Svaneti region, located in the northwestern part of Georgia, is widely known for its amazing mountainous nature, picturesque hiking trails and unique Svan towers. That’s exactly the place where the epic mountain Ushba, Tetnuldi Peak, Laila, Adishi, and Chalaadi Glaciers are located. There is also the Mestia-Ushguli Trek, which is one of the most popular trails in Georgia. Because of these and other reasons, Mestia, Ushguli, and the surrounding area were recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. No wonder there is such a growing interest in visiting and hiking in the Svaneti region.
Mainly your starting destinations to Mestia can be the bigger cities such as Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Zugdidi. Tourism in Georgia is one of the high-growth industries, so there are quite many alternative ways to get where you intend. You can get to Svaneti by train, bus, marshrutkas, or even by plane. With this article, you can get deeper into the transportation system to Svaneti, and based on the information given below, you can choose the alternative that would work best for you.
Leaving by train
You can make Tbilisi, Kutaisi, or Zugdidi as your trip starting point. You can go to Svaneti by train, if you’ll go for Tbilisi-Zugdidi or Tbilisi-Kutaisi train. After arriving in Zugdidi or Kutaisi by train, you can catch marshrutkas from the local bus stations to get to Svaneti.
Basically, the Tbilisi-Zugdidi train runs every day at 08:30 and 6hrs 20mins is needed to get to the destination. The train ticket fare is 16 GEL (6 Euros). After arriving in Zugdidi, you can catch marshrutkas which are waiting for the train, and leave for Mestia at 15:00. There also used to be the night trains to Zugdidi. Actually, this was a great opportunity because you could easily get marshrutkas in the morning and start your hiking the same day. But unfortunately, the Tbilisi-Zugdidi night train has been canceled and hasn’t started running since due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for the Tbilisi-Kutaisi train, it also runs every day at 08:50 and you’ll get to the destination in 5hrs 50mins. Its fare is 9 GEL (3 Euros). You can read the detailed information about the Kutaisi marshrutka transfers down below. You can also see the schedules or book the tickets Online or visit the Central Railway Station.
Leaving by Marshrutkas
Traveling by Marshrutkas is a very popular way of transportation in Georgia, since it’s relatively cheap. But if it’s your very first time catching them, you have to take some things into consideration. Since there are usually so many people, It’s important to go to the station earlier to take your seats in advance. Marshrutka leaves the station as soon as it’s filled up. When you have a long road to go, the driver usually makes short breaks, so you can grab your lunch and have a short rest.
Marshrutkas leave for Mestia from Tbilisi, Navtlugi Bus Station daily at 07:00, costing 50 GEL (17.25 Euros). The trip takes around 8-9 hours.
You can also plan your trip by making Kutaisi or Zugdidi as your trip starting point. Marshutkas leave for Mestia from the bus stations. There are several bus stations in Kutaisi but you’ll need to catch a taxi from the Kutaisi Railway Station. You’ll need the bus station which is near McDonald’s. It’ll take around 5 hours from the Kutaisi Bus Station to Mestia and the marshrutkas leave at 10:00, costing around 40 GEL (13.80 Euros). The ticket prices are changing by season though. So if you don’t want to visit Kutaisi in particular, it’d be better to take the Tbilisi-Zugdidi train, as the bus station is right next to the railway station in Zugdidi.
As for Zugdidi-Mestia, the trip will take around 3 hours. Buses leave at 15:00 from the Zugdidi Bus Station and the ticket price is 35 GEL (12.10 Euros). You can also catch Marshrutka from Batumi Cable Car Station. The trip will take around 5-6 hours and the Marshrutkas leave for mestia once in two days at 15:00. The ticket costs 50 Gel (17.25 Euros). The Batumi-Mestia direct transfer isn’t fixed though as it’s seasonal and can change at every minute. Basically, it’s totally up to you, based on your itinerary and priorities, you can choose any of these ways to travel to Mestia.
Flights to Mestia
Probably, one of the best ways to get to Mestia is by taking a flight. There are several opportunities you can use. For example, you can take a flight from Natakhtari (Mtskheta) which is 20mins away from Tbilisi. Vanilla Sky company provides free transportation from Tbilisi center to Natakhtari airport. Flights to Mestia operate from Natakhtari four times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The plane leaves at 10:00 and the trip takes around 30 mins. It costs 90 GEL (31 Euros). There is also a luggage limit, which is 15 kg per passenger (including hand luggage).
You can also take a flight from the Kutaisi National Airport once a week, on Wednesdays at 12:00. The flight takes 25mins, costing 50 GEL (17.25 Euros). You can see all the schedules, Tbilisi-Natakhtari transfer information and luggage limit details on the following website.
Taking a flight definitely is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Svaneti but you have to take the weather conditions into consideration, as the flight may get canceled at the last minute due to the unfavorable weather. So, if you have a tight schedule, it can become a problem. If you still decide to take a flight, you have to book your ticket in advance as soon as possible, as so many people are interested in flying to Mestia.
If you want to travel alone or with your friends quietly and avoid public transportation, you may give preference to an individual transportation system. You can use different car renting services. There are so many companies and individuals which offer renting different types of cars in Georgia. To get to Mestia, you’ll need a 4WD car. You can see rental terms on different websites, such as localrent.com.
Or if long driving through the whole country does not attract you, you can get a private transfer to the Svaneti region as well. Camp Caucasus can arrange your transfer from any city. Interested? You can get in touch here. Basically, the prices for Tbilisi-Mestia transfer start from around 700 GEL (241 Euros) and the trip will take around 8 hours.
You can use any of these transportation ways mentioned above to leave Mestia. Mestia-Natakhtari planes operate on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 12:00. As for the Mestia-Kutaisi flight, it’s generally scheduled on Wednesdays at 13:30.
You can also take marshrutkas which leave to Zugdidi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Tbilisi from Mestia Bus Station everyday. Marshrutkas leave once a day at 08:00 in the morning. As for the prices,
Mestia-Zugdidi marshrutka costs 35 GEL (12.10 Euros),
Mestia-Kutaisi 40 GEL (13.80 Euros),
Mestia-Batumi 50 GEL (17.25 Euros)
Mestia-Tbilisi 50 GEL (17.25 Euros).