Nestled in lush green nature, alpine meadows, and forests surrounded by breathtaking snow covered peaks, Stepantsminda, formerly known as Kazbegi, is a scenic townlet in the Greater Caucasus mountains dominated by Mt. Kazbegi. As popular as a quick daytrip visit to its iconic Gergeti Trinity Church gets, Kazbegi is left largely under-explored.
Here’s what Stepantsminda and the whole Kazbegi region have to offer – well worth overnight stays.
Hike Up to Gergeti Trinity Church (and actually enjoy it)
Sitting at the top of the hill, right at the foot of Mt. Kazbegi, this 14th-century church has nearly become a symbol of Georgia for its exceptionally picture-perfect scenery, and for the fierce will required to build it on such a high, remote perch, at an elevation of 2170m.
Among the several hiking trails (some frustratingly steep) up to Gergeti Trinity Church, the more pleasant path goes through the Bashli valley (from behind the Gergeti Cafe and take the path on the left). The incline is less steep and offers some of the most fabulous views of the surroundings. You’ll also get a different angle of views from other paths as you approach the top.
Want a quick first taste of the vastness of nature enclosing the church and soak in the panoramic views of the Great Caucasus and the townlet? A separate 4×4 ride up to the church is already included in your Karavanly pass!
Learn How to Make Khinkali in Where It Originated
Originated from the mountainous regions of Georgia, khinkali is the Georgian version of the meat dumpling that was first introduced by Mongolian invaders in the 13th century.
Unlike the steamed Central Asian dumplings, this Georgian national dish is boiled and as its distinct shape and size. And the most crucial aspect of khinkali-making lies on kneading the dough and creating the perfect knob.
Where else is better to learn khinkali-making if not right in the mountainous area where it originated? Join us and have fun at a complimentary cooking session, where you’ll have a glimpse of local village life and learn the host family’s secret recipe!
Take a Different Perspective from Elia Monastery
Relish breathtaking views of Kazbegi from a completely different angle. Often missed by visitors, the spot remains a hidden gem in the area. A fairly easy hike uphill from behind the famous Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, the trail winds through pine forest and meadow. Gorgeous view of Mount Kazbegi and Gergeti Trinity Church stretching along the horizon while the beautiful Kuro mountain is right behind you.
Explore the Scenic Truso Valley
Almost abandoned valley towards South Ossetia borders ruled by beautiful lush nature, peculiar travertine formations created by mineral springs, ancient towers, geyser, and a couple of abandoned settlements perfectly describe the Truso Valley.
Enter the stunning Kasari Canyon, tour through colorful travertines, the mostly ruined Ketrisi village and several monasteries, and you’ll reach the remains of Zakagori fortress. No one is allowed to venture deeper into the valley behind the fort.
But the soldiers at the Georgian checkpoint below the fortress will let you climb the hill to explore the ruins of the fortification and have a spectacular view of the valley from there.
Carry your passport with you, in case the military officers ask for an inspection.
Embrace the Little Gem of Juta Nestled High in the Mountains
The village of Juta is one of the highest all-year-round inhabited settlements in the Kazbegi municipality. Dominated by grandiose Chaukhi massif and its seven pointed peaks and alpine meadows, Juta is a perfect camping and hiking place to escape civilization.
Located above Stepantsminda, at 2200m above the sea level, the village is only accessed through a single, winding mountain road during summer months. A scenic biking challenge for the athletic ones.
As a boundary spot between two mountainous regions of Georgia, Kazbegi and Khevsureti, Juta is a famous stopover of the 3341m high Chaukhi pass trail that goes to Roshka and colorful lakes of Abudelauri in Khevsureti.
Venture through the Geological Wonder of Dariali Gorge
Georgian Military Road, a 212km long highway connecting Tbilisi to the Russian border, cuts through another marvel of Kazbegi municipality – Dariali Gorge. The ravine, offering breathtaking views of the mountainous landscape, has drawn a name among locals for being one of the most romantic areas in the Caucasus, with delicate, lush nature and deep-cut streams contrasting with imposing valleys.
This geological spectacle has served as a trade route for various civilizations since pre-Christian times. Even today, it is the only road connecting Georgia with Russia.
Further off the beaten track is village Tsdo, accessible by a small winding dirt road from the main highway. There you can enjoy the charming village rich in yellow reeds with majestic views of the towering Shino and Kuro mountains.
Relax at Gveleti Waterfalls
Only 7km north from Stepantsminda, lies two beautiful waterfalls known as Gveleti at both ends of the forked Gveleti Valley. While not characterized as highest or the most astonishing, it makes a enjoyable dayhike in the vicinity of Stepantsminda. The torrent of water flows out of a firm rock, dropping in a transparent cascade into a pool. Nearby, there’s a heart-shaped, glass-smooth Gveleti Lake enclosed by thick reeds.
Don’t want to miss out the interesting stops daytours make enroute while hoping to stay in Kazbegi to explore further?
Take advantage of the flexibility of having an optional stopover at Kazbegi with your Karavanly travel pass, and enjoy a more enriching experience in the area before hopping back on to continue your journey with us!
As such, you’ll also play a part in the well-being of the local communities by bringing them direct economic benefits through overnight homestays and further excursions in surrounding area.