When you visit Kazbegi for the first time, it is not difficult to feel your jaw drop at the majesty of Mount Kazbek, a 5,000-meter high, beautifully shaped, snow-capped peak, one of the highest mountains in Europe.
I have already heard from a few people who claim that those views are some of the most gorgeous they have ever seen, on the European continent at least; and I can agree to some extent, because Mount Kazbek and Gergeti Trinity Church, a humble monastery which brags about having the most epic location ever for a church, are a real blessing to your eyeballs.
Kazbegi, a lovely rural village with loads of pigs roaming around is a destination you don’t wanna miss in your Georgian itinerary,
This guide contains everything you need to know to visit Kazbegi, including loads of tips as well as my favorite things to do in Kazbegi.
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In this travel guide to Kazbegi you will find:
- Hiking to Gergeti Trinity Church
- Hiking to Gergeti Glacier
- Exploring Truso Valley
- Exploring Juta Valley
- Towards the Russian border and Gveleti Waterfalls
Going trekking in Georgia? Check my guide + packing list
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This is just one region of Georgia, so if you really want to get deeper into the country, I strongly recommend you get my guidebook, as it contains several itineraries, all my personal travel tips and in-depth guides to 12 different regions.
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Intro to visiting Kazbegi, or Stepantsminda
Kazbegi was first named Stepantsminda, during the Russian Empire, in honor of Saint Stephen, but then it was renamed after Alexander Kazbegi, a local nobelman and poet.
Nowadays, however, they have decided to change Kazbegi back to its original name of Stepantsminda, even though unofficially, everybody calls it Kazbegi.
I know, it is damn confusing but here, you only have to know that Kazbegi is a lovely village with some of the most epic views ever and is a great base to explore some gorgeous valleys and trekking alike.
Not surprisingly, Kazbegi has become one of the most visited spots in the country, as you will realize as soon as you see the large offer of touristy restaurants and the daily increasing taxi mafia that characterizes this tiny region.
Still, not being a typical tourist is fairly easy and, in this post, I will show you a few things to do in Kazbegi that most tourists don’t.
Best time to visit Kazbegi and Stepantsminda
Since I lived in Georgia for 7 months, from April to November, I visited Kazbegi in spring, summer, and autumn, and wished I could have gone there in winter as well.
Kazbegi is a different world from season to season, full of color contrasts, so I personally think that it should be visited in all 4 seasons.
The Georgian Military Road is open all year long, as it is the main (and only) route for going to Russia, even though during the winter months, the road may be occasionally blocked due to heavy snow.
Of course, in winter most valleys will be inaccessible but the landscape is proven to be gorgeous, you can still go up to Gergeti Trinity Church and the crowds are definitely gone.
Summer is the best time for trekking but do expect to find a pretty busy town.
For some reason, Mount Kazbek has a magnet for clouds, and you would not be the first traveler who travels to Kazbegi and doesn’t get to see the gorgeous peak, even in summer. It will depend on your luck but, logically, the sky tends to be clearer during the warmer months. For this reason, you should spend more than 1 or 2 days in Kazbegi, just in case.
How to travel to Kazbegi from Tbilisi
Marshrutkas leave from Didube Station in Tbilisi, all day long, from 7-8am in the morning. It costs 10GEL and it is a 3-4-hour journey, with one stop in between.
Didube is a metro station (and a local market) but a taxi from the city center should cost around 8-10GEL.
By the way, don’t forget to check my travel guide to Tbilisi
The road to Kazbegi is actually called the Georgian Military Highway, a historical road built by the Russian Empire in the 17th century that goes all the way to Russia. The route has been followed by famous writers such as Tolstoy.
It is an absolutely epic road and there are many places to visit on the way, but let’s focus this time on the places to visit in and near Kazbegi.
Where to stay in Kazbegi
(In the summer season, do book in advance)
Budget Guest House – Blue Guest House – The 3 times I traveled to Kazbegi, I always stayed in this guest house. Lovely family, great views, clean and good Wi-Fi. Recommended for budget backpackers.
Mid-range – Kazbegi View – My parents stayed here when we traveled together to Kazbegi. As the name says, the rooms have awesome views of the area and it is the perfect place for couples and other mid-range travelers.
The best hotel – Rooms – The best hotel in town has the best views of Mount Kazbek. Even if you don’t stay here, I recommend you check out the restaurant or, at least, come to see the sunset over a few beers from the terrace.
Things to do in Kazbegi in 4 days
Map of the places to visit in Kazbegi
Hiking to Gergeti Trinity Church (half day, but you can combine with Gergeti Glacier)
Built in the 14th century, Gergeti Church has been a very touristic spot since the Soviet Union, even though all religious activity was forbidden during the Communist era.
With Mount Kazbek in the background, this is one of the most photographed spots of Georgia and probably, the most iconic church in the country.
A few Orthodox priests live inside all year long and the monastery can be visited without any problem.
Tip – If you like photography, I recommend you go at both sunset and sunrise, because you will get two completely different perspectives. In the early morning, you will be able to take photos of the Church with Mount Kazbek in its background, as the sun will be behind you. At sunset, you will be able to take a photo from the other side, which is equally interesting. Moreover, this place gets crowded, so try to go very early in the morning. Sunset is definitely busier than sunrise, but most people prefer to leave before then.
