Nice dayhike to the group of lakes laying at the foot of mt. Ushba
Nice dayhike to the group of alpine lakes laying at the foot of Mt. Ushba. Even though the lakes themselves are not that special, the view of surrounding mountains is superb.
Duration: 7 hours
4 hours there and 3 hours back
Sixteen kilometers of walking on the dirt road, elevation change 1400m up and down.
If you hire a driver with 4WD, you can greatly shorten the hike - even to the point where you dont have to walk at all. But what kind of a hiker would you then be?
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How to get to Mestia:
Marshrutkas to Mestia leave from Zugdidi train station every day. The first one leaves around 7 a.m, after the arrival of the night train from Tbilisi, but there should be several others before noon. The trip takes about 3 hours - price is usually 15-20 GEL per person, depending on your haggling skills.
If you prefer hiking, you can reach Mestia also on foot from Mazeri village through Guli pass.
And if you really want to save time, you can consider also flight from Tbilisi and Kutaisi. They are quite cheap (65 GEL), but occasionally get cancelled because of the weather.
How to leave Mestia:
Marshrutkas to Zugdidi leave every day in the morning. There are usually a few more during the day, depending on the demand. In a high season there should be also daily marshrutkas to Tbilisi and Batumi, departing in the morning). For actual timetables and booking of tickets, please visit Bus Office near the new gate leading to Seti Squarehttp://www.caucasus-trekking.com/Images/Treks/Koruldi/04_TowardsLakes.jpg
Description of the route
The route starts at the newly reconstructed Seti square. Your first task will be to make it to the cross on the Tshkhakezagari mountain north of Mestia - it lies halfway to the lakes and is visible from the city.
Start walking from square to the east and after 500 meter turn left and take the street heading directly towards the cross on the hill. Follow it past several Svan towers, soon you will pass under old stone arch - trail should be marked if you are not sure, ask around or watch for orange/white markings.
Follow the street towards the cross. You will leave village behind and eventually come to the spot where main tourist trail sharply turns to the right. Here you have an option to take a shortcut which could save you some 30 minutes of walking, but is very steep and not that well marked. If you want to take it, just leave the tourist trail and continue climbing directly towards the cross.
However, I would recommend to take standard trail, it's longer, but more comfortable. Follow the main trail to the east and after some 30 minutes you will emerge on the jeep track. It will comfortably take you to the cross (there are also several shortcuts on the way) - whole walk from Mestia to cross takes up to 2 hours.
At the cross there is a wooden shelter and tourist marker showing way towards the lakes. Follow it to the north, pass by shepherds hut and you will soon appear on well visible road. There is a sporadic trafiic as it's possible to drive to the lakes by car and if you stil dont feel confident about yours direction, there are also wooden poles to show you the way.
Road slowly, but steadily climbs to the north on Lamaaja ridge, to get to the lakes you will need another 2 hours. On the way you will also pass a turn-off left heading to the Guli pass, from here to the lakes it's no more than half an hour of walking on the main road.
Lakes are for some people a disappointment, because they are more muddy than rocky and not suitable for bathing. Still, they beautifully reflect surrounding mountains, which is more that adequate compensation.
If you are fit, not afraid of heights and have good shoes, you can climb even higher, to the cross on Koruldi ridge at the elevation of 3300 meters. From here, you can have some of the best views ordinary hiker can get in these parts of Caucasus. Climb is not technically that hard, but exposed and quite exhausting as you are often climbing in broken shales, which slide beneath your feet.
The whole hike to the cross on Koruldi ridge from Mestia and back can be done in a day, but only by really fit and fast hikers as Koruldi plateau lies almost 2000 meters above Mestia. Slower hikers should consider hiring a jeep to take them to the cross on Tshkhakezagari mountain to save some time. Also, hike to the cross on Koruldi ridge is one of those where I would consider hiring a guide (just to make it clear - hike to the lakes is easily doable without one).