Kazbegi, Stepantsminda and the Gergeti Trinity Church (Georgia)

Igreja da Trindade Gergeti, com neve.
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2024-04-22

Here’s everything you need to know about Kazbegi, Stepantsminda, and the Gergeti Trinity Church, one of Georgia’s most beautiful regions.

I’ve gathered a set of suggestions so you can make the most of your trip—find out what to do and visit in Kazbegi, Stepantsminda, and how to visit the Gergeti Trinity Church.

To ensure you don’t miss anything, I’ve also included relevant historical data, stories, and myths associated with these places, how to get there, and what to see between Tbilisi and Kazbegi.

Furthermore, if you have the opportunity to stay overnight in Kazbegi, which I recommend, you’ll also find accommodation suggestions in this article.

So, keep reading and discover the best that Kazbegi has to offer.

Best Things To Do and Visit in Kazbegi

Monte Kazbegi, visto a partir do Mosteiro e Igreja da Trindade, em Gergeti.
Mount Kazbegi, seen from the Trinity Monastery and Church in Gergeti.
Monte Kazbegi envolto em nevoeiro.
Mount Kazbegi shrouded in fog.

Kazbegi is a stratovolcano, meaning a volcano with a conical shape composed of many layers of hardened lava, and one of the highest mountains in the Caucasus.

It stands at 5047 meters above sea level and is the third-highest mountain in Georgia, just after Mount Janga, or Jangi-Tau (5051 meters), and Mount Chkhara (5201 meters).

The glacier at the top of this mountain is also called Kazbegi. Both the glacier and Mount Kazbegi are easy to climb, as no special equipment is required.

Extraordinary skill is also unnecessary, as reaching the peak can be done simply by hiking. Additionally, there are two intermediate campsites before reaching the summit.

It is an enigmatic place associated with many myths and fairy tales. One of the stories that caught my attention the most was the Bethlehem Cave, which some believe is related to the birthplace of Jesus.

Another myth of this cave associates it with the exile of Prometheus, who, after giving the fire of the gods to men, was left in isolation in this secluded location.

It is well worth getting to know the majestic mountain of Kazbegi, even if only seen from the Gergeti Trinity Church.

Best Things To Do and Visit in Stepantsminda

O que ver em Stepantsminda, a caminho de Kazbegi.
What to see in Stepantsminda on the way to Kazbegi.
Stepantsminda (Kazbegi).
Stepantsminda.
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.
Restaurante do Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.
Restaurant at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.

Stepantsminda is a small village in the Gergeti region and an excellent base for exploring this area.

While the village itself doesn’t have major tourist attractions, it has a charming small-town vibe that is quite pleasant.

Situated on the banks of the Terek River, you won’t find much more than hotels and restaurants here, as I mentioned. For accommodation in the region, I recommend the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi (4 stars), a super cozy boutique hotel with a privileged view of the Gergeti Trinity Church.

It’s also worth trying the restaurant at this hotel, which serves traditional Georgian food along with other international options. I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking.

If you need to withdraw money, Stepantsminda is a good place to do so. There’s an ATM at the Liberty Bank ATM, another at the Courthouse building, and one at the reception of the Hotel Intourist.

Best Things To Do and Visit in Gergeti Trinity Church

Igreja da Santíssima Trindade Gergeti, na Estrada Militar Georgiana.
Gergeti Trinity Church.
Um cão no centro da estrada de acesso à Igreja da Trindade de Gergeti (Kazbegi).
Snowy road.

The Gergeti Trinity Church is located atop a hill, and to reach it, you need to know a few things.

Firstly, although the road is paved, it is very steep, and not all cars can make it up, especially if they don’t have four-wheel drive, especially in snowy conditions.

There are vans that take visitors to the top, but alternatively, you can choose to walk for about 45-60 minutes. It’s up to you.

Estrada com neve. Acesso à Igreja da Trindade de Gergeti (Kazbegi).
Road to reach the Gergeti Trinity Church.
Conduzir na neve em Gergeti, Geórgia.
Arriving at Gergeti Church.
Localidade de gergeti, vista a partir do Mosteiro de Gergeti.
Gergeti Village, seen from Gergeti Monastery.

The village seen from the Gergeti Trinity Church is Gergeti, meaning the church is named after the nearest locality.

Adjacent to the Gergeti Trinity Church, there is a monastery inhabited by six monks.

The concept is for the monks to be isolated from the world; however, the Gergeti Monastery usually receives around 350,000 visitors per year.

I only saw one monk who seemed to be avoiding our group, and from what I was told, they do not appreciate company.

Estacionamento junto à Igreja de Gergeti.
Parking.
Subida a pé para ver o Monte Kazbegi e o Mosteiro de Gergeti.
Hiking to see Mount Kazbegi.
Caminhar com cuidado na neve, para chegar ao Mosteiro de Gergeti.
Gergeti Monastery.
Detalhes da Igreja da Trindade de Gergeti.
Details of the Gergeti Trinity Church.
Entrada na Igreja da Trindade de Gergeti.
Entrance to the church.
Loja de souvenirs, junto à Igreja de Gergeti.
Church shop.

There is no information about the construction date of the Gergeti Trinity Church, but it is believed to date back to the 14th century.

Similar to other Georgian Orthodox churches, the interior is dark as there are hardly any windows.

During the Russian occupation, the church suffered from a fire that not only damaged the frescoes but also completely destroyed the characteristic icons, that is, the images of the saints.

Therefore, the icons that decorate the walls of the Gergeti Church today were brought from other churches in Georgia.

Why was the Gergeti Church built in this location?

Visitar a Igreja da Trindade Gergeti.
Visiting the Gergeti Trinity Church.

There is a legend associated with the choice of the location for the construction of this church. Thus, in the 14th century, there were three kingdoms in Georgia, and they decided to build a church together.

The problem was that they couldn’t agree on the construction site, as each king wanted to build the joint church in his own kingdom.

So, an old elder suggested that they sacrifice a deer at the top of a mountain, wait for an eagle to fetch the animal, and build the common church exactly where the eagle stopped to feed on the deer.

And so they did. The eagle stopped at different places before finally settling in Gergeti to feed on the deer.

At those locations, they built small chapels of the Holy Trinity, and the grand Gergeti Trinity Church was built at the foot of Mount Kazbegi in Gergeti.

Everything you need to know about Kazbegi, Stepantsminda, and the Gergeti Trinity Church

Grupo com guia no Mosteiro de Gergeti.
Group with guide at Gergeti Monastery.

Where to stay?

To make the most of the region, I believe you should stay for one to two nights.

My suggestion is to stay at the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi (4 stars), a boutique hotel with a pool, restaurant, and an incredible terrace overlooking the Gergeti Monastery.

But there are other alternatives, such as the more affordable Hotel Darchi Kazbegi (3 stars), although for the price difference, I would prefer the former.

However, if none of these recommendations appeal to you, explore the map below with accommodations in Kazbegi, Stepantsminda, and the surrounding area.

What is Kazbegi and what is Stepantsminda?

Entrada para o alojamento Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.
Entrance to the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi accommodation.

Kazbegi, or Kazbek, is the name of the mountain and glacier in the Gergeti region, located in the northern part of Georgia, near the border with Russia. In this region, there is also a small village named Stepantsminda.

However, during the Russian occupation, the name of the village Stepantsminda was changed to Kazbegi. For this reason, there is some confusion between the names.

From what I’ve been told, it’s not well-received by locals to call Stepantsminda Kazbegi, as it recalls a less happy period in the region, although throughout the rest of the country, everyone uses the term Kazbegi.

What’s the best way to visit Kazbegi?

Renting a car and driving to Kazbegi is the best way to explore the region, as it gives you total freedom to travel at your own pace, stopping whenever and for however long you want.

However, another option is to book a tour departing from Tbilisi. While these organized tours offer less flexibility in terms of places to visit and time at each tourist attraction, they are still worth considering.

If that’s the case for you, here are my tour suggestions:

What to see along the route between Tbilisi and Kazbegi?

Tbilisi, a capital da Geórgia.
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
Ruas em Mtskheta, Geórgia.
Streets in Mtskheta, Georgia, with the Jvari Monastery atop the mountain.
Montanhas refletidas no Lago Zhinvali.
Mountains reflected in Lake Zhinvali.
Fortaleza de Ananuri, na Estrada Militar Georgiana.
Ananuri Fortress along the Georgian Military Highway.
Monumento da Amizade Rússia-Geórgia, na Estrada Militar Georgiana.
Monument of Friendship Russia-Georgia.

Between Tbilisi and Kazbegi, there is plenty to see and do. In fact, this route corresponds to the famous Georgian Military Highway, which is one of the busiest in the country.

So, the main tourist attractions between Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and Kazbegi, near the border with Russia, are as follows:

  • Mtskheta (24 km);
  • Zhinvali Lake (54 km);
  • Ananuri Fortress (65 km);
  • Gudauri Ski Resort (120 km);
  • Monument of Friendship Russia-Georgia (124 km);
  • Stepantsminda (152 km);
  • Gergeti Trinity Church, at the foot of Mount Kazbegi (160 km).

How to get to Kazbegi?

Conduzir na Estrada Militar Georgiana com neve.
Driving on the Georgian Military Highway in the snow.
Ultrapassagens nas estradas da Geórgia.
Driving in Georgia.

Leaving Tbilisi, you can expect a journey of about 160 km to Kazbegi, which should take you about 3 hours. And no, that’s not a typo, it really does take 3 hours, or even more.

The good news is that this route is along the Georgian Military Highway, which is one of the most beautiful roads in Georgia.

Some people call it the Georgian Military Highway, but it has nothing to do with the highways we’re familiar with. In fact, this route only has two lanes, one in each direction, and it’s heavily trafficked by trucks heading towards Russia, which doesn’t help reduce the travel time.

In this case, it’s a good idea to rent a car. I usually use Discovercars, which in my opinion offers the best prices for car rental at the moment.

If you have doubts about renting a car in Georgia, I recommend reading this article: Renting a Car in Georgia: Is it Safe? Is it Worth it?

The more affordable alternative is to use marshrutkas, which are local passenger vans

These vans depart from Didube station in Tbilisi every day between 7 am and 6 pm, at intervals of about an hour.

However, the schedules are not fixed, as drivers may wait until the marshrutka is full before departing. Expect to pay about 10 GEL, or approximately 3€, and the journey takes between 3-4 hours.

*I traveled to Kazbegi on a day tour offered by the Georgian Tourism Board and as part of the Traverse Events

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