Disappointment in Mestia

One of the biggest draws for me in Georgia was the region of Svaneti, a remote mountainous area in the northwest part of the country. I first read about Svaneti (and Georgia in general, I think) from a travel blog called Uncornered Market. They were there in 2007, and raved about the beautiful mountains and the burgeoning trekking industry. It sounded mysterious and untouched, and I couldn't wait to go.

Of course, 8 years have passed and I am not the only person who's read about Svaneti since then. The region has been promoting itself and working to improve roadways, guesthouses, tourism offices and other things that Western visitors expect to be in working order. I knew it had grown in popularity, but I was still so excited for the natural beauty that I wasn't daunted by the recent influx of tourists.

We arrived in Mestia in the pouring rain, after the 11-hour marshutka ride. Not the most auspicious start for a place you go for hiking, but even in the rain it was clearly very beautiful. 

The next morning the clouds had cleared a bit and I went for a walk around town. Sidestepping cow poop (so much cow poop) and puddles, I made my way to the center. Georgia is not an early-rising country, and everything was quiet. Still, the town had an odd feel that I couldn't quite place my finger on. There were a lot of new buildings, built to look old - but they were all empty. There didn't seem to be too many shops or restaurants. Overall, it just felt sort of dead. And then, rather suddenly - jeeps filled with hundreds of tourists. Huge groups traveling together in caravans, mostly Israeli families. It felt like I was at Epcot, in some made-up approximation of what a Svan town is supposed to be.

(The lack of pictures here is evidence that I was not enthralled or inspired...) 

I waited for the Tourist Information Center to open and got the name of a "very good" guide from them. I contacted him about doing a 3- night trek from Mestia to Ushguli, and he invited me for a hike near town that day with friends - he brought along another couple that he had just let a trek with, and they raved about him. The price he quoted me was not as cheap as I'd heard mentioned, but it didn't seem entirely unreasonable compared to other treks I've done. And I really really wanted to do this trip, so I agreed. 

Turns out there's actually not that much to see at the point where a glacier turns into a river - just gray, dirty ice melting into frigid, gray water. 

We met up in the evening at his request to do some planning, but instead of telling me about the trek he just asked me do I have a boyfriend and what do I look for in a guy and all sorts of questions about relationships (why don't I just lie and say I'm married? I don't know.) I didn't feel in danger, but I was feeling pretty uncomfortable, and told him so. I went back to the hostel, and after some hemming and hawing about whether I was blowing things out of proportion, I decided that I didn't want to pay him to hit on me for the next 4 days. Which meant that I also was not going to be doing the trek. All of this build up, and I wasn't going to get to do the one thing I came to Svaneti for! 

Some places just don't click, and I decided I wanted to move on as quickly as possible - Mestia and I were clearly not meant to be.


  1. Ah, that sucks so much! I'm really sorry to hear that your hopes for Mestia were dashed by some jerk, not to mention the hordes of tourists barreling around town in Jeeps. But that means you've already gotten the low-point of the trip out of the way and it's all up and up from here on in.

  2. Will your next post be about how you redeemed your trip? I'm glad you made the choice to not go on this trek. Also, I find it funny that Georgians sleep late. You are such a weird American :-P


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