The hike between Mazeri and Mestia goes through the heart of the Caucasus mountains and culminates with the Guli Pass at almost 3000m above sea level. It is one of the most beautiful treks I had the chance to do, and certainly not one of the easiest considering the 25kg backpack I carried with me. An unavoidable trail for experimented hikers, solitude lovers and breathtaking landscapes.
Difficulty level : medium/hard
Mestia’s tourism information office provides useful and free maps which allow around 10 hours for this 25km hike (with 1760m of elevation gain and 2000m of vertical drop). The trail can be walked both ways, with 10km between Mazeri and the Guli Pass, and 15km separating the pass from Mestia. The section between the Guli Pass and Mazeri is steeper than the one toward Mestia.
The path starting in Mazeri is relatively simple to follow for the first kilometers before getting harder to discern. A GPS of GPS phone app is very useful to stay in the right direction as dozens of small trails appear and disappear all over the magnificent naked green side of the mountains.
Once you reach the pass, there seem to be two options to go down and reach Mestia: one on the left, coming down quickly from the pass, and a second one going to the right toward a small summit.
Important: the trail going down on toward the left doesn’t exist anymore. The only path is the one leading to a summit on the right. Halfway to the summit, another trail going left toward the valley is the one reaching Mestia.
Once you start walking down toward the valley, the trail will get more and more obvious, fairly easy to find. A few steep stream/waterfall crossings on the mountain slopes can be perilous because of the water, the steepness and the slippery snow remaining around (even in the mid summer).
Where to sleep
We strongly recommend to cut the trek in two – still demanding – days to enjoy the trail as much as possible and to camp on the Guli Pass (see picture above). It is also possible to sleep in your tent in a few places near Mazeri and several kilometers from Mestia (a shepherd might come and ask you 10 to 20 GEL if you are around Mazeri).
Mazeri has plenty of guesthouses offering private rooms from 50 GEL to over 200 GEL per night, usually including three meals of traditional Georgian cuisine. But be careful: if you book online, expect to pay more than the online price and/or to have to strongly negotiate in Russian to get the price you booked for!
Mestia being the biggest town in the region, it has a much bigger range of lodging, including a few cheap hostels and more luxurious establishments.
Important : quite frequent on the mountain side toward Mestia, the water sources are rare between Mazeri and the pass, with only a couple streams in the second half of the way up. It is crucial to to fill your bottles and hydration packs as often as possible.
When to go
The climate in Northern Georgia implies long, cold and snowy winters. It is advised to hike in the region from spring to autumn, i.e. from late April to early October. The summer can be quite hot (regularly between 30 to 35 Celcius degrees in the south), but the mountains in the north make it the best time to visit.
Considering the snow remaining from the winter and the danger it can bring on this trail, we recommend to avoid hiking this trail during the spring months if possible.
How to get there
To reach Mazeri you first need to go to Mestia. The easiest and cheapest way for that is the minibus – the marshrutka – leaving from Zugdidi’s train station regularly in the morning, every day for 20 GEL (2017). The new road allows for a long and winding journey, but a safe one.
It is also possible to take a one hour flight from Tbilisi to Mestia for around 65 GEL (without luggage) with the company Serviceair, and from Kutaisi for 40 GEL (2016). Four flights per week are available from Tbilisi and two from Kutaisi, but the tickets are sold out a long time before the dates.
What to do next
- Mount Mazeer: a summit located west of Mazeri requiring only 5 hours walk (round trip).
- The Ushba glacier: a long one day hike or, if you have a tent, two short days to do the roundtrip from Mazeri to the impressive glacier.
From Mestia :
- The Mestia – Ushguli trek: for less experienced hikers and those preferring to sleep in guesthouses and homestays, this trek is the most accessible, popular and one of the most beautiful itineraries in the Svaneti region.