Most of you will visit Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) just to start the journey to the top of Mt. Kazbek (5054 m a.s.l.) – the highest mountain in our area, and first of all, the third highest peak in Georgia. However, we would like to encourage you with this short entry to stay in our region after the mountain action because it is definitely one of the most beautiful places in all Georgia and offers much more than just climbing Mt. Kazbek!
This is the most beautiful valley in Georgia. Truso Valley is a magical place with magnificent mineral springs, a rapid river and natural “pools”. In the valley, you can do on a delightful trek (22 km of the flat route) through the Kasari Canyon, the abandoned village Ketrisi, two monasteries (women’s and men’s) to the Zakagori Fortress and the border with Ossetia, where the Georgian military base is located. In the valley, you can arrange a picnic and have lunch. For those who wish: a bath in a natural “pool”. In the valley, you will meet many shepherds and their herds.
This is the highest situated town in our region. On the way, you can stop by the mysterious statues that we call the Georgian Easter Island and in the most important village of the region, which is Sno because Georgian Patriarch comes from there. Before you reach Juta, you can climb to the top of the Georgian defensive tower, and also take a walk in the tiny village of Karchuna, which is not ‘conquered’ by tourists yet and in which you can see the true face of Georgia. After commuting to Juta, you can do a trek under the Chauchi massif, which is called the Georgian Dolomites (about 5 hours). If you have a reserve of strength, you can reach the Chaukhi Pass, which is 3431 m a.s.l. (about 8 hours of trekking). After the toughness of hikes you can eat khachapuri in the restaurant Fifth Season in Juta, from where you can admire one of the most beautiful mountain views in Georgia
The Dariali Gorge is called the Gate of the Caucasus. During this tour you should to visit all the most important places of the Gorge, and stop at several viewpoints from which you will take fantastic pictures (the gorge is 1000 meters deep). First of all, you should to visit the mysterious Tsdo village, in which only 5 people live and in which old Georgian rituals are still cultivated. In the village, you should to go up the hill and see the altar where ritual slaughter of lambs takes place once a year in order to guarantee the peace and prosperity of the village. You can also visit the traditional Georgian cemetery. Then you should to visit two Gveleti waterfalls (small and large one). The last point of your trip will be a complex of monasteries, which is located at the very border with Russia.
GERGETI GLACIER OR METEO STATION (BETHLEMI HUT):
This is an option for those, who didn’t do this route as part of expedition to the top of Mt. Kazbek. This trekking you can start in Stepantsminda (then you have to add plus 1 hour one way) or from the hill above the village, where the the Gergeti Trinity Church is located (then you have to drive there by car/bus). You will reach the glacier in about 4 hours. You will walk by a well-trodden path, so you can’t get lost. Along the way you will pass a small stone chapel on the Arsha Pass, Altihut Hut and river (sometimes need to take off your shoes and roll up trousers to pass through it without risk of getting wet). Back to the Church (the same way) will take you about 2 hours (much faster, because you will be walking fast down!). Ambitious and glacial experienced trekkers can try to continue the journey to the Meteo Station (3650 m), which is the main base camp for those, who want climb to Mt. Kazbek. From start the glacier to the Meteo Station and back at the same place you need to calculate about 5 hours. Also such a hike is very difficult and we recommend it only to those who are really fit and like to get up early in the morning because the whole trip you have to start very early to get back before dark. In addition: crampons will be necessary and we remind you: you should to know how to move on the glacier and how not to get into the crevasse! Trekking to the Gergeti Glacier or to the Meteo Station is a great chance to see the part of the route to the top of Mt. Kazbek and a miracle of nature which is a glacier.
ANGEL MOUNTAIN (3096 M):
This trek might be long (ascent and descent take about 8-9 hours), but is crowned with the most beautiful (in our opinion!) view on Mount Kazbek and Stepantsminda. It is also an excellent opportunity to conquer 3000 m Caucasian mountain! The trail starts and ends in the village Sno. It is not demanding, but it’s unmarked and unpopular, which means you can meet shepherds with their herds and dogs! The route is a series of traverses of hills overgrown with grass, and, in the summertime, with flowers (such as rhododendrons). At the peak of Angel Mountain you can find ruins of a fortress and a small chapel, the place of an annual pilgrimage of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. From there you can see a fabulous panorama of Caucasian peaks and little villages, with Mkinvartsveri massif, or the Ice Peak, towering above all. Only from there can you fully grasp Mount Kazbek’s magnitude! You go back from the peak the same way. Don’t let the apparent closeness of Mount Kazbek mislead you. If you’ll try to go back through the other side of the mountain, straight to Kazbegi, you can find yourself in real trouble. The trail is very steep and covered with wild roses and slippery grass, and the area is difficult to navigate in: the trail may lead you astray.
ARSHA FALLS AND TOTI VILLAGE:
If you are fans of waterfalls and have already seen the most popular Gveleti Falls in the Darial Gorge, we recommend a trek to the Arsha Falls. The trail starts in a village of the same name, 5 km away from Kazbegi. The route is suitable for everybody. You need around 3-4 hours for it. Through a narrow path, well-trodden by sheep and cows, you ascend surrounded by lush meadows. Even though the trail is unmarked, it is difficult to get lost there. On your right side, you will see the ruins of Arsha fortress, and on your left two waterfalls. Trekking further, you will find the little abandoned village Toti, lost among mountains. Throughout the route, you can enjoy the wonderful views of the Sno Valley and surrounding villages and peaks. Beware of the shepherd dogs! You go back the same way or through the Gaiboteni village (and then to Arsha).
ARSHA – SABERDZE – KAZBEGI:
We can also reach Saberdze (3100 m), the first camp by the river on the way to Mount Kazbek with the Altihut shelter, starting trekking in the village of Arsha, passing by the local waterfalls, and then heading further into the valley. The route is unmarked and much longer than the standard ascent to Saberdze, which leads from Kazbegi. You need 7-8 hours to make the whole route. But if you decide to choose this variant, the landscapes will surely compensate for your patience. It offers a view on Mount Kazbek from an unusual perspective. Additionally, you may have the route all to yourselves, as not many people choose it. But you should be careful: you might meet some shepherd dogs; there are a lot of them in this area in the summertime. You go back from Saberdze to Kazbegi through the usual route, across the hill with the church of the Holy Trinity.
This place is well-know not only to walkers, but also to skiers during the wintertime. Moreover, the monastery on the hill is a place of pilgrimages for the local people, who come there once a year, seven weeks after Easter, to celebrate a local holiday Lomisoba. The celebration combines Christian and pagan traditions (e.g. ritual slaughter of lambs). Another reason for going on this trek is the amazing view on the Georgian Military Road it offers. From this perspective, the curves of the Road and the Aragvi River make quite an impression. The trek is neither difficult nor long. It starts and ends in Zemo Mleta village past Gudauri. It takes about 5-6 hours. On the mountain, you have a chance of meeting monks from the monastery, who often invite the tourists for tea. It would be worthwhile to be prepared for such an occasion and have something to share with your hosts.
A lost abandoned old village is an interesting alternative for those who’d rather avoid big crowds. The route starts close to the village Sno, just past the bridge on the way to Juta. It is certainly a pleasant trail, which offers you an opportunity to cross the riverbed and return up the gorge; this will definitely diversify the route. The route takes about 4-5 hours. The village of Artkhmo can also be reached by off-road car. From there, you can continue trekking and go through the mountains up to Gudauri!
SIONI, MOUNT KABARJINIA AND SAKHIZNARI CLIFF:
The trekking route to the foothills of Kabarjinia (3136 m), as a marked one, is one of the exceptions on this list. The trail begins in the Sioni village, near a basilica and a defense tower. Already at this point you can enjoy the amazing view on the Terek River meandering in the valley and on surrounding villages. Kabarjinia, which is one of the dormant volcanoes in this area, overlooks the whole area. Even the Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov, wrote about her beautifully, calling her the “Cross Mountain”. At the foot of the massif, there is a natural monument, the Sakhiznari Cliff, which is a reminder of the volcanic activity of Kabarjinia. This trek is one of the easiest in our region. It takes about 3-4 hours, mostly on flat ground.
We have described a three days’ trek in the Khde Gorge: HERE. However, if you don’t have that much time, you should take a part of the route and go to the Kibishi glacier. Remember that you need permission from Border Guard in order to trek in Khde, as it is located on the Russian border. The trekking is very varied, because the Khde Gorge lies between the Kuro and the Shino Massifs, which are ones of the highest mountains in the vicinity. Already at the beginning, if the weather conditions are favorable, you can see Mount Kazbek and very dangerous Devdoraki glacier. Reaching Kibishi glacier and going back is a really long trek; it should take you around 10-11 hours. During this time, you will pass through the forest, rocks, meadows, dry riverbed, and finally, through rocky slopes, you will reach your destination. On your way, you will also see several waterfalls and the Rustaveli glacier. This long-day plan is fit only for the athletic and resilient, but surely worth your efforts!
Khada is a small, hidden gorge, also called “the Sixty Towers Gorge”. It is located just past Gudauri. It used to be a fortress, defending the road between the North and South Caucasus with 60 towers. According to local legends, the sheep with golden wool grazed next to the farthest tower, at the very end of the gorge. This can be considered a reference to the Argonauts looking for a golden fleece. Unfortunately, only several towers have stood the test of time. On the trekking route we pass abandoned villages, shepherd’s huts, waterfalls, sources of natural mineral water. From the Khada Gorge you can go directly to Gudauri, near the Kudebi peak. The trekking route is not difficult, even though it is unmarked. Depending on which route you choose, you can spend 3-4 hours or a whole day in the gorge.
If you only have a couple of hours before your bus leaves, and you cannot get enough of Kazbegi and its attractions, we recommend a walk to the monastery of St. Elijah. There’s an asphalt path leading there from the center. You can just follow the signs, as the road is marked. This tiny church is located above the famous Rooms Hotel, just above the forest, on the slopes of the Kuro massif. The Elijah monastery offers a truly postcard-like view, so there’s a big chance of meeting photographers who try to capture the church of Cminda Sameba and Kazbek, overlooking the whole area.
DARIAL GORGE AND DEVDORAKI GLACIER:
The route leading to a place with a view on the Devdoraki glacier starts in a village called Gveleti. You can go left and see the famous waterfalls, or right, towards the Devdoraki viewpoint. On your way, you pass by the Gveleti Lake. The Devdoraki glacier is the biggest in Kazbegi, and the most active one. It is famous for its spectacular snowslides that paralyze the Georgian Military Road (the last took place in 2014). The glacier area is closed for climbers and tourists, and due to the threat of another snowslide, the farthest you can go is a Border Guard post, from where you can see the glacier. According to legends, in the vicinity of the Devdoraki Glacier, there used to be a cavern inhabited by hermits. During the trekking you will have an opportunity to admire the walls of the Darial Gorge, also called the Gates of the Caucasus. The trek takes about 2 hours and is suitable for everyone: the route is easy and it’s also available for off-road cars.
VEDZA AND PANSHETI:
Not many people know that there’s a swimming pool near Kazbegi. In the summertime, it is crowded with the local people. You can reach it by taking a short trek, from the Gergeti village to the Pansheti village, along the river. Next to the pool, there is a small spring, Vedza, with natural sparkling mineral water. It is not unusual there to meet people filling their bottles with it. Local residents say it is tastier than the famous Borjomi water! In communist times, water from this source was bottled and sold in stores. When you go further, you will reach the village of Pansheti. There you can find an example of Caucasian defense construction: the tower and ruins of the fortress. The whole route takes about 2-3 hours. It is a pleasant walk / trekking, suitable for everyone.
In the area of Kazbek, you can also do treks to Khde Gorge, Abudelauri Lakes, Kelitsadi Lakes, Mna Valley or climb other peaks: Mt. Kuro, Mt. Shino, Mt. Shani / Pshani, Mt. Ortcveri. Visiting these places requires more preparation and more free time than one-day trips.
Information how to get to the Truso Valley, Juta and Dariali Gorge from Stepancminda you will find: HERE.
If you have other questions, write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us here: Mountain Freaks – Mountain Travel & Adventure Agency.