Things to do - general


Beautiful, wild and mysterious Mestia, Svaneti is an ancient land locked in the Caucasus, so remote that it was never tamed by any ruler, and even during the Soviet period it largely retained its traditional way of life. Uniquely picturesque villages and snow-covered peaks rising over 4000m above flower-strewn al- pine meadows provide a superb backdrop to the many walking trails. Svaneti’s emblem is the koshki (defensive stone tower), designed to house villagers at times of invasion and local strife (until recently Svaneti was renowned for its murderous blood-feuds). Around 175 koshkebi, most originally built between the 9th and 13th centuries, survive in Mestia today.
Svaneti’s isolation meant that during the many invasions of Georgia over the centuries, icons and other religious artefacts were brought here for safekeeping, and many of them remain in private homes. Svaneti also has a rich church-art heritage of its own, and many tiny village churches boast frescoes 1000 years old. This mountain retreat is regarded by many as a bastion of Georgian traditions, such as can be witnessed at Svan festivals such as Kvirikoba. Svans speak their own, unwritten, language, largely unintelligible to other Georgians. They live mainly from farming cattle and pigs, and, today, tourism.
Svaneti is divided into Upper (Zemo) and Lower (Kvemo) Svaneti. Upper Svaneti offers the best walking and climbing as well as the strongest traditions; it is very green, with subalpine forests of hornbeam, chestnut, spruce, pine and fir.
Svan food may be less elaborate than other varieties of Georgian cuisine, but is delicious when well done. Typical dishes include kubdari pies, chvishdari (cheese cooked inside maize bread) and tashmujabi (mashed potatoes with cheese).
More about How to get in Svaneti region.
Delica Club Georgia

Country Georgia

Svaneti Region

Capital CityMestia
Languages spokenGeorgian, Svan, Russian, English
Phone Code0790


Svaneti is divided into Upper (Zemo) and Lower (Kvemo) Svaneti. Upper Svaneti offers the best walking and climbing as well as the strongest traditions; it is very green, with subalpine forests of hornbeam, chestnut, spruce, pine and fir.


At an altitude of 1400m, Mestia is a conglomeration of at least 10 neighborhoods, dotted with typical Svan towers which are picturesquely floodlit after dark. Government- sponsored tourism development has seen the area around the central square, Setis moedani, attractively spruced up, and an airport, ski station and hotels have all appeared in the last few years.


Ushguli, a 47km drive southeast from Mestia, reaches up to 2100m above sea level and is claimed to be the highest permanently inhabited place in Europe. With more than 20 ancient Svan towers, it has been on the Unesco World Heritage List since 1996. Set in the topmost reaches of the Enguri valley beneath the snow-covered massif of Mt Shkhara (5068m), Georgia’s highest peak, it’s a superbly picturesque and atmospheric spot – actually a conglomeration of four villages (from lowest to highest: Murqmeli, Chazhashi, Chvibiani and Zhibiani).
There’s some wonderful walking around Ushguli: it takes about seven hours to walk 8km up the valley to the foot of the Shkhara glacier and back. One tower in Chazhashi houses Ushguli’s main Ethnographic Museum, with a superb collection of gold, silver and wooden icons and crosses dating back to the 12th century from Ushguli’s seven churches. A second ethnographic museum, in a machubi (traditional home shared between people and livestock) in Zhibiani, opens when you find someone with a key. At the top of Ushguli, beautifully situated on a hill looking up the valley to Mt Shkhara, is the 12th-century Church of the Virgin Mary (Lamaria), with a defensive tower next to it.


Becho, a community of several small vil- lages strung up the Dolra valley west of Mestia, is a very beautiful and relatively little visited area with some wonderful walks. Bring your passport in case Georgian border guards want to see it. The valley is headed by the spectacular, twin- peaked Ushba (4700m). One lovely, well marked walk from Mazeri village leads up the Dolra River then up past waterfalls to the glacier on the west side of Ushba (about eight hours there and back). From about mid-June to mid-October you can walk from Mestia to Mazeri in about nine hours via the Guli Pass (the route diverges west from the Koruldi Lakes route at the Lamaaja ridge).

