It’s still coming down at 6am as the mini-bus twists around mountainsides – getting to Mestia in mid-winter is proving a mission. The road is heavily snowed over.
But the sight of these ancient stone towers elevators my early-morning haze. Located in the rugged north-west of Georgia. In the town of Mestia in the Svaneti region and the highest-inhabited part of the Caucasus Mountains, surrounded by peaks of 3000-5000 meters.
Amid the highest-inhabited part of the Caucasus Mountains – surrounded by peaks of 3000-5000 meters, Medieval stone towers spike the white valley of Mestia. These defensive stone towers were built between the 9th-13th centuries and around 175 remain scattered across the valleys.
Amid the highest-inhabited part of the Caucasus Mountains – surrounded by peaks of 3000-5000 meters, ancient stone towers spike the white valley of Mestia. These defensive stone towers were built between the 9th-13th centuries and around 175 remain scattered across the valleys.
Travel Advice for Mestia & Svaneti
- Getting There: Marshrutkas (vans) from Zugdidi leave early morning from outside the train station (good if you’re coming from Tibisi on the overnight train). Travelling in the height of winter is possible: it will be very cold but the road to Mestia is usually cleared fast. (But getting to Ushguli in mid-winter is near impossible; or if you find a willing taxi driver, very expensive and potentially dangerous – due to the snowed-in road).
- Travel Gear: Sleeping bag (as home-stays can be very cold outside of the living room), wind-breaker / gore-tex jacket, good fleece jacket w/ thermal underclothes, gloves, hat. Boots and a double-layer of socks.
- Accommodation & Eating: Hotels are expensive but family home-stays are good value (with large delicious meals included; Mestia eating-out options are limited, especially in winter). You will get you own room, with shared bathroom for around $25-30. Prices include breakfast and dinner. Small shops sell alcohol, snacks, etc.
- Sights: Aside from exploring Mestia and trekking to other villages – the museum was closed for renovation when I visited – there’s a couple of “family museums” that include climbing the towers and seeing original house interiors. The Svaneti Mountain Tourism Centre has friendly English-speaking staff and lots of info (895 358049; www.svanetitrekking.ge; Stalin 7, Mestia)