Georgia

The Ultimate Guide for Mestia to Ushguli trek!

In-depth description of Mestia to Ushguli hike: all you need to know about this multi day trek in Georgia

What is it and what can you expect from this multi day trek Mestia to Ushguli?

The Mestia to Ushguli trek is a four (or three) days hike in the Svaneti region of Georgia. Mestia-Ushguli are the two points, Mestia beginning and Ushguli the end. The trek offers traditional Svaneti villages and diverse nature of the Caucasus. The guesthouses are real homes of the Svaneti villagers and travellers get to experience authentic Georgian food and hospitality. As for the nature, travellers will experience fields, forests, mountains and view of glaciers. Also, glacier river crossing is a part of this trek. Mestia-Ushguli trek is possible for everyone if you are able to walk and are in normal shape. If you are interesting in getting away from busy cities to experience nature, this is the trek for you.
Because this trek offers travellers to stay in guesthouses everyday it is an easy option for those with no camping gear. The guesthouses will offer food, electricity (when there is power) and hot showers. If you are more an adventure traveller, or maybe ultra-low budget traveller, bring your own tent and food. All kinds of travellers are able to do this trek. This trek is a popular trek in Georgia.

Horse on the go

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What is expected by you on this multi day trek in Georgia, Mestia to Ushguli?

Some claims this to be a medium-level trek. But we did it with no hiking gear or a lot of experience in hiking. It is not a hard hike and most travellers can do it.

  • You have to be able to walk for some hours, the longest day was 19 km, but the rest was around 10-15km per day. There are step parts, but they never lasted longer than two hours max. Hereby, you have to be able to know it will be easier soon.
  • You need to be able to use a map-app on your smartphone. Know how to save battery in case of no electricity in the villages.
  • You need to be able to cross one river by foot. This means either keep your shoes on and balance on rocks, or go barefoot and balance on rocks. It is not deep water, just cold.
  • You need to be able to ask the villagers for prices for a one-day stay when you get there.
  • You need to be able to enjoy the views along the trek.
  • You need to not panic when you see cows, oxen, horses, dogs and birds.
  • You need to be able to use your eyes and look around. Look for the path symbol. Look for the trail.\
  • You need to be able to carry your own backpack for four days. It shouldn’t be heavier than 10 kg if you stay in guesthouses. For the more adventurous – you can bring your own tent and food – it will be heaver and harder.

As you can see, the bar is pretty low. It is an easy trek. And if you want to make it harder, bring your camping gear and go wild.

all treks in georgia have trail markings
The whole trek is market with these red and white stripes – trail tracks – for the Mestia to Ushguli trek

Remember, look for this trekking mark during your treks in Georgia. During Mestia-Ushguli, this trekking mark is easily found along the route:

How long is the Mestia to Ushguli trek?

In total of four days hiking, the distance is 58,53 km (this number is from my “tracking” app for distance measurement). That means on average, it is 14,6 km per day. You can skip the last part and take a car, which will take out 13,41 km.
It is true that each km is not the same. Some days had shorter km and was harder because of more steep trails. But the trails where easy to find, easy to follow and the steep part was not the majority of the day.

How much time does the Mestia to Ushguli trek take – day to day?

Further down you can read a description of day to day, but overall you spend about 5 hours each day with normal pace. The third day which is the one with 19 km, you spend around 7-8 hours, but most of this is on easy trail. It is only because the distance is a little longer and the crossing of the river that may take some extra time. The time used for the river crossing depends on the water lever.
We recommend to begin around 09-10 o’clock in the morning. Then you have no rush to get to the next village before it gets dark.

The last day you will have time to get to Ushguli, walk around and get a marshrutkas back to Mestia. If you do not have time for four days of hike, you can skip the last day and take a ride to Ushguli on the third day. Yet, the author recommend spending a day or two in Ushguli as it is an unique place, Europe’s highest village, with history and nature alike.

It is up to you have you plan this Mestia-Ushguli trek. There are many possibilities, so there should be a way for you to get to experience this nature hike if you want.

