A perfect nature retreat should include breathtaking views, healthy organic food, mild physical activity. Even better if it also ends with a relaxing day on the sunny seaside. All this can be found in western Georgia, relatively close to each other and for an affordable price. Our itinerary will show you how to unwind in the Georgian nature if you only have one week. Read on and get inspired!
Day 1: Transfer to Mestia
There are several airports in Georgia, but the country is not very big, so you can reach Mestia in a day from every one of them.
The chief way of transportation in Georgia is communal buses called marshrutkas. They go along a fixed route and pick up and drop people where they need along the way. There is some sort of a timetable for marshrutkas, but sometimes they wait until they are full and start going only then. The best way to orient in this mess is to just head to a bus station and talk to drivers. If you explain to them where you need to go, they can point you to the correct car.
The closest airport to Mestia is the airport of Kutaisi. Besides, a lot of cheap Wizzair flights operate here. Here are prices for the route from Kutaisi to Mestia as of June 2018:
Kutaisi – Zugdidi 10 GEL
Zugdidi – Mestia 20 GEL
Mestia is the main touristic hub of the Swanetian hiking region, so there’s no lack of guesthouses, hotels, and markets. The normal price for accommodation in guesthouses along the proposed hiking route is usually 25 GEL per person per night. Your hosts can also serve you dinner (~15 GEL) and breakfast (~10 GEL). They are usually huge, tasty, organic and your only option because there are no restaurants around anyway. If you have lunch boxes, you can pack breakfast leftovers, of which there will be many, and take them with you for lunch.
If there’s some daylight left after you reach Mestia, make a climb to the cross on the hill over the town for breathtaking views of the surroundings. The elevation gain is about 900m so, depending on your fitness, the round trip should take you about 3-4 hours. See the first part of this route for a detailed description. Another option is to hike to Chalaadi Glacier, which should take 5-6 hours. You can do this even if you have less time – just hire a taxi to take you closer to your destination.
Day 2: Mestia -> Tsvirmi/Chvabiani/Zhabeshi
On the second day, your route lies up to the top of the Hatsvali ski resort. From there, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of Ushba and Mestia from the top. If you don’t want to go up on your own, the Hatsvali lift operates all year round and can bring you to the top without any effort on your part.
From Hatsvali, follow the path along the top of the ridge of Zuruldi massif to the Mentashi transmitter and then head downhill in the direction of Tsvirmi village. A more detailed description and GPX treks of the route for this day and the following days can be found on this webpage.
The logical place to spend the night would be in Tsvirmi, but we’ve found the accommodation scene in this village lacking. The couple guesthouses we discovered there are overpriced and lack comforts. In one house we were offered a toilet outside, which smelled uninviting. So it’s better to walk or hitchhike down to the valley of river Mulkhura and stay in one of the pleasant guesthouses in Chvabiani or Zhabeshi.
Day 3: Tsvirmi/Chvabiani/Zhabeshi -> Adishi
Today you’ll climb to the top of Tetnuldi ski resort. You can either take a direct and a rather steep path from Zhabeshi, of you can walk/hitchhike to Ughviri lake, from which a more comfortable road starts to the ski resort. Unfortunately, the lifts don’t operate in summer, so no cheating here!
After enjoying the views of Zuruldi massif, where you had been walking the day before, take a trail down to another valley where the village of Adishi is ready to welcome tourists in one of its guesthouses.
Day 4: Adishi -> Iprari
Today’s journey is a bit tricky, as you will have to cross the Adishi river in the morning. Stay safe and do it in your boots lest you lose your balance. If you’re afraid, arrange crossing on a horseback with the locals, they will be happy to do it for your money. Another option is to walk up the river to Adishi Glacier where the river starts and to cross the river over ice.
After the crossing, follow the trail over Chkhunderi pass. On the other side of the pass, the road goes down the valley towards Iprari village, where yet another guest house will offer you rest and food. If you’re doing the trail early in the summer, ask locals in Adishi if Chkhunderi pass is already free of snow and passable.
Day 5: Iprari -> Ushguli + Shkhara Glacier
You can walk the last 10km from Iprari to Ushguli along the road or you can take an upper path. To find it, look for a touristic sign close to Davberi village. Another option is to book or hitch a ride from Lalkhori to Ushguli, as the route is not really that scenic.
After you arrive in Ushguli, you should have plenty of time left for a hike to Shkhara Glacier. It’s a pleasant 5-hour hike on a good road along the river. On your way, you can inhale a gorgeous view of the highest ridge in the Caucasus – Bezengi wall. Besides, Shkhara mountain is the highest point in all of Georgia!
Day 6: Transfer to Batumi
Again, you have to rely on marshrutkas to get out of the mountains. The first one leaves Ushguli at 9 – 11 am from the bridge, and the driver will point you to the next connections.
Ushguli – Mestia 30 GEL (it may be more depending on the weather/number of passengers, you’re at the mercy of the driver here)
Mestia – Zugdidi 20 GEL
Zugdidi – Batumi 12 GEL
If everything goes well, you can be in Batumi by 7 pm. There’s plenty of time to find accommodation, have an evening stroll on the promenade and of course enjoy the gorgeous Georgian cuisine! We especially recommend Adjarian khachapuri with an egg and khinkali!
Day 7: Enjoy the Beach!
After several days of hiking, it’s twice as pleasurable to unwind by a sea! Wear thick-soled slippers, as there are stones on the beach. You can rent sunshades and reclining chairs almost anywhere, and there are vendors carrying snacks and water around.
If you’re up for more sightseeing, you can either take a cable car, climb the alphabet tower, or book a taxi to Sameba church. Each of these trips will allow you to see the beautiful Batumi from above!