Trekking from Mestia to Ushguli: the highest village in Europe

Georgia is a hiker’s paradise and contains some of the most beautiful hikes we have ever made. Especially the area of Svaneti, located in the Caucasus, with its snow-capped peaks and beautiful valleys, is a place you won’t soon forget. One of the most famous hikes to do in Georgia is the multi-day trek from Mestia to Ushguli. Part of the Transcaucasian Trail, this hike will take you to Europe’s highest village in four days. You even have to cross a river with a horse! This hiking guide tells you everything you need to know about this adventurous hike. Where to stay, how to get there and other important information so you can be well prepared to set out in this still unknown area on the border between Europe and Asia.

Practical information about the trek

The hike from Mestia to Ushguli is in the Svaneti region of Georgia, in the northwestern part of the country. This trek is part of the Transcaucasian Trail that passes through Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. This trail is a whopping 3,000 km (!) long, but it is not yet possible to hike it completely. Since 2015, more and more sections of the walk have been constructed and improved, and within a few years they hope to open the entire walk. Now, though, you can already hike parts of the Transcaucasian Trail such as the multi-day trek from Mestia to Ushguli in Georgia.

Here you will find the most important information about the hike from Mestia to Ushguli:

  • Total distance: 55 – 60 km
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Start/end: Mestia to Ushguli (vice versa is also possible)
  • Altimeters: 2700m
  • Highest point: 2719 m (Chkunderi Pass)
  • River crossing: several, once with horse
  • Accommodation: staying in guest houses
elevation profile hike mestia to ushguli
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Elevation profile hike Mestia to Ushguli

TRAVEL TIP : Keep in mind that you will barely have coverage during the hike. So be sure to download the map offline so you always know your way around. We recommend using Maps.me for this purpose.

Best time to visit

You can do the hike from Mestia to Ushguli from mid-June to mid-October, but the best travel time is from July through September. We did the hike in June and still had a lot of snow on the trail so it was not always pleasant and we also had to take an alternate route at some point. In the summer months, most of the snow has melted and you are also more likely to have good weather. It may be a little busier on the walk, but this is still not too bad.

trek from mestia to ushguli
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trek from mestia to ushguli
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What am I taking?

This hike takes four days during which you will stay overnight in guesthouses along the way in one of the mountain villages you will pass through. The Georgian people are tremendously hospitable, and after a long day of hiking, there is nothing like being able to slide your feet under the table and taste a home-cooked meal. Most guesthouses always provide dinner, breakfast when you stay overnight and often make a lunch that you can take with you. So for this hike, you don’t need to bring a tent or large amounts of food. If you start the hike in Mestia, you can leave your large luggage there in your guesthouse, since you will return past Mestia after the hike anyway.

What to take with you on the trek from Mestia to Ushguli:

  • Clothing for four days: You’re hiking in mountain terrain so the weather is always unpredictable. Dress in thin layers that you can take on and off easily. Consider a thermal sweatshirt or zip-off pants. Also, don’t forget to bring a hat or cap and gloves, as it can be surprisingly cold at times. For in the guesthouses, it is best not to forget your toiletries and towel, nightclothes and a pair of slippers.
  • Rainproof clothing: Make sure you have a good raincoat that is also windproof. You climb up to 2,800 meters during the hike, and it can be very cold at the summit. Also consider a rain cover for your backpack so everything doesn’t get wet when it rains.
  • Hiking Shoes: Some tough climbs and descents await over unpaved terrain, so good walking shoes are really a must! Walking sticks are also definitely recommended.
  • Sun protection: When the sun burns, it burns hard. Therefore, be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Adequate food and drink: As mentioned, the guest houses usually provide food, but to be on the safe side, bring only snacks for the road. You can fill up with water along the way at one of the mountain streams or at guest houses (the water in Georgia is drinkable everywhere).
  • Cash: This is very important! Except in Mestia, there are no other bank ATMs. Although you can sometimes book the guesthouses in advance, you always pay cash on the spot. So be sure to bring enough cash for en route and for the drive back from Ushguli to Mestia at the end of the hike.
svaneti region georgia
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How to get to Mestia

Mestia is one of the largest mountain villages in the Svaneti region, located in the Caucasus Mountains. Most international flights land in the capital Tbilisi. From there you can take a direct marshrutka to Mestia. Marshrutkas are minivans that serve as public transportation in Georgia. They run between every city in the country and are a very easy way to get around, but it can get cramped at times. In Tbilisi, go to this location to take the marshrutka to Mestia, which is a 9-10 hour ride. A bus ticket costs 50 GEL (~€17).

Alternatively, in Tbilisi you can take the train to Zugdidi, which is more comfortable travel. The train leaves Tbilisi around 8:30 a.m., arrives in Zugdidi at 2 p.m., and you can get train tickets starting at 16 GEL (~€5.5). There you can then take a marshrutka to Mestia. This ride takes another 4 hours and costs 40 GEL (~€14).

