Our journey in Georgia started crossing the border of Türgözü / Vale, and thus accessing Georgia from southern-east. We spent 14 days there.
Vale Border → Akhaltsikhe (20km)
Once you cross the border, you need to walk for 5 minutes to the first petrol station and ask for a taxi. The price should not be more than 25 GEL / lari (1 GEL ~ €3 in August 2019).
In Akhaltsikhe, we stayed at Insomnia Hotel (2 nights, 29 GEL for a double per night):
Pros: New and clean rooms, ensuite, nice and quiet yard where to chill out. Good price.
Cons: It is about 15 minutes away from the bus station and the castle (for us it wasn’t a cons, actually, as we enjoyed walking around the town, but it is fair to say).
Akhaltsikhe → Vardzia (day trip)
The marshrutka (shared minibus) leaves at 10.30am from the bus station in Akhaltsikhe and then at 3pm from Vardzia (10 GEL each round trip); it takes one hour and a half so you have plenty of time to visit the site.
Akhaltsikhe → Adigeni
The marshrutka leaves at 10:00 am from the bus station and gets to Adigeni bus station at 10:50 (2.20 GEL each).
Adigeni → Zarzma Monastery (5km)
Since we had time, we got a taxi to go to visit this beautiful site (10 GEL).
Adigeni → Khulo (55km)
The marshrutka passes from Adigeni bus station at 14:30 – it runs just in the summer! It stops by the road if you wave at it, so make sure to be ready! It cost 10 GEL per person and it takes roughly 3 hours. Mind that the road is unpaved and bumpy, but the journey is spectacular!
In Khulo we stayed at Hostel 13 (1 night, 15 GEL per person in a dorm):
Pros: easy to find on maps.me, clean, well-furnitured kitchen, there is no reception but it’s open so you can just pop in, get a bed, and leave the money on the table.
For more details about the cable car in Khulo, have a look at the detailed article Adigeni-Khulo-Batumi.
Khulo → Batumi (86km)
Marshrutkas leave at any time from the main road (in front of the tourist info point) as they leave when they are full. We caught one between 10:30 and 11:00 in the morning. It costs 5 GEL per person and it takes roughly 2 and a half hours – roads are mainly paved.
In Batumi, we stayed at Eka Guesthouse (1 night, 45 GEL for a double):
Pros: it’s between the bus station and the city centre, clean, laundry for free, Eka is very welcoming and nice person.
Batumi → Mestia (268 km)
The marshrutka for Mestia leaves at 9am from the bus station in Batumi but it’s not direct: it stops in Zugdidi and leave you in front of the marshrutka for Mestia, which leaves when full. We got to Zugdidi at 11ish and left at 1:45pm.. there were people there who had been waiting since 9am..there is no timetable so just be ready to wait 😅 we paid 38 GEL from Batumi to Mestia; other people paid 20 GEL from Zugdidi to Mestia. We don’t don’t know how much is it from Batumi to Zugdidi, we think it’s 15 GEL, so we believe we were charged a bit more, but not so much.. anyway, watch out!
In Mestia, we stayed at Guesthouse for You (1 night, 40 GEL for a double):
Pros: it’s one of the cheapest in town, clean and quiet, nice garden, tea and coffee available free of charge.
Cons: 5 mins walking from the city centre, if you want to call it cons..
4-day Trek: Mestia → Chvabiani → Adishi → Iprari → Ushguli → Mestia
For more details about it, check out our article about Svaneti.
In Chvabiani, we stayed at Vodo’s Guesthouse (1 night, 50 lari per person including dinner and breakfast): it was a perfect stay, good food and the trail for Adishi departs next to it, behind the church.
In Adishi, we stayed at the first big guesthouse that you see on your left when getting there (60 lari per person including dinner and breakfast + 5 lari for lunch box). Amazing food and nice environment.
In Iprari, we stayed at the big hotel you find on your right – once you enter the village you will see a guesthouse on your left (you should book it on booking.com if you want to stay there), walking a bit more down on the right you will turn left into the village and see the hotel (55 lari per person including dinner and breakfast). Food was not that good, but we met the same people of the previous night so we enjoyed our stay.
We didn’t sleep in Ushguli but we got a shared taxi to go back to Mestia (44km, about 2hours). You can catch a minibus or a shared taxi; the incredible high price is going to be 40 lari per person, we downed it to 30 lari per person as we went to the bus station and not on the road..but we don’t think you can get lower than that.. it’s a mafia so you can’t even hitchhike.
Mestia → Kutaisi → Tskaltubo (215km)
The marshrutka for Kutaisi (25 GEL/lari) leaves at 8 am from the bus station in Mestia but, again, it’s not direct; however, they will arrange the exchange in Zugdidi and the second minibus to Kutaisi will be just for tourists – at least this was our experience. From Kutaisi there are frequent marshrutka to Tskaltubo (1.80 GEL; once there,call the stop in the main roundabout next to the big park).
In Tskaltubo, we stayed at Nunu’s Guesthouse (1 night, 25 lari):
Just pros: location is good to walk to the main park, amazing people, good food (there is no fixed price, give them what you feel is right), our room was tiny but ok.
Cons: WiFi is not working properly when they are watching TV.
Tskaltubo → Tbilisi (245 km)
We caught a direct marshrutka to Tbilisi (12GEL) at about 10 am waiting at the main roundabout in front of the main park. The journey takes about 5 hours. If you miss it, catch one to Kutaisi and then to Tbilisi from there.
In Tbilisi, we stayed at DreamHostel (3 nights, 23 GEL per night):
Just pros: location is good to walk to the city centre and supermarkets, the kitchen is available and new, the rooms are big and clean. We loved it!
Tbilisi → Telavi (95 km)
The marshrutka to Telavi leaves from Ortachala bus station (or central bus station, you can find it on maps.me either ways) and it costs 10 lari. It doesn’t take the direct way, of course, but it goes through all the villages; thus, it takes about 2 hours.
In Telavi (2 nights), we could have stayed at Ajime Hostel through Couchsurfing but we it was very local and basic (it usually costs 10 lari each per night). Since it didn’t have private rooms, we decided to go to Tushishvili Guesthouse – that’s the name on maps.me; it’s got another name which includes No. 15 but we can’t remember it, however you can easily find it as it is behind Bravo restaurant – and we paid 20 lari each per night.
From Telavi we went to visit Nekresi Monastery, Khareba winery / the Tunnel in Kvareli, and Gremi Monastery. We used the usual marshrutkas to go to Nekresi (4 lari) – it leaves you on the main road and then you have to find your way to the monastery; we hitchhiked. Then we hitchhiked again till the main road and got a marshrutka to Kvareli (1 lari). The village is not nice, but the winery is very cool! Take a taxi to go there. On the way back we walked till the main road and then hitchhiked till Gremi and then till Telavi – the marshrutkas stop running at 4:30 pm apparently. For more details about this day, check out our article about Telavi.
Telavi → Sheki (Azerbaijan)
Direct marshrutkas to Lagodekhi border crossing leave from the Old bus station of Telavi, which is behind/within the bazaar. Once there, we exchanged money and queued for passport control. It took quite a long time, actually. From the border, get a taxi to the bus station in Zagadala and from there a bus to Sheki.
We spent about 1120 GEL each in 14 days.