What To Do In Winter
Where To Go
Kazbegi region, officially Khevi province is most popular travel destination in Georgia mainly because of its beautiful landscapes, high mountains, especially mount Kazbek and its near location to central Georgia and capital Tbilisi.
Route Details (One Way)
Total Length: 211km; 5.5 hours without traffic.
And here is the link for directions on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/TTFwmuoxTr82
Small town Stepantsminda formerly Kazbegi, situated 1700m above sea level is in the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region of north-eastern Georgia. Historically and ethnographically, the town is part of the Khevi province. It is the center of the Kazbegi Municipality.
The town is located along the banks of the Terek River, 157 kilometers (98 mi) to the north of Tbilisi. Stepantsminda’s climate is moderately humid with relatively dry, cold winters and long and cool summers.
The town is dominated by large mountains on all sides. The most notable mountain of the region, Mount Kazbek, lies immediately to the west of town.
According to tradition, Stepantsminda, literally "Saint Stephan", was named so after a Georgian Orthodox monk Stephan, who constructed a hermitage at this location on what later became the Georgian Military Highway.
The name Kazbegi is also connected to famous Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi (1848–1893). Kazbegi was the great grandson of Kazibek Chopikashvili, a local feudal magnate who was in charge of collecting tolls on the Georgian Military Highway. Alexander Kazbegi studied in Tbilisi, Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but on returning home, decided to become a shepherd to experience the lives of the local people. He later worked as a journalist, and then became a novelist and playwright. Alexander Kazbegi is buried in his ancestor's home which now is a museum in his honor. In the center of the town stands monument of the writer.
|When in town, do not miss:
- A morning coffe and breakfast in amazing small coffe shop Awtobus (old bus in the center of town)
- A afternoon beer at cafe 5047 in the very center of the town
- Dinner on a terrace or library of Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
- A swim in the natural, carbonated swiming pool, 2km from the town
Awtobus. Photo by Oleksandr Chernolohov
The Border with Russia
There is Georgian-Russian border "Verchni Lars" crossing was opened 01.03.2010. It works: winter period (01-NOV - 28-FEB) from 07 am till 07pm, summer period (01-MAR - 31-OCT) from 06 am till 10pm. The customs is multilateral, for all citizens of the World. The cross border road is in mountain tunnel, so it is impossible to cross the border on foot.
Mt. Kazbeg (Kazbek) 5047m
Mt. Kazbek 5047m, in Georgian Mkinvartsveri (ice peak) is the main highlight of the region, a dormant stratovolcano and one of the major mountains of the Caucasus. It is the most popular mountain in Georgia (although not the highest), favored by many alpinists and mountain lovers.
Mount Kazbek is associated in Georgian folklore with Amirani, the Georgian version of Prometheus, who was chained on the mountain in punishment for having stolen fire from the gods and having given it to mortals. The location of his imprisonment later became the site of an Orthodox hermitage located in a cave called "Betlemi" (Bethlehem) at around the 4,000-meter level. According to legends, this cave housed many sacred relics, and can be reached by climbing cliffs near the current “Bethlem Hut”, former meteo station, currently shelter for alpinist climbing Mt. Kazbek.
Climbing Mt. Kazbek
Best Time: May-October
Average Duration: 3-4 days
Required Gear: standard glacier gear is enough to handle the climb - crampons, ice axe, rope, harness (can be hired down in the town or at Betlemi Hut)
Accommodation: most popular stay for Kazbek climbers is Betlemi Hut, situated 3700 m above sea level. Room with plank-beds – $ 15 per person; The guest can use dining room and ware; Hire liquefied gas bomb ($ 20 per day); The power is supplied from 9 PM to 11 PM; On the locations, only cash payments are accepted. Beforehand reservation is highly recommended during high season: 0322 92 25 53. https://www.facebook.com/BethlemiHut/
The route to Mt. Kazbek starts from town Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) up to Gergeti Trinity church over the Sabertse Pass, Gergeti glacier, Maili plateau all the way up to the summit. The mountain is very popular for climbers and trekkers therefore the route is clearly marked and visible most of the time, although hiring a local guide is highly recommended.
The normal route from Georgia is not very demanding technically. Demanding is the overall length of the climb, height difference and of course the summit height of over 5000m. What can make the climb really strenuous is weather, which changes here very fast and lot of people fail to summit the mountain because of that. Overall grade of the normal route is PD (sometimes also graded PD+).
More info on climbing MT. Kazbek here.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Monastery situated 2170 meters, under Mount Kazbegi, overlooking town Kazbegi is the main church of the region.
The Gergeti Trinity Church is built in the 14th century, and is the only cross-cupola church in Khevi province. During the Soviet era, all religious services were prohibited, but the church remained a popular tourist destination. The church is now an active establishment of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Biggest celebration takes place every August 28th when Orthodoxs from the whole region gather here to celebrate Gergetoba day.
