HOSTEL REVIEW: The Circle Hostel Baler, Philippines

The Circle Hostel Baler

WHY BALER?

Baler is a place where surfing started in Philippines. Because of the filmmakers of war movie Apocalypse Now who left there surfboards after filming so locals could start to learn. Over time Baler has become a surfing destination where surf competitions are also held. I stayed for only one day and two nights at The Circle Hostel because of my flight from Philippines back to my country. It definitely worth for a longer visit.

THE CIRCLE HOSTEL

The Circle Hostel is a network of hostels in Luzon island and you can find them in surf destinations. Besides Baler they are located in Zambales and La Union.

[fac_icon icon=”globe” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#000000″]|[fac_icon icon=”facebook-official” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#000000″]|[fac_icon icon=”instagram” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#000000″]
[fac_icon icon=”map-marker” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#ff5353″] Buton Street, Brgy. Sabang, Aurora, Baler, Philippines
[fac_icon icon=”phone” color=”#ff5353″ color_hover=”#ff5353″] +63 917 501 0235

STAFF, FACILITY AND ATMOSPHERE

You will feel really comfortable during your stay and you will be surrounded by friendly atmosphere of staff and other travelers who had headed there also for surfing. The staff can advise you with current surfing conditions, trips around or transportation to Manila. I found my surfing buddies (from Sweden and Philippines) right in the morning so it was not boring in the waves even I sucked that day. But as they say at the hostel “The best surfer out there is the one having most fun!”. And I had. I really liked the colorful interior full of creative drawings from travelers. And you can also enrich some free spot with your work! I did not manage to make it so maybe next time.

You can stay in a classic mixed dorm room with three bunk beds. Each is equipped with mosquito net for a quiet night without unwanted visitors and you can also find lockers in the rooms. But you have to have your own lock. They offer also female dorm rooms. Other options are rooms for two persons or sleeping in hammock. There are a lots of bars around thanks to their loud music and karaoke you will not get much sleep. So bring your own earplugs. Another disadvantage of the rooms is absence of power outlets but you will find them in common areas in sufficient quantities. Check the rates and availability on http://www.baler.thecirclehostel.com/#reservation.

Tidy and clean showers with toilets are shared by all guests and they are divided for men and women. And you can enjoy shower with hot water!

If you want to cook your own meal you can use the furnished kitchen, just remember to clean up after yourself. For relaxation you can use hammocks, a place with beanbags next to the small skating U ramp or you can climb the stairs to the spacious chill area full of beanbags, hammocks and tables. At both places there is plenty of power outlets. You will not find WiFi there, you need to use your mobile data.

 The price includes breakfast which is served from 6:30 (surfers need to wake up early) and it consists of pastry, peanut butter and bananas. There is also free drinking water so don’t worry about buying bottles. They will also gladly prepare coffee for you and you can buy some other refreshments from the current offer at the reception.

Since this is a surf hostel you can rent there surfboard  and the offer surf lessons with instructors. During my stay the surfboard was for 200 pesos per hour and lesson for 350 pesos per hour.

SURFING AND SURROUNDINGS

As I wrote, the main activity in Baler is surfing. The main season is from October to April but you can surf there during the whole year. If you can not get the required equipment at the hostel you can borrow it at many other places around the beach. The Sabang beach is only few steps away and there are four spots nearby: Sabang Beach (beach break, suitable for beginners), Cemento Beach (reef break, for advanced surfers), Charlie’s Point (beach break) and Lindy’s Point (rivermouth break).

And if you don’t surf you can visit 65m tall banyan fig tree in Aurora (Giant Balete tree, Millenium tree), Ditumabo Mother falls, exploring nearby beaches or go hiking to the nearby mountains.

 HOW TO GET TO BALER

In Manila take a bus from Cubao bus terminal (there are more terminals according to bus company). Direct connection should be offered only by Genesis at unpleasant times: five connections between 12:30AM and 5:30AM. You can book the tickets online on https://www.pinoytravel.com.ph/ (at the latest 3 days before departure), the price is around 700 pesos, as an origin choose Cubao, Quezon City, Metro Manila and as a destination choose Baler, Aurora. But you can get to Baler also during the day. Also from one of the terminals in Cubao or Pasay (I went with Five Star company for 185 pesos but Victory Liner and Baliwag Transit also should go there) take bus to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija where you will change to shuttle bus/van to Baler for 200 pesos. Just ask the driver or local people. From the bus terminal in Baler take a tricycle to the hostel for 15 pesos.

From Baler to Manila there is also five direct buses. The first at 4:30AM and the last one at 3:30PM. You can buy the ticket in advance at the bus terminal in Baler. Or you can go with the change in Cabanatuan again.

My first solo traveling. To Philippines!

