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« Georgia Itinerary

Day 3 – Mestia, Ushguli

 
« PREVIOUS – Day 2
Kutaisi
Sights of Kutaisi & traveling to Mestia.
 
Day 3
Mestia, Ushguli
Sights of Mestia & Ushguli.

« Seven days in Georgia

 
Day 4 – NEXT »
Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi
Traveling from Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi.

 

Mestia

 
Waking up to a cold morning, we had breakfast at the Guesthouse Edelweiss costing GEL 10 per person. The town was sleepy early morning, except for a few tourists planning to go to Ushguli. Most people leave early morning to hike the Shkhara glacier.

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Having planned to leave for Ushguli around noon, we set out to explore this tiny town. Two main attractions in the town itself are:

  • Ethnographic museum
  • Climb the protection towers

Having checked with our hotel host, there’s only one tower that you can climb, the Khergiani tower. From the main road, there’s a sligh left turn that leads up to the tower. The doors were closed when we arrived and we were asked to stop outside the gate and shout “toto”! An elderly lady opened the door of the house leading to the tower. We paid GEL 2 per person and were lead to this wooden ladder.

WARNING – Climbing these towers can be a dangerous and difficult task. There are no real stairs, but wooden ladders that are steep and not really pinned to anything. Although each of them had railing on it, the last one was lower than the floor and you had to step on the stone ridges to climb. This is not easy for everyone and the tower itself can get claustrophobic with a very tiny “window” on each floor.

We started to climb each floor, took some deep breaths before even attempting to climb the next one. There are 4 floors in this tower leading to the roof. Reaching the last floor before the roof took a few attempts because the wooden ladder did not reach the top of the floor.

khergiani1
[Take this left turn up to the tower from the main road. Look out for the signs on the left.]

khergiani2
[The first ladder]

khergiani3
[Climbing the second floor. These are wooden ladders between each floors.]

khergiani4
[Small ‘windows’ to outside. And yes, those are human bones left there!]

khergiani5
[That’s the small opening leading to the roof.]

 
The views from the top are spectacular and it was worth every effort climbing the tower.

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[View of Svaneti mountains and Mestia]

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[View of Svaneti mountains and Mestia]

khergani12
[View of Svaneti mountains and Mestia]

khergani13
[On the roof!]

 
After a relatively easy descent, we headed back to the center to visit the Ethnographic museum.

The Museum’s collections include important archaeological and ethnographic materials, a rich collection of Georgian manuscripts, and Georgian Orthodox icons painted in the unique Svan style. It also houses ancient objects dating back to early empires and cultures that made their mark on Georgian history.

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Ushguli

 
It was almost 11am when we started to walk back to the hotel. And while in the town center square, a Russian family who spoke English asked us if we wanted to go to Ushguli and Shkhara Glacier. The taxi would take us to a can’t-go-any-further point leading up to the Shkhara Glacier, from where we had to walk about 2 km to the base of the glacier. The driver would take us back to Ushguli and Mestia. Costing GEL 50 per person and taking 2 hours to reach Ushguli, we decided to hop in.

Located at an altitude of 2,100 meters (6,900 ft), and a community of four villages at the head of the Enguri gorge in Svaneti, Ushguli is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe.

 

Mestia to Ushguli
Most mini-buses leave Mestia early in the morning because travelers want to hike the glacier, but there are a few mini-buses/taxis leaving until about 2pm. The drive to Ushguli is very bumpy on unpaved, muddy and stoned road.

Portions of the road tend to get very narrow along the way, so if you have motion sickness, especially on mountainous roads, then make sure to keep anti-motion sickness meds.

 

After reaching Ushguli in just under 2 hours, we took a small break, before driving another 40 minutes to Shkhara Glacier. We drove to a point from where it was too rocky to go further.

ushguli1
[Our taxi; And helping another traveler with a flat tire.]

