As of late September, 2013, the fastest and most exciting way to arrive in Mestia is via a MI-8 helicopter from Tbilisi. The 23-seat chopper flies over the stunning mountains in only 1.5 hours, as opposed to the grueling 8-9 via Marshrutka. Only 50 Lari for an incredible ride--but it will only fly in good weather. In the event of poor weather, the flight will go on the next day with flyable conditions. Flights are only on Monday and Friday, leaving at around 1000 from Tbilisi's main airport and returning around 1400 from the airstrip at Mestia. Flights are coordinated by the Next Travel agency in Tbilisi.
Their office is on Kostava Street, number 11, in Tbilisi. Phone: (+995 32) 2 92 10 39, or, (+995 595) 188 188. Alternatively, if you're in Mestia, the local contact is +955 591512533. - not available anymore 2014-09-01
A new airport in Mestia - Queen Tamar Airport - has recently opened, and flights between Mestia and Tbilisi are now available 5 times a week for 65 lari (including transfer to Tbilisi if flying from Mestia) each way. Reserve tickets at least a week in advance.
In the summertime a plane flown by the Georgian military will give you a ride between Kutaisi and Mestia. The plane only operates on "perfect" days. This is a very fun experience! The cost is free to the locals, or ~$15 USD for foreigners. It will take off from a grassy field in Mestia, and land in Kutaisi in less than an hour! This will reduce travel time to the capital by about 6-8 hours! The plane flies on Saturdays and leaves Kutaisi at 9. The pilot's name is Leri - 877-199-689 (Info from 2010, number no longer valid in 2014).
During the summer 2014 there are flights from Tbilisi to Mestia for 65 GEL one way (100 GEL return flight)from Natakhtari Airfield. Flights from Natakhtari to Mestia and back are operated by air company Serviceair, by air plane LET 410-UVP. Flights are on Monday, Wednesday and on Friday. From Natakhtari to Mestia at 09:00 AM and from Mestia to Natakhtari at 11:00 AM. The registration time is one hour before the flight. Flight duration is one hour. Price includes free transfer from Tbilisi , M.S. Rustaveli and back - from Natakhtari to Tbilisi also. Transfer point is nearby Metro Station Rustaveli, near fountain. Reservations are available at:
From Tbilisi to Zugdidi by night train, then take a marshrutka (minibus) from Zugdidi train station to Mestia. Ticket price 20 GEL (2013). Duration 3-4 hours.
Tbilisi - Mestia marshrutkas (mini buses) go every day from "Vagzali" bus station. Number of seats 16, ticket price 30 Gel per person. Departure time : 5:00 am. Duration 8-9 hours (depends on the weather conditions). Mestia-Tbilisi mini bus leaves at 7am and 8am. Only one (maximum 2) marshrutka goes to Zugdidi at 6 a.m.and around midday.Costs 20 lari There are also marshrytki to Batumi.
From Zugdidi, just go to the train station (all the mashrutkas are there) and try to find the Mestia sign on a small shop (or ask around). They leave every time the mini bus is full and it costs 20 GEL (you can say it's 15 GEL and they usually say OK).
A new highway from Zugdidi to Mestia has been opened and the trip has become safe and comfortable by public or private transport. (Drive off-road cars with high attention if you are not an experienced driver). A taxi cost 100 GEL from Zugdidi to Mestia and can hold four people.
There is an ATM on the main road.
Svaneti Historical-Ethnographic Museum, which has one of the oldest New Testament manuscripts in Georgian on display. 5 GEL per adult.
House and Museum of the world-famous alpinist Mikhail Hergiani.
Hiking, supported by the Mountain Tourist Centre of Svaneti, Pereulok Stalina No. 7, 200 m from the main square in Mestia.
Mestia is also the embarkation point for a trip to Ushguli, the highest altitude inhabited point in Europe. There is another small Ethnographic Museum there, containing 12th century religious artwork.
Mountain Ushba is a main attraction, in good weather conditions you can see it above.You can also get to its base.
Walk to the Mount Ushba glacier takes around 6 hours, starting from a beautiful mountain village Mazeri.
Take the cable car (kanatnaya doroga) to the top (6km) to see the splendid view. The walk to the cable car is long though (8km), so try to hitch hike.
Get in one of the old fortresses (koshka) to see how the protection worked before.You might pay for the entry there.
Beautiful works of Folk art can be bought at the Mountain Tourist Centre.
Mestia has only very few options for eating out. On the main street there are two restaurants that both serve very nice food. The nicer looking of the two, near the center, is slightly more expensive, but still very cheap. Meat-filled dumpling - 0.50 per one. Beef stew - 5 Lari, salad - 4 Lari. Tea - 2 Lari.Draught georgian beer is also available, 2lari.
There are few bakeries where you can get fresh warm bread for 1 lari. Try the local cheese.
There is a small market for fruit and vegetables and a number of shops.
Lots of interesting mineral water. And of course, as anywhere in Georgia, marvellous Georgian wine and chacha!
If you want to stay just at the foot of Ushba mountain, visit guest house in Mazeri village in Becho community, Mestia region:
As of August 2011, massive construction works are in progress at Mestia. Therefore the place might not look so scenic.