Budapest is becoming my regular place from which I leave in February. 9th February 2014 to Israel, 9th February 2015 to Sri Lanka and 9th February 2016 to Philippines. I really don’t choose these dates! But this time it will be little bit different.

I was thinking about traveling abroad to completely unknown country for me for about last two years. In summer I went to Georgia for two months but I was there on EVS with 9 other people so it doesn’t count.

Last year in May there was really good deal from Cebu Pacific and the tickets from Dubai to Manila cost only about 55 euros. So I bought it. My three other friends bought the tickets with me but in the end they were too lazy to make web check-in. And that’s how my first solo trip was born.

I spent one night in Budapest through Couchsurfing. I found one Georgian girl and even her status is “maybe accept guests” I had to try it. And it worked! Georgian hospitality is even out of Georgia. Ada lives in Budapest for six years. She studied there and now she works there. At her apartment Ada’s friends visited us, we had lovely dinner and lot of fun. We also diagnosed Georgian syndrom. It means you want to go back to Georgia as soon as possible. I hope me and her Romanian friend are an adequate sample.

In Dubai I arrived to the Dubai World Central airport. Some sheik needed new airport which will become the biggest in the world. But now it looks just like it’s in the middle of nowhere, 60 km from Dubai, only with low cost airlines, metro doesn’t go there and probably won’t in the future. Now I’m in the maze called Dubai Mall because my Couchsurfer’s apartment is nearby. I’m again on Couchsurfing here and right from my bed I can see the Burh Khalifa. And before midnight I’m finally going to Philippines. Or I hope so, Cebu Pacific doesn’t follow departure times so much.

This is going to be really low cost trip. I’m going only with backpack up to 7 kg, all 7 flight tickets cost me about 310 euros and I’d like to not pay for accommodation too much. The next few days I managed to to find hosts on Couchsurfing so it’s great. For the first time I will get absolutely outside of my comfort zone. But I’m really looking forward to meet new people while backpacking. And after this I’ll be prepared for a few months of backpacking in Southeast Asia where I want to go after graduation. Should I rather write my diploma thesis right now? Ah, the sources won’t run away.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

European road trip, part II

European road trip, part II

European road trip, part I

FRANCE AND ANDORRA

From Monaco we went to Cannes where we wanted to… I guess to walk on the red carpet at the Palais des Festivales? Anyway, there just was a sailing festival so we couldn’t get there and we rather continued to the west.

Marseille and Cassis

We arrived to Marseille and we lost a lot of our time as we found out in the evening. We just visited the port, had lunch, bought some souvenirs but thanks to terrible traffic jams we spend there a lot of hours. In the port we have discovered an ad for cruises to the bays near Cassis in the National Park Calanques and we wanted to see it on that day. But Cassis is kingdom of one-way streets that successfully confused our GPS so we broke these rules and drove by ourselves. Unfortunately it’s not possible to go by car to these bays and the sun didn’t want to stay longer with us. So we just went to watch the sunset above Cassis and then to find some place to sleep somewhere nearby Saint-RĂ©my-de-Provence.

Saint-RĂ©my-de-Provence, Orange and Pont du Gard

Saint-RĂ©my-de-Provence was, in change, kingdom of markets and tasting of all sorts of food. Cheeses, salami, fruit, turrĂłn. And, of course, lavender (we didn’t tasted). From the markets we went to explore the Roman Colosseum from the 1st century in Orange. And after that to Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard to which we wanted to get for free by not making eye contact with the staff. But the staff made the contact with us.

Saint-Guilhem-le-DĂ©sert and Pont du Diable

The last stop of the day was the small town Saint-Guilhem-le-DĂ©sert with the bridge Pont du Diable. From there we went to the coast towards Carcassonne, where we wanted to sleep on the beach. First, we arrived to Bages where Dexter could joyfully throw dead bodies into water and that place didn’t have much in common with the coast. Eventually we got to the beach in Narbonne and finally used the grill we had with us all the time.

Carcassonne

Surprisingly there is no entrance fee when entering the fortress town of Carcassonne. But if you are interested in a castle tour you have to pay. In case you are not an EU citizen under 26. I missed this criterion a few months ago and the lady at the cash desk didn’t want to beg about this. So while waiting for others I walked through the city and according their words I made a good decision because I could visit more places in the fortress. The only thing about Carcassonne I didn’t like was the commercialism and dozens of souvenir shops.