What you need to bring and pack for the multi day trek Mestia to Ushguli?

There is no need to bring all kinds of fancy hiking gear. If you already have them and know how to use them. Do it. If you are new to the game and just want to walk – it is fine. Don’t worry about having too little gear. If you stay in guesthouses, bring as little as possible. Maximum 10kg. There is no need to carry any more. There are no shops on the road after Mestia. You need to bring what you need. This is the gear you should bring:

  • A drinking bottle. You can drink the water from the tap all over in Svaneti! It is high quality mountain water. No need to buy water at the shops (but you can if you want). You can reuse a water bottle or have a more sustainable one. The point is, you can fill the water up when you go to guesthouses and during the hike from rivers.
    • WARNING: Do not fill up water from still water (ponds etc.). It has to be running water. To check if it is a good source, smell the water. If it smells nothing, fill up your bottle. Look at the color. It should be clear, but sometimes mountain water has a touch of yellow or green as color. It comes from the moss and plants. If it doesn’t smell, taste it. If it taste nothing or just fresh, it is perfectly fine to drink it. If it smell or taste something, find another source.
  • A pair of comfortable shoes – sneakers or jogging shoes are perfectly fine. Hiking boots will for sure be more comfortable (if you have broken them in), but if you do not have them, do not worry. We did the trek in Nike and Adidas shoes and had no problems.
  • A set of warm clothes for the evening. It gets cold in the evening in the mountains.
  • Shorts and t-shirt. Most people get warm when they are physical active. Walking up and down for hours will, most likely, make you warm. Shorts and t-shirts are comfortable and also something you most likely have anyway.
  • A headlight can be practical if you are very bad at getting started in the morning or if the electricity power is down in the guesthouse. (Do not forget to check if you have enough batteries)
  • Soap – often the guesthouses have soap and sometimes shampoo. But sometimes they don’t.
  • A rain cover. Poncho or rain clothes. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable. You also need rain cover for your backpack. It is not funny to walk around completely soaked.
  • maps.me – map-app for your smartphone. The paper maps are fine, but we ended up helping people with physical maps to find the trekking trail with our smartphone. It is a way of reducing what you bring and it is accurate. We recommend using maps.me. This map-app actually have all the villages and trekking trails in between (not car roads!). It does not need WiFi or data. You need to download the area before you start trekking.
  • Money! Maybe the single most important thing to bring. There will be NO ATM’s during the trek. Not even in Ushguli. Only place to cash out money is in Mestia. The mountain villages are not cheap compared to rest of Georgia. Mestia-Ushguli is thus not the cheapest thing you can do while travelling in Georgia. That said, it is not very expensive either. Prices will be shared during this article.

If you are going with tent and your own food you need to bring food for all days. You can also option to get food at the guesthouses. But if you want to stay on your own away from villages and in the nature – bring all you need. There are practically no shops on the way. Sometimes you can buy chocolate, soda and such, but do not count on it.

How are the guesthouses during the Mestia to Ushguli trek?

The guesthouses are the homes of the village people. Some are more fancy than the others. But most of them are the same. They look a little old and destroyed – some with broken glass in the windows and no paint left on the walls. Not to worry. They are just like that. People here are not rich, but they offer comfortable, warm beds, clean bathrooms and huge warm meals. There will often be extra blankets for the beds. Towels are provided at every guesthouse and they are clean. Toilet paper and western standard toilets (not the squat toilets). Some of the guesthouses runs small kiosk shops, so you can buy a bottle of cola or snickers.
The food offered at these guesthouses are local Georgian food. The portions are huge. You will not leave the table hungry. Khachapuri is served both to dinner and breakfast. Otherwise it is normal to get cheese, salads, hot soup, vegetable pot, freshly baked bread, eggs, chicken, pig and watermelon. The dishes varies a little from guesthouse to guesthouse, but the quantity is always high.

