12 top things to do in Mestia, Georgia (2024 guide)

Are you looking for the best things to do in Mestia, Georgia?

The snow was thick on the ground as I plodded up a side road from my hotel to Mestia town centre, closely followed by three very friendly local dogs. 

On one side, tall 12th-century towers, all with a snowy cap, soared into the milky sky, while frozen banks tumbled down to the Mulkhra River on the other side. 

The landscape glimmered, and what with walking at a very slow space to avoid tripping, and stopping to take as many photos as possible, it took me about triple the time to reach the town centre. 

But that’s the beauty of life in Mestia; taking it slow is part of the experience.

However, while a content day can be passed just by being in the town, there are plenty of things to do in Mestia.

I spent a week in Svaneti with the Georgian tourist board, and here are all the best activities and attractions in Mestia!

This trip was hosted by Georgia Travel and the Svaneti DMO. All opinions are my own. This blog post may contain affiliate links.

Top things to do in Mestia

From the historic Svan towers to adrenaline-boosting skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer, here are the best things to do in Mestia. 

1. See the Svan Towers

We arrived in Mestia in the dark, but as soon as I stepped on my hotel balcony the next day, I was arrested by the sight of the looming Svan towers

These buildings, some of which date back to the 12th century, are synonymous with the Svaneti region. 

Built in Medieval times, they were originally constructed to protect the owners from village feuds.

Back in the day, there used to be quite a few battles between neighbouring villages in the area, and living high up, at the top of a Svan tower, enabled the owner to keep a lookout for their enemies! 

They also defended the owners against avalanches, which are common in this mountainous region. 

Nowadays, the towers are largely used for storage, although some have been opened up as museums. You can visit the following: 

  • Margiani House Museum: This is at the top of a hill – we didn’t make it here because a cow was blocking our way and headbutted me when I tried to cross its path (that’s life in Mestia for you!). However, some of my group went and enjoyed it.
  • Niguriani Tower Museum: This is a small museum with a selection of taxidermied animals on the ground floor and then a network of ladders to reach the roof. It costs 5 GEL (cash only) for entry.

They’re both fairly similar, so unless you’re keen on climbing to as many viewpoints as possible, you probably only need to see one! 

2. Learn about its history and culture Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography

Svaneti’s geographical isolation has led to a fascinating history and culture that’s palpable as soon as you set out on the streets. 

Discover this in the Svaneti Museum of History and Ethnography, a comprehensive history museum that focuses not only on what makes Svaneti unique but also on the influences that neighbouring regions had on the area. 

It’s considered one of the largest selections of Georgia’s history, largely because ancient and Medieval artefacts from here were remarkably well preserved throughout Georgia’s somewhat tumultuous history.

Google Maps location here/ Cost 20 GEL/ Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm.

3. Explore the town centre, seeing its churches and scenic spots

While Mestia has plenty of hotels and ski rental shops catering for tourists, it maintains a traditional feel. 

Walking around the city is like taking a step back in time, especially with the dominating Svan towers looming overhead! 

There are a few landmarks to take in as you walk around the town, including: 

  • Sphinx: We weren’t able to work out why exactly this sphinx is in Mestia (any locals I asked didn’t seem to know!) and in the winter, it’s covered in snow. It’s not worth going out of your way to see, but look out for it if you walk past!
  • Town Hall: This building has quite futuristic architecture; it’s located close to Posta and Cafe Laila.
  • Seti Square: This is the main square of Mestia, where there are some events in the summer (and Christmas lights in the winter!).

4. Go Skiing at Hatsvali Ski Resort

Hatsvali Ski Resort sits above Mestia, and while it’s certainly not the largest ski resort in Europe, it has to be one of the best hidden gems! 

A cable car connects the town with the resort, taking just eight minutes. From the resort, a gondola then links to the top of the mountain. 

There aren’t a vast amount of trails, but it’s perfect for a day or two or anyone learning or improving their skiing or snowboarding. 

I spent two days skiing here; while I used to ski a lot as a child, I’d only been once in the last 11 years so I loved practicing here!

