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11 Best Things to Do in Mestia, Georgia in 2024

In the heart of the Caucasus Mountains, Mestia is a picturesque town surrounded by ancient stone towers and breathtaking landscapes.

In this post, I’ll be covering some of the very best things to do in Mestia and the surrounding region. These include hiking, skiing, discovering an ancient culture, and feasting on unique and delicious food.

I know Mestia well and have spent several weeks exploring Georgia’s Upper Svaneti region. It’s a fantastic place with so much to see, do, and explore.

If you’re looking for a destination offering a perfect blend of history, culture, scenery, and adventure, Mestia is the place for you.

Why Visit Mestia?

Mestia is the capital of Georgia’s Svaneti region. It’s an ancient and breathtaking place and the highest inhabited area in the Caucasus mountains.

Mountains in Svaneti near Mestia

It’s hard to fully comprehend the beauty of this place.

Svaneti is a land of fertile green meadows, soaring snow-covered mountains, crystal-clear streams, vast glaciers, untouched villages and mysterious towers built over 1,000 years ago.

Beautiful medieval villages with old wooden buildings frozen in time in Svaneti, Georgia

Svaneti is also culturally distinct from the rest of Georgia. 

This is largely due to its physical remoteness, which has helped to preserve the culture of the Svan people for thousands of years.

Mestia is an excellent base to explore this unique and breathtaking region. It also offers a variety of attractions and activities in its own right.

Top Things to Do in Mestia

There’s a lot to do in Mestia and the surrounding area. Here are my top picks:

1. Hiking in the Caucasus Mountains

Svaneti has some of the best hiking in the world.  No exaggeration, it’s epic!

Mount Ushba – the “Matterhorn of the Caucasus”

Many fantastic hikes start from Mestia, which makes this an ideal place to base yourself when exploring the mountains.

There are hikes for all ages and abilities, from short day walks to multi-day adventures. 

Here are some of the best ones:

i.) Mestia to the Cross (8.5 km roundtrip)

For amazing views over Mestia, the surrounding valleys and peaks, you can’t get much better than this hike.  It’s also relatively short, moderate in intensity, and easily doable in half a day.

The cross itself is located on Mount Tskahazagari, which is the large hill you see rising to the north of Mestia.

The cross on a hilltop above Mestia with the lush green valley below and snow-covered peaks beyond

The hike starts by winding up through a tranquil forest until the trees thin out and the panoramic views begin.

It’s a relatively short walk, at just over 4 kilometres from Seti Square, in the centre of town, up to the cross (and another 4 km back down the same way). 

Parts of the ascent are fairly steep, so you’ll need decent footwear.

ii.) Mestia to Koruldi Lakes (16.5 km roundtrip) – the best day hike from Mestia

The first half of this hike is identical to the one above. From the cross, it’s another 2 hours or so up to the lakes. 

You’ll be walking uphill most of this time.  Though it’s significantly less steep from the cross to the lakes, compared to the bit from Mestia to the cross.

The views are also spectacular, so it’s more than worth the extra effort. In my opinion, this is easily the best day hike from Mestia.  It’s a decent length, without being too arduous.

Stunning panoramic views

You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Ushba (4,710 metres), known by many mountaineers as the most challenging peak in the Caucasus.

Anybody with a decent level of fitness should be able to make it up to the lakes and back down into Mestia with no problems, provided you don’t start hiking too late.

For those who want to spend a night in the mountains, people sometimes camp by the lakes. I’d only attempt this in the summer though, and make sure you are properly equipped. 

At a minimum, I recommend bringing flashlights, a decent tent, a warm sleeping bag, and a thermal mattress.

iii.) Mestia to Chalaadi Glacier (either 22 km / 13.5 km / 5 km roundtrip*)

There are a few options with this hike:

Option 1: Start and finish the hike in Mestia, making the total distance 22 km.  You’ll need to start early as this will take most of the day.

Option 2: Take a taxi (or hitch a ride) for the first (and last) 8.5 km of the route.  This part of the trail is flat, not particularly interesting, and goes parallel to the road running up the valley.

Option 3Start hiking from Mestia, but on the return leg, hitch a ride back down the valley once the trail hits the road.

I chose option 3 when I did this hike and would recommend it. This makes the walk a bit longer but avoids the tedious slog back at the end.

Chalaadi Glacier – one of the many hikes you can do from Mestia

Whichever option you choose, you’ll likely encounter quite a few other hikers once you get close to the glacier itself.

Don’t be surprised if at least one of them offers you copious amounts of vodka upon reaching the glacier itself.

Not that I’d ever recommend scrambling up a glacier in a state of insobriety.  That would be silly…

** Check out some of my other hiking-related posts:

2. Multi-day Trek from Mestia to Ushguli

The multi-day hike from Mestia to Ushguli is legendary amongst those who come to trek in Georgia.

This is probably the most famous trek in the Caucasus and takes either 3 or 4 days to complete the 57-kilometre one-way route.

It’s not overly difficult, and you’ll get to enjoy some of the best scenery in the country, largely undisturbed.

Ushguli: the highest permanently inhabited settlement in Europe

It’s a relatively popular route, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a hiking buddy or two, should you wish.

The route passes through several traditional Svaneti villages with (basic but more than adequate) guesthouses where you can sleep.

These do fill up during the summer months though, so it’s wise to book ahead to ensure you secure somewhere decent.

For those who prefer to carry a tent and camping gear, there are plenty of stunning places to wild camp along the Mestia to Ushguli trek.

Don’t worry about packing food for the whole trek – the guesthouses along the route serve hot food and drinks.  (Though, as with all treks, you should definitely carry some extra supplies, just in case.)

🤩 My favourite tent is the MSR Hubba Hubba 2

When you reach Ushguli, you won’t struggle to find other trekkers to share a taxi with back to Mestia.

Head to the tourism information centre in the centre of Mestia (Seti Square) for further info on hiking in the area. The people here are super helpful. 


They’ll also be able to advise on the best routes and provide useful maps and localised weather information.

Hiring a guide

If you’re keen to tackle the epic Mestia to Ushguli trek (or any of the others), but would prefer to hire a guide to take care of the logistics (meals, transfers, accommodation, navigation, etc.), you’re in luck.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this guided hike with Highlander Travel, an experienced and top-rated local Georgian tour company.

They are one of the best tour companies that I have ever worked with, and will put together a guided trek and tour that’s highly customised to your needs and preferences.

🤩 Check availability and prices!

3. Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular in the Mestia area.  Several companies offer bike and kit hire in the centre of town. 

EPIC mountain biking

And there are many trails ideally suited to exploration on two wheels. Again, speak to the folks in the tourist information centre who will be able to provide you with maps, details of bike hire, and more.

See here for a selection of potential routes.

4. Skiing

Svaneti is also an amazing ski destination.  It gets heaps of snow in the winter, and you can ski here for a fraction of the cost compared to resorts in the Alps or North America.


The official ski season in Svaneti runs between December and mid-April.

There are a few decent resorts with pistes and lifts (e.g. Khatsvali Ski Resort, just outside Mestia).  However, skiing in Svaneti is all about the backcountry. 

This is a world-class destination for ski touring and heli-skiing. There’s loads of great information on skiing in Mestia over at Powderhounds.

Some of the chairlifts above Mestia also run in the summer (see below) and are a great way to get up to the higher-level hiking routes and viewpoints.

Piste in winter, walking trail in summer

5. Discover the Svan Towers

Svaneti is known as the “land of a thousand towers”. 

Ancient and mysterious stone towers dot the region’s valleys and are the stuff of legend. Many towers are over 1,000 years old. 


In the local (unwritten) Svan language, they are called “koshki“.

Traditionally attached to people’s homes, these unique structures were built to defend their owners, and their livestock and possessions, from enemy attack.

For centuries, these towers protected their residents from attacks by invading Mongols, Persians, and Turks.

You’ll see many of them on the drive up from Tbilisi to Mestia.


The medieval villages and tower houses of Upper Svaneti are exceptionally well-preserved and totally unique. There’s nowhere quite like this anywhere else in the world.

In fact, the whole Upper Svaneti region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, largely on account of these villages and towers.

If you’re lucky, a local family might offer to show you around their own tower. (And then ply you with bottles (and bottles) of homemade vodka, all night.)

The road to oblivion
Climbing to the top of an ancient, crumbling tower probably wasn’t the most sensible thing to do either

6. Visit the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography

Another great way to learn about the history and culture of this special part of Georgia is by visiting the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography in Mestia.

There are displays about traditional Svan life, including models showing how people used to live here. I thought this place does an excellent job of telling the vibrant story of the region.

You’ll also find a range of items that were used in daily life, as well as ancient manuscripts and religious icons. 

If you’re interested in the history and culture of Svaneti, this museum is a must-visit stop on your trip. It’s an enlightening experience that offers a deeper understanding of this unique area.

7. Feast on Local Georgian Cuisine

Georgian cuisine is rich, filling, and delicious. And you’ll find some of the best of it in Svaneti. The mountainous region is known for its hearty stews, soups, and dumplings.

One must-try dish is the traditional Svanetian khachapuri, a cheese-filled bread that’s cooked to perfection.

Other popular dishes include chakapuli (lamb stewed with herbs and white wine) and kharcho (beef soup with rice, walnuts, and spices).

After a long day of hiking or skiing, there’s nothing better than indulging in the local cuisine. And of course, it wouldn’t be a true Georgian meal without some homemade wine to wash it all down.

8. Explore Laghami

At the foot of Mount Ushba lies the picturesque village of Laghami. Surrounded by stunning landscapes, this small village is a hidden gem in Svaneti.

Here, you can take in breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys while enjoying a peaceful atmosphere away from the more touristy areas.

You can also visit ancient towers and churches, or simply wander through the village and soak up its traditional Svan culture.

Laghami is also a great base for hiking, with trails leading to nearby waterfalls and viewpoints. It’s the perfect spot for nature lovers looking to get off the beaten path in Svaneti.

9. Take Part in Traditional Svan Festivals

If your visit aligns with a Svan festival, you’re in for a treat.

Svaneti is home to a rich culture and history, and one of the best ways to experience it is to immerse yourself in the traditional music, dance, and rituals of local festivals.

One of the most popular festivals is the Kvirikoba Festival, held in late July or early August. It celebrates Saint George and includes horseback riding, feasting, and traditional folk performances.

The Lamproba Festival is another must-see, taking place in September to honour the end of the summer grazing season. It features a lively parade, horse races, and plenty of delicious food.

10. Ride on the Hatsvali Ski Lift

The Hatsvali ski lift is open year-round linking Mestia with the Hatsvali ski resort and Mount Zuruldi.


In the wintertime, it’s a convenient way to get up to the slopes. And in the summer it’s a great place to take in panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, including Mount Ushba and Tetnuldi.

There’s even a restaurant and cafe at the top.

There are a few hiking trails that start from the top of the lift. Or, you can hike up from Mestia town and take the gondola down to save your knees!

The ride itself is also quite an experience, offering breathtaking views and a unique perspective of Svaneti’s stunning landscapes.

11. Stay in a Traditional Svan House

For a truly immersive experience in Svaneti, consider staying in a traditional Svan house.

Many families offer homestays where you can stay in their homes, eat homemade meals, and learn about their way of life.

These houses are often made of stone and wood, with intricate carvings on the balconies and roofs.

Staying in one of these homes gives you a glimpse into the daily lives of the Svan people and allows you to support local families directly.

Plus, nothing beats waking up in a cosy local house surrounded by stunning mountain views.

How to Get to Mestia

There are a few different ways to get to Mestia. I’ve written a separate blog post on how to travel from Tbilisi to Mestia which you can check out for more detailed information.


In summary, you can either:

  • take a marshrutka (minibus) from Tbilisi
  • catch a train to Zugdidi and then take a marshrutka (or a shared taxi) for the final leg to Mestia
  • hire a car and drive yourself
  • book a private transfer
  • take an organised tour
  • fly from Tbilisi

The roads are winding and mountainous, but the jaw-dropping views make the journey well worth it.

Note that flights operate on a seasonal basis, and only in good weather, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.

Where to Stay in Mestia

Mestia has a range of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury guesthouses.

Here are some of the best places to stay in Mestia:

Tours in Mestia

For an in-depth experience of Svaneti, consider joining a tour. There are many options, including hiking tours, cultural tours, and even food-related tours.

These tours not only offer convenience and local expertise but also support the community by providing employment opportunities for locals.

Best Restaurants in Mestia

After a long day of exploring, there’s no shortage of delicious dining options in Mestia.

Some must-try restaurants include Vichnashi for simple, traditional home cooking, Dissident Cafe for mouth-watering khinkali (dumplings), and Twin Peaks for more tasty Georgian dishes.

There are plenty of other local cafes and casual eateries where you can grab a quick bite or snack on the go. No matter where you choose to eat, be sure to try some of the local specialities!


Practicalities For Visiting Mestia

Here’s some additional practical information to help you plan a trip to Mestia.


Georgia is, in general, a very cheap country to travel in.  It’s closer to Asia than Europe in terms of costs.

