All the guidebooks said a visit to Georgia had to include a trip to Sventi province. So up we went!
First we went to Zugdidi then we switched to a minibus heading for Mestia. At the minibus station, there is a tiny little booth where you buy your tickets. And since all the minibus signs are in Georgian we had to ask around to find the right bus. The Mestia station is literally just a bus with the sign in English and Georgian. We arrived at Zugdidi at around 1:45pm and after waiting around the minibus for an hour there was only one other old granny going. The bus driver said if we wanted to go now he would for 30 Lari each instead of the 15 Lari, we agreed and off we went on a minibus with broken seats onto the mountain highway. The ride was quite an adventure as there were numerous cows and large boulders lying everywhere that required dodging. About 30km from our destination there was a large landslide where we had to wait for an hour before it was cleared. As we didn’t have a guesthouse reserved the minibus driver just dropped us of at one. For 35 Lari per person we were given 3 meals ( they will pack a small lunch if you ask). The price seems to be the going rate for guesthouses with shared washrooms. The meals were quite good with multiple dishes. There doesn’t seem to be Internet in any guesthouse. There was also a hostel called “Seti hostel” in the centre of town but their rate was 20 Lari per person in a 6 bed dorm with no meals. Given that there is only 2 restaurants in the town I don’t think that was a good deal.
We had one full day in Mestia, of which we spent hiking up to the cross and to a small lake ( which we didn’t manage to see). The hike took around 8 hours because we took the long route. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was fantastic. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
An old man tending to his garden patch:
A long climb up:
The million dollar view:
Leaving Mestia was a challenge. We had told the guesthouse lady we wanted the bus to Tbilisi and she said she would reserve a spot for us at 6am. Except that the bus driver who picked us up, kicked us out after 2 mins because the bus was full of locals and instead told us to take the minibus to Batumi which was in the opposite direction. So from 6am to 8am we waited in the minibus not knowing if it was going or not. Luckily everything worked out an the minibus driver dropped is off in Zugdidi and transferred the cash to the driver bound for Tbilisi. In the end we reached Tbilisi at around 6pm and the total cost of the journey was 30 Lari.
We agree that Mestia is beautiful but perhaps if we ever go back we would fly from Tbilisi which supposedly only cost 76 Lari. Unfortunately while we were there we were informed there ha been no flights into Mestia for several months already.
What a view:
Travel tip: From Batumi take the markertesh to Zigdidi and ask the driver to drop you off where the markertesh for Mestia is (12 Lari). From Zugdidi the ride to Mestia should be 15 lari but if there is no other passengers expect to pay 30 Lari. There are minibuses to Zugdidi at 7am, 11am and later. From Zugdidi there are busses to Mestia a 7am, and supposedly 2pm & 9pm.