Kazbegi, also known as Stepantsminda, is a mountainous region in northern Georgia that is known for its stunning natural beauty, as well as its rich history and culture.
The Georgian Military Highway, which passes through the region, is a historic trade and military route that dates back to the 19th century.
Legend has it that the region is named after the mythical figure of Kazbek, a legendary hero who was said to have been born on the mountain that now bears his name. According to the legend, Kazbek was a great warrior and leader who defended his people against invading armies and was eventually deified as a god.
How to get there
The closest airport to Kazbegi and the Georgian Military Highway is the Tbilisi International Airport. From there, the easiest way to reach Kazbegi and the Georgian Military Highway is by renting a car at the airport or in Tbilisi.
To get to Kazbegi, take the Georgian Military Highway (also known as the Georgian Military Road), which starts in Tbilisi and passes through the Caucasus Mountains. The drive from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is approximately 150 kilometers and takes around 3-4 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
To reach the Georgian Military Highway from Tbilisi, take the E117 highway north towards the Russian border. The highway is well-maintained, but it can be narrow and winding in some sections. The route passes through several picturesque villages and offers stunning views of the mountains, making it a popular destination for tourists.
What to see
- Gergeti Trinity Church: The Gergeti Trinity Church is a beautiful 14th-century church located on a hilltop in Kazbegi, with stunning views of Mount Kazbek. According to legend, the church was built in the 14th century by a monk who had a vision of the Holy Trinity.
- Mount Kazbek: At over 5,047 meters, Mount Kazbek is the third-highest peak in Georgia and is a popular destination for hikers and climbers. According to legend, the mountain was once a beautiful woman who was punished by the gods and turned into a mountain.
- The Kazbegi National Park: The Kazbegi National Park is a beautiful protected area in Kazbegi, with stunning landscapes, wildlife, and hiking trails. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, lynx, and wolves.
- Dariali Gorge: The Dariali Gorge is a narrow gorge located on the Georgian-Russian border, near Kazbegi, and is famous for its dramatic cliffs and towering waterfalls. According to legend, the gorge was created by a giant who split the mountains apart to allow the River Terek to flow through.
- The Georgian Military Road: The Georgian Military Road is a historic road that runs through Kazbegi and connects Georgia with Russia. The road was built in the 19th century by the Russian Empire and played an important role in the development of trade and tourism in the region.
- Ananuri Fortress: This medieval fortress, which dates back to the 13th century, was once a key stronghold on the Georgian Military Highway and is now a popular tourist attraction.
- Jvari Pass: This high mountain pass, which sits at an elevation of over 2,286 meters, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and is a popular spot for photographers.
In addition to its natural and historic attractions, Kazbegi is also known for its vibrant culture and hospitality. Visitors can enjoy traditional Georgian cuisine, music, and dance at local restaurants and cultural events, or explore the town's many art galleries and craft shops.
Where to eat
There are several good cafes and restaurants in Kazbegi offering a variety of local and international cuisines. Here are a few options:
- Rooms Hotel Kazbegi Restaurant: This restaurant, located inside the Rooms Hotel, offers a cozy atmosphere with stunning mountain views. They serve Georgian and European cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.
- Samzeo: This family-owned restaurant serves traditional Georgian food, including khinkali (dumplings), khachapuri (cheese bread), and grilled meats. They also have a nice selection of Georgian wines.
- Cafe 5047: This small cafe located in the center of Kazbegi offers freshly brewed coffee and a variety of baked goods, including croissants and cakes. They also serve light snacks and sandwiches.
- Anano's Cafe: This cozy cafe is known for its delicious homemade pastries and desserts. They also serve coffee and tea, as well as light breakfast and lunch options.
- Rooms Hotel Kazbegi Bar: The bar at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi offers a variety of cocktails, wine, and beer, as well as light snacks and small plates. The outdoor terrace provides a great spot to enjoy a drink with a view.
- Dariali Gorge Restaurant: This restaurant is located on the Georgian Military Highway, just outside of Kazbegi. It offers stunning views of the Dariali Gorge and serves traditional Georgian cuisine, including grilled meats, khinkali, and khachapuri.
- Cafe Lomi: This cafe, located near the center of Kazbegi, serves freshly brewed coffee and a selection of baked goods, including croissants and muffins. They also offer light snacks and sandwiches.
Overall, visitors to Kazbegi will have plenty of options for delicious food and drinks, whether they're looking for traditional Georgian cuisine or international fare.
Where to stay
Here are some recommendations for good hotels in Kazbegi:
- Rooms Hotel Kazbegi: This is a luxury hotel located in the heart of Kazbegi with stunning views of the mountains. The hotel offers spacious and well-appointed rooms, a spa, and a restaurant serving Georgian cuisine.
- Hotel Porta Caucasia Kazbegi: This is a mid-range hotel located in the center of Kazbegi. The hotel offers comfortable rooms with mountain views, a restaurant serving Georgian and European cuisine, and a bar.
- Hotel Sno: This is a budget-friendly hotel located a short walk from the center of Kazbegi. The hotel offers basic but comfortable rooms, a restaurant serving Georgian cuisine, and a bar.
- Hotel Kazbegi View: This is another mid-range hotel located a short distance from the center of Kazbegi. The hotel offers comfortable rooms with mountain views, a restaurant serving Georgian cuisine, and a bar.
- Rooms Hotel Kazbegi Stepantsminda: This is a sister hotel of the luxury Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, located in the nearby village of Stepantsminda. The hotel offers modern and stylish rooms, a restaurant serving Georgian and European cuisine, and a bar.
These are just a few of the many great hotels available in Kazbegi.
Parking in Kazbegi
There are a few tips to keep in mind when parking in Kazbegi:
- Parking in the town center can be limited, especially during peak tourist season, so it's best to arrive early or consider parking outside the center and walking.
- If you are staying at a hotel or guesthouse, they may have their own parking available, so it's worth checking with them beforehand.
- Be aware of any parking restrictions or signs in the area, as some spots may be reserved for local residents or have time limits.
- When parking on the side of the road, make sure to leave enough space for other cars to pass safely.
- Always lock your car and keep any valuables out of sight to prevent theft.
- In winter, it's important to take into consideration the weather conditions and potential snowfall when parking, as it can affect the accessibility of certain areas.
There are some dangerous roads to be aware of when traveling to Kazbegi. The Georgian Military Highway is a scenic but winding and narrow road that can be dangerous for inexperienced drivers or those who are not used to mountainous terrain. It is important to drive slowly and carefully and be aware of other vehicles on the road. In addition, during winter months, the road can be icy and treacherous, so it is important to be prepared with proper tires and driving techniques.
There are also several mountainous hiking trails in the Kazbegi area that can be dangerous for inexperienced hikers or those who are not properly equipped. It is important to research and choose a trail that is appropriate for your skill level and to bring proper equipment and clothing.
Tips for drivers
- Drive carefully and watch out for other cars, as the roads can be narrow and winding.
- Be prepared for changing weather conditions, especially in the mountains. It can be sunny and warm in the valley, but cold and snowy at higher elevations.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good condition and has adequate tires, as the roads can be rough and steep in places.
- Be mindful of pedestrians and animals crossing the roads.
- Observe the speed limits, especially in the villages and towns.
- Take extra care when driving at night, as some of the roads may not be well lit.
- Keep your vehicle fueled up, as there may not be many gas stations along the way.
Overall, renting a car and driving to Kazbegi and the Georgian Military Highway is a great way to explore the stunning landscapes of Georgia and experience the country's unique culture and history.