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Winter Amid the Medieval Towers of Mestia – Georgia

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6 AM: The road is thick, fresh snow; undefined – just part of an endless white sheet running the entire mountainside.

It falls in delicate waves as the mini-bus meanders.

Getting to Mestia in mid-winter is proving a mission.

But the sight of stone towers elevates my early-morning haze to a high.


Watch the Video – Exploring Mestia

VIDEO INFO: Getting a mini-bus to the ancient stone towers of Mestia – lost amid mid-winter snow. Drinking with locals, wandering quiet streets, climbing Medieval stone towers, surrounded by the high peaks of the Caucasus Mountains. Travels in Georgia – 2012 (before mass tourism arrived).


Mestia is located in the north-west of Georgia in the Svaneti region.

Valley view of Mestia.

The Caucasus Mountains surrounding Mestia reach 3000 to 5000 meters, and it’s these parts which are among the highest-inhabited areas of Georgia.

View from a Svan stone tower in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.

Medieval stone towers spike the valley of Mestia.

These defensive stone towers were built between 8 and 12 AD. Today, around 175 remain scattered across the valleys of Svaneti.

Room with a view – with wine, at dusk, looking from my – awesome family – home-stay in Mestia.

Travel Advice for Mestia in Winter

NOTE: I traveled here in 2012, and I believe Mestia has really taken off as a tourist resort since (including as a ski resort). Before it was completely quiet in winter.

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).

Traveling in the height of winter is possible: It will be very cold but the road to Mestia is usually cleared fast.

Local people of Mestia
Locals.

(But getting to Ushguli in mid-winter is near impossible. If you find a willing taxi driver it will be 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.

Interior of Medieval stone house – attached to tower at the Margearne residence .

Accommodation & Eating: Hotels are expensive but family home-stays are good value. You get your own room with shared bathroom and large delicious meals are included, for around $25-30 a day.

Small shops sell alcohol, snacks, etc. However, Mestia eating-out options are limited in winter.

Wrecked Soviet truck in backstreets of Mestia in Winter.
Wrecked Soviet truck in backstreets of Mestia in Winter.

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)