Museum of History & Ethnography

Mestia’s excellent main museum is 600m south from Setis moedani, across two bridges. The Svans are reluctant to see their rich treasury of religious items moved from the villages, but the museum’s collection is comprehensive, and labelled in English as well as Georgian. The exhibits include a historic collection of 1890s Svaneti photos by Italian Vittorio Sella, and a hall with reproductions of famed Svaneti church murals, but the highlight is the two-room treasury: here you can see a Persian silver jug given to Svaneti by Queen Tamar, a number of beautifully illuminated gospels, and golden altar crosses and chased-metal icons of amazingly high quality – all from the 9th to 14th centuries. One rare icon shows St George spearing the emperor Diocletian instead of his usual dragon.

Mikhail Khergiani Museum

Dedicated to a famous Svan mountaineer, this interesting little museum also exhibits woodcarving and other traditional Svaneti artefacts.

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Activities info

Walks around Mestia

Take local advice as you make your plans. Many routes are well signposted; others aren’t. Your accommodation or the Tourism Information Centre will help you find a guide if you want one. The walking season lasts from about early June to mid-October, though some routes can be waterlogged early or late in that period. Check for route information and maps.
A moderately demanding half-day walk is up to the cross that’s visible 900m above Mestia on the north side of the valley. The views get better as you go, and from the cross you can see the spectacular twin peaks of Mt Ushba (4700m), Georgia’s toughest and most dangerous mountaineering challenge. From Setis moedani, walk 450m east along the main street then take the lane up to the left (Khergiani, becoming Lanchvali). Take the uphill option at all junctions, passing under an arch after about 350m. After 150m more the street becomes a footpath: follow this up and after 800m it bends to the right across the hillside, eventually meeting a jeep track. You can follow this, shortcutting some bends, all the way to the cross. The return trip from Mestia takes about five hours. With good weather and enough daylight and energy, you can continue to the Koruldi Lakes, a group of pristine small lakes about two hours beyond the cross and some 300m higher.
The walk to the Chalaadi Glacier is another good route, of about six hours return trip, taking you out past Mestia’s airport and up the Mestiachala valley. Take your pass- port as Georgian border guards may want to check it. The last section is up through woods to the foot of the glacier. Watch out for rocks falling off the glacier in summer.
From about late July to late September you can spend a lovely two or three days walking to Ushguli if you start with a taxi as far as Ipari (Nakipari on some maps), about 20km southeast of Mestia. From Ipari the first stage takes you to Adishi, where there’s good homestay accommodation. The second stage is from Adishi to Iprari. From Iprari it’s three or four hours’ walk to Ushguli.

Winter Activities

Mestia is the staging post for most trips to Svaneti. It is a convenient base for exploring the area. It has always been a popular summertime destination for holidaymakers, but nowadays Mestia is inviting skiers onto the slopes of its mountains. The resort offers paths of various difficulties to skiers. Three ski routs have been built here complying with the highest international standards.
Besides winter pastime Mestia offers its visitors rich cultural heritage to explore. Its house-towers, most of them dating back to the 12/13th centuries, spring up from the ground like miniature castles. With strong architectural presence it is no surprise that Mestia Museum is treasure trove of exquisite icons and artifacts gathered from Svaneti’s many remote churches and villages, preserved in this natural mountain fortress from centuries of pillagers. Here you are truly in the heart of the mountains and the feeling of being here is indescribable!

Downhill Skiing

Newly constructed ski lift, that offers four-seated open cabins enabling skiers to reach the peak of the route in comfort, is 1 400 meters in length. It starts at an altitude of 1 800 meters and reaches 2 350 meters at its highest point.
The length of the red ski run for professional skiers is 2 600 meter long. The blue run targeting less experienced skiers is 2 670 meters in length. 300 meter long Mugviri run is for amateur skiers.


