since this uncomfortable journey takes grueling 9-10 hours - besically, it's just slower, marginally cheaper and less comfortable alternative for the day train.
If you want to take bus, it much better to take comfortable long-distance buses operated by the Turkish company Metro bus. The downside is that they will get you only as far as to Zugdidi. There, you will have to switch to marshrutka to get to Mestia.
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 are the direct minibuses (the price is 25 GEL) departing from the station behind McDonalds. The first one leaves at 9:00 but if you want to secure your spot, get there between 8:00 - 8:30 am. since it's quite popular among tourists. The next marshrutka then departs at 10:00 or even earlier if full. If you miss both and there is none other direct bus available, look for a marshrutka to Zugdidi (price 7 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, the most reliable way to get to Mestia is the use the service of Georgian bus (they have a stand at the airport) - the price is 40 GEL per person. You ask also ask some taxi drivers loitering at the arrivals hall, they may be willing to give you even a better price.
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.
First day of the trek mostly follows the dirt trail which snakes through the pastures and slowly climbs onto forested Chkhuti ridge. Then it descends into Mulkhura valley, passes several beautiful villages, crosses the river and ends in Zhabeshi. Night at the Zhabeshi guesthouse.
Before noon, steep climb towards the Tetnuldi resort. Then, a walk through the alpine pastures will take you to the Adishi village, hidden at the bottom of Adischala valley.
Trek deeper into the valley, towards Adishi glacier. Crossing of Adischala river with the assinsance of a horse and climb towards Chkhunderi pass (2600m). Descent to Khaldechala valley. Night at the Khalde guesthouse.
After a short backtracking, cross Khaldechala river by the ruined bridge and climb to the Southern Karetta pass which provides great views of Mt. Shkhara, the highest Georgian mountain. From there, descend to the Inguri valley and reach Ushguli. Night at the Ushguli guesthouse.
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 own program. For example, if you are interested in 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 previous four days. Either way, you will meet all again around 3 pm and be transported back to Mestia.