I wrote a full blog post about skiing in Mestia on my Europe winter travel blog, but in summary: 

  • I recommend renting your skis from town, as the ski rental in the resort has limited opening hours. Edelweiss Ski Rental were fantastic and cost me just 40 GEL for full equipment rental (skis, poles, boots, helmet). 
  • Lift passes (at the time of writing) were 50 GEL + 5 GEL for the card (this could be reused). 
  • I just skied the runs around the gondola, although I believe there are others. There’s also a button lift going up a beginner’s slope. 
  • Ski instructors are available – I’d recommend asking at your hotel or at Edelweiss Ski Rental to book. 

5. Take the chair lift and gondola to the ski resort (even if you don’t ski)

Girl standing at the top of a ski slope with mountains in background

Not a skiier? No problem! 

The wonderful Restaurant Zuruldi sites at the top of the gondola, and here you can enjoy apres ski without taking to the slopes at all! 

On a clear day, you’ll see the backdrop of Mestia (including its Svan towers!) and the mountains on the other side. 

The restaurant serves a range of Svan and Georgian dishes, along with coffee and alcohol. It’s pricier than you’ll get in town – you are in a ski resort after all – but the location is unparalleled. 

If you’re visiting Mestia in summer, hiking trails leave from the top of the gondola.

6. Soak in Papas Qel Sauna

After a long day on the slopes or just exploring the town, soak in the elite Papas Qel Sauna

I go to a lot of spas all over the world, and Papas Qel is high up there when it comes to the most scenic location. 

The turn-off for Papas Qel is just off the road to Hatsvali (Google Maps location here), and from here a short walk leads down to what seems like a fairytale cabin. 

In the cabin, there’s a huge sauna, dunk tank, changing area and space to chill out with a cup of tea. 

But the piece de resistance is the hot tub, sitting amongst tall fern trees.

I’m sure it’s wonderful whatever the season, but when snow covered the ground in the winter, sliding into this tub was the perfect antidote to the freezing conditions! 

Pre-booking essential – contact Papas Qel on Instagram for more information.

7. Take a Culinary Masterclass in nearby Latai Village 

From Mestia, it’s a 10 minute drive to the neighbouring Latai Village, home to Laila’s guesthouse. 

Here, Laila offers culinary masterclasses, teaching guests how to make Svan food like Chvishtari, a cheesy cornbread, Kubdari which is a stuffed meat pie (like lobiani but with meat) and Tashmijabi which is cheesy mashed potatoes (that tastes a bit like polenta). 

The culinary masterclass takes place in a cabin with incredible views of the surrounding mountains, and once you’re finished you’ll step into the guesthouse itself for a wonderful feast.

If you’ve never had a Georgian supra, this is your chance! 

(Georgian supras are merry banquets with an abundance of food and lots of toasts about life, love, family and more – you can toast about anything that’s dear to you). 

8. Enjoy Svan Hats Masterclass

In the nearby Chvabiani village is Maia’s Guesthouse, where you can learn another traditional Svan craft – felt hat making!

The felt hats are somewhat synonymous with Svan culture. They’re insulated and protective, made to keep people’s heads warm over the harsh winter months! 

Nowadays, they’re not worn as much in day-to-day life, but are during celebrations. They’re also gaining popularity elsewhere in Georgia thanks to their signature look.

These classes take three days, so you’d stay in the village and absorb local life as well. For more information, you can contact Maia’s Guesthouse at +995598450043 or via Booking.com.

9. Soak in traditional Music at Posta 

Back in Mestia, Posta Hotel’s restaurant is the place to be in the evenings. 

While the town isn’t exactly popping with nightlife, Posta serves up delicious Georgian food, supra (a Georgian banquet) style, complete with live traditional music. 

Residents and non-residents alike are welcome at the restaurant, or you could pop in for a drink after dining at the wonderful Cafe Laila

10. See a film at Cinema Dede

It’s not Hollywood, but Mestia has a surprisingly good film culture. 

Cinema Dede is at the heart of town and showcases films from Svaneti a few times per day. 

If you’re in town in the summer months, an International Short and Mountain Film Festival runs at the end of July – check out the website here

11. Road trip to Ushguli

While it’s not in Mestia, Ushguli is probably the most popular day trip from the town. 

