Georgia (country) > Svaneti > Mestia
Mestia is a city in the Svaneti region of Georgia.
Mestia is not a large town and can be walked out of easily. It has the major Svaneti road running through it. It also has a road that splits off to the north toward the border with Russia and a trekking trail to the glacier.
Hitching to Mestia is an ordeal! Start early. Give yourself a lot of time because even with a ride the road conditions make the drive a long and bumpy one. There are two ways to get into Svaneti - the western approach beginning in Zugdidi and the eastern approach most likely beginning in Kutaisi. The western approach into the higher elevations of Svaneti is the more traveled by cars. It is supposedly the better cared-for road (even though you wouldn't believe it when you ride on it).
The Western Approach
This road travels through Zugdidi, Jvari, Khaishi, Dizi, and a slew of small villages before you get to the administrative capital of Upper Svaneti region - Mestia.
Zugdidi is a large town by Georgian standards. When heading to Mestia you will need to walk north out of town, past the mashrudtka station that is west of the city square and near the medieval-looking tower. After walking the gauntlet of taxi and mashrudtka drivers you need to keep walking for another kilometer or so through a residential area. The road will dead-end and you will turn left and walk on and over an overpass until you see the road sign for Mestia (136 km) pointing you to the right (north again). This is the road that travels all the way through Svaneti and back down to Kutaisi. Once you start walking north on this road, any place to begin hitching is as good as the next.
The traffic that travels this road makes it a little difficult to catch a ride. Many of the cars are stuffed with people because going between cities and villages in Svaneti is a whole day's outing. As with most places in Georgia, a little knowledge of Russian or Georgian is helpful, but not necessary. If breaking the ride up into segments is necessary, the larger towns on the road are Jvari, Khaishi and Mestia.
The road between Zugdidi and Khaishi is mostly paved with numerous rough sections. The road north of Khaishi is much more rough with some sections still being constructed. Even with the road in such poor conditions, all kinds of vehicles still make the trip. Cars, SUVs, vans, lumber trucks and marshrudtkas all slowly crawl along. The traffic gets naturally thinner as you climb higher into the mountains.
The Eastern Approach
This approach travels through the cities of Tskaltubo, Lentekhi, ....
More information needed
Hitching into Mestia can be done from the southwest or the southeast. One end of the Svaneti road begins in Zugdidi to the southwest. The other end begins in to the southeast. The approach from Zugdidi is the more traveled because the road is supposedly in better condition. From either direction, as long as you stay on this main Svaneti road you will reach Mestia.
The Svaneti road is a total of 198 kilometers. From Zugdidi to Mestia is 136 kilometers. From to Mestia it is 62 kilometers.
Mestia can easily be walked out of to get onto the Svaneti road. If you watch the road markers you can make sure you are heading the right direction. The markers are skinny white poles with two square blue plaques declaring the kilometer distances to the ends of the road. If the number facing you is around 140 then you are heading to Ushguli. If it is around 65 then you are heading to Zugdidi.
More traffic seems to leave Mestia for Zugdidi in the mornings than the evenings. People making day trips into Zugdidi leave early to traverse the mountain road and make it back up before dark.
No information for hitching to Ushguli is available at the time of writing.