Kazbegi or Stepantsminda is a small town northeast of Georgia. It is famous for its mountainous terrain that looks like it came straight out of the movie "The Sound of Music". Imagine, lush green fields as far as the eyes can see covering a whole mountain range. This was the view I saw when I was traveling around Georgia for 2 weeks.
Me and a couple friends went a full-on adventure as we arrived in Kazbegi. We went and hiked up to the glacier on our first day, followed by a full-day mountain biking adventure to one of the many beautiful valleys in the area. If you like nature as much as I do, Kazbegi is not to be missed.
- Georgia Travel Video
- How to Get to Georgia
- Where to Stay in Georgia
- Travel Insurance
- Adventurous Things to Do in Kazbegi
- Hitchhiking in Georgia
- Further Reading for Georgia and the Caucasus
Georgia Travel Video
How to Get to Georgia
The best way to get here is to fly into Tbilisi and take a marshrutka from there. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find all the cheap flights from where you live to Georgia and compare them so that you can find the one best fit for your itinerary.
From Tbilisi, go to the Didube autostation (if you crossed the border from Turkey to Georgia via a minivan, this is the same station) and look for a Marshutka (minivan) that is going to Kazbegi. Even if you don't speak the language, this will not be very hard since people will constantly ask you where you want to go as soon as you arrive and they will direct you to the bus. The marshrutka here operates like Dolmus in Turkey which means that they will go when the van is full. It should cost you no more than 10 - 12 GEL and it will take you around 2 - 3 hours depending on the road condition (it was horrendous for us).
Where to Stay in Georgia
My friend Henri whom I met in Tbilisi recommended us to stay at the Nazi Guesthouse (No, not that Nazi. Nazi is the owner's name). It is a cozy family-run guesthouse with large dorm rooms decorated in Victorian style. We even had a piano in our room. The price is cheap and the food there is quite a bargain. The family home-cooked both breakfast and dinner for us every day as we sit in a kitchen socializing with other hikers. It really felt like home when I was there.
This is an approximate location of the guesthouse since the road doesn't seem like it is shown on the map. As you arrive at the bus stop, walks toward the bridge, cross the river and walk up a hill for a few minutes. On the second intersection, turn left and the guesthouse should be on your right.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Armenia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Adventurous Things to Do in Kazbegi
Hike to the Gergeti Trinity Church
The Gergeti Trinity Church is one of the most well-known church in Kazbegi. It is situated under Mt Kazbegi at an elevation of 2170 meters.
Right from the guest house, you can follow a path through a small village until you reach a path up through thick forest. It should take you 1 hour one way to hike up to the church.
From the church, you will get an epic panoramic view of the whole valley. It is definitely worth the hike.
The church was built in the 14th century and due to its isolation in the steep mountaineous area full of nature, it remains one of the most iconic tourist attraction in Georgia.
Hike to the Gergeti Glacier
From the church, you can continue to hike to the glacier which would take around 4 more hours one way. If you start your day early and hike the church before noon, you can fit this trail in one day. This trail is usually used by hikers and trekkers who are summitting Kazbegi so you will meet quite a bit of people on your way.
This trail is a little bit harder than the one to the church so be prepared. Pack enough food and water with you because this will take you a whole day (12 hours) to complete. You also have to walk back the same length so calculate your daylight hours carefully.
Unfortunately, the higher we went the clouder it got so we did not see the glacier. We stopped at one of the ridge looking down at the nonexistant glacier and turned back.
Bike to the Juta Village in the Sno Valley
Juta village is located 21 km away from Stepantsminda right in the middle of the breathtaking Sno Valley. Keep in mind that 21 km, half of it will be going up hill so this will take you all day but I promised you, it is worth it.
You can rent a bike for a day from one of the many bike shops in Stepantsminda. The price is equal everywhere so don't bother looking. The quality is top notch though.
From Stepantsminda, I rode down south and turn left at the first big intersection toward Sno Valley. The vegetation around this valley was quite a sight to behold.
Colorful flowers, lush green field were quite a common sight here
Let me get this out of the way, I am not good at mountain biking and the trail to the Sno Valley was so steep I ended up hiking with my bike instead.
At the Juta Village, there is a hotel, a restaurant and a killer view of the jagged mountain range. Unfortunately, it was a little shy that day as it hid behind the clouds.
Going down was SO much fun though. It was a solid 30 minutes ride down the mountain and it was AWESOME!
Stop at the Ananuri church
On your way back to Tbilisi, you can ask the minivan driver to drop you off at the Ananuri church, a castle complex on the emerald-colored Aragvi River and go for a swim.
You may recognize this castle from somewhere. This place was featured on the cover of the Lonely Planet's book about Georgia. I took the photo of the Ananuri church at the exact same perspective as you see from the cover.
Don't expect a full-blown restaurant out here though. You will only find small shops selling coffee and khachapuri. Also, don't forget to climb up to the hill on the opposite side of the road to get the view of the castle from the top.
Since we did not have a car, we had to hitchhike back to Tbilisi. It took us almost 3 hours to get a lift since we were unable to find an appropriate place to stand and stick our thumbs out. It may also be because we were 2 guys? No one knows. If you are not comfortable hitchhiking than I suggest you rent a car or skip this place.
Hitchhiking in Georgia
It is very common to hitchhike here. It is cheap, it is a good way to meet the local and it is very simple since all the road goes through Tbilisi. You just need to stand at a strategic location where people have time to process their thoughts and have enough space to stop for you.
Further Reading for Georgia and the Caucasus
If you are looking for more articles about Georgia and its neighbors, here are a few articles that might help plan your trip:
- Tbilisi is one of the most vibrant and creative capital city in the Caucasus and has attracted tourists for centuries. It is a must-visit when you are in the area. Check out my travel guide on things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia.
- Want to learn more about the countries in the Caucasus region? You should definitely visit Armenia. Here’s an awesome travel guide on things to do in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia you might like.
- Lake Sevan in Armenia is a great vacation/adventure place you can visit while you are in Armenia. Here’s travel guide on things to do in Lake Sevan.
- If you are looking to really go off-the-beaten-path in the caucasus, Artsakh or Nagorno Karabakh is the place to be. Here's a complete guide on how to travel to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), a country that doesn't exist.
- If you are currently traveling in Turkey and wants to get to Georgia, here’s a guide on how to cross the border from Turkey to Georgia via Kars.
- You can also watch my Georgia travel video here: "Mother Georgia" travel video.
- And of course, my Armenia and Artsakh travel video here: "Armenia 100 Years Later" travel video.
- To see all articles about Georgia or Armenia, visit Georgia Travel Guide or Armenia Travel Guide pages.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Caucasus? You can find more on my Caucasus Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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