There is not much to do in the guesthouses. You have to be able to entertain yourself. Talk with other travellers. Strech. Read. Walk in the village. These villages are very unique and it is worth to strech your legs after a walking day and roam around. The life here is traditional and you will experience cows walking around, pigs grunting and searching for food. Cute cats and dogs running around. Let time freeze and just relax.

It's all wood baby

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Where to start for the Mestia to Ushguli multi day trek?

The trek starts in Mestia. We recommend to spend one day (the day you arrive) to organize for your Mestia-Ushguli trek. Get the gear you need if you are missing something (most likely not!). Eat food and relax. Re-organize your backpack so what you need to most is on top. Get cash from the ATM. Download the area and plot in the villages on maps.me (smartphone app). Look at your route for the next day and maybe buy some chocolate or fruit as road snack.

Day to day – Mestia to Ushguli trek descriptions with maps

Hereby follows a day to day description of all the days in the multi day trek Mestia Ushguli. Please remember that the time is for guidance. Everyone has their own pace.
The time also includes breaks during the trekking day. The hiking travellers where in no rush and enjoyed the nature day to day.
The distance is measured through an app that started at the moment the trek of the day began and stopped when we arrived at the guesthouse.
The map photos are screenshots from the app maps.me. It is shared to show you how it looks on the app (if you chose to use it). The stippled line is the walking path, the trail. maps.me was correct every day on the hike from Mestia to Ushguli.

IMPORTANT: the timing on maps.me is not correct. Somehow, the calculation of how long it takes to walk x-km in terrain is not correct. Please ignore this part of information. Also, the distance shown is not 100% correct, but close. Hence the extra app for distance measurement.

DAY 1 of Mestia to Ushguli: Mestia to Zhabeshi (15,33 km) (5 hours and 10 minutes)

first part of the Mestia to Ushguli trek
Today’s map of Mestia to Zhabeshi – first part of the Mestia to Ushguli trek!

The first day starts in Mestia. First you head slight upwards around the little ski mountain. At one point there is a steep path, it takes maybe 15 minutes to finish this. After this there is a little bit up and down before you are at the other side of the small forestry mountain and you get a beautiful view of the valley. This valley have many small villages. All have guesthouses and offers food for money. Do not go down to the dirt road where all the cars are, unless you want to head for a village before Zhabeshi. All the way to Zhabeshi you can follow a perfect trail track with view all the time of the valley. Here you will cross herds of cows, sheep, horses and sometimes goats. You will get the first impression of how the villages in Svaneti looks like. Wood houses with stone towers (also seen in Mestia), shepherd dogs, old and young people. You stay at the left side of the river all up until Zhabeshi. Here you cross it by a wooden bridge, find your guesthouse and relax.

If you have time, you can stay a day extra in Zhabeshi. There is many destinations for day hikes here.

Also, if you are in a hurry and can not do the whole Mestia-Ushguli multi day hike, this is a perfect one day hike. You can easily get a ride back to Mestia, either by a taxi or hitchhike down at the dirt road.

Prices in Zhabeshi is around 20 GEL for one person incl breakfast. Dinner costs 15 GEL per person. It depends on the season and at what time you arrive the village. It is possible to book in advance at booking.com for Zhabeshi.

DAY 2 of Mestia to Ushguli: Zhabeshi to Adishi (10,89 km) (5 hours and 1 minutes)

day two of mestia to ushguli, zhabeshi to adishi
Today’s map of Zhabeshi to Adishi – day two of Mestia to Ushguli trek!

Day two of Mestia-Ushguli starts of with a steep beginning as you have to climb up to the ski area. It takes about two hours to get to the top and it is hard. You will sweat. Take breaks. Enjoy the view along the way. If you are lucky, there will be berries along the road – look for raspberries and blueberries. At the top, you will have to follow a dirt road for cars for about 10 minutes. It is not long. Then the hiking trail begins again, now with an astonishing view of mountains upon mountains while you are surrounded by wild mountain flowers. Take your time. You have done the hard part now, enjoy the rest of the day with a comfortable trail to follow. There are several rivers you can use to fill up your water bottles along the way.