Andorra

Across the Pyrenees we headed to the capital city of Andorra – Andorra la Vella. Somewhere near the border we enjoyed nice traffic jam and right behind the border we chose paid tunnel. On the way back we realized that it was stupid idea because we skipped only short section with hairpin turns and we missed beautiful mountain scenery. After the tunnel we went only through valley. I liked Andorra la Vella so much I can imagine to live there for a few months. BTW, one guy in Monaco told us to not go to Andorra because it’s boring and ugly. Well, Andorra was the most beautiful small country we’ve visited during our Eurotrip. From Andorra there are only two roads out – back to France and to Spain. Due to shorter distance to the highway we chose the same route back. But this time we avoid the tunnel and enjoyed the ride above clouds at sunset.

SPAIN

Yes, at late night we arrived to Spain. And that’s because… To arrive to San Sebastian, while looking for a place to sleep pass the ghostly lighthouse and in the end slept in the car near the beach (but it belongs to a road trip, right?). And in the morning back to France.

FRANCE

Hendaye

I wanted to visit Hendaye for one reason – baguettes I’ve enjoyed two years ago. At the same time we needed wifi for finding accommodation close to the ocean somewhere near Hossegor and Seignosse. It wasn’t easy because it was expensive/far away/people didn’t respond, but finally we managed to get some great accommodation in Hossegor.

Hossegor and Biarritz

It was beautiful house in a pine forest with swimming pool and Japanese garden (Do you want $20 credit on Airbnb? So click!). The owners, a married couple, took really great care of us and they were well traveled so we had a much to talk. E.g. they spent a few years in Lebanon and Japan in which they fell in love so we had a room with Japanese elements. And why Hossegor? Because of surfing and Surf-Trip.cz! The waves wasn’t so good for my (in)abilities and the fish that can kill you? Weever, which according to Wikipedia, killed about one man. Anyway, the pain caused by stabbing wasn’t very pleasant. Then the coast guard explained me what was going on.

Gouffre de Padirac

We left Hossegor in the afternoon and headed back to the east. We spent the night in the tent near Gouffre de Padirac where we were going the next day. Gouffre de Padirac is a chasm and caves in which you ride a boat. It looked kind of like in Jurassic Park.

SWITZERLAND AND LIECHTENSTEIN

The same day we arrived to Saint-Julien-en-Genevois on the border with Switzerland, built the tent on the French side and to the toilet we went to Switzerland.

Geneva

In the morning we visited Geneva for a while, looked to the UN and Lake Geneva and then we headed to the easternmost part of Switzerland.

Lauterbrunnen

The first stop was 297 meters tall waterfall Staubbachfall in Lauterbrunnen. From there we continued to the most famous Swiss waterfalls.

Rhine Falls

First we arrived to the Rhine Falls from the south side where is also a viewing platform. Surprisingly, here you pay the entrance fee. Probably before you enter the area of Laufen castle. But in our case we thought that the cash desks are there only because of cruises. And because nobody had checked the tickets we got to the viewing platform for free. What does it matter that it was weird there were turnstiles. But also opened wheelchair doors next to them so we could walk through it. So we saved 5 francs.

Then we crossed to the north side to Neuhausen am Rheinfall, where it’s not possible to get so close to the waterfalls. And along the way there we were stopped by police for the first time. Probably because they noticed us staring on them when they drove against us. Or they were interested because of passenger without seat belt? In a while they were right behind us with lit police beacon. Luckily it was just a routine check without a fine, we talked about our trip and when they saw our stuffed trunk we didn’t have to show it.

Sankt Gallen

From waterfalls we headed to our final destination – to St. Gallen where my friend KaÄŤka, who is in Switzerland at Erasmus this semester, provided us accommodation. Actually I didn’t see much of St. Gallen, but I visited a lecture at the university. In German language.

Vaduz a Malbun

From St. Gallen we made a trip to the last small country. Liechtenstein offers mainly Vaduz and mountains in which we chose ski resort Malbun. By visiting Vaduz we probably increased its population by a few percent, we visited the square of this capital village and then we rather went up into the mountains. Around the Vaduz Castle, which is still used by Liechtenstein’s Princely Family so it’s not accessible for public, through many other villages to Malbun.

And that was it, the next thing was just to get through Germany to Brno without any scheduled stops. A bit of statistics?

We drove more than 6000 kilometers. Fuel cost us less than €480, we spent millions by paying toll. We slept 9 times in the tent including 3 nights in camps. Once in the car. Three nights at our friends, two via Airbnb and one at the hotel. 10 countries in 17 days.

European road trip, part I

European road trip

After returning from Georgia I didn’t spend much time at home and I went to travel again. This time I had a plan for road trip through western Europe with my friends. Austria, Italy, San Marino, Monaco, Andorra, Spain, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. How did it go?

AUSTRIA

GrĂĽner See

The first stop was GrĂĽner See in Austria even though we were considering whether to go there or not because of the level of water. This lake is popular for divers in spring and early summer when the water level is high due to melting snow and you can swim around benches on which we could sit down. In the end the visit was definitely worth it even though there wasn’t so much water.

