Ushguli is a city in Svaneti.
There are five villages next to a mountain.
There are mini-buses and also private rides that operate between Mestia and Ushguli. For a mini-bus, the price is 30-40 GEL per person, return. Expect to pay the same amount for a one way trip. For a private taxi, the price is 150-200 GEL per car. There are lots of vehicles leaving Mestia in the morning and returning from Ushguli in the afternoon, making it easy to find people to split the cost of a private taxi, or to find a vehicle that's waiting for one or two more people before leaving. It is not necessary to book ahead with a ticket agent.
There is no public transport between Ushguli and Lentekhi/Kutaisi. You may be able to find a private ride if the road is passable, but you will likely need to pay for the whole car both ways.
If driving yourself, the trip from Mestia is 45km and takes about 1.5 to 2.0 hours. The first 30 km are now paved. In August 2019, the last 15 km were a disaster: rutted, full of large holes, very bumpy, and muddy in places, with several landslide areas and streams to cross. You don't need a 4WD but you do need a vehicle with clearance.
If you are considering driving the 4WD track from Kutaisi, keep in mind that this is a seriously bad road through a remote area. You need a large 4WD vehicle and good driving skills. Check conditions locally first.
Once in the villages, you can walk between them all very easily.
Shkhara Glacier. It will take about 6 hours to hike from Ushguli to the bottom of the Shkhara Glacier and return. Cross the river in Ushguli, and then follow it along well worn trails on the north shore up to the glacier. Part of the walk is on a dirt vehicle track. There's a small cafe after about 2 hours of walking, after which the trail leaves the track and becomes much steeper. You can also hire a 4WD vehicle to take you to/from the cafe if you prefer. Beside hiking, you can also ride a horse to the glacier for 40 gel per horse plus 50 gel for a guide.
Gamarjoba Art Gallery - the owner of this art gallery owns the Gamarjoba Guesthouse too. His name is Mr. Temraz. On the first floor of the guesthouse, there is an art gallery that showed paintings made by the brother of Mr. Temraz. You can find these painting in his Facebook, Fridon Nizharadze Art Gallery (Galeria obrazów Fridona Niżaradze).
Ushguli Tower - there will one tower that you'll see on your right when you pass the Ushguli bridge. This is the only tower that is accessible for people to climb up to the top of the tower. You'll need to climb up to go inside the tower using the wooden stairs provided. Once you're in there, you'll need to start your rock climbing skills because there are no proper way to go up to the roof beside climbing up between the rocks in the tower. There's no safety rail provided for the climbers.
The main attraction in Ushguli is the Shkhara glacier. This can be easily done in a day-trip from Mestia. The hike is 8 kilometers each way over mostly flat, easy trail. You may have to wade several shallow streams, so be prepared. Allow at least 6 hours return. The views along the trail are breathtaking, especially if the wildflowers are in bloom (as they were in June). It is possible to get very close to the glacier by car and save energies for ascending higher and closer to the glacier. See above.
Guides are available (~80 GEL), but are really not necessary. Horses can be arranged for ~40 GEL p/p from most of the guesthouses.
A visit to the Ethnography museum is well worth the GEL 5-6 that the local children will ask for admission. Housed in a preserved Svan house, the museum contains artifacts ranging in age from the long history of the Svaneti regions. The local children will provide rehearsed description of the artifacts in passable English.
The Georgian wartime treasury. Placed in the "most inaccessible part of Georgia" the countless national treasures were held in the Ushguli monastery during periods of conflict.
Walk through the town streets and marvel at the "edge of time" feel to the town. Cows outnumber people in Ushguli and roam the streets at will, so look down as you walk!
You can find Ushguli handmade souvenirs in the cafés. Most cafés will have souvenirs market next to it. Among the souvenirs are:
- Mountain goat horns - act as wine glasses or wine holders.
- Handmade wooden fridge magnets.
- Traditional Georgian hats made from sheeps wool.
- Ushguli handmade scarves made from sheeps wool. Supply is sometimes limited because each scarf takes 3 months to finish by hand.
- Wooden carved items, from pots to hanging decorations.
There are a few cafes, and stores. You could also get food from your guest house.
For latte lovers, you can get the same taste from the cold coffee with ice cream. If you tried to describe latte, they won't get the idea.
Ask anyone in the village for a place to sleep. There are around two dozen guesthouses in the Ushguli area, and the price will be 40-50 Lari per person ($20-$30 as of 2015) and include breakfast and dinner. Guesthouses near the river are usually quieter.