Finally, you can always rent a car in Tbilisi. Be aware that Georgians have a rather aggressive driving style and the roads are not always in the best condition.

mestia svan towers georgia
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hiking in georgia
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Day 1: Mestia to Zhabeshi

Distance: 16 km Duration: 4 – 6 hours Elevation: 750 m

Today you leave Mestia behind and begin day 1 of this 4-day trek. Before starting the hike, you can use a (downloaded) map or ask your guest house where the hike starts. In Mestia, we stayed at Mestia Panorama, a cozy guesthouse right at the start of the hike and within walking distance of Mestia’s bus stop.

You leave Mestia, where the paved road turns into a dirt road. The first 6 km of the hike you climb slowly up to 1900 meters, where you will have a beautiful view of the valley of Mestia. As you continue you get better and better views of the impressive Tetnuldi Mountain, a good place to pause and picnic. Don’t be surprised if you are suddenly joined by some dogs during your lunch. During our 4-day trek, we were always accompanied by local street dogs. Rest assured, they don’t do anything at all and seem to be used to walking with people.

view while walking from mestia to ushguli
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Caucasus mountains in Georgia
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As you continue hiking you get a view of the valley where the mountain village of Lakhiri is located. While descending the valley, you can choose to take a higher or lower path. We chose the higher path, which meant that during this stretch we always had a nice view of the valley and the many defense towers or “Svan” towers, so characteristic of Georgia’s mountain villages. But you can also walk along the lower trail through the mountain villages where the hospitable Georgians will be happy to offer you a cup of coffee or tea! By either path, you will end up in Lakhiri anyway.

From Lakhiri you will hike another 6 km towards today’s final destination. Follow the dirt road that takes you to a car bridge over the river. Cross the bridge and walk the last part of the hike on the paved road that takes you past the various pastures with cattle. You first pass the village of Chvabiani where you can stay overnight, but we chose to hike one more kilometer to Zhabeshi. There we stayed at Guest House Gogia, a very sweet family who welcomed us with open arms. We ate an incredible dinner there with everything made fresh, even the cheese they make themselves with their own cows! We paid 120 GEL (~ €40) for the two of us for a private room including dinner, breakfast and a lunch for the road.

Mestia to Zhabeshi
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Livestock in Georgia
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Day 2: Zhabeshi to Adishi

Distance: 12 km Duration: 5 – 6 hours Altimeters: 973 m

Day two of the trek from Mestia to Ushguli is the shortest in distance but includes the biggest climb…. Again, use your hiking map and follow the trails behind Zhabeshi. There you begin a tough climb with a lot of steep sections where you get an ever-improving view of the mountains beyond the valley. Count on 2-3 hours for this stretch anyway. Eventually you come out to a ski elevator and a gravel road. Follow this road until you come to a fork in the road.

Then you again have the choice of going for a high or low route. Unfortunately, when we were there, there was still too much snow and we were forced to choose the low route. This takes you through beautiful alpine meadows and stretches of forest toward Adishi. At the end of this section, you also have to cross a river. The current can be strong, so be sure to use (hiking) poles. If you choose the high route, count on having to climb an additional 250 m uphill. Still, we recommend it, as we heard this is one of the most beautiful views during the entire hike! Both trails are not always well marked, so keep that offline map handy.

Zhabeshi to Adishi
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hiking in Georgia signage
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With both routes, you eventually come to a dirt path that takes you to the valley where the village of Adishi is located. This village, with its many defense towers and horse pastures all around, feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Here you are truly cut off from the world and surrounded by the immense mountains of the Caucasus. Adishi feels a bit run-down and there is less choice in guest houses here. We recommend Guesthouse Caucasian or Guesthouse Makhvshi Grand House. We ourselves slept in Guesthouse Makhvshi Grand House which had a surprisingly modern room and where we again enjoyed a delicious dinner and breakfast. For one night’s stay with everything in, we spent 160 GEL (~€54) for the two of us.

Adishi in Georgia
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Svan towers in the Caucasus Mountains Georgia
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Day 3: Adishi to Iprali

Distance: 18.6 km Duration: 6 – 8 hours Altimeters: 860 m

Day three is undoubtedly the highlight of the trek from Mestia to Ushguli. It is the longest day, both in terms of distance and time, but the climb is less strenuous than the day before and you get fantastic views of the mountains of the Caucasus. The first 5 km follow the Adishchala River along a clearly marked path deeper into the valley. After about an hour and a half, the trail turns right toward the river. This one you will have to cross.

Depending on the season, the river can be wider and deeper due to meltwater from the surrounding glaciers. You can cross on foot, but keep in mind that the water is freezing cold, so it is advisable to use sticks to avoid falling. The safest option is to cross the river on horseback. In the summer there are locals with horses by the river, or you can ask at your guest house the night before if they can arrange this for you. The cost is 20 GEL (~€7) per person.

