Simple, yet very rewarding walk in the vicinity of Mestia.
Short, simple, yet very rewarding walk in the vicinity of Mestia. It 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.
The main reason why this walk has such a good ratio between views and the spent effort is the Hatsvali cable car. Now it's possible to ride all the way from Mestia to the top of Zuruldi ridge. All that expects you then is a simple stroll on a flat ridge - for this reason, this is the No. 1 pick if you have only a few hours and want to spend them in a best possible way. The hike can be prolonged to Tsvirmi. If you would like to hike to the top on your own (or the cable car is under maintenance, which happens surprisingly often during the high season), the purely walking route can be found in the description of the trek Mestia to Ushguli through Tsvirmi
Duration: 3 hours
The walk itself takes less than 2 hours. Even if we take into account a few breaks, the ride and the time needed to reach the cable car, you shouldn't need more than 3 hours to finish it
Nothing to write home about - this is an easy, comfortable stroll.
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 30 GEL, tickets for sleeper berths can be bought in advance at biletebi.ge website (the official web is railway.ge, but that never worked for me).
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 65 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).
Another option is the direct marshrutka - it departs at 6:00 from the area in front of Railway Station, come at least 30 minutes earlier to catch a spot. The price is 30 GEL, so it´s quite cheap, but I can´t recommned it since this uncomfortable journey takes grueling 9-10 hours.
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.
The first marshrutkas to Zugdidi, Batumi and Tbilisi depart early in morning, around 7 am. every day in the morning at (these should be booked one day in advance). There are more during the day, depending on the demand. The last marshrutka to Zugdidi leaves around 4 pm and it´s ideal if you want to catch the night train to Tbilisi.
For exact timetables and booking of the tickets, visit the travel offices at the station. Just keep in mind that there are several offices and don't buy tickets too far in advance. We met tourists who entered the first office, bought there tickets for the next bus which departed in 2 hours and then had to wait even though there were several other marshrutkas (operated by another offices). If you can't find a suitable tickets and are not under a time pressure, I recommend just to grab a beer at the bar by the station, sit on the terrace and check the situation once in a while - sooner or later, some driver driver will show up.
Hatsvali cable car
Modern cable car shipping people on the Zuruldi ridge. Middle and upper stations were built in 2011 - so in the past years, the hikers who wanted to reach them has to take a taxi or walk 9 km on a concrete road. This changed last winter, when was opened also lower station so tourists can comfortably drive up right from Mestia. The price for the ride to the top is 10 GEL, by the upper station is a restaurant with terrace and gorgeous views.
The cable car operates from 10:00 till 16:45 pm. It doesn't work in rainy or foggy weather. If you are not sure, ask at Visitor’s center at Seti Square and confirm if it currently works 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 for about 400 meters, then turn right. After another 100m, you should reach the lower Hatsvali station.
Buy the ticket, ride to the top (you will have to change line at the middle station). Once at the top of the Zuruldi ridge, 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.