Hallstatt

From Oberort we continued to Hallstatt lake where we wanted to spend first night. Parking lot at the lake said that we don’t have to pay during the night but we can’t camp there. We parked the car so nobody couldn’t see it, built  a tent and ate or food from home, including Georgian beer I still had. The weather at night was bad and we didn’t build the ten properly so sometimes some water drops landed on our faces. Fortunately, the rain stopped early in the morning so we were able to leave the place around 6 a.m. without paying. We stopped in Hallstatt for a while and then we went to Werfen.

Werfen

In Werfen, there is a castle Hohenwerfen to which we went by food so we could find out that we have to pay an entrance fee of 11 euros. Well, at least there was wifi so we could relieve our cold turkeys and then we continued to the Alps to check out Grossglockner.

Grossglockner

We chose the Grossglockner High Alpine Road which was really great experience and it definitely wort that 35 euros. Thanks to this route it’s possible to reach the Pasterze glacier which is just bellow the Grossglockner. In Austria, we haven’t anything else to visit so Italy was next destination.

ITALY & SAN MARINO

Lago di Garda

Thw whole route through the Alps was full of amazing scenery, hairpin turns and villages, we drove through Cortina d’Ampezzo to Trento and started looking for accommodation. We couldn’t find anything appropriate on Airbnb so around midnight we reached a camp in the north of Lago di Garda. In the morning we wanted to go to southern part of the lake to Peschiera del Garda and we chose great road on the coast. About one million people had the same idea so it took us some time. By the evening we wanted to reach Venice which we had planned for the next day. But it wouldn’t be right trip without any problem, right? On the highway near Verona the car stopped working and we had to spend about two hours at SOS place before the tow truck arrived.

Verona

It was luck that right in Verona there was Ĺ koda service station. Very friendly and helpful lady took care about us. She arranged with us everything important and helped us with finding cheap accommodation. It was a hotel a few steps from the service. Quite a change with comparison to the tent. Not that we were unable to find accommodation by ourselves, but there was nothing for affordable price in Verona. And it wasn’t sure when the car will be repaired so staying in Verona was in the game. The only solution was to rent a car to not lose a weekend in one city.

Friday morning we visited the city and it wasn’t bad unscheduled stop at all. And one great news was waiting for us – the car will be repaired in the afternoon.

Venice

We arrived close to Venice in the evening, spent the night in the nearby camp and in the morning we went by bus to the islands. Because we bought the bus ticket from driver, it would be probably cheaper to go by car and park right in Venice. We took the circuit through Venice in go with the crowd style and in the afternoon we headed on another journey – to Rimini in the south which should be our place before visiting San Marino the next day. Actually we found the camp a little further in Riccione, enjoyed swimming in the sea with jellyfish together with local hotel security, because exactly that part of the beach we’ve been to was private.

San Marino

It would be really great to head to San Marino early in the morning to see the sunrise, but sleep is sleep. Even so we arrived at a time when the city began to wake up and on Monte Titano there were almost no tourists. On the mountain  there are three forts which were never conquered – La Fratta, La Guaita and La Montale which has an entrance in the underground and served as a prison. BTW, did you know that the San Marino F1 Grand Prix wasn’t take place in San Marino but in close Italian Imola? Its name was only because Italy already had one GP.

Cinque Terre

From San Marino we went to west coast to the region ofCinque Terre (so we skipped Florence and Pisa), which is located between cities La Spezia and Genoa. Cinque Terre is famous because its small colorful villages on the coast in which you can’t go by car. So you have to park on the edge and take a small walk. We’ve visited three of these villages – Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Vernazza.

We wanted to spend the night in Genoa by couchsurfing but nobody was able to take four people. In the end an idea of going straight to France and camp there won.

FRANCE & MONACO

It took us about four hour drive to get to France and we got there around midnight. We wanted to build the tent in French Menton on a nice patch of grass, but local police didn’t recommend us to stay there (I mean they forbade us to stay there so they don’t have any problem because of us) and sent us to another place down the road which we weren’t able to find. But we got to a nice hidden beach right before Monaco and we went to sleep around 2 a. m.

Monaco

The next day we went to Monaco where we had arranged accommodation. We relaxed a while in the swimming pool and in the afternoon we walked almost the whole Monaco – Larvotto beach, Japanese garden, port Hercule, Monaco-Ville with its Prince’s Palace, Saint Nicholas cathedral and the Monte Carlo casino.

Which of the small states was the most beautiful, which fish can kill you while surfing in France and where we were stopped by police for the first time? You will find out in the next article.