Adishi to Iprali
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horseback riding in Georgia
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Once across the river, you begin a gradual climb to Chkunderi Pass at 2655 m elevation. Along the way, you get better and better views of the impressive Adishi Glacier. Arriving on the ridge, you will enjoy an impressive 360° view of the surrounding mountains. On the ridge there is a short trail of 1.5 km out and back that takes you to the highest point of the entire hike, with another magnificent view of that same glacier

After this experience, the descent begins on the other side of the Chkunderi Pass to the Khaldeschala Valley. In the valley follow a rolling and relatively flat gravel road for 6.5 km all the way to the next mountain village of Iprali. Upon arrival, we were able to slide our feet under the table in Family House Ucha, tired but satisfied. For 90 GEL or €30 you have a night’s stay including dinner and breakfast for two people. Slightly more expensive than the other guest houses, but when we were there, this was the only one open.

Adishi to Iprali mountains
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Adishi glacier in Georgia
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Day 4: Iprali to Ushguli

Distance: 12.6 km Duration: 3 – 5 hours Altimeters: 635 m

The last day of the hike has arrived, with the final destination being the highest village in Europe! Fortunately, this is also the easiest and shortest part of this 4-day trek. From Iprali, follow the gravel road further downhill for 2.6 km until you arrive in another village. There you’ll end up on the main road connecting Mestia to Ushguli. Once you reach the car bridge, turn right before the bridge between the cottages. It can take a while to find the trail, so be sure to use your map, but this will get you back on the hike and leave the highway behind.

Iprali to Ushguli
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From here you follow a forest trail for 7 km that winds through valleys and patches of forest. Occasionally you will see the lower main road on your right, interspersed with beautiful scenery among the mountains. The trail eventually joins the main road, which you follow for another 2 km towards Ushguli. Along the way, you pass other small villages that are all part of Ushguli. In Ushguli, there are numerous guesthouses where you can stay. We chose Guesthouse Riho with again a fantastic dinner and breakfast included for 90 GEL (~€30) per night for two people.

walk to Ushguli
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Ushguli in Georgia
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Ushguli

If you have the time, we recommend staying at least one night in Ushguli. After four days of hiking, it is nice to take in the atmosphere of these mountain villages. In Ushguli, you imagine yourself back in time. The streets consist only of earth and mud, and you encounter more horses and cows than people. Most of the cottages have the typical defense towers and give you an almost medieval feel. Ushguli lies in a valley, and all around you can see the snow-capped mountain peaks towering high.

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Don’t count on much range for your cell phone here; this is a place to enjoy the scenery and unwind for a while. In the guest houses, meals are prepared entirely by themselves, including fresh milk that is milked the same morning. Cars don’t see many here, as everything is still done on horseback. A fun activity, then, is a day of horseback riding. At Guesthouse Riho, you and your son can go horseback riding for a half or full day. We chose the 16 km round trip to the Shkara glacier in the valley of Ushguli. Since we didn’t have to hike ourselves this time, we could definitely add this! The horses here are well cared for and graze freely in the pastures around Ushguli.

horseback riding in Georgia
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Shkara glacier
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Returning to Mestia

Tours to Ushguli are organized daily from Mestia. Arriving in Ushguli after the hike, you will always see cabs and marshrutkas at the beginning of the village, returning to Mestia in the afternoon. Along with other travelers, try to agree on a price with one of the drivers. We managed to fill a van with two other couples that took us back to Mestia for 45 GEL or €15 per person. The bumpy ride from Ushguli to Mestia takes about two hours.

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Once back in Mestia, you will go to your guest house where you left your large luggage, and spend one more night here. The morning after, you can take the marshrutka back to Tbilisi at 8 am. Make sure you reserve a spot on this van in advance before you start the hike, because in high season they can fill up quickly and then you have to wait an extra day.

Where to stay on the road

In both Mestia and Ushguli and the other mountain villages you will find several guesthouses for your stay. Don’t expect great luxury here, often rooms in families’ homes with shared bathrooms. Still, all the guesthouses we stayed in usually had private bathrooms and were clean and comfortable. Moreover, a delicious breakfast and, if desired, dinner were always available.

If you make the hike from Mestia to Ushguli, like us you can stop by one of the guest houses on the day and ask if a room is available. If you are going in the busier months of July and August, it may be smart to book these in advance anyway so you can be sure of a spot. You can reserve them in advance, but you must always pay cash on the spot.

svaneti region in georgia
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Here you can find again all the guesthouses on the route from Mestia to Ushguli where we stayed:

TRAVEL TIP: Remember that there is an ATM only in Mestia, nowhere else! So be sure to bring enough cash on the hike to pay for the guesthouses and for your transportation back to Mestia.

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Have you also taken this beautiful hike in Georgia? Let us know in the comments what you thought of it! Still have questions about Georgia or looking for more information for your next trip? Please do not hesitate to contact us contact or send an email to snoezelsontheroad@gmail.com

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