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Day 4 – Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi | Seven Days in Georgia


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.


Our host at the guest house had offered to serve basic breakfast early at 6am, which is usually not the case, it seems. Our driver was on time at 7:30am, so after a good breakfast we headed out to Mestia.


Find cheap hostel


You have three options to return from Ushguli to Tbilisi:

  • Ushguli to Kutaisi, direct via road – there are taxis and mini-buses leaving Ushguli around 10 am, taking about 6 hours to Kutaisi. Then you need to arrange another taxi to Tbilisi.
  • Ushguli to Mestia to Kutaisi to Tbilisi via road – This takes 2 hours to Mestia from Ushguli, then 4 hours to Kutaisi. Then you need to arrange another taxi to Tbilisi.
  • Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi via air – This is the fastest option. Details below.

Vanilla Sky operates flights from Mestia to Natakhtari a few times a week. Check their website for latest schedule. These are 19-seater small planes and costs GEL 67 one way. It is important to note that flights get cancelled quite often because of fog or rain. Our fellow travelers had their flight cancelled two days before, because of rain. And the second flight on the same day as ours, scheduled to fly at 2:30pm from Mestia got cancelled as well.

We had booked the flight on a Wednesday departing at 11:30am from Mestia. The bus ride from Natakhtari airport to Tbilisi is included in the cost. This is also true for flights starting from Natakhtari.

We got dropped off at the Mestia’s Queen Tamar airport directly at around 9:30am. There are no restaurants or cafes in or around the airport, so make sure to have a meal before arriving to the airport.

The staff got it at around 10:30am and until then no one was sure if the flight would take off because the fog was coming in the mountains around Mestia. Although we know that the plane did take off from Natakhtari at 9:30am, this does not mean the return flight would not be cancelled.

Fortunately, our flight was scheduled to take off. And we went through the simple checkin & security process, before getting on this small plane.

[Mestia’s Queen Tamar airport]

[Mestia’s Queen Tamar airport – Main waiting area]

[Mestia’s Queen Tamar airport – Security check area]

[Mestia’s Queen Tamar airport – checkin counter]

[Mestia’s Queen Tamar airport – fire truck waiting outside besides the runway]

[Boarding pass of Vanilla Sky airlines]

[Vanilla Sky – The plane, L-410 UVP-E]

[Inside the plane before takeoff]

[Pilot and cockpit area – Vanilla Sky L-410 UVP-E]

[Enguri river with Mestia airport runway and city – aerial view]

[Aerial view of Shkhara Glacier]

[With the pilot and first officer]



After arriving at Natakhtari airport, the van was waiting for us to drive to Rustaveli Metro station. We stopped by for lunch at Pasanauri restaurant for some authentic Georgian cuisine –

[Pic 1: Assorted Pkhali; Pic 2: Assorted Khinkali; Pic 3: Ostri (broiled beef in spicy sauce)]

[Interior of Pasanauri restaurant]

Walked over to our hotel in the old town – Namaste Hotel. After checking-in, we headed out to visit some of the sights of the capital city. Walking down to the river from the hotel, we reached the funicular that takes you up to the Narikala fortress.

An ancient fortress overlooking the capital of Georgia, and the Kura River, Narikala fortress consists of two walled sections on a steep hill between the sulphur baths and the botanical gardens of Tbilisi. On the lower court there is the recently restored St. Nicholas church. Newly built in 1996–1997, it replaces the original 13th-century church that was destroyed in a fire.

The fortress was established in the 4th century as Shuris-tsikhe (i.e., “Invidious Fort”). It was considerably expanded by the Umayyads in the 7th century and later, by King David the Builder. The Mongols renamed it “Narin Qala” (i.e., “Little Fortress”). Most of extant fortifications date from the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1827, parts of the fortress were damaged by an earthquake and demolished.

[Narikala fortress in the background]

[Gondola over the Peace Bridge, Tbilisi]

[Kura river and Metekhi cathedral]

[Old Tbilisi]

[Narikala Fortress]

[Gondola over Old Tbilisi]

[Narikala Fortress]

[Narikala Fortress]

[Narikala Fortress]

[St. Nicholas Church]

[People watching over Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress]

[St. Nicholas Church and Kura river from Narikala fortress]

[Mother of Georgia statue]

[Mother of Georgia statue]

[Narikala Fortress in night]

[Narikala Fortress in night]

[Narikala Fortress in night]

[Narikala Fortress in night]

We waited at the fortress until after sunset to see the night views of Old Tbilisi. And then walked down the staircase right into the heart of old town.

Two streets are very well known for their cafes, restaurants and bars – Shardeni st. and Erekle st.. It was almost 7pm by the time we reached Shardeni st and it was time for some coffee! So we stopped by at Irish Cafe, while noticing that the area was very quiet and empty at that time. Guess Georgians are used to late dinners!

Walking around the area, we noticed that there was some stage being set right across from “I Love Tbilisi” cafe. And after inquiring around we found out that the weekend was Tbilisoba, a festival the city celebrates.

Before getting some dinner, we decided to capture the night view of the main cathedral overlooking the city – St. Trinity Cathedral. The best way to reach this is to walk up to Avlabari Metro station and from there catch bus 91 stopping right in front of the cathedral (cost GEL 0.50).

[St. Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi]

[St. Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi]

[St. Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi]

[St. Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi]

[St. Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi]

[St. Trinity Cathedral, Tbilisi]

Instead of taking the bus, we walked downhill from the church, over to the modern architecture marvel of Tbilisi – Peace Bridge. This bridge changes light patterns after 6:30pm and it’s a wonderful experience walking across this pedestrian-only bridge.

Stretching 150 meters (490 ft) over the Kura River, the Bridge of Peace was ordered by the City Hall of Tbilisi to create a contemporary design feature connecting Old Tbilisi with the new district. Since May 2010, the bridge provides a unique view of Metekhi Church, Narikala Fortress and statue of city’s founder Vakhtang Gorgasali on one side, and Baratashvili Bridge and Presidential Office on the other.




It was past 9pm and we walked across the bridge on the Old Town side, right over to Erekle street, one of the best places to have drinks, food or coffee. In mood for some sheesha (hookah), we stopped by Marrakech restaurant for just that!

Past 11pm, we walked back to hotel and called it a night.



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
Lunch at Pasanauri restaurant $8.55 GEL 41 for two persons.
Tbilisi Metro $2.13 GEL 2 for card, GEL 3 for top-up.
Coffee at Irish cafe $2.13 GEL 5
Sheesha & tea at Marrakech restaurant $12.82 GEL 60 for two persons.
Kachapuris from street-side restaurant $1.28 GEL 6 for two persons.
Water $0.85 GEL 2 per person.
Total Costs $27.76 Per person
Overall Costs $282.60 Per person


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Mestia, Ushguli

Sights of Mestia & Ushguli.

Day 4

Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi

Traveling from Ushguli to Mestia to Tbilisi.

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Sighnaghi, Tbilisi

Day trip to wine country.


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