It’s a relatively long, winding mountain road to get there; the village (which is Europe’s highest) can often be cut off in the winter months. 

Like the road from Jvari to Mestia, I definitely wouldn’t recommend attempting this road if it’s stormy or in heavy snow. 

However, if conditions are calm, Ushguili is a UNESCO World Heritage Village with epic Svan towers and a fascinating culture.

Just 200 people live in the village year-round, and at 2,200 metres altitude, it’s often cut off even from Mestia. Here, you’ll find some interesting churches, beautiful architecture and scenic mountain views. 

12. Go hiking in the summer months

Visiting Mestia in the summer? Once the snow has melted (which takes until the beginning of June), some of Europe’s most stunning hiking trails open up. 

The most popular multi-day hike in Georgia leads from Mestia to Ushguli. This is completely impossible to take in the winter months, but in the summer it’s a four-day route that spans some of the best vistas of the Caucasus Mountains. 

It’s possible to camp or sleep in guesthouses along the route (which will also provide breakfast and dinner). 

I’ve not been to Svaneti in the summer yet but this hike is high on my list! But check out this comprehensive summary by Caucasus Trekking

If you don’t fancy the four-day trek, there are plenty of other hikes in Mestia! Caucasus Trekking has a good guide to these as well.

Visiting Mestia: need to knows 

Snow and trees in the foreground with historic towers in the background.
Svaneti is beautiful, but getting here in the winter was tough!

Here are some need-to-know travel tips for visiting Mestia.

When to visit Mestia 

Mestia is a very different place in the summer compared to the winter months!

We visited Mestia in the first week of February. The weather was very cold and snowy (as it nearly always is this time of year). Ski slopes were at their prime, but the road leading to Mestia was not!

The Jvari to Mestia mountain road is not for the faint-hearted at all, and if you’re visiting Mestia in the winter do carefully consider the weather conditions on this road.

We drove up it during the worst storm in 20 years, and it with avalanches and blizzards of snow, it was terrifying! In calmer weather, it’s manageable, but I would strongly advise that nobody take this road in poor weather. 

You can take a look at my Mestia in winter blog post to read about my full experience travelling here!

Avalanches are also a risk in spring when snow is melting – my partner visited Mestia in April and mentioned that while there was no snow in the town itself, there was in the mountains around the town, and avalanches were a real risk. 

In the summertime, there’s no skiing, but hiking opportunities abound and the roads are much safer to navigate. I’m very keen to return to do the Mestia to Ushguili trek. 

Getting to Mestia

If you’re relying on public transport, you can reach Mestia in one of two ways. 

  1. Marshrutkas – take one from Tbilisi, Batumi or Kutaisi to Zugdidi, and then transfer for a marshrutka to Mestia. In the winter months, I recommend keeping your schedule very flexible and perhaps allowing for an extra night in Zugdidi (especially if you’re travelling from Tbilisi). 
  2. Flight – I don’t know anyone who’s taken this option, but small planes run by Vanilla Sky do leave Tbilisi to connect to Mestia – although arrival in Mestia is weather-dependent.

Accommodation in Mestia 

We stayed at the lovely Hotel Paliani. This guesthouse is small and friendly, with very comfortable rooms, wonderful views over the town centre and a restaurant serving some of the best food in town below. It is a 15 minute walk from the town centre, and there are no spa facilities. Click here to read more about it.

If you want to be a bit more in the action and/ or would like a spa or pool, I recommend Posta Hotel, which is comfortable and stylish and on the main street – although it doesn’t quite have the personable atmosphere of Paliani! Click here for more information.

Mestia travel tips

Here are all of my best Mestia travel tips! 

  • SIM Card: The WiFi isn’t great in Mestia, so I would recommend getting a SIM card before you go. Airalo e-sim cards also didn’t work that well in town, so I’d advise getting a Magti e-sim card elsewhere in Georgia.
  • Speak to your hotel: For tips on what to do during the time you’re in town plus help with booking activities, speak to your hotel. Some staff should speak good English, and they will be able to make phone calls and provide information.
  • Leave extra days: My biggest tip would be to leave extra days when visiting Mestia – the road can definitely be unpredictable.

For more information about visiting Georgia check out Georgia Travel.