Svaneti is a region north of Georgia, forming part of the Caucasus range. It is easily one of the most beautiful places I've been. We spent 5 days just in this region, exploring and hiking different trails each day.
This remote area is home to majestic mountain ranges of over 4000 meters high, ruins of old defense towers, rolling valleys and flower-speckled fields. Due to its location, access is confined to warmer seasons. In the old days, treasures are hidden here for safe keeping, due to its difficult access.
Getting to Mestia, the largest town in Svaneti, wasn't very straightforward. From Tbilisi, we took an overnight sleeper train to Zugdidi - a first for me on a sleeper train!
The train looks old, but we were given clean sheets for the "bunk" and pillow. It is tight squeeze for V, but serves me fine, hehe. There's a door on every sleeper unit for privacy. Slept through the night, and woke up to stretches of green valleys!
Out of focus, but you get the idea.
From Zugdidi, we took a marshrutka (a shared taxi/minivan) onwards to Mestia. The marshrutka was filled to the brim with 12 travellers, plus luggages. Our bags had to be stowed on the roof of the marshrutka, which got me nervous.
The driver sped on the road, and 10 minutes into the drive, the rear doors opened suddenly and several luggages fell onto the road. Our vehicle screeched to a stop, bags were reloaded and we continued the journey as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.
Still, views were gorgeous as we approach Mestia.
It was 10am once we arrived Mestia. That's 8 hours on the train, and 4 hours on the road. Our hosts picked us up and we settled into our guesthouse.
Georgian hospitality is a thing of legend. We were served nothing short of a feast at every meal in guesthouses. I do wonder, what happens to the leftovers? We could only manage to finish half of this!
Kachapuri, chicken salad, bread, tomato and cucumber slices, cheeses, fish stew, apples, banana cake and plum juice!
At Mestia town centre, several marshrutkas stood idle with its destination written on cardboard propped on dashboards. It takes 2.5 hours to Ushguli, and costs 150 GEL total. English is not commonly spoken, especially further away from the city. As it will be difficult to communicate with the driver, it may be worth to hire an English-speaking guide.
I love fruits stalls. How can you resist taking photos of this myriad of colours??
2.5 hours of bumpy, potholed winding roads and driving over streams...
That white block with brown specks is a little glacier!
Our hike towards Shkara Glacier -
We did not finish the hike, as we only have 3-4 hours daylight left, even during the long summer days.
Old defense tower with Mount Shkara in the background.
Small village Ushguli.
Wild flowers - aren't they just so pretty!
Ushguli was just the tip of the glacier, next we ventured to Mazeri, a jaw-droppingly gorgeous alpine forest mountain.