“The region of Upper Svaneti is of outstanding universal value being an exceptional landscape that has preserved to a remarkable degree its original medieval appearance, notable for the distribution, form, and architecture of its human settlement. Svaneti is located on the southern slopes of the Central Caucasus in the Black Sea basin and is the highest inhabited area in the Europe. Svaneti, the “Pearl and Pride of Georgia,” is one of Georgia’s remotest regions. It consists of upper and lower parts. The regional centers of these parts are Mestia and Lentekhi, respectively. Most of Svaneti’s towers are situated in Upper Svaneti. Their number exceeds 200. It is not known when the first tower was built. However, most of the towers were constructed in the 12th-13th centuries. In the past, the towers were symbols of the strength of the family. They were used for self-defense as well.Svaneti
Svaneti is very famous for the unique Georgian gold and silver icons and manuscripts that are kept in the museum of Mestia, and the oldest monuments of Christian architecture were built in this graceful land. The highest mountains in Georgia, Mount Shkhara (5201 m), the’ Svanetian White Bride’ Tetnuldi (4974 m) and ‘the Crown of the Caucasus’ Mount Ushba (4700m) make this area unique, and the most requested stop for both Georgian and foreign tourists.
Getting to Mestia/Svaneti:
You can arrive on bus from Tbilisi (central train station – vagzal) for 30 gel or from Kutaisi (you can take Kutaisi-Zugdidi bus and then Zugdidi-Mestia bus too) Mcdonald’s or from Zugdidi (15GEL) or you can fly – Vanilla Sky agency – click for the link offers you flights for 40GEL (Kutaisi-Mestia) and 65GEL (Tbilisi-Mestia – from Natakhtari airport). Schedule for 2016 can be found here. Jeep ride from Mestia to Ushguli costs 150-200GEL.
Roadtrip in Svaneti
If you rent a car (jeep) and prefer comfortable journey rather than trekking, then you are lucky: Svaneti has lots of sights and short hiking routes (dayhikes) which can be done without backpacks. You can safely leave your car and return where you left.
Suggested Trip – Total 6-7 days in Svaneti.
Day 1: Tbilisi/Kutaisi-Becho. You can arrive in Mazeri village, Becho and rest after long journey. There are homestays in Mazeri, there is also Grand Hotel Ushba. There are also camping places near the hotel or few kilometers deep in the valley until your car can make it. If you are in Becho in the afternoon from Zugdidi or from Kutaisi, then you can try to visit Shdugra the same day and camp near the bridge (abandoned building).
Day 2: Hiking to Shdugra Waterfall, this short and easy hike will take only half day, if you want you can make it more up for Ushba glacier (If you are short in time after waterfall you can visit Chalaadi glacier in Mestia).
Day 3: Hike to Mkheri. If you want stunning views and beautiful panoramas, then you can visit Mkheri. But make sure that you start very early and choose the best possible weather for the trip to view all Caucasus summits and fabulous Mt.Lahili. If you have already seen Mkheri, there are alternatives for this hike too. (Overnight in Mestia or Eli village)
Day 4: Stay in Mestia and explore its surroundings. Walk in the streets of Mestia, visit old and unique laghami church near khergiani museum (the key is stored at nearby house (you must enter).
Also in 1 day if you have a car (or rent it ) you can do Chalaadi Glacier. And the most important: Don’t skip the National Museum – it’s the most impressive museum in Georgia. (Overnight at Mestia or in the forests near Hatsvali, you need to bring water)
Day 5: Koruldi Lakes Hike – This is 1 day hike from Mestia. Can be skipped if you are short of time. Interesting and easiest Alternative can be walking to Eli (Village of golden fleece) – no need to worry, its just car trail from Hatsvali road (there is a sign too). Or you can hike to tsvirmi village combined together with Hatsvali cable cars station.
Day 6-7: Trip To Ushguli. On the way you can visit Kvirike church where famous festival Kvirikoba is held, village Tsvirmi, village Hadishi if you have time, Tetnuldi ski resort where by car you can reach 3050m; and finally watch sunset over Shkhara summit from Lamaria church and sleep in Ushguli; Come back to Mestia and visit the places what you have missed the first day.
On your way to Ushguli on the pass above Mulakhi you can visit Tetnuldi Resort. By car you can make it above 3,o00m from the sea level.Below the end of car trial take a short path to Tetnuldi glacier. Do this one your way to Ushguli (In the early morning) or in the second day when coming back from Ushguli in the evening before sunset. One more tip: your jeep can make it to Shkhara glacier too from Ushguli where Enguri river is born. Check for Ushguli article for more ideas.
Day 8: Back to Tbilisi
-You can travel to Svaneti anytime. Just in some periods of the year some of the hikes, jeep trails might be closed. Follow my fb page to ask me questions. My favorite time is End of July. Generally everything is open from July till October.
-Come in group/groups of 5-6 people, Its more fun and also if you rent a car you can save money.
-Don’t worry to spend 1 week on Svaneti. Just Mestia-Ushguli trip will not make your trip unforgettable.
-Make sure that you rest and don’t try to overload your schedule. The end of world is near but anyway you are saved in Svaneti.
-There are homestays everywhere, so you can stay at least 2 nights in a homestay but camping is also quite fun.
-Enjoy your trip!
For the map please see: