How do you travel to Svaneti
You can find general information about the Svaneti region below. We hope that info can help you to organize the trip to Svaneti by yourself.
Firstly, we want to claim that one or two days is a too short period to visit the region. If you have a possibility, take 3,4, or more days to that. if you love nature, you find what to do here.
General information about Svaneti
Svaneti is the high-mountain region located in the north of Georgia. Most settlements of the region are located at 1500 meters above sea level and upper. The Svaneti divides into the lower (the capital is Lentekhi village) and upper (capital is Mestia village) parts. That article will be about the upper part of the Svaneti.
The most popular settlements are Mestia, Ushguli, Becho(Mazeri)
Less popular from tourists settlements are Latali, Jabeshi, Etceri, Adishi, Kala, Mulakhi.
Mestia is the capital of the region. In the Mestia is normal infrastructure like Bars, cafes, restaurants, markets, money change points, banks, police, hospital, rescue service. Also the high count any kinds of hotels there are here.
Other settlements haven't a high level of modern civilization. You can find guesthouses and small markets here, but cafes there are only in Ushguli. Other civilization benefits you don't find.
The season duration in Svaneti is all year round.
The summer season good suit for hiking, horse riding, off-road trips.
The winter season for skiing.
There are several nuances during the off-season. The mountain passes (above 3000 meters) be free of the snow only in the middle of June. But the April and May suit to hikes not higher than 2000-2500 of the sea level.
Most hiking routes are available till the end of October, but if you want to join one of them from the middle of September, please check the weather before. From that time you have a real opportunity to catch the snow or storm on a hike. In November and December, the night temperature is usually less than zero, but sometimes you can be caught the sun and warm days to do a hike under then 2500 meters of sea level.
The optimal season for skiing is from the middle of January till the end of February. But usually, the snow is good for skiing from the middle of December till the middle of March.
How to arrive in Svaneti
The ideal variant is a car.
Into the region are three ways, you can find them on the map below. One of them is a normal mountain road in the warm season suitable for any car. Other ways are suitable for Off-road lovers only (you can read short reviews about them on the map)
The general way "Zugdidi-Mestia" is beton road. You can use any car to go up to Mestia this way. But is one note. The last 100km of the way is a mountain road with many rolling turns, lifts, and downs. Sometimes the stones fall down to the road, but in the summer season, if the road will be blocked, the road service quickly cleans the way.
The road cleans in the winter season too, but after strong snow, the road can be under snow and ice. Usually, some parts of the road are slim. If you want to do a safe trip use the 4 wheel drive car and put in luggage the wheel chains.
The last autumn and early spring seasons road can have slim parts too.
The clean time without stops that you need on the way is 3 hours from Zugdidi, 5,5 hours from Batumi, 5 hours from Kutaisi, and about 9 hours from Tbilisi. In the winter season, you need to add 1 - 2 hours to that time.
Inside of the region, you can arrive at some viewpoints by any high car, but other ones need a good 4 wheel drive car. If the weather will bad, most dirt roads will available only for off-road cars. Locals use the 4x4 cars and if you came on the mono drive vehicle you will not have a problem booking a 4x4 transfer. The information about that will be below.
If you decide to go by public transport to Svaneti, you can find a local bus ("Marshrutka") from Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Zugdidi. During the summer season also available local buses from Batumi. In 2021 the price started from 8 USD per person.
Also, there is the airport in Mestia, the company Vanilla Sky organizes flys from Kutaisi and Tbilisi (Natahtari airport) several times a week. The price for a person starts from 25 USD. But there is one important moment if the weather will be bad the plane will cancel. The ticket price you will get back, but you will need to use another way to go to Svaneti.
Variants of accommodation
You can use the "booking" application. That service good work in Svaneti and most count of hotels there are here.
The most comfortable and optimal by logistic and price accommodation is the Mestia, you can find the many hotels and guest houses from 15 USD per room here. We prefer to stop with guests in the next hotels: Old Seti Mestia, Nino Ratiani GuestHouse, Roza's guesthouse Mestia, Ushba GuestHouse Mestia ( the last hotel you don't find at booking.com). Those hotels have nice owners, a price/comfort ratio, and good meals quality.
In the Ushguli we stop in Panarama Ushguli or Tekla
In the Mazeri we accommodate in hotels Peak Mazeri, Daeli
No doubt there are other worthy hotels and guesthouses, and you can find anyone that will be more suitable for your request.
In the winter season, the first thing that you need to do - check how organized the heating system is in a hotel, there are many offers where the heating isn't well and you will have a risk spend the holidays in the cold room.
Meals in Svaneti
The prices of the meal in Svaneti approximately are like prices in Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi. You can find many cafes in Mestia with normal service and tasty meals. The most famous cafes are Laila, Sunset, Lashnu-Qor - you can find here nice interiors, service, but usually, portions are small. The Ushba cafe has more Georgian style, here will the simple interior, but low prices, good size of a portion and good taste of meals.
Also, you can book dinner in your hotel, several hotels and guesthouses in the region can offer high-quality local kitchens and nice prices.
In other settlements(exclude Ushguli) you can get the meals only in hotels because the cafes don't exist here. The meal here usually are expensive and have limited variants of a choice.
Most of all hiking tracks you can find on the service Maps.Me, in that article present only the main directions and reviews.
The Chaaladi glacier
It is a simple hike of a 5 km stretch to the root of the Chaaladi glacier. The total climb is about 300 m. The time on the trip to both ways is 2-3hours. The hike is available from April to November. The trail starts 8km away from the Mestia. That hike is suitable for kids too. And if the weather is bad you can also do that hike. But you must be careful close to the glacier because the stones fall down from him.
The hike around Mulakhi village
It is also a simple hike that starts from Mulakhi village (10 km from Mestia) and is a part of the popular 5-days tour Mestia-Ushguli. The total stretch is 6 km the climb elevation is 400m if you start from the top of the village if you start from the main road the elevation will be about 600 m. You will need a total of 3-4 hours on the hike. The hike is suitable for good weather because it the part of the way that goes through the clay trail. On the hike, you can find views on Ushba and Tetnuldi tops, mountain rivers, and beautiful grassland.
The hike is available from May till November
Hike to Mazeri waterfalls (Shdugra)
It is a beautiful hike of moderate difficulty. The hike starts from Mazeri village and has stretches about 8 km to both sides. The climb elevation is about 600m. The season for the hike is from May to November. If you want, you can continue the hike and climb to the Ushba glacier (plus to the elevation 500m and 5 km to the way). You need 3-4 hours on the hike to waterfalls and 7-8 to the Ushba glacier.
Hike to the Koruldi lakes
It is a hard hike with a climb elevation of about 1400 meters. The hike starts from Mestia the total stretch is about 16 km the season is from June till October. The most interesting in that hike has the surrounding views, not lakes... The total time to hike is 7-9 hours.
Hike to Guli pass
It is a hard and amazing hike that has start from Mazeri village. The total elevation is about 1000 meters the distance is about 22 km to both sides, the time to hike is 7-9 hours. If your group is strong you can continue the hike from the top of the pass and climb to Koruldi lakes, after finishing the hike in the Mestia, but you will need up then 10 hours on that track. The season is from June till October.
Hike to the Meziri lake
The moderate hike to the Meziri lake, the hike starts from ride side of the Dolra river in the Mazeri village. The climb starts at 400 meters from the mineral water place. You will have a total elevation of 700 meters, a distance of 10 km to both sides on that hike. Take about 4-6 hours on the hike, and if you will have wish you can continue the hike and finish it in the Etceri village ( you need to add about 2 hours for that). The hike is available from May till October.
Hiking to the Shkhara glacier
That route starts from Ushguli village and passes along the Inguri river to the root of the Shkhara mount. The total climb is about 400 meters the distance to both ways is 18 km. You will need to do the hike for about 4-5 hours. The hike is available from May to November.
Additional services and activities in Svaneti
In Mestia and other settlements of the region, you can find museums and a high count of churches and temples. Also in Svaneti available bars, small cinemas where you can look for the local films. Also:
In the summer season, you can join off-road rides, horse riding, zip-line, and paraplanners flyes.
You can reach many viewpoints by off-road cars or horses, to organize this kind of trip usually enough to ask the hotel administrator. The prices to the day-tours start from 20 USD per person and from 50 USD per car.
The prices of 2021 year
To the Ushguli 55-60 USD per car.
To Koruldi lakes 65-70 USD per car.
Transfers during the villages from 15 USD per car.
The horse rent starts from 15 USD and depends on the total renting time. The guiding service from 40 USD for one guide.
Every day you can join groups from the central square that goes to Ushguli in the summer season, to Tetnuldi ski lift at the winner. The 6-7 persons 4WD taxi climb here with price from 7 USD per person.
In the winter season, there is two ski lift in Svaneti with an extensive zone for freeriding. Also here you can find high-level ski guides.
Approximately plan of a 3-4 days trip
We take for example trips with starts from Batumi or Kutaisi. If you have a plan to start from Tbilisi you need to add one day to that. The plan will suitable for the summer season.
The best way spent the day on the road with stops on viewpoints and Museums.
If you start from Batumi, and after 2,5 hours will arrive in Zugdidi, where we can do a stop and observe Dadiani palace and have a coffee.
(if you start from Kutaisi, you can do a stop on the Nokalakevi hot spring, that located close to the way)
Further, you need 1 hour to arrive at the Inguri DAM. In that place you can join a boat trip by Inguri lake (the price is about 15USD for a person), if you have a car driver, you can start from the DAM and finish in 10 km upper, in that issue you will be lost only 30 minutes on that action.
You need to leave 2,5 - 3,5 hours on the way to Mestia if you want to do stops and photos during the drive.
You can have lunch with Khachapuri and Kubdari in the "Kubdari saxli" cafe located between Inguri Dam and Khaishi village.
When you come to Mestia, must be left a time to visit the Hashkhili viewpoint and Khergiani or Margiani house-museum.
If the weather will bad, you can visit the ethnographic museum and do a hike to Chaaladi Glasier (that hike suitable for any weather).
If the weather is good, you can go to Ushguli. For the way in one side you need about 2 hours, the first 30 km is betoning road, the last 10 km is a dirt road, some places are in bad condition and you will need to cross the springs. In dry condition, you can arrive at Ushguli on any high vehicle, if will rains better use the 4x4 cars.
If you love walking you can do a hike to Skhara Glasier from Ushguli. Also, you can go here by 4x4 vehicle or horse. In the village, the most interesting places are Lamari church and the ruins of the Tamara castle.
Usually, on the trip, you will need a full day.
If you drive a good 4x4 off-road car and haven't wish to walk, you can climb up to the second cablecar on the Tetnuli. You will find a nice view from that place.
You can spend the day on the trip to Koruldi lakes ( it can be a walk, vehicle off-road, or horse ride)
If you will go up by 4x4 vehicle, you will have time to go on the Chaaladi or other short activities.
One of the ways that you can do this is to turn to Mazeri and have a hike to the Meziri lake or the Stugra waterfall.
If you climb to the waterfall on the start point located small cafe where you can have lunch.
On the back way, the good choice will do a stop in Zugdidi to visit the Diaroni restaurant with local Megrelilan dishes.