Discover Georgia
A road from Mestia to Chalaadi Glacier
29 March, 2019
"Are these mountains real?" this question was asked by a tourist from Dubai visiting Svaneti. “I know that the mountains of Svaneti are not man-made, but it was so astonishing to find yourself surrounded by huge ice blocks in the middle of July, that it was hard to believe they were real.
On a sunny morning in July, when the information center opened in the Seti Square in Mestia, I joined some foreign tourists and asked for
the maps. I opened the maps altogether and it took me less than 5 minutes to plan the route – the Chalaadi Glacier, 15.2 kilometers from the center of Mestia. You can hike there, though, if you want to save time it's better to hire a minivan.

- GEL 50 - told me the driver of a minivan with “Chalaadi” written in red letters on the destination sign mounted on it.

- Thank you, goodbye. – I told the driver.

It is going to be much more interesting to hike 15 km along a wild path through the mountains standing high like basketball players.

- One way takes 3 hours - not too long. Takeout includes some cheese, tomatoes, bread …

Why is ‘PURI’ written in English letters? - Even foreign tourists should know how ‘bread’ sounds in Georgian.
It was high time for us to leave, we set off from Mestia and started walking along the road.

The stream of the River looked like a white thread from afar. It's so snow white, it must by icy - a member of my group declared. It sounded a bit strange – icy stream running between green trees. He aimed his camera at the spot, set it at a maximum zoom out range, and here's what we got: we walked a few steps and a colorful picture of a mountain stream was replaced by a rock emerging from the River: How do you like it?

In an hour and a half, we reached a crossroads. There was the Mestiachala River on one side, and the Chalaadi River gorge on the other side. And ahead… we could not continue our way ahead as there were the rocky slopes of Mt. Dalakora.
Logic dictated that as the glacier is called the Chalaadi Glacier, we had to walk along the Chhalaadi River.

As soon as you cross the bridge, the path disappears. You have to walk through a conifer forest, where the trees seem to be nearly as tall as the mountains.

To reach the Glacier you have to follow red and white lines, drawn in the colors of the flag of Poland, on the stones there.

We started playing a kind of game: competing who would be the first to find those lines. We were so amused that it took us half of the time, it would have taken us otherwise.
We were trying to take a selfie at the entrance to the woods. Two tourists from India were passing by and they offered to take a photo of us. How I might have guessed that they were from India, you may ask. I learned about it later when they joined us and we hiked together to the Glacier.

- You might think you have ended up in heavens when you find yourself in Svaneti after leaving our city. – One of the tourists shared his first impression with us.

- Which city are you from?

- From Mumbai - the most populous city in India, with a population of 18 million. – When he noticed that I was ready to listen to him, he continued: - I got to Mestia by a minivan. A tourist from Dubai, who was sitting next to the driver asked him: Are these mountains artificial?

- What? However, it is not surprising, artificial islands are built in the United Arab Emirates at one fell swoop and they probably won’t find it difficult to build a mountain, if they want to.

- But nothing can compare with the ones I have seen here. I have been to many countries, but I have never felt the way I feel here in Svaneti. Just look at this river; as if it is ready to swallow you:

- You can find gorges which look just like this one in India as well. – The Indian people appeared to be just as good at boasting as the Georgian people are.
- I read about Svaneti and learned that they have many legends. – The tourist from India continues.

- Svaneti is the cradle of legends. Kamerde – a kind troll – is said to be wandering around here. But he can be unkind and even cruel to sinners…

- At last, we managed to get out of this forest! – One of the tourists heaved a sigh of relief, - Look at those huge rocks! How are we supposed to continue on our way?

I managed to get to the tongue of the glacier before the tourists from India and before the rest of my group members. There were a lot of tourists there:

The spot marked red on the map is the most dangerous place.
"Huge rocks roll down from the top of the glacier and one has to be very careful not to get injured” – I recalled a piece of advice I got at the tourist center, but it slipped my mind as soon as I got nearer. - I just couldn’t go back without having seen the birth of the River with my own eyes:

By the way, the Chalaadi Glacier is situated 1920 meters above sea level. This is the single glacier which runs down to the forest...

We walked 15 km from Mestia Centre. Our starting point was situated 1490 meters above sea level and our destination was 1920 meters above sea level.

I thought the tourists from India might be interested in these data. But when I looked around, I saw them walking up a mountain next to the glacier…

Meanwhile, a medium-sized stone starts rolling down the side of the mountain at a high speed… Fortunately, it fell right into the water… All the tourists, including me, left the place in the blink of an eye.

We started down the path to Mestia pleasantly burdened. What kind of burden can make you feel so light? Impressions... We were pleasantly burdened with impressions…
Though I cannot call it an Impressionist masterpiece, it is two years now this painting of theChalaadi Glacier has been decorating my office room.

Related stories:

Discover Svaneti – Part 1

Discover Svaneti – Part 1

Amazing cuisine of Svaneti

Skies Over Svaneti Georgia