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How To Get From Tbilisi To Mestia: Into The High Caucasus (2024)

Travelling from Tbilisi to Mestia is an epic journey into the heart of the mighty Caucasus mountains.

There are a few different ways to get to Mestia:

  1. Marshrutka (either direct or changing at Zugdidi)
  2. Train + Marshrutka
  3. Book a private transfer
  4. Drive yourself
  5. Fly to Mestia
  6. Join a group tour

    I recently took this awesome trip and, in this post, I’ll share all of the information you need to plan your own adventure.

    Mestia is a small town in the mountainous region of Svaneti.  It’s a mecca for adventurous travellers and outdoors enthusiasts in the know, who are drawn by its world-class hiking, skiing, and unique culture.

    Getting there is part of the fun.  It’s a fairly remote place, high up in the mountains.

    But the journey itself is spectacular, and you’ll pass through some beautiful medieval villages where life hasn’t changed much for hundreds of years.

    Beautiful mountain scenery on the road from Tbilisi to Mestia

    Different ways to travel from Tbilisi to Mestia

    Here I’ll be sharing all the information you need to make your journey as smooth and straightforward as possible, whichever method of transport you choose.

    If you need to travel in the other direction, from Mestia to Tbilisi, just reverse engineer the info.

    1. Marshrutka

    Marshrutkas are shared minibuses, or sometimes just converted transit vans. They’re the most common form of public transportation in Georgia.

    It’s a popular and affordable way to travel around the country. However, they’re not the most comfortable option, especially if you’re tall and/or have a lot of luggage.


    Marshrutkas don’t have a fixed schedule and only leave when full. For this reason, departures are often delayed so be prepared to wait for a while before departure.

    You can either take a marshrutka direct to Mestia or break up the journey in Zugdidi, a town in Western Georgia.

    Direct marshrutka from Tbilisi to Mestia

    Direct marshrutkas to Mestia leave daily at 07:00 from Tbilisi’s Navtlugi Bus Station. The journey takes around 9-10 hours and costs approximately 50 GEL.

    Marshrutka from Tbilisi to Zugdidi + marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia

    10 hours in a cramped marshrutka is pretty intense, and they don’t stop much. If you’d prefer to break up the journey, you can take a marshrutka from Tbilisi to Zugdidi and then another one to Mestia.

    If you have time, you could even spend the night in Zugdidi before continuing on to Mestia the next day. See below for suggestions on where to stay in Zugdidi.

    viewpoint with a cross overlooking the mestia valley in svaneti with snow capped mountains in the background

    The journey from Tbilisi to Zugdidi takes about 6-7 hours and costs around 20-25 GEL. From Zugdidi to Mestia, it’s another 3 hours and 35 GEL.

    See also: Basic Georgian Phrases For Travel

    2. Train + Marshrutka (or shared taxi)

    Another option is to take a train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, and then a marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia.

    This is the method I’d recommend you use to get to Svaneti if you’re travelling on a budget. It costs a similar amount to taking a marshrutka all the way, but is a lot more comfortable and enjoyable.

    Train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi

    First, take the train from Tbilisi Central Railway Station to Zugdidi.  The train usually departs at 08:20 and is scheduled to arrive in Zugdidi at 14:21, but double-check at the station beforehand.

    It’s fairly basic but perfectly comfortable.  Tickets are cheap, costing only 16 GEL for a second-class ticket, 28 GEL for first-class, and 43 GEL for “business class”.

    For the most accurate and up-to-date train schedules and ticket prices, check directly with Georgian Railways.

    You can also reserve tickets online here.

    Update: There used to be an overnight train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, however, this service appears to have been suspended indefinitely.

    Marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia

    After arriving in Zugdidi, cross the street to Hotel Nana. You can leave your bags there in their luggage room if you want to explore Zugdidi a bit.

    Once you’re ready to continue on to Mestia, jump on a marshrutka bound for Mestia.


    Shared taxis from Zugdidi to Mestia

    You could also take a shared taxi from Zugdidi to Tbilisi depending on how many people you’re travelling with.

    Look out for other backpackers on the train to share the cost of a taxi with.

    3. Private Transfer

    If you’d prefer a more comfortable and convenient way of travelling, booking a private transfer is the way to go.