European road trip, part II

Transportation in Tbilisi

Night Tbilisi

Public transportation in Tbilisi is good, bud the traffic can be madness. Into three lanes fit at least four cars and drivers are not used to give priority to pedestrians. The only safe options are crosswalks with traffic lights, overpasses and underpasses. But you can cross the street anywhere you want, you won’t get a fine and you will notice that everybody does it. You just need to be brave enough, guess the right moment and also wait in the middle of the road if needed. After some time you will run between those cars as anything.

For public transport in Tbilisi purchase METROMANI card which will save you money while changing lines. Without this card you will pay for every single ride by bus 0.50 GEL and you won’t be able to use the metro. You can get METROMANI card at every metro station for 2 GEL and you can charge it there with any amount. Another charging option are orange pay boxes which you can find around the city with any problem and you can also use them for top up your mobile phone credit and another services. Just place the card at a designated point on the machine, insert coins or banknotes (the lowest accepted coin is 50 tetri) and you are recharged. But beware that pay boxes won’t give you change so charge only with amount you really want. With this card you pay also 0.50 GEL for the ticket but it’s valid for 90 minutes so while changing line or bus you won’t be charged again. However, if you get on a different bus, use the card again at the machine, you will get ticket for 0 GEL. Therefore it is good that everybody have their own card. Although the card is not tied to a name and you can take any amount of tickets, the discount will be applied only once. Before leaving Tbilisi you can return this card (up to 1 month from purchase) and if you provide your purchase receipt, they will give you 2 GEL back.

BUS

In every bus you will find a machine in which you can buy the ticket for 0.50 GEL – just put there coin or their sum or place the card and it will give you the ticket. At every bus stop there is always departure stop which is also in English and the ID of the stop can be useful. You can find all of the stops, routes on ttc.com.ge where you can plan your journey, find timetables etc. There is also an Android app which offers same functions as the website and one of the useful function is Route Maps. Are you standing at the bus stop and you don’t know where the lines are going? Just enter the line number and you can see the route on the map. To find a route it is easier to use ID of the stop than writing the name. It is interesting that in a lot of buses you will meet employees who will pass you the ticket and sometimes check your ticket even you just purchased it in front of them. You can also meet inspectors but I found their approach to controls quite lax. I also noticed that passengers often didn’t buy the ticket if the employee wasn’t at in the bus, before getting off the bus they checked the bus stop if there are no inspectors and they had the ride for free. BTW, the fine for black passengers is 5 GEL.

Departure table and pay box
Departure table and pay box
Ticket for 0 lari. You can see the line number (14), date and time
Ticket for 0 lari. You can see the line number (14), date and time

METRO

Metro in Tbilisi has two lines – First Line (red) and Saburtalo (blue) and the only transfer station is Station Square I (Sadguris Moedani I). It runs from 6:00 till 23:59, the signs are in Georgian and English, so the announcement about the next stop and at each entrance there are turnstiles.

Map of metro
Map of metro

MARSHRUTKA

If you are missing fast and furious intercity marshrutkas, you won’t get this kind of ride in Tbilisi. Yeah, it would still be full of honking and crazy driving. They will make a stop for you almost everywhere you say/wave and the price is 0.40–0.80 GEL per ride. You won’t find marshrutka’s departures on the stop boards but will find the routes in the Route Scheme or you can plan the route on the map.

TAXI

Sami lari! You won’t regret with this sentence in Tbilisi. Sami means three and because the prices are mostly between 3 and 5 GEL you probably always find some driver who will accept this price. Except you don’t want to go through the whole city or to the airport. The city is full of taxis so you can get it anytime and everywhere, that’s why you can try sami lari with more drivers. These taxis doesn’t have taximeters so always bargain about the price in advance. But of course you can find also taxi services where you can order taxi by phone. They have taximeters and they should be slightly cheaper. You won’t find UBER here but you can use the app Taxify (iOS, Android, WP) which is kind of Eastern European copy of UBER.

HOW TO GET TO/FROM THE AIRPORT

The cheapest option is bus or train. The bus #37 goes to the airport and his route starts at Station Square and goes through Freedom Square. Between 7:00 and 20:00 it runs every 15–30 minutes and then every one hour till 23:00. The train goes from the Tbilisi central railway station (next to Station Square) only twice a day and it also costs 0.50 GEL. From the central railway station it goes at 7:55 and 17:20 and from the airport to the railway station at 8:45 and 18:05. Since a lot of flights are early in the morning you won’t probably avoid the use of taxi. It should costs a maximum of 25 GEL from the city center to the airport, some of taxi services can do it for 14 GEL.

CABLE CAR

Do you want to visit Mother of Georgia (Kartvlis Deda) or Narikala fortress but you don’t want to walk up there? From Rike park you can take cable car which offers view on the old city and takes you directly next to the fortress which is just a short walk from the statue. For the ride you need METROMANI card (you can buy it there) and it costs 1 GEL per ride.