Adishi Village is very hidden and you will only see it at the very end of today’s hike. The village is a natural break point for Mestia-Ushguli as it is close to Adishi river, which you have to cross.

The price in Adishi is high if you compare it to the rest of Georgia. It is not strange as it is a remote village, high up in the mountains with no dirt track for cars. It is your only option unless you have brought tent and food yourself. For all inclusive, dinner, breakfast and lunch (they will give you food and bags to pack your lunch) it is 50 GEL per person. This also include the room, hot shower and electricity if there is power. Some guesthouses also offer free coffee, tea and fruits during the stay. If you skip one of the meals you can get it for cheaper, 40 or maybe 35 GEL per person.

DAY 3 of Mestia to Ushguli: Adishi to Iprali (18,90 km) (7 hours and 15 minutes)

day three of Mestia to Ushguli - adishi to Iprali
Today’s map of Adishi to Iprali – day three of Mestia to Ushguli trek!

Even though many descriptions say Adishi is close to the river crossing, it is still a good 1 hour and 30 minutes, maybe up to 2 hours hike to the crossing point. You have to walk up to the point where it is possible to cross the river and the trail continues. You can either pay some riders to cross the river on their horse. They will charge 50 GEL per person. It might be possible to get a lower price if it is arranged in your guesthouse in Adishi – maybe. The riders are here in the main season – late summer and autumn. If you hike off-season please talk to the guesthouse if you want to cross by horse so they can arrange it for you.

It is possible to cross by foot. You can chose to do it the same place horses crosses, the deep but short pass. Be sure that the water is not too deep as this is very dangerous and you might be caught by the river. For more shallow water, follow the river, closer to the source and you will see an area where the water goes into many small rivers. It is longer, but not as deep as where the horses cross. Only cross the river by foot if you feel confident and understand the risk.

The water is as cold as it gets – directly from Adishi glacier. At first you will lose feeling in your feet, then few seconds later it will physically hurt. When you take your feets up, it will feel like they are burning. The pain will shortly fade and you are left with ice cold feet. Put on dry socks and keep moving your feet and you will be fine.

After the cross you go through some sort of bushes. It can be a little hard to spot the trekking mark. Use maps.me if you are not sure where to go. After the bushes you will get an amazing view of the Adishi glacier. Enjoy it and keep moving up the steep trail to the top. Today you will get to the highest point of Mestia-Ushguli trek. At the top of the trail, you can leave your backpacks on the side and follow a small trail all the way up to the highest viewpoint. It takes about 10 minutes, it is not steep and well worth it. Enjoy the view of glaciers, mountains and valleys at 2850 meters above sea level.

After this the trail goes down. It can be a little hard for those who are not used to trek, but do not worry. Use your knees (bend them) and take breaks. Do not rush. After this there is a slight kind of old dirt track you follow all the way to Iprali (sometimes spelled Iprari). On the way you can stop at Khalde. Here you find a guesthouse who also operates a restaurant and shop. Buy something to drink and lift up your feet if you need it. It is also possible to end your trekking time here as they offer taxi service.

Continue the road down to Iprali. There will be same prices here as in Adishi, roughly 50 GEL per person for all meals and bed. You can get the price down by not taking all the meals.

DAY 4 of Mestia to Ushguli: Iprali to Ushguli (13,41 km) (5 hours and 40 minutes)

last day of Mestia to Ushguli trek - Iprali to Ushguli
Today’s map of Iprali to Ushguli – forth and final day of the Mestia to Ushguli trek!

The last day of the multi day hike Mestia-Ushguli. Many travellers skip this day as they think it is all on dirt roads with cars. That is not true! There is a small perfect trail track, far away from the road that you can follow almost all the way to Ushguli. Admit it, it is much better to have walked the entire trek than to skip the last day.

