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The 'capital' of Upper Svaneti, Mestia is a sprawling conglomeration of at least 10 hamlets, dotted with picturesque Svan towers. The oldest of the hamlets, with most of the towers, are above the river on the northern side of town: Lekhtagi in the northwest, and Lanchvali and Lagami to the northeast. Government-sponsored tourism development has seen Mestia's central square Setis moedani rebuilt, a rush of new hotels, and the construction of ski resorts and a small airport. While you'll no longer really feel you're exploring the remote Svaneti of legend here, it's a great base for hiking and other activities that do take you into the rest of the region, where in so many places time really has stood still.

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