Visiting the Svaneti Region in Northern Georgia

svaneti region
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The Svaneti region in Northern Georgia is perhaps the most beautiful area in all of Georgia.  With towering mountain peaks and remote villages scattered throughout valleys in the Greater Caucasus, Svaneti is remote, beautiful, and completely idyllic.  When I traveled throughout Svaneti, exploring the small and historic towns along the way, I felt as though I was in a different world entirely.

Svaneti is occupied by the Svans, a subgroup of Georgians, and the region contains the highest mountain peak in Georgia – Mount Shkhara (17,000+ feet tall).  It’s separated into two regions – Upper Svaneti on the upper Inguri River (main town Mestia) and Lower Svaneti on the upper Tskhenistsqali River (main town Lentekhi).  It’s considered to be the most “Georgian” region in Georgia because of its remoteness – invaders weren’t able to reach such difficult and remote land and even the communist party had a hard time influencing this region.

 

Traveling to the Svaneti Region (Mestia)

Getting to Svaneti can at times, be difficult, especially if you’re visiting during the winter months.  While you can access the area by air on Vanilla Sky from Tbilisi, the most popular way to get to Svaneti is by private car or marshrutka (a bus).

Mestia is one of the most developed villages in Svaneti and a good place for tourists to anchor themselves.  For purposes of this post, Mestia will be referenced from here on when talking about things to do, where to stay, eat, and more.

 

TBILISI TO MESTIA

Mestia is located about 300-miles northwest of Tbilisi.  To travel by car it takes about eight hours to reach – without stopping.  If you have the time, I recommend taking a break and stopping in Kutaisi for a night or two before venturing further north.

 


Read more about why you should plan to spend a night or two in Kutaisi! – The Best Things to Do in Kutaisi and if you plan to visit Mestia from Tbilisi, don’t miss How to Spend 3 Days in Tbilisi


 

If you plan to travel by private car, it’s quite common in Georgia to ask around for a private driver.  You could ask your hotel, Airbnb host, etc.  You could also make a special request on GoTrip or Budget Georgia.

To save money you may want to travel by marshrutka.  There is a direct bus from Tbilisi to Mestia that will get you to the area in 10-hours.  The bus leaves from Samgori Bus Station at 7 am and costs 30 GEL.

 

KUTAISI TO MESTIA

Mestia is located approximately 140-miles north of Kutaisi.  To travel by car it takes about five hours to reach the area.

If you plan to travel by private car, it’s quite common in Georgia to ask around for a private driver.  You could ask your hotel, Airbnb host, etc.  You could also make a special request on GoTrip or Budget Georiga.

To save money you may want to travel by marshrutka.  There is a direct bus from Kutaisi to Mestia but more commonly buses stop in Zugdidi before continuing towards Mestia.  Depending on how much time and money you have, you might find that hiring a private driver is worthwhile.

 

BATUMI TO MESTIA

Mestia is located approximately 170-miles north of Batumi.  To travel by car it takes about five hours to reach the area.

If you plan to travel by private car, it’s quite common in Georgia to ask around for a private driver.  You could ask your hotel, Airbnb host, etc.  You could also make a special request on GoTrip or Budget Georiga.

To save money you may want to travel by marshrutka.  You’ll need to switch buses in Zugdidi before traveling to Mestia.  The marshrutka should cost you 45 GEL total, for both buses.  Depending on how much time and money you have, you might find that hiring a private driver is worthwhile.

 

Where Should You Stay in Svaneti?

panoramic views of the mountains

Of the many towns and villages in Svaneti, Mestia is by far the most developed and well-suited for tourists.  Mestia is the capital of the Upper Svaneti region and is home to approximately 2,000 residents.  Not only is it a good place to base yourself, but because it’s more suited for tourists, it’s easy to find a driver if you need to go anywhere.

 

Visiting Mestia

small hotel room in the mountains

 

Where to Stay in Mestia

There are many places to stay in Mestia.  If you’re going the affordable route, I recommend finding a guesthouse.  However, if you want to splurge a *little* bit more then maybe a hotel would better suit you.  I booked a stay at Chalet Mestia and recommend it.  The location was amazing and the rooms were nice and spacious.  You should be aware, however, if you plan to come in the summer months, the rooms do not have air conditioning.  I stayed in May and it was quite warm in my room, while the nights were much cooler.

Outside of Mestia, in a small village, there is a hotel that offers insanely beautiful views of the mountains.  I didn’t know about this place before arriving, but if I went back to Mestia I would book here next time.  The property is much more remote and you’ll need a car/driver to get around as there’s not much in the area.  The property is called Heshkili Huts.

 

How Much Time to Spend in Mestia

church in the middle of the mountains

Mestia is very small and you don’t need a lot of time in the area unless you’re specifically coming to hike or ski.  I recommend staying two days maximum – one day to explore the town and maybe get in a hike, another day to spend the day in Ushguli.

 

Things to Do in/Around Mestia

While small, there are many things to discover in this beautiful mountain village.

 

HESHKILI PANORAMA

swinging in the mountains

About a 20-minute drive outside of Mestia will bring you to this incredible location with panoramic views of the mountains.  I highly recommend finding a driver that will let you spend a bit of time in the area; bring some wine and food, and have a picnic during sunset.  To this day it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.  The best part is, it’s free!  Besides hiring the driver there isn’t a fee to access the area.

 

EAT KUBDARI

Kubdari is the traditional food of the Svans.  It’s bread stuffed with meat, spices, and onion.  You can get it at just about any restaurant that you visit in town.

The main restaurant in Mestia is Cafe Laila and where most people hang out.  While the food isn’t the best I’ve had in Georgia, but it’s decent enough to try.  There isn’t a big nightlife in Mestia either so Cafe Laila is also a good place to go for drinks before heading in for the night.

 


For more traditional Georgian foods to try, read:  20 Georgian Foods You Have to Try When You Visit Georgia


 

DAY TRIP TO USHGULI

Ushguli is at the base of Mount Shkara, the highest point in Georgia.  It’s located southeast of Mestia and takes about two hours to reach by car.  It’s one of the most remote villages in the Svaneti region and in the wintertime, the roads are often closed due to weather.  When you visit make sure to stop hike up to Supar (Tamar Tower), for views of the village.  I also recommend eating lunch at Guesthouse Ushguli before heading back to Mestia.  If you like to hike, a popular hike in the area is the hike to Shkhara Glacier.  Before leaving for Ushguli find a driver that will guide you on the hike or wait for you while you complete the hike.  Lastly, if you are big into hiking – instead of driving to Ushguli, there is also a four-day trek from Mestia to Ushguli that is offered.

 

LEARN ABOUT THE SVANS

views of the small village mestia

The Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography is located in Mestia.  While the museum is small and information is sparse, I still recommend going for a look.  You’ll learn a bit about why Svaneti plays such a big role in Georgian history and be able to check out some cool artifacts.

 


If you plan to visit Georgia, don’t miss:

A Guide to Visiting Akhaltsikhe and Vardzia

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Georgia

How to Spend 2 Days in the Kakheti Wine Region – Georgia’s Premiere Wine Destination


 

Whether you have a few days or more in Georiga, I highly recommend putting the Svaneti region on your Georgia bucket list.

 


For a more visual look at Mestia and Georgia, and more recommendations on things to see and do, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching “#ppingeorgia” or look for the highlight reels “Georgia 1” and “Georgia 2” (Georiga 2 is where you’ll find specific recommendations on the Svaneti region)


 

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passportsandpreemies
passportsandpreemies

Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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