The second and probably less known is funicular from Vilnius Square to Mtatsminda amusement park where you can find Ferris wheel and TV tower. You won’t succeed with METROMANI card here and you have to buy another card which also costs 2 GEL. The ride is for 2 GEL and you don’t need more cards for more people.

View from the Rike-Narikala cable car
View from the Rike-Narikala cable car

 

How to fly to Mestia from Natakhtari (Tbilisi) and Kutaisi

Flight to Mestia

Updated on July 23, 2019

Curious about how to get to Mestia in Georgia? You can spend many hours on the road to get to Mestia by bus, or you can take a flight to Mestia and be in the beautiful mountains in less than one hour!

Vanilla Sky offers flights to Mestia from Natakhtari (Tbilisi) and Kutaisi throughout the year. Service Air operates the flights to Mestia on LET-410 UVP aircraft (registration UR-LSA) for 19 passengers.

In addition to these routes, they also operate flights between Natakhtari and Ambrolauri, and between Tbilisi and Batumi.

Currently, the flight schedule is available until the end of December 2019.

Flights between Natakhtari (Tbilisi) and Mestia

Natakhtari airfield is located in Natakhtari, approximately 30 km north of Tbilisi city center. Flights between Natakhtari and Mestia are operated up to six times a week and up to twice a day.

Ticket price for Natakhtari – Mestia (one way):

  • adult: 90 GEL
  • child 3–12 y. o.: 63 GEL
  • child 0–3 y. o.: free

Flight schedule Natakhtari – Mestia in 2019

DAY NATAKHTARI – MESTIA MESTIA – NATAKHTARI
Monday 9:00
17:00
11:00
19:00
Tuesday 9:00 14:30
Wednesday 9:00 11:00
Thursday 9:00 11:00
Friday 9:00 14:30
Sunday 9:00 11:00

DAY NATAKHTARI – MESTIA MESTIA – NATAKHTARI
Monday 9:00
17:00
11:00
19:00
Tuesday 9:00 14:30
Wednesday 9:00 11:00
Thursday 9:00 11:00
Friday 9:00 14:30
Sunday 9:00 11:00

DAY NATAKHTARI – MESTIA MESTIA – NATAKHTARI
Monday 9:00
15:00
11:00
16:45
Tuesday 9:00 14:30
Wednesday 9:00 11:00
Thursday 9:00 11:00
Friday 9:00 14:30
Sunday 9:00 11:00

DAY NATAKHTARI – MESTIA MESTIA – NATAKHTARI
Monday 10:00 15:00
Tuesday 10:00 12:00
Thursday 10:00 12:00
Friday 10:00 15:00
Sunday 9:00 11:00

DAY NATAKHTARI – MESTIA MESTIA – NATAKHTARI
Monday 10:00 15:00
Tuesday 10:00 12:00
Friday 9:30 14:00
Sunday 9:00 11:00

DAY NATAKHTARI – MESTIA MESTIA – NATAKHTARI
Monday 10:00 12:00
Tuesday 10:00 15:00
Thursday 10:00 12:00
Friday 9:30 14:00
Sunday 9:00 11:00


TourRadar

How to get to Natakhtari airport

Natakhtari airport
Natakhtari airport

The price of the flight ticket from/to Natakhtari includes transportation between Natakhtari airfield and Tbilisi by van. The departure is from the Rose Revolution Sq. (corner of Kiacheli str. & Rose Revolution sq., the opposite side of the Bike monument), find the pick up point on the map below. The departure is 45 minutes before the indicated check-in time.

If you don’t want to use the provided transport for any reason, you can use a taxi. You can use Bolt (formerly Taxify), and it will cost you around 25 GEL from the city center of Tbilisi. Get 5 GEL off your first ride with this Bolt promo code: BCV5C. There is no Uber in Georgia

You can also hitchhike or catch a marshrutka heading north. Ask the driver to stop in Natakhtari and then walk from the main road to the airport for 1 km.

Accommodation in Tbilisi

prices from €3/night

In Tbilisi, you will find many hostels, guest houses, apartments, and hotels. I recommend staying nearby Shota Rustaveli Ave., Old City, or Marjanishvili Sq. You can also stay next to the Natakhtari airport at Vanilla Sky hotel.

Flights between Kutaisi and Mestia

The flights are operated from the David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport. Flights between Kutaisi and Mestia are operated twice a week. This is perfect for those arriving in Kutaisi with Wizzair.