    Private transfer from Tbilisi to Mestia

    Several companies offer this service, with prices ranging from 800-1,000 GEL for a private transfer from Tbilisi to Mestia.

    It’s certainly not cheap, but might be worth it for the ease and comfort of having a private car and driver take you directly to Mestia.

    🤩 Click here to book a transfer in advance

    Train + Private transfer from Zugdidi to Mestia

    Alternatively, you could always catch the overnight train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi (see above) and then take a private transfer from Zugdidi to Mestia.

    This would be considerably cheaper than booking a direct transfer all the way, but would also avoid needing to cram yourself into the back of a marshrutka for the final (mountainous) leg of the journey.

    4. Drive Yourself

    If you’re a confident driver and have the budget to rent a car, driving yourself is also an option.

    This option costs more than using public transport but also gives you infinitely more flexibility (and comfort). Plus, you can use the car to explore more of Svaneti once you reach Mestia.


    Plus you can take as long as you want to get up into the mountains, stopping at as many viewpoints and small villages as you fancy.

    I drove myself to Svaneti via Tbilisi (in a car a couple of friends and I had driven from Germany), which was an incredible experience.

    The total distance from Tbilisi to Mestia is 470 kilometres.  I’d strongly recommend breaking the journey by spending the night in Zugdidi.

    The second half of the drive up to Mestia is steep, windy and quite slow going – especially if your 25-year-old heap overheats every 15 minutes (see above photo)!

    The views get ever more spectacular the higher you climb.  You’ll probably want to get out and admire the scenery at each turn, something you can’t do crammed into the back of a marshrutka.

    Pick up a pot or two of Svaneti honey on your way up into the mountains.  It’s delicious!

    Beehives and honey sold by the roadside on the road from Tbilisi to Mestia

    5. Flights to Mestia

    Vanilla Sky operates a service from Tbilisi to Mestia, usually once per day.  The flight takes about an hour and is relatively cheap at around 90 GEL (approx $35), each way.

    I’d only recommend this option if you’re really pushed for time, though.  By flying into Svaneti you’ll miss out on some of the incredible scenery on the long drive up into the mountains.

    However, if you are looking to save some time, one option to consider might be to use public transport on the way up, and fly back from Mestia to Tbilisi.

    You can buy tickets online here, although the website doesn’t always work.

    Alternatively, there is a Vanilla Sky office in Tbilisi.

    Just bear in mind that flights from Tbilisi to Mestia are often sold out several weeks in advance (the plane is tiny!), and are often cancelled due to unpredictable weather in the mountains.

    Note that flights to Mestia depart from Natakhtari Airport, 30 km north of the capital (not the main international airport).

    view over central tbilisi from narikala fortress

    6. Tours to Mestia from Tbilisi

    If you’d prefer to have somebody else take care of all of the planning and logistics, you could also take a tour to Mestia from Tbilisi.

    This is certainly not the cheapest option but is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to travel from Tbilisi to Svaneti.

    🤩 Check availability and prices

    Related Journeys

    Here’s a summary of a few other related journeys you might find helpful.

    Travelling from Batumi to Mestia

    If you’re starting your journey in Batumi, there are a few different options for getting to Mestia.

    One option is to take a marshrutka from Batumi to Zugdidi (around 4 hours) and then continue on to Mestia by marshrutka or shared taxi.

    Another option is to book a private transfer from Batumi to Mestia.

    If you have time to spare and want to explore more of Georgia, you could also rent a car in Batumi and drive yourself to Mestia.

    Be prepared for long and winding roads, but the views are well worth it!

    Alternatively, flights are also available from Batumi to Mestia, operated by Vanilla Sky. This option is the quickest but also the most expensive.

    Travelling from Kutaisi to Mestia

    If you’re coming from Kutaisi, the most convenient way to get to Mestia is by private transfer.

    Alternatively, you could take a marshrutka from Kutaisi to Zugdidi and then continue on to Mestia using one of the previously mentioned options (marshrutka, shared taxi, private transfer).

    Another option is to fly from Kutaisi to Mestia with Vanilla Sky, although flights are less frequent from this airport compared to Tbilisi.

    Travelling from Mestia to Ushguli

    If you have extra time and want to explore even more of Svaneti, consider a trip from Mestia to Ushguli.

    You can take a marshrutka or shared taxi from Mestia to Ushguli, but be prepared for a bumpy and adventurous ride on unpaved roads.

