Mestia is one of those still slightly hidden, hard to reach places in the Republic of Georgia, located high up in the mountains in the region of Svaneti. To get there, I had to take an overnight train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, followed by a three hour marshrutka (mini-bus) ride up winding mountain roads. It could have been worse – before the opening of a new road last year, the same ride took five hours.
Not surprisingly, accommodation options in Mestia appeared a bit limited – my guidebooks seemed to offer a choice between homestays (the budget option) or just a couple hotels (the not-so-budget option). While a homestay would have allowed me to immerse myself with a local family and learn about the Svan culture and traditions, I was a little burnt out on homestays by the time I headed to Mestia.
Luckily, I discovered a third option: the newly opened Nest Hostel Svaneti.
I’ll admit, if you’re looking for accommodation in Mestia with a gazillion amenities, the Nest Hostel probably isn’t for you (but then again, if that’s the case, I’m not sure why you’re headed to Mestia in the first place). The building kind of exemplifies “rustic” and aside from a relatively new bathroom, nothing has really been updated. That said, the two ten-person dorm rooms on the first floor are spacious and lined with wooden bunk beds with brand new bedding and decent pillows. There are storage lockers underneath the beds, but I wasn’t totally sure how to lock them (I was the only guest at the time, so I wasn’t too concerned). The kitchen is lacking, but given the cheap café food available and the lack of much to buy in the local shops, you probably wouldn’t be looking to cook anyway.
If you want a place to relax after a day of hiking, drink some Georgian wine and chill with new friends, the Nest Hostel is perfect.
The best feature of the whole place is the gigantic balcony facing the mountains and the famous Svan Towers that dot the landscape in Mestia. I spent my first night in town just hanging out on that balcony with the two owners, Maya and Nini, and another American girl who was working in town. Maya joked that some guests had trouble dragging themselves away from enjoying the view.
Maya and Nini are great (okay, maybe they are the best feature of the place!). They speak good English, can give you the scoop on Mestia as well as almost anywhere else in Georgia and are determined to make sure their guests have a good time. The only reason we didn’t spend my second night on the awesome balcony was because they wanted to introduce me to traditional Svan cuisine at one of the local cafes and we ended up there most of the evening (tip: try the tashmijabi – pureed potatoes with local cheese – yum!).
The girls also have good connections – especially with marshrutka drivers, so they can help you get both to and from Mestia, including door-to-door transportation if you stay at their sister hostel in Tbilisi. So when it came time for me to leave, they were able to arrange for a driver to pick me up straight from the hostel rather than me make my way to the center at 5:30 a.m. Even better, several days after I left, I was trying to figure out transportation from Georgia to Azerbaijan and texted Maya with a question. Within 15 minutes, she had made some calls and replied to me with just the information I needed. Now that is what I call service!
The Nest Hostel has been open less than a year, so the word is still getting out. I stayed there in late May, which is still quite early in the season to visit Svaneti. The season peaks in July and August and I have a feeling by that time, the Nest Hostel will be buzzing with backpackers and people will start to know it as the place to stay in Mestia.
The Nest Hostel Svaneti and Hostelworld teamed up to provide my stay free of charge, but the opinions expressed above are mine and mine alone. If you want to stay at the Nest Hostel Svaneti, or simply learn more, visit the Hostelworld site by clicking the banner below (note: I will receive a small commission from any booking).
Nest Hostel Svaneti: 16 Kakhiani St., Mestia, Georgia.