Ticket price for Kutaisi – Mestia (one way):

  • adult: 50 GEL
  • child 3–12 y. o.: 35 GEL
  • child 0–3 y. o.: free

Flight schedule Kutaisi – Mestia in 2019

DAY KUTAISI – MESTIA MESTIA – KUTAISI
Tuesday 12:30 11:00
Friday 12:30 11:00

DAY KUTAISI – MESTIA MESTIA – KUTAISI
Tuesday 12:30 11:00
Friday 12:30 11:00

DAY KUTAISI – MESTIA MESTIA – KUTAISI
Tuesday 12:30 11:00
Friday 12:30 11:00

DAY KUTAISI – MESTIA MESTIA – KUTAISI
Monday 13:30 12:00
Friday 13:30 11:30

DAY KUTAISI – MESTIA MESTIA – KUTAISI
Monday 13:30 12:00
Friday 12:30 11:00

DAY KUTAISI – MESTIA MESTIA – KUTAISI
Tuesday 13:30 12:00
Friday 12:45 11:15

Accommodation in Kutaisi

prices from €3/night

Even though Kutaisi is not a beautiful city, there are some unique places around to see (Sataplia Nature Reserve, Okatse Canyon, Martvili Canyon, or Kinchkha Waterfall). For easier transportation, I recommend staying close to the bus/marshrutka and train station (both next to McDonald’s).

Prices start at €3 for a bed in a hostel dormitory, but you will also find guest houses and high standard hotels.

Queen Tamar airport in Mestia

Queen Tamar airport was built in 2010, and you can fly to Mestia from Natakhtari (Tbilisi) and Kutaisi.

How to get to/from the airport in Mestia

Queen Tamar airport in Mestia is located 2 km east of the town center. You can easily walk, take a taxi or hitchhike, but there is not much traffic.

Queen Tamar airport in Mestia
Queen Tamar airport in Mestia

Vanilla Sky airplane at Mestia airport
Vanilla Sky airplane at Mestia airport

How to book the flight to Mestia with Vanilla Sky

You can book the flight to Mestia online, or at Vanilla Sky office in Tbilisi. If you want to cancel your booking made online, you can do it no later than 48 hours before the time of departure. It’s not possible to make any change in your reservation. The baggage allowance is 15 kg per passenger.

For more info, read terms & conditions, or contact Vanilla Sky on Facebook, they reply quite quickly.

Also, don’t hesitate with the booking, flights to Mestia are sold out quickly!

Book the flight online

Booking your flight to Mestia online is the easiest way, and you can make a reservation for up to 4 people at once. The highlighted days in the calendar mean only days with flights, not days with available seats, so you have to try your desired dates. Also, you can’t see how many seats are available.

Payment is possible only with VISA or Mastercard cards, and there is a 3.5% fee for a transaction.

Vanilla Sky flight online booking
Online booking of a flight to Mestia on Vanilla Sky website

Visit Vanilla Sky office in Tbilisi

Another option is to visit the Vanilla Sky office in Tbilisi and make the reservation there. Find the Vanilla Sky contact below.

I recommend you paying with a card in case the flight will be canceled. It will be easier to refund you the money.

What to do when your flight to/from Mestia is canceled

Flights to/from Mestia are operated under Visual Flight Rules. This means if the weather conditions are bad, the flight will be canceled.

Don’t expect they will let you know the status of the flight. They sent us an email one day before with the information that the departure will be postponed but didn’t contact us on the day of the departure that the flight was canceled.

So it’s smart to have a backup plan.

In case you made the booking online or at the office and paid with a card, you will get the refund back to your card within 30 days. You can get it earlier if you contact them by email. The same applies for cancellation from your side.

If you did booking at the office and paid with cash, then I don’t know, I can only wish you good luck. Will you get the refund at the airport? Will you get it at every airport? Or do you have to go back to their office in Tbilisi? Or will they be able to use bank transfer, so you will probably pay a fee for an incoming transaction in a foreign currency? Let me know in the comments if you know the answer.

Canceled flight to Mestia
Canceled flight to Mestia

Other domestic flights in Georgia provided by Vanilla Sky

Vanilla Sky provides other domestic flights in Georgia.

Tbilisi – Batumi

The route between Tbilisi and Batumi is operated on SAAB 340 aircraft for 32 passengers. Georgian Airways also provide flights from Tbilisi to Batumi.

These flights depart from Tbilisi International Airport, not from Natakhtari.

Natakhtari (Tbilisi) – Ambrolauri

Another destination available from Natakhtari is Ambrolauri, also on LET-410 UVP aircraft.

Vanilla Sky flight route map in Georgia

On this map, you will find all of the mentioned routes, airports and other places.

My review of flight to Mestia with Vanilla Sky

I have two experiences with Vanilla Sky. The first one was in the summer of 2015 when my friend and I flew successfully from Natakhtari to Mestia. The second one was in the summer of 2017 when our flight from Kutaisi to Mestia was canceled due to bad weather in Mestia.