Being a new winter resort Mestia’s heliskiing potential is yet to be explored. Though lovers of extreme venture to ski down the highest peaks of the resort.

Ace Skating

Ice skating rink is located in the centre of Mestia. It is run by local government. The rink offers skating lovers 70 pairs of skates for free.

Hatsvali Ski Station

The ski station at Hatsvali, 8km south of Mestia up a good paved road, opened in 2010. The season runs from December or January to about early April. The station has a 300m beginners’ slope, a 2565m blue run, a 1900m red run and a French-built chair-lift.


Mestia & Ushguli have dozens of guesthouses and home- stays, most of them happy to provide as many or as few meals as you like, including picnic lunches. Most can arrange vehicles and/or guides for out-of-town trips and help with most things you might want to do. All those mentioned here have shared bath- rooms with hot showers.

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Culture and history

Great Caucasus

A trip into the Great Caucasus along Georgia’s northern border is a must for anyone who wants to experience the best of the country. Spectacular mountain scenery, wonderful walks and picturesque, traditional old villages with strange, tall defensive towers are all part of a trip to the Great Caucasus.
Georgia’s very identity hinges on this mighty range that rises in Abkhazia, forms the border with Russia and runs the length of the country into Azerbaijan. The Caucasus includes the highest mountain in Europe, Mt Elbrus (5642m, on the Russian side of the border), and remains little touched by commercial development in a way the Alps can only dream about.
The most accessible destination is Kazbegi, reached by the dramatic Georgian Military Highway from Tbilisi, but other areas are more than worth the effort of getting there – including enigmatic Svaneti, a refuge for many things considered essentially Georgian, and beautiful, pristine Tusheti.
It’s notably cooler in the mountain villages, which can be a blessed relief in August, and in the hills you should be equipped for bad weather any time. The best walking season in most areas is from June to September. Some areas such as Khevsureti and Tusheti are only accessible for a few summer months.


Towers and fortresses in Svaneti

Svaneti has preserved its original medieval architectural appearance to a remarkable degree. The characteristic landscape of Svaneti is formed by small villages on the mountain slopes, dominated by towers and surrounded by a natural backdrop of gorges, alpine valleys and snow-covered mountains. The majority of tower settlements in Svaneti come from the early middle ages and the Svan towers were primarily used as defensive structures. Most of these towers are 20-25 metres tall and have four or five storeys. The tower levels are connected to each other via internal wooden staircases and covered by gabled roofs, with several narrow defense windows. On the highest floor there is usually a platform to attack from during invasions. The towers were built from local stone and some families still use the upper floors for storing crops. A typical Svan family consisted of up to thirty or even a hundred members . Svan fortress was also the residential house. In the event of an attack they were used to protect their inhabitants. The ground floor was used for living and keeping livestock, the first floor was used for storing hay. A hearth in the centre of a big room, where the food was also cooked, heated the house. As a rule, the house was attached to a tower.


The history and culture of Svaneti is rich with folk music, with rigorous and powerful singing to match the severe habitat and hard life-style of the Svans’. The songs are mainly dedicated to national heroes, fights against the conquerors, religious holidays and famous royals (e.g. Queen Tamar), the Goddess of Hunting Dali. Many songs were composed before Christian times and therefore have a heathen context (e.g. the song “Lile” – is dedicated to the goddess of the Sun “Kaltidi”). Listening to these songs surrounded by snowy mountains and Svan towers and fortresses, you will certainly get a sense that you are back in the middle ages. The Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography is located in Mestia. It houses some of the most important archaeological and ethnographical materials and a rich collection of Georgian manuscripts and icons.

Culture and history

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Svaneti Jeep Tour

Svaneti Jeep Tour

Mestia, Svaneti
Your best travel guide for Svaneti Jeep Tour Tour name: Svaneti Jeep Tour Route: Tbilisi – Zugdidi – More info

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