Mestia, the capital of the Svaneti region, is becoming one of the most popular places to visit on any Georgia itinerary. With its stunning mountain scenery, excellent hiking opportunities and unique culture, there are plenty of reasons why travellers want to travel to this part of the country. For most travellers who want to come to Mestia, typical travel routes are either from Tbilisi to Mestia, Kutaisi to Mestia or Batumi to Mestia.
If you’re wondering about the best way to get to the Svaneti region from Georgia’s major cities, then here’s everything you need to know about these travel routes to ensure you have a hassle-free trip.
Tbilisi to Mestia
For travellers looking to head directly from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to Mestia, then there are three main transport options: bus, train & bus combination or a short flight.
Tbilisi to Mestia Bus
If you want to get from Tbilisi to Mestia in one day and aren’t concerned about being crammed in a minibus for 10 hours, then you’ll be happy to know that there is a direct bus from Tbilisi to Mestia. It leaves from Samgori Bus Station (this is the same station where frequent buses leave to Sighnaghi) at 7 am, costing 30GEL a ticket and taking around 10 hours.
Travelling in a minibus in Georgia isn’t always the most comfortable experience so if you have the luxury of time, I would recommend trying to break up the journey when planning your trip. One option is to first head from Tbilisi to Kutaisi, spend a few days exploring the lovely city, then travel from Kutaisi to Zugdidi, spend a night in Zugdidi and then take a marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia which takes about 4 hours.
From Zugdidi to Mestia, marshrutkas leave throughout the day with the first bus leaving at 6 am and then whenever they are full throughout the day. Your best bet is to get there in the early part of the morning to secure a spot. This way you won’t need to wait around long in the city.
Tbilisi to Mestia Train & Bus
If you want to get from Tbilisi to Mestia in one day but don’t want to spend all day in a marshrutka then there is an option to take a combination of a train and bus which will be more comfortable.
There are two trains that currently leave from Tbilisi to Zugdidi. One is a daily train that departs at 8:10 am from Tbilisi and arrives in Zugdidi at 1:45 pm. The other is a night train that leaves Tbilisi at 9:45 pm and arrives in Zugdidi the next day at 6:05 am. You can check the most recent timetables on the Georgian Railways website.
The first marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia is timed to depart with the arrival of the night train. However, as the journey takes 4 hours, you could still have time to get to Mestia in one day if you take the day train from Tbilisi as there are marshrutkas that leave in the afternoon.
The marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia costs 20GEL each and you must buy tickets before boarding the bus from the cashier. If you’re not sure where to go, someone will surely point you in the right direction!
Tbilisi to Mestia Flight
Vanilla Sky is a small local airline that operates regular flights from Tbilisi to Mestia, particularly during the busy summer months. Flights depart from Natakhtari which is located about 30 kilometres from Tbilisi and just north of the old capital of Mtskheta.
Flight time is approximately 1 hour and there are up to two flights daily during summer. You can check schedules here. You cannot buy tickets online at the moment so you’ll need to contact the airline directly or visit their office in Tbilisi to book.
Taking a flight from Tbilisi to Mestia is definitely the fastest way to travel from the Georgian capital and might be a good option if you have return flights from Tbilisi and don’t want to travel the long route both ways.
Kutaisi to Mestia
For travellers looking to go from Kutaisi to Mestia, then you are faced with similar options as if you were travelling from Tbilisi.
Kutaisi to Mestia Bus
There is a direct marshrutka that leaves from Kutaisi to Mestia in the morning. If you’re not able to get on the direct bus, then you can take a marshrutka first from Kutaisi to Zugdidi and then connect to another marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia.
The marshrutka from Kutaisi to Zugdidi costs 7GEL and takes 2 hours with the connecting marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia costing 20GEL and taking 4 hours. The direct marshrutka costs 25GEL so there isn’t much difference between the two options and taking the connecting bus allows you to leave Kutaisi a bit later in the day.
Kutaisi to Mestia Train & Bus
There is a direct train that goes from Kutaisi to Zugdidi, however, it leaves in the afternoon meaning you are only arriving in Zugdidi at around 5 pm. This might make it difficult to get to Mestia on the same day, so if you are insistent on taking the train then I suggest spending the night in Zugdidi and then taking the marshrutka to Mestia the next morning.
Kutaisi to Mestia Flight
It is also possible to fly from Kutaisi to Mestia with Vanilla Sky, however, flights are less frequent and only leave a couple of times per week even in the summer season. The flight time is only 40 minutes but if you want to take this option then it’s best to book in advance as the tickets do sell out.
Batumi to Mestia
If you want to spend a few days relaxing by the Black Sea before heading to Mestia, then it’s also fairly straightforward to travel from Batumi to Mestia. While there are no flights that operate you can easily take a bus between the two cities.
There are direct buses that operate from Batumi to Mestia during the summer in the early morning. They take about 6 hours and cost 30GEL. We ended up travelling in the reverse direction from Mestia to Batumi and when we arrived in the afternoon there were drivers looking for passengers to Batumi, however, I’m not sure if there is enough demand in the afternoon.
If you are unable to get a direct bus from Batumi to Mestia, then first take a marshrutka from Batumi to Zugdidi and then connect to another marshrutka from Zugdidi to Mestia.
Leaving Mestia by Bus
During the summer season, there are direct buses that leave from Mestia to Tbilisi, Batumi & Kutaisi. They leave in the morning and if you want to secure a spot, you should book your tickets one or two days in advance by heading to the Bus Station where you get dropped off when you arrive. The buses to Batumi, Kutaisi & Tbilisi leave at 8 am.
If the direct buses are booked out on the day you want to travel, then you’ll need to head to Zugdidi first and then connect to another bus from there.
Driving to Mestia
If you have decided to rent a car and drive around Georgia, then it is entirely possible to drive to Mestia. The road from Zugdidi to Mestia has been renovated in recent years and is in good condition for regular cars to drive. If you plan on driving from Mestia to Ushguli, then the second half of the drive is along an unpaved road so a 4WD would definitely be preferable.
If you’re planning to rent a car in Georgia, then I recommend travellers browse on Rentalcars.Com to find the best deal as they aggregate results across a number of the major car hire companies. Alternatively, it is also possible to rent directly from locals in major cities like Tbilisi or Batumi. Make sure to also take out an excess insurance policy from a company like iCarHireInsurance to ensure you’re covered for any deductible if you need to make a claim.
Where to Stay in Mestia
There are a number of places to stay in Mestia for travellers ranging from comfortable guesthouses to more up-market hotels.
Guesthouse Guram Baba — If you’re travelling on a budget, then this family-run guest house is a fantastic option. They offer a range of clean and comfortable rooms in a self-contained house with kitchen and laundry facilities. They can also organise transport to Ushguli and offer the possibility to include breakfast for an additional charge. Click here to see their latest prices
Chalet Mestia — If you want to splurge during your time in Mestia, then this hotel is a fantastic option. They offer a range of rooms including some with balconies and fantastic mountain views. There a bar on-site and breakfast is included in the daily rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other rooms in Mestia.
There are a number of options to travel to Mestia from Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi or Zugdidi, meaning you can easily add Svaneti onto your Caucasus itinerary!
When travelling to Mestia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning a trip to Mestia? Have you been recently? Let us know in the comments below!