The best part, of course, is the flight itself. You fly over the whole country, and the mountainous scenery of Caucasus is simply amazing! If you have the opportunity to take this flight, do it!

The worst part is the communication and customer service, but that might be better by now.

LET 410 cockpit
LET 410 cockpit

LET 410 interior
LET 410 interior

Successful flight from Natakhtari to Mestia

It was not possible to book the flight online at that time, so we had to make a reservation via email. The communication was slow and insufficient since we had to urge them to get available dates. The payment was possible in cash only at their office in Tbilisi, but it was no problem for us because we were spending two months there.

On the day of our flight, we were provided with transport from Tbilisi to Natakhtari airport and everything was on time. At the airport, there was a registration of passengers before the flight and a standard security check. I had a small knife in my bag, but it wasn’t a big problem for them as they took it and gave it back to me at the airport in Mestia.

Take off in Natakhtari
Take off in Natakhtari

Flight over Georgia with Vanilla Sky
Flight over Georgia with Vanilla Sky

Canceled flight from Kutaisi to Mestia

My second flight to Mestia was supposed to be from Kutaisi, but the weather made it impossible. We received an email day before that the time of departure changed, but on the day of the flight, we didn’t receive any info. So we had to go to the airport to find out the flight was canceled and figure out how to get to Mestia (we hitchhiked).

Then I sent an email asking for a refund and received the money back in less than 30 days, probably within one week. They state the 3.5% fee is non-refundable, but they refunded me the whole sum.

Mestia

Mestia is a small town located in the Svaneti region in the Caucasus Mountains. It’s famous for its stone defensive towers, beautiful nature and a trek to Ushguli.

Mestia has become a popular destination amongst travelers visiting Georgia, and it can be quite crowded during summer.

Accommodation in Mestia

prices from €3/night

Since Mestia tourism is increasing, you will find many guest houses in this small mountain town. You can choose from cheap hostels, guest houses, or go for more expensive hotels offering stunning views of this Svanetian city.

How to get to Mestia

All flights are sold out, your flight was canceled, or you just can’t or don’t want to fly?

To Mestia by rental car

To get the freedom of traveling in Georgia, rent a car with a Georgian car rental company CARS 4 RENT. I had a positive experience with them! Driving to Mestia is not difficult, and the road is normal. Just be careful with potholes and fallen rocks in some parts.

To Mestia by marshrutka or train

If you prefer public transportation, you can use marshrutkas (minibus) or a combination of train and marshrutka. In case you can’t find a direct marshrutka to Mestia, look for a connection to Zugdidi and in Zugdidi for another marshrutka. There are two direct trains from Tbilisi to Zugdidi and also from Zugdidi to Tbilisi. If you are in Kutaisi, you can get on the train in Mukhiani or Samtredia.

  • Tbilisi – Mestia
    • direct marshrutka Tbilisi – Mestia (there might be a swap of marshrutkas on the way)
    • marshrutkas with up to two transfers in Kutaisi and/or Zugdidi
    • train Tbilisi – Zugdidi, transfer to marshrutka Zugdidi – Mestia
  • Kutaisi – Mestia
    • direct marshrutka Kutaisi – Mestia (there might be a swap of marshrutkas on the way)
    • marshrutkas with one transfer in Zugdidi
    • train Mukhiani or Samtredia – Zugdidi, transfer to marshrutka

To Mestia by taxi

You might also find taxi drivers offering a shared ride, it’s more comfortable, and it doesn’t have to be too expensive when the car is fully occupied. We used a shared taxi between Mestia and Zugdidi and then took the night train from Zugdidi to Tbilisi.

To Mestia by hitchhiking

Another option is hitchhiking. It’s not difficult to get a ride in Georgia, but the road between Zugdidi and Mestia isn’t busy. Anyway, I was able to hitchhike from Mestia to Tbilisi and make a stop in Anaklia (a city on the Black Sea coast; a time-consuming detour while hitchhiking) in one day.

Helicopter flight to Mestia?

There is a chance you will find some info about a helicopter flight from Tbilisi to Mestia. The info is outdated, but if you want, I’m sure you will be able to arrange a private and expensive flight by a helicopter.

What to do in Mestia

Mestia is popular among trekkers, and the most popular is a trek from Mestia to Ushguli – one of the highest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other favorite hikes are to Koruldi Lakes (you can hike only to a viewpoint with a cross above Mestia) and to Chalaadi Glacier.
If you are a lover of skiing, you can definitely visit Mestia during winter. There are two ski resorts, Hatsvali in Mestia and Tetnuldi 20km east of Mestia.
Not into hiking and trekking? Make a one day trip to Ushguli with a private driver or visit some of the many restaurants and cafés.