    The journey takes around 3 hours, but the stunning views and remote villages make it well worth it.

    You can also book a tour from Mestia to Ushguli, which often includes stops at other attractions such as the Shdugra Waterfall and Chazhashi Village.

    As always, be sure to negotiate prices beforehand and have cash on hand for any additional fees along the way.

    If you’re up for a challenge, there’s also an epic 3-4 day trek from Mestia to Ushguli that takes you through some of Georgia’s most breathtaking scenery.

    Returning from Mestia to Tbilisi

    When it’s time to say goodbye to Svaneti, you have a few options for returning to Tbilisi. Simply reverse-engineer the above methods.

    So, you can either:

    • Take a marshrutka directly back to Tbilisi
    • Take a marshrutka (or a shared taxi, or a private transfer) from Mestia back to Zugdidi, then the train to Tbilisi
    • Book a private transfer from Mestia to Tbilisi
    • Drive yourself back to Tbilisi (or anywhere else you want to go)
    • Fly from Mestia to Tbilisi with Vanilla Sky

    Car hire in Georgia

    The best deals on car hire in Georgia are usually found on localrent.com.

    They compare the prices of local car rental companies, which tend to be significantly cheaper than the big international hire companies.

    🤩 Click here to check availability and prices

    Where to Stay in Mestia

    After a long journey, you’ll want a comfortable place to rest your head in Mestia.

    There are plenty of guesthouses and hotels in Mestia, ranging from budget-friendly homestays to more luxurious options.

    Some of the best options include:

    Where to Stay in Zugdidi

    If you want to spend a night in Zugdidi before (or after) your trip to Mestia, here are some places that I recommend:

    Things to Do in Mestia

    I’ve written a separate post about all the incredible things to do in Mestia. Here are some of my top recommendations:

    • Go hiking
    • Take a ride on the Hatvani Cable Car
    • Explore the medieval Svan towers
    • Visit the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography
    • Feast on delicious local cuisine, such as khachapuri and kubdari

    Other tips for public transport in Georgia

    Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when navigating the Georgian public transport system:

    • Public transport schedules can be inconsistent and often change without notice. Be prepared to be flexible with your plans.
    • Be sure to bring cash for tickets and any additional fees (such as baggage fees on marshrutkas)
    • It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in case of cancellations or delays.
    • Private transfers can be booked online, arranged through tour companies or hotels, or by talking to local drivers.
    • If taking taxis, agree on a price beforehand and be clear about pick-up times and locations.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help or recommendations!

    FAQs About Travelling to Mestia

    Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about visiting Mestia and Svaneti more generally.

    Is the road to Mestia paved?

    Yes, the road to Mestia is paved. While the majority of the route from Tbilisi up to Mestia offers a smooth drive on asphalt roads, you may encounter a few sections with rougher terrain, especially in mountainous areas closer to Mestia. Frequent landslides mean that the road is often being repaired.

    How long should I spend in Mestia?

    Try to spend at least 3 days in Mestia. This will give you enough time to explore the town’s unique cultural heritage, visit the iconic Svan towers, and enjoy the incredible natural beauty. If you’re interested in hiking, additional days would allow you to explore more of the scenic trails and nearby natural attractions.

    How do you get to Ushguli from Mestia?

    To get to Ushguli from Mestia, you either take a 4×4 vehicle (recommended due to the rough and often muddy road conditions), join a guided tour, or embark on the iconic 3-4 day hiking trail from Mestia to Ushguli.

    How often are there flights from Tbilisi to Mestia?

    Flights from Tbilisi to Mestia are generally scheduled a few times per week, but the frequency can vary depending on the season and weather conditions. Check the current schedule and book in advance, as these flights are on small aircraft with limited capacity.

    How much does a marshrutka cost from Zugdidi to Mestia?

    A marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia usually costs around 20-30 Georgian Lari per person. Prices can vary slightly depending on the service provider and time of year.

    Final Thoughts

    Now you know all the different ways to travel from Tbilisi to Mestia. I hope this guide has helped you plan your journey.

    If you’re looking to extend your trip, check out my guide to the best places in Northern Turkey, another beautiful region that’s easy to reach from Georgia.

    I hope you enjoy this adventure as much as I did!

    Other posts about visiting Georgia

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    • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.


    • I’m on a mission to make adventurous travel accessible to all.


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