First you have to follow the road down the valley. Then you will see a small village on the left side of the river called Davberi. This is where the trail trek to Ushguli begins. It is a little hidden, but ask the people in the village and they will point you in the right direction. Do not forget to use maps.me – it actually shows this hidden track too.

First the trail goes slowly up again, taking you further and further away from the road and up in the sun. The grass is high, but the trail is easy to follow. Only two times will it split into two trails and you might get confused. Remember, first time you chose down – right. Next time you chose up – left. Otherwise you can enjoy scouting for eagles and other bird of preys. Butterflies will fly around you and bird songs is your radio. There are several places to fill up your water during this trail.

After a while you will see the road closing up and you will end up on the road roughly 2-3 km from Ushguli. You can chose to hitchhike the last km or simply walk the last part. To avoid cars, step up on the animal tracks along the road. Slowly you will see Ushguli (which is a group of villages) come closer and closer.

Settled on a height of 2200 meters above sea level, Ushguli is Europe’s highest still-settled village. This offers some great views and unique nature. As there are daily marshrutkas from Mestia, Ushguli is much bigger than the other villages you have passed. Also, you can see it be a little influenced by this with some cafes and souvenir shops. Despite this, Ushguli is not touristy and messy. The people still focus on their animals and working in the field, collecting food for the winter. Celebrate your trek with Georgian wine!

We recommend to stay at least one day in Ushguli. The famous Shkhara glacier is a popular day hike from Ushguli. Further more, there are historical buildings such the LaMaria church. There is also a museum where you can see handcraft of the people, especially the impressive wood carvings. In Ushguli you can rent horses for around 40-50 GEL per day, per person. There are also possible to rent cars or simply hike on your own feets.

Prices in Ushguli are closer to the prices in Mestia. You do not have to eat at your guesthouse. There are restaurants and cafes available. Khinkali for 0,80 per piece, khachapuri for around 6 GEL. The guesthouses do offer dinner for 15 GEL per person. As with all the other villages, the dinner offered is not small. It consists of many different dishes, so you will not leave the table hungry.

How to get back to Mestia after the multi day hike Mestia to Ushguli

It can be a little tricky to get back to Mestia if you do not want to rent a car (200 GEL for a car). This is not the only way to get back! The people at the area where all the vans, cars and marshrutkas are waiting can be intimidating. They want you to buy the expensive option. You do not have to!
The travellers who comes for a day-ride to Ushguli from Mestia pays 30 GEL for the whole trip – back and forth. Most marshrutkas wants you to pay 30 GEL just to get back – some wants 40 GEL. Refuse to pay this. You should be able to get the trip for maximum 20 GEL. If you are really good at bargaining, maybe 10 GEL. We did not manage to get this price. Anyway, this is how you do it:
Wait for the marshrutkas to arrive with the day travellers. Start asking drivers, not the people who are already there waiting to rent their cars, for a price. Be clear how many people you are and ask them how much. Then give your counter offer. It is classical bargain. At some point you will find a driver who agrees. He will tell you when they leave. Simply wait until this time. If other drivers wants to give you an offer, try to get it lower (you already have your ride, so no rush). Then you leave with the rest, usually around 15:00 o’clock. You can also arrive around this time and bargain a trip to Mestia (if you do not want to spend a night in Ushguli).

It is also possible to hitchhike. But not in Ushguli. Start walking down the road and find a spot where the local drivers in Ushguli can not see you. Then wait. Or just walk with your tumbs up. This should be free, but some marshrutkas will possible ask for 20 GEL.

Finishing words about the multi day trek Mestia to Ushguli – possible for every kind of traveller

The multi day hike from Mestia to Ushguli offers amazing view, good food and an insight of Svaneti village life. It is suitable for everyone and for all kinds of travellers. Guesthouses makes it easy for those travellers without tent and camping gear. The wild nature makes it an obvious choice for those travellers who do have camping gear. It is possible to extend the days by doing day hikes at the different villages or to short it down.

If you are tempted to try it, do it. No one regrets visiting and exploring this unique part of Georgia. The whole area is a national park and Ushguli itself is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

 

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