Dariali Gorge & Gveleti Waterfalls
The Dariali Gorge is the picturesque gorge on the border between Russia and Georgia. It is at the east base of Mount Kazbek, pierced by the river Terek for a distance of 13km between vertical walls of rock and is located south of present-day Vladikavkaz. Near the border one should definitely visit beautiful Gveleti Waterfalls: at very small settlement Gveleti there is a narrow path leading to the waterfall. You must get off the car and walk on foot for last 700 m of the trip. More information on how to get to waterfalls you can find here.
Chaukhi mountains is located on the eastern part of Caucasus. It’s a rocky mountain massif, often referred as Georgian Dolomites. There are 14 summits of various difficulties (starting from easiest to most technical) and the highest point is 3800m. The base camp is located at the altitude of 2550 on the grass meadow, between two rivers, in a very beautiful surrounding. The base camp is a popular trekking destination for travelers in the area - trek last for 2-3 hours and starts from village Juta. Here you will also find nice private camping area “Zeta” camp and small hotel 5th season.
To hire a guide for climbing in this region please contact company "Climbing Georgia" which provides services of experienced and professional Georgian guides:
Shota Komakhidze: +995 593 300599
George Nonikashvili: +995 599 290366
An almos abandoned valley towards South Ossetia borders. Except of the nice nature there are also interesting travertine formations due to local mineral springs, geyser, ancient towers and several abandoned settlements. It is not possible to explore the whole valley, you have to turn back at the ruins of Zakagori fortress, where is the Georgian border post.
For more information about hiking and treking in the valley follow the link.
Georgian Military Highway
The Georgian Military Road is the historic name for a major route through the Caucasus from Georgia to Russia.
The Georgian Military Road (ca. 212 kilometres long) runs between Tbilisi (Georgia) and Vladikavkaz (Russia) and follows the traditional route used by invaders and traders throughout the ages. From Vladikavkaz, the road stretches southwards up the valley of the Terek before passing through the Darial Gorge (which marks the border between Russia and Georgia). It then passes Stepantsminda before heading south-west through the region of Khevi to the Jvari (Cross) Pass, where it reaches its maximum altitude of 2,379 meters (7,815 feet) (42.5042°N 44.4538°E).
Not long after the pass the road passes the Russia–Georgia Friendship Monument, a large concrete monument built in 1983 to commemorate relations between the two countries and the bicentennial of the Treaty of Georgievsk. Next road passes popular ski resort Gudauri, which lately gains popularity as a summer destination also (mainly among mountain bike lovers). The road then turns south-eastwards, following the Tetri Aragvi River, to Jhinvali Reservoir, passing medieval fortress of Ananuri down to a point just north of Georgia's historic capital, Mtskheta, where it merges into Georgia's main East-West highway (the E60).
The 1914 edition of Baedeker's Russia describes the Georgian Military Road as 'one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world'.
The route was first used by Russian troops in 1769.
The importance of the Georgian Military Road as a through route was diminished in recent years, primarily due to delays at the border crossing between Russia and Georgia, natural disasters such as landslides, and the outright closure of the border crossing by Russia in 2006.
Since 2013, however, when Russia finally agreed to re-open its side of the border as a result of Armenian demands, the road has once again become an important transport artery, mainly for trailer lorries linking Armenia and Russia.
Ananuri is a castle complex on the Aragvi River in Georgia, about 45 miles (72 kilometres) from Tbilisi.
Ananuri was a castle and seat of the dukes of Aragvi, a feudal dynasty which ruled the area from the 13th century. The castle was the scene of numerous battles.
In 1739, Ananuri was attacked by forces from a rival duchy, commanded by Shanshe of Ksani and was set on fire. The Aragvi clan was massacred. However, four years later, the local peasants revolted against rule by the Shamshe, killing the usurpers and inviting King Teimuraz II to rule directly over them. However, in 1746, King Teimuraz was forced to suppress another peasant uprising, with the help of King Erekle II of Kakheti.
The fortress remained in use until the beginning of the 19th century.
The fortifications consist of two castles joined by a crenellated curtain wall. The upper fortification with a large square tower, known as Sheupovari, is well preserved and is the location of the last defense of the Aragvi against the Shamshe. The lower fortification, with a round tower, is mostly in ruins.
Within the complex, amongst other buildings, are two churches. The older Church of the Virgin, which abuts a tall square tower, has the graves of some of the Dukes of Aragvi. It dates from the first half of the 17th century, and was built of brick. The interior is no longer decorated, but of interest is a stone baldaquin erected by the widow of the Duke Edishera, who died in 1674.
The larger Church of the Assumption (Ghvtismshobeli), built in 1689 for the son of Duke Bardzem. It is a central dome style structure with richly decorated façades, including a carved north entrance and a carved grapevine cross on the south façade. It also contains the remains of a number of frescoes, most of which were destroyed by the fire in the 18th century.