Mestia

Travel Guide Europe Georgia Mestia

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Introduction

Mestia is the main town in the Svaneti region, Georgia. Mestia is the regional capital of Svaneti. It is also the main centre of tourism for the region. It is a relatively small town of around 2,600 inhabitants, but it is the main service centre for the Svaneti region and as such has many of the characteristics of larger cities. It is a very tourist-friendly town, in part due to several major construction activities including a new road (a twisty but well-maintained mountain road), a renovated town centre with a number of new buildings, and a new airport. There has also been a lot of investment in other infrastructure, such as a new district court, giving Mestia the feeling of a city rather than the rural towns it is. This has made traveling to Mestia much easier, but the main street has lost part of its former character. This said, exploring the streets just behind the main street immediately brings you to very rural areas with cows, pigs and chickens everywhere.

The town is very easy to navigate. It is made up of three villages following the Mulkhra River, with a single main street lying through the entire town. Most guest houses, hotels and restaurants are along this main street.

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Sights and Activities

  • Svaneti Historical-Ethnographic Museum. Astonishingly extensive museum which has one of the oldest New Testament manuscripts in Georgian on display. The museum is equipped with modern display cases and has extensive written descriptions of exhibits in English. Admission is 5 lari.
  • House and Museum of the alpinist Mikhail Khergiani, Khergiani Street 15 (2 km north-east of city center). Part of the tour includes going inside the Svan tower which Khergiani used as his training gym. Admission free.
  • Stone defensive towers. A typical fortified dwelling consisted of a tower, an adjacent house and some other household structures encircled by a defensive wall.
  • Churches of 10th–14th centuries, including Mazhari, Trongsa and some others.

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Getting There

By Plane

Queen Tamar Airport. Mestia's airport opened in 2010. Flights from/to Tbilisi (Natakhtari airfield) are available 4 times a week. Price is 65 lari one way. Price includes free transfer from Tbilisi, M.S. Rustaveli and back. Transfer point is nearby Metro Station Rustaveli, near the fountain.

There is also an option to fly to Mestia from Tbilisi by helicopter. The duration of the flight is 1½ hours. There are a few companies organizing these flights.

By Train

Closest train station is in Zugdidi.

By Car

A new highway from Zugdidi to Mestia has been opened and the trip has become relatively safe and comfortable by public or private transport. The view on the way is amazing. The usual driving time is about 2 hours, although it can be longer in winter following snow falls, or when the road is covered with ice. Whatever the season, it is not advised to drive yourself unless you are used to such mountain roads. Drive with high attention if you are not an experienced driver.

By Bus

From Tbilisi marshrutki (mini buses) go every day from the "samgori-navtlugi" bus station . Departure time: 7:00. Reservations are available at Tel.: +995 595 700 892 Beqa. Also marshrutki go from "Vagzali" bus station. Number of seats 16, ticket price 30 lari per person. Departure time: 5:00. Duration 8-10 hours (depending on the weather conditions).
From Kutaisi there are marshrutki in the morning departing from the main bus station (next to the train station, behind McDonald's). The mini buses have Mestia signs in the front window. The first one seems to leave whenever it is full (maybe around 09:00), while the next one seems to leave at 10:00 even if there are still seats open. Price 25 lari. (August 2018)
From Zugdidi marshrutki to Mestia wait in front of the train station (during the high season only). The price is currently 20 Lari (December 2016). Note that these marshrutki will only go if there are enough passengers. Therefore expect some hours of waiting in the worst case. Duration: 4 hours. An alternative (and the only option during the low season) are marshrutkas. The place is clearly marked "Mestia" and there is a live information available via the personel there. As of December 2016, there is one marshrutka from Zugidi at 9:00 (departs only if sufficiently enough passengers at the stop!), one around 11:00 (from Kutaisi) and one around 12:00 (from Tbilisi).

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Getting Around

By Foot

Small enough to walk everywhere.

By Bike

Some places rent bikes.

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Eat

Mestia has several restaurants and cafés in town.

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Drink

Of course, as anywhere in Georgia, marvelous Georgian wine, beer and chacha!

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés, locally called "internet clubs", are common and cheap in Tbilisi and Batumi but scarce in Kutaisi. Some places offer free WLAN to their customers. At least in Tbilisi, all hostels have free fast WLAN.

There is free Wi-Fi network all over the Tbilisi. Other places might have some hotels, restaurants etc. with (free) wifi.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

International calling code for Georgia is 995. The emergency number is 112.

Many Georgians have now have access to a mobile phone and as such public payphones are becomming obsolete in the bigger cities, although there are many places offering phone services, usually attached to an internet cafe of 'Xerox' shop.

Georgia uses GSM (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) for mobile phones and has three mobile operators. Magti, Bee Line and GeoCell. The best coverage is offered by GeoCell which covers most of the country and a fair bit of the mountains. SIM cards can be purchased from all the networks and topped up with scratch cards purchesed from shops or various touch screen 'kiosks' in the bigger cities. It usually works out a lof cheaper compared to roaming with your own cell phone, especially regarding internet costs.

Post

Georgian Post offers a range of services, but don't count on it being very reliable or quick. On top of that they are relatively expensive. It is advisable to post letters in central post offices rather than using the post boxes in the street. Opening hours are usually from 10:00am to 6:00pm from Monday to Friday, some larger ones at Saturday and most are closed on Sunday.

"Georgian International Express Mail Service" is a member of the World Network of "Express Mail Services". It sends letters and parcels to 200 countries and delivers inbound items received by EMS network to all Georgian regions. EMS has branches in Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Gori, Marneuli. All items are insured by insurance company "IC Group". Nevertheless, you might use international courier companies lik TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx, as they are reliable, fast and comptitively priced as well.

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This is version 9. Last edited at 10:15 on Sep 21, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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