How to get to Gergeti Trinity Church
- By foot – From Kazbegi town, it is a 1-hour walk, probably more, depending on how fast you go. You need to first get to Gergeti (the village) and turn left at the end of the village, where you will find the beginning of the trail.
- By car – Until 2018, the only way to go up there by car was along an utterly steep, mud road in very bad condition, making it difficult to drive even if you had a 4×4. For this reason, a taxi mafia which owns some 4×4 mini-vans appeared, and they charge 60GEL for a round-trip, probably more if they see you are an innocent tourist. If you want to drive up walk back, you may find some drivers who charge you 30-40GEL for one-way, but it will depend on their mood. However, in December 2018, they finally finished a pretty cool tarmac road that will allow small cars to go up, hence the taxi prices will go down. It would be great if you could tell me the latest update on that.
Hiking to Gergeti Glacier (1 day)
Trekking to Gergeti Glacier is one of the most popular things to do in Kazbegi for adventurous travelers.
Nevertheless, do not think that this is going to be a pleasant walk… Because it is not at all.
It is actually a pretty tough trek, as you have to go 1,600 meters up and down in a single day, unless you want to camp next to the glacier at 3,200m above sea level (there is actually a campsite).
Remember to check my packing list to trekking in Georgia
However, the landscape is absolutely outstanding, with continuous views of Mount Kazbek from many different perspectives, and the glacier is equally stunning.
Once you get onto the glacier, you will find plenty of climbers that continue their way over the glacier because that is the actual way to the top of Mount Kazbek.
The round-trip trek takes around 8-9 hours, so do start early in the morning and bring enough water because you won’t find any until you reach the campsite.
For more information, read this post from Owl Over the World: How to trek to Gergeti Glacier
Explore Truso Valley (1 day)
If you want a perfect combination of outstanding valleys and landscapes with unspoiled villages, I strongly recommend you head to Truso Valley.
When we visited Truso Valley, we hired a driver who took us all the way to a village named Abano, a tiny village composed of a few houses and the ancient towers this part of Georgia is famous for.
In the village, we were even invited by a lovely local family to eat some home-made cheese in their house, while they showed us how they process the wool; all of that with nothing in return, something that was quite surprising for this part of Georgia.
How to get to Truso Valley from Kazbegi – Truso Valley starts 20km south of Kazbegi, and then you need to follow a 4×4 road for 15 more kilometers until you reach Abano village. It was a full day trip and we paid the driver 100GEL.
The area also offers loads of trekking opportunities and I recommend you check this post to find out about all treks: Hiking in Truso Valley.
Get a copy of my Travel Guide to Georgia
This is just one region of Georgia, so if you really want to get deeper into the country, I strongly recommend you get my guidebook, as it contains several itineraries, all my personal travel tips, and in-depth guides to 12 different regions.
Explore Juta Valley (1 day)
Juta is another striking valley, very different from Truso, as you won’t find any villages and the landscape consists of a gorgeous, velvet-smooth green valley, whereas Truso is wilder.
The beginning of the valley is also a village named Juta and a cool place to chill for a while. There are a few guest houses and we actually stayed in a very random homestay with an old woman we bumped into, who cooked us a delicious dinner.
Juta Valley is also the link to Roshka, a very popular trek that takes you across the other side of the mountain range, to an off the beaten track region named Khevsureti.
We attempted to do the trek but got caught in a fierce storm that forced us to go back to Juta. My friend Travelsauro did finish trek though, and you can read about it here: Hiking from Juta to Roshka
How to get to Juta from Kazbegi – Taxis will charge you around 60GEL. We decided to hitchhike this time, but it took us the entire morning. Normally, hitchhiking in Georgia is fairly easy but in that area, hardly anyone wanted to stop for us.
Towards the Russian border and Gveleti Waterfalls (half day)
Kazbegi is less than 10km away from the Russian border and, if you have a car, I recommend you drive towards there because you will see a different landscape, equally gorgeous, and on the way, you will find some pretty cool waterfalls accessible from a village named Gveleti,
There are the two of them, Small Gveleti and Big Gveleti, the big one being pretty high and impressive. By the way, if you don’t have a car, taxis to Gveleti charge 15-20GEL.
Once you get to the border, there is not much to do other than checking out the endless trucks trying to cross and a pretty random, and big, cathedral.
More tips for traveling to Kazbegi
Travel insurance – Remember that Kazbegi (and Georgia) is an adventurous destination, so do travel with proper travel insurance. For this, I recommend you read: How to find the best travel insurance.
Food – There are loads of restaurants in town, but they are significantly more expensive than most restaurants around the country. However, they are still good and, in summer, you will also find Georgians from Tbilisi eating there.
Wine – There is a fancy wine cellar selling all sorts of wine but do expect to be offered wine in the guest house you stay in.
Trekking gear – In the center of the town, there is a small trekking store where you can buy gear but you should bring your own, and here you can check my packing list.
Coming with your own vehicle – Sure, no problem. When my parents visited me, we drove all the way to Kazbegi. The road is in pretty good condition and, now that the paved road to Gergeti Church is finished, you will be able to go up by yourself.
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