- Hotel Riho, ☎ +99598319134. Hotel Riho is one of the quieter guesthouses we visited in Ushguli. We stayed three places in Ushguli and the food here was the best. Alcohol is not included into the price of accommodation, you can try good home made wine and chacha, Georgian bottled beer is available. Guesthouse consists of 6 rooms for 2-4 people each, can accommodate 20 people, two shared bathrooms (mid July 2015). To get here, go to the top of the town, turn left towards the monastery/cemetery just before the large tower/church on the way to the glacier. Hotel is right next to the Ethnography museum. 50 GEL with two meals. edit
- Nina Nijaradze, (When you come to usghuli the left side of the bridge then treat yourself. Family owns a tower that can be visited.), ☎ +995595854749. Nice family run guesthouse with rooms, shared bathroom with hot water. The owner is an excellent cook. She prepared excellent home-made cheese and pickled mushrooms and breakfast khachapuri. This accommodation is a little different. Accommodation is in really in a family environment. It is very inspiring to see real mountain family living in the mountains. The oldest kids are talking decent English. 35GEL with breakfast and dinner. edit
- Aizer Nikharadze, ☎ +995599165614, . Aizer's guesthouse http://ushguliguesthouse.edicy.co/ is another family owned guesthouse in Ushguli. Aizer's Guesthouse offers accommodation and Georgian national food. There is room for up to 12 people. Price 30 GEL with breakfast, lunch and dinner. edit
- Pido Nizaratze guest house, ☎ 551 70 07 03. Really nice guest house, hot water, owner is local policeman, localted in really old house in Chazhashi (one of Ushguli small towns), you can ask anyone for Pido guesthouse, they will show you the way or call him (not sure if he speaks English). Price 20GEL + breakfast 10GEL + lunch 10GEL + dinner 10GEL (each meal is generous). edit
- Emzar Khatchvani's Guesthouse Kachari, Village Ushguli (right in front of Lamaria church), ☎ +995591926237. checkin: 07:00 AM; checkout: 12:00 AM. Guesthouse Kachari was opened in July, 2014 and is consisted of 4 rooms and 2 bathrooms. Stuff is fluent in English and Russian.The visitors will be offered the possibilities of hiking, horse riding, fishing with a minimal prices. We also can pick the visitors from the airport, train station or any other destinations and offer the transportation with experienced driver and comfortable car with lower price than it is on the local market. The price is 20GEL for one person per one night.The lunch and dinner is not included in room price but can be offered in case of additional payment (15 GEL for each). Guesthouse Kachari is located right in front of one of the most significant tourist sight in village Ushguli - Lamaria, church dated by 12th century. To get more assured instead of title Kachari you should ask someone where is located Emzar Khatchvani's guesthouse so it will be very easy to get the directions. In the guesthouse traveler can find out 3 triple and 1 double rooms. Comparing to other local properties in our guesthouse 2 modern bathrooms are located inside the building, next to rooms. Guesthouse Kachari can offer smoking and non-smoking rooms. There is free camping area on the yard. Also 1 extra bed can be added in each room (with some payment). 20 GEL. edit
- Chazhashi Hotel, ☎ +995593438341. Chazhashi Hotel is a beautiful guesthouse run by a local family. The common area and the rooms are located in a traditional Svan style house with a tower - there are also rooms inside the tower which has a great atmosphere. It is easy to find as it is right behind the hill with the ruins of Queen Tamar's castle. The family has a cow and chickens so they have fresh milk and dairy products daily and can offer seasonal and delicious homemade food depending on your preferences. Part of the property is the oldest house of Ushguli with five corners (about 1500 years) that is being renovated by UNESCO and will host a small museum and a café in the future. You can have a tea, coffee, lemonade, beer, local wine and chacha along with some snacks. There are six rooms for two to four people with beautiful views of the village, mountains and Svan towers. The garden has space for camping and also tables and chairs with shadow for relaxing after a hike. You can rent horses, fishing equipment or even a guide for hiking or a jeep trip. The family is very kind, relaxed and helpful and can give a lot of local tips. 20 GEL per person. edit
There are many vehicles returning to Mestia in the afternoon, and it is usually possible to find a vehicle in the morning. Most vehicles do not operate on a fixed schedule. If you have a return daytrip ticket from Mestia, your driver will give you an approximate departure time. If not, it is advisable to go to the bridge at Ushguli 2 hours prior to your desired departure time and ask the drivers around when is the next time someone will leave Ushguli.
Mini-buses wait at the bridge until they're filled (~30GEL-40GEL p/p) to go to Mestia.
It is also sometimes possible to get rides on to lower Svaneti and Kutaisi over the mountain pass to the south (6 hours from Ushguli to Kutaisi). They leave from near the cafe usually in the early morning. Summertime only. Make arrangements with your guesthouse in advance as this service is not regular. I was told it was spectacular.
- Mazeri - Svaneti mountain village, surrounded by stunningly beautiful landscapes and huge waterfalls. The starting point for several exciting Svaneti trekking routes, including Mount Ushba glacier trek.
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