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[Villages in Svaneti mountains]

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[River flowing long villages in Svaneti mountains]

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[Villages in Svaneti mountains]

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[First view on Shkhara glacier]

ushguli6
[Just arriving at Ushguli]

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[Ushguli village]

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[Shkhara Glacier]

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[This is the point from where we couldn’t go any further]

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[River flowing from glacier downhill, along the autumn foliage]

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[Shkhara glacier and river flowing downstream]

ushguli12
[Shkhara glacier with Ushguli village]

 
From this point onward, we had a 2 km walk to the rocky base of the glacier, but we were instructed to be back at the meeting area in just less than 2 hours as the other travelers with us had to return to Mestia, while we were staying the night in Ushguli.

If you plan to hike the glacier, it could take up to 8 hours to go up and be back to Ushguli, hence it is recommended to stay in one of the several guesthouses there. The locals have opened up their houses and put up rooms on booking.com as B&Bs and inns. With a lack of any restaurants or cafes in the village, the guesthouses offer dinner and breakfast included in the price of the stay.

There are no real roads, no street lights and no real maps for you to navigate your way in the night, so make sure to carry torch if you plan to venture out in the cold, dark nights.

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[Our guesthouse – Shoalineni]

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[Living room of our guesthouse]

ushguli_guesthouse3
[Fantastic dinner at our guesthouse]

 

Ushguli to Mestia
Your options of returning back to Mestia from Ushguli are very limited. With no taxis or mini-buses operating in the tiny village, especially early morning, you are mostly stuck with your private taxi that you will have to arrange in Mestia.

Some taxi drivers arrive from Mestia around 10am, dropping off travelers & hikers. So this might be your best bet to return back to Mestia. If you plan to return back in evening, then you have quite a many taxis and mini-buses returning as a day-trip to Ushguli.

But leaving early morning or late night requires a pre-organized private taxi.

Our taxi driver asked for GEL 130 for an early morning start to Mestia. Since we knew that we had no options, we agreed to having him come early in the morning at 7:30 to drive us back to Mestia.

 

After a nice dinner, we called it a day!

 

Costs

Note: All values in USD, unless otherwise mentioned, are approximate and based on the exchange rate of USD 1 = GEL 2.34 at the time of publishing. Each cost is for one adult.
 

What Cost Notes
Breakfast at hotel $4.27 GEL 10 per person.
Khergiani Tower entrance $0.85 GEL 2 per person
Ethnographic museum $2.13 GEL 5
Taxi from Mestia to Ushguli $21.36 GEL 50 per person.
Snacks & water $2.13 GEL 5 per person.
Total Costs $30.74 Per person
Overall Costs $1,007.24 Per person

 

 
« PREVIOUS – Day 2
Kutaisi
Sights of Kutaisi & traveling to Mestia.
 
Day 3
Mestia, Ushguli
Sights of Mestia & Ushguli.

« Seven days in Georgia

 
Day 4 – NEXT »
Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi
Traveling from Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi.
  • Omer Lekach

    hello, im planning a trip to gerorgia next summer, and we can’t seem to find a ride from mestia to ushguli, how did you guys found the taxis?

    • travelonthedollar

      Hello
      Most buses from Mestia to Ushguli leave early morning, but we left at noon because we wanted to stay a night in Ushguli. Usually you may not find a bus in the afternoon, but we got lucky while we were at the central square. Someone was leaving and we were asked if we wanted to leave and we just hopped in! Your best option is to leave early morning when a lot of buses leave from the Main Street. Just ask anyone and they should be able to tell you where.


SEVEN DAYS IN GEORGIA

 
Planning
Planning & Information
Visa, tips, details of planning.

 
Day 1
Tbilisi, Mtskheta, Gori, Uplistsikhe
Arriving in Tbilisi & traveling to Kutaisi, via Mtskheta, Gori, & Uplistsikhe.

 
Day 2
Kutaisi
Sights of Kutaisi, and traveling to Mestia.

 
Day 3
Mestia, Ushguli
Sights of Mestia & Ushguli.

 
Day 4
Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi
Traveling from Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi.

 
Day 5
Sighnaghi, Tbilisi
Day trip to the wine country.

 
Day 6
Tbilisi, Kazbegi
Day trip to Mt. Kazbegi.

 
Day 7
Tbilisi
Waterfall, Aghmashenebeli St., Tbilisoba

Expenses
How much did it cost?
List of all the expenses.
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