Mestia is the cultural and historical center of the most mountainous region of Georgia, Svaneti. The town is located in a picturesque valley at the foot of the Caucasus at an altitude of 1500 m. Despite its small size, there is something to see and do here. Medieval temples, chapels, ancient houses and, of course, the famous Svan towers of the Upper Svaneti region are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. But in recent years, people come here not only to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes, but also to go skiing – a modern ski resort was opened in the vicinity of Mestia a few years ago. Also, the city is considered the center of mountaineering and high-mountain tourism in Georgia; routes to the tops of the mountains Dzhangi-tau, Ushba, Shkhara and other peaks start from it. According to populationmonster, Mestia is one of the largest cities in Georgia.
How to get to Mestia
The fastest way to get from Tbilisi to Mestia is by plane. Aircraft of Vanilla Sky Airlines depart from the small suburban Natakhtari Airport daily, except Wednesday and Saturday at 10:00 and return back on Monday and Friday at 15:00, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 12:00. Flights are often canceled due to bad weather, so it’s worth having a fallback just in case.
There is a more budgetary, but less convenient option – a minibus. Minibuses to the city of Mestia depart from the Tbilisi railway station every day from 5:30, they do not have a clear schedule – they leave as they fill up. There are usually about 10 flights a day, and you will have to spend about 9 hours on the road.
An even cheaper option is the train + minibus. First you need to take a day train to Zugdidi (it leaves the Tbilisi railway station every day at 21:50 and arrives in Zugdidi at 6:05), and then transfer to a minibus to Svaneti. A train ticket will cost from 11 GEL (and a little over 5 hours on the road), and a minibus ride will cost about 23 GEL per passenger (about 2.5 hours on the way). There are also daytime express trains from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, but they arrive late, and the connection with minibuses is inconvenient – they may no longer run in principle. Prices on the page are for July 2021.
Accommodation in Mestia
There are several hotels and dozens of guesthouses in Mestia, most of which are rooms in the houses of local residents. On average, a hotel room costs 70-85 GEL, a room in a guest house will cost 50-60 GEL. If you come in the low season (October-May), you can find a guesthouse for 30 GEL per night. Accommodation prices depend on whether the room has its own toilet and shower, or they will need to be shared with other guests.
What to see
The Historical and Ethnographic Museum of Svaneti, founded in 1936, presents ancient artifacts found during excavations in the local villages of the region: engravings and ancient icons, ancient manuscripts, medieval headdresses, iron, copper and silver products and much more.
The visiting card of Svaneti is the high Svan towers. Although external enemies did not bother the Svans too much – it was almost impossible to get to them, but there were enough internal ones. The fact is that “litsvri” was widespread in Svaneti – blood feud, an analogue of a vendetta. According to some historians, over 5 centuries she interrupted more than 200 local births. In the event of a threat, supplies of food and water were brought into the tower, and cattle were driven to the lower level.
The house-museum of Mikhail Khergiani keeps the memory of the great Georgian mountaineer. On the first floor, personal belongings of the famous climber are presented: clothes, equipment, photographs, awards, gifts, including those from Vladimir Vysotsky.
The eastern facade of the hall of the temple of St. George in Ipari-Nakipari is richly decorated with images of plants and animals. The murals inside it date back to 1130. A real jewelry masterpiece of the 9th century is kept here: the icon of St. George.
The Church of Christ the Savior in the village of Latali, also known as “Matskhvarishi”, was founded in the 10th century. In the temple, rich in ancient frescoes, there is a Byzantine cross decorated with enamel.
The Transfiguration Cathedral stands in Lagami, the old part of Mestia. The first floor of the church dates back to the 9th century, here you can see many frescoes and paintings. The outer wall of the temple is covered with images: on the northern wall is a scene of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, and on the eastern wall is the hunting of St. Eustathius. In the church there is an icon of Christ of the 13th century engraved with silver and gold.
The Khatsvali ski resort is open 8 km from Mestia. Currently, there are 3 tracks: red (1900 m), blue (2600 m) and for beginners (300 m). Athletes of any level can enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Svaneti.
Mestia has a temperate climate. Summer is short and it often rains. The hottest month is July with an average temperature of only +17 °C. Winters are harsh and snowy, with strong winds. The coldest month is January, with an average temperature of -6°C.
The ski season in Mestia starts in December and starts in March. The best time for skiing is February, during this period there is a lot of snow.