Svaneti is a remote area in Caucasus, so remote that even Soviets did not touch it. That allowed locals to keep intact their culture, traditions and even their own language (the Svan). The biggest conglomeration in Svaneti is Mestia, where we arrived after 6 adventurous hours by marshrutky from Zugdidi. Mestia is a cute “town” with a nice square with porticoes and beautiful stone houses. Most of these houses still have its koshki (defensive stone tower) which were used in times of danger. You still can see around 175 koshkebi in Mestia built between IXth and XIIIth centuries and they are the symbol of the town and the whole Svaneti area.
After a day of acclimation (Mestia is only at 1.400m but we ladies had headache during all the afternoon!), we started early in the morning a 6 hours hike to Chalaadi Glacier. This route goes through Mestiachala Valley and it is a good introduction to the area. After walking 1 hour or so along the Airport – Mestia road, mountains finally appeared and the real hike started. From that point we followed the river, which we had to cross at a certain point. On the opposite shore we went through the forest and climbed up to the foot of the glacier. From there Russian border was only at a few kilometers.
On the way back, tired but happy, we finished the day with a super dinner in the guesthouse where I think we tasted all possible typical dishes in Svaneti!