Mestia, the main regional centre of Zemo (upper) Svaneti, is situated 456 km from Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi, and is 1,500 metres above sea level.
It is the starting point for most trips to Svaneti, with a range of hotels, guesthouses and local travel services, and is a very convenient base for exploring the area.
From the centre of Mestia it is possible to hike up to the glaciers at the foot of Mount Ushba, or take horses up to the pristine alpine meadows. Plus, a new ski resort makes it possible to ski or snowboard even in the height of summer.
Tourists interested in religious history will find plenty of examples of wall paintings, frescoes and icons from the Middle Ages in the churches around Mestia.
Within Mestia, Saint George Church has preserved crosses and icons from the XII century and, Pusdi Church still contains fragments of XIII century wall paintings.
1. Svaneti Historic and Ethnography Museum
The museum was founded in 1936 and houses historic artifacts from the Svaneti region including engraved art and unique icons; a rich collection of manuscripts, medieval weaponry, iron, silver and copper ornaments; jewelry, pottery, a collection of textile items; and ethnographic artifacts depicting ancient life in Svaneti.
2. Museum of Michael Khergiani
The ground floor of the museum houses personal items of famous alpinist and Merited Master of Sport, Michael Khergiani (1932-1969). Among the collection you will find climbing equipment, clothing, photos, awards, gifts – including music records of Vladimir Vysotsky and a song which he dedicated to Khergiani, and many more items.
3. Transfiguration Cathedral in Laghami
The church is located in Laghami –the old part of Mestia. The first floor of the two-storey basilica is named after Great Martyr Barbara (Barblash) and dates back to the IX century. The second floor was constructed in XIII-XIV centuries and is decorated with beautiful frescos. The outer wall of the cathedral is also covered with paintings. The northern facade depicts the “Banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden” while the eastern wall features “Hunting of St. Eustaphios”. The cathedral also houses a XIII century gold and silver engraved icon of Christ (pantokratori).
4. Ski lift and the view from Zuruldi
About 8 km from Mestia, you will come to Hatsvali, where a 1.5 kilometer long cablecar will take you up to mount Zuruldi. This mountain is well known for its unique views, featuring white slopes of Tetnuldi and the Caucasus mountain range. During the winter months, this area features a 2,400 meter long ski slope.
5. Chalaadi Glacier
The glacier is located on the southern slope of the Caucasus Mountains, at the source of the river Mestia- Chala. The glacier is located at 1,850 meters above sea level. Chalaadi is the only glacier that interjects into the forest zone. The glacier is fed by the mountain tides of Bzhedukhi, Chatini and Dalaqori.
Ushguli is located in the municipality of Mestia, at the bottom of mountain Shkhara, near the confluence of rivers Inguri and Shavtsqala- Kvishara. The community is comprised of four villages (Zhibiani, Chvibiani, Murqmeli and Chazhashi) and their height ranges from 2,060 meters to 2,200 meters above sea level. This makes Ushguli the highest settlement in Europe. The center of the community – the village of Chazhashi -has been declared a museum and is among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Located in the Municipality of Mestia, Kala includes eight villages: Agra, Ipari, lalkhori, Davberi, Khe, Vichnashi, Khelde and Laskrali. The major tourist attractions are: the XI century Ipari church, the XI century St. Kvirike Church (Lagurka) and the village Kheshi
Within the vicinity of Adishi village you can find numerous monuments of medieval Georgian art: four churches featuring beautiful frescoes, traditional houses, unique towers, and samples of engraved artwork.
9. Ipari-Nakipari Church of St. George
The eastern facade of the chapel features depictions of animals. The interior of the church was painted in 1130 by a man named Theodore, who was an artist for the King. An engraved icon of St. George, crafted by a XI century goldsmith, can also be found preserved in the church.
10. Church of Christ
Located in the village of Latali, the local people refer to it as “matskhvarishi”. Constructed in the X century, the church features a mesmerizing quality of artistry. The church also houses a XII century Byzantine cross decorated with cloisonné enamel