It’s perfectly possible to travel in Georgia for $35-50 per day (excluding car hire), and live fairly well, especially if you are sharing accommodation costs.

You can usually grab a bed in a dorm for less than $10 per night.  A simple room in a decent guesthouse (or a basic but perfectly fine hotel) will typically set you back less than $40 per night.

Good food and drink is also cheap and plentiful.  I rarely spent more than $20 per day on this in Georgia and ate and drank like a king.

This makes it a perfect backpacker destination but without the hordes of backpackers.  Not everyone’s seen the memo yet, but more people are catching on each year. Go soon!

Best Time to Visit Mestia

The best time to visit the North Caucasus depends on why you’re coming.

Summer (July-September) is the best time for hiking, although tourist numbers also tend to peak during these months.

Spring and autumn are also pleasant, although the evenings will be cooler and the nights much colder.  Expect snow at higher altitudes.

If you plan to do multi-day hikes, bear in mind that May and June tend to receive the most rainfall.

For skiing, come in the winter. The best conditions for skiing are usually from January until April. 

Beware that the road up to Mestia can become dangerous (and sometimes impossible) following heavy snow in the winter.

If driving yourself in the winter, it’s a good idea to invest in a 4×4 with snow chains.

Beautiful mountain scenery on the road from Tbilisi to Mestia

What to Pack

Again, this depends on what you’ll be doing. 🙂

For trekking, you’ll want decent hiking boots/shoes, proper socks, blister pads, waterproofs, sun cream, snacks, a large water bottle and water filtration system/purification tablets.

The maps.me app has loads of great offline maps for Georgia – not essential, but recommended (+ bring a portable charger).

If you’ll be camping, you will also need a tent, warm sleeping bag, Thermarest/mat, head torch and decent warm clothing.

You can rent skiing gear in Mestia at fairly reasonable prices.


Georgia offers a free visa on arrival to citizens of over 90 countries, including the UK, EU and U.S.  Best of all, most visitors can spend up to a year in the country on this visa.

That’s pretty unusual compared with most other countries. I’m certainly not complaining though!


Georgia is overall a very safe country for tourists.  However, three main dangers you’re likely to face are:

  • Crazy roads: maniac drivers, potholes, animals, boulders, children, and random pieces of farm equipment/junk/general carnage in the road, especially in rural areas.  Driving in Georgia is not for the faint-hearted.
  • Mountains: if hiking, skiing, or doing anything else in the mountains, the usual rules apply.  Make sure you’re adequately experienced (or with someone who is), well prepared, and well equipped.
  • Excessive alcohol intake: Georgians are extremely hospitable, generous people.  They also like a drink.  Don’t be surprised if locals offer to share with you whatever they’re drinking, wherever they are (be it halfway up a mountain or walking down the street)
Alex Tiffany drinking wine with a georgian man on the street in georgia


Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about visiting Mestia, Georgia.

When is the best time to visit Mestia?

The best time to visit Mestia is during the summer months, from June to early September, when the weather is warm and ideal for hiking and exploring the scenic landscapes. For winter sports including skiing, January to March is the prime time.

Is Mestia safe to visit?

Yes, Mestia is perfectly safe to visit. It’s known for its hospitable locals and has a low crime rate. Like any travel destination, it’s wise to exercise common sense precautions, such as safeguarding belongings and staying aware of your surroundings. But overall, Mestia is a safe and welcoming place for tourists.

What are the towers in Mestia?

The towers in Mestia are medieval defensive stone structures, known as Svan towers. Dating back to the 9th-12th centuries, these towers were built by local families for protection against invaders. Today, these towers are a distinctive feature of Svaneti’s landscape.

What is Svaneti known for?

Svaneti is known for its breathtaking mountainous landscapes, well-preserved medieval defensive towers (Svan towers), and rich cultural heritage. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated for its ancient traditions, unique architecture, and isolation that preserved its distinct way of life. The region offers exceptional opportunities for trekking, climbing, and skiing in the Caucasus Mountains.

Final Thoughts

Mestia and the wider Svaneti region offer a perfect blend of adventure, culture, and breathtaking landscapes.

Whether you’re hiking to ancient towers, indulging in local cuisine, or simply taking in the majestic views, Mestia is a fantastic destination to explore.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Other posts about visiting Georgia

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Who Am I?


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


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


  • I created this site to inspire, encourage and enable as many people to get outside and explore as much of our beautiful world as possible.