Stepantsminda (Georgian: სტეფანწმინდა; formerly Kazbegi, Georgian: ყაზბეგი) a town in the north of Georgia, popular for the trekking opportunities in the visually spectacular surrounding mountains, its views of the mighty Mount Kazbeg, and for the beautiful view from the town of the Holy Trinity Church outlined against Mount Kazbeg itself.
The town of Kazbegi—officially named Stepantsminda (სტეფანწმინდა: st'eh-pahn-ts'meen-dah), but better known under the old name of Kazbegi) is a mountain town on the Georgian Military Highway. The town is 10 km south of the border with Russia, which is open again for some nationalities. On the western side of the river, the town is known as Gergeti (გერგეტი: gehr-geh-t'ee), but for all intents and purposes of a visitor, it is essentially one town.
Mashrutkas leave more or less hourly the Didube bus station of Tbilisi several times per day. From the Didube metro station, go down, turn right, cross the underway, cross the first parking lot (full of marshrutkas), and the marshrutkas to Kazbegi are in the second parking lot. Fare: 10 Lari. Duration: 2h45.
If you have a bunch of people in your party, you can almost always find a driver hanging around the marshrutka who is going there anyway, and hitch a ride for a fare lower than the total your group would pay on the marshrutka.
To get to the Sno Valley take a jeep from Kazbegi. It's a long and pretty scary way but really worth it.
The town is easily covered on foot.
- Gergeti Trinity Church (გერგეტის სამების ეკლესია: gehr-geh-t'ees sah-meh-bees ek'leh-see-ah), also known as Tsminda Samebis Church, towering over the city at a height of 2170m. Free entrance. No smoking, no photography inside the monastery. Decent clothes required.
- Alexander Kazbegi Museum
- Sno Valley: Juta town.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Hiking is the best option, since you enjoy the view. This can be done throughout the year. It takes between 1 and 2 hours one way, and the difficulty depends on the path. Although the easiest way is very easy, keep in mind that there is more than 400 meters to climb. All three are easy to follow.
- By following the road: after the bridge, turn left, and follow the road until the end, about 6km further. Duration: about 2 hours.
- By the (relatively) easy trail: after the bridge, turn left, and follow the road for about one kilometer, almost at the end of the small village. You will see a sign for cars to turn right; don't turn right, but go until the end of your street, about 100 meters. Then, turn right, walk 10 meters, turn left, and walk about 500 meters. Then you will meet the road again; turn left, follow the road for about 2 kilometers, until the trees suddenly disappear (and you have a wonderful view on Mount Kazbeg). You will see a path on the left; this is quite steep, though not difficult. In winter, avoid this part (keep going on the road). After 5 minutes on this path, you will reach the "summit", and see the church. Just go to the end. There are green/blue signs at each crossroads, so the path is very easy to find. Duration: 1h45.
- By the steep path. After the sign for cars to turn right, don't turn right, but go until the end of your street, about 100 meters. Then turn left, and walk up! This path is very steep, and cannot be used in winter. Duration: 1 hour.
Many taxis (mostly in the main square) offer a return trip to Gergeti Trinity Church from Kazbegi for 40 Lari. This is almost a scam, since this is a mere 6km from the city, and it is much nicer to climb yourself (see above). But if you are old, or in a hurry, why not. Try to bargain as much as possible!
Other outdoor activities
- Hike further into the mountains via a path starting behind the ridge to the start of the Gergeti Glacier (at 3000m).
- Climb mount Kazbeg (5033m) with a guide.
- Hike in wonderful nearby Juta valley.
- Kazbegi Marathon on September 5th, 2015
There is now a new ATM in town at the bank branch of 'Liberty Bank'. Its just two hundred meters from the main square, next to the Mini-Markets. The bank also exchanges money and opens around Mo-Fr 10:00 - 17:30 also open Saturdays but a bit shorter. The money changer right on the main square has horrible rates.
There are few restaurants in the town, it's easier and cheaper to get the food at your guesthouse. Hotel Stepantsminda has a restaurant and the hotel next door as well.
There are some small shops just of the main square, in the direction of the 'center' (big sign on the side of the square).
The café Shorena's hotel & bar restaurant (right on the main square) has decent prices for food and drinks, and provides free Wi-Fi. English-speaking and French-speaking staff. Update: The place is rather nice but the prices are unexpectedly high and the portions are very small (but food itself is good as usual). For example - chicken shish costs 9 laris but only contains 4 small pieces of chicken.
Plenty of homestays, with older lady's swarming any arriving mashrutka. Expect to pay 15 GEL/person/night for a bed, 30 GEL to include dinner and breakfast. Most of the cheaper guesthouses and hostels are on the other side of the river. Walk a few hundred meters north, cross the bridge to the left and then take another left after three hundred meters.
- Hotel Stepantsminda on the main square.
- B&B Iago Arabuli in Juta ( nice homestay in remote Juta in Sno Valley, 40 GEL per person with delicious Georgian food, tel 593422951.) Great starting point for hiking tours.
- Anano's Guesthouse: newly added top floor with several rooms, private and shared bathrooms. Less than 5mins walk from the main square. Family provides breakfast and dinner and they even pack some lunch for your day trips. 40 GEL per person. email: email@example.com phone: +995 593 34 42 74.
- Rhezo Guest House, Gergeti, ☎ +995 599404090. The Rhezo guest house - very good location and exceptionally tasty food. Solo Kazbek climbers choice! 35 GEL.
- Kazbegi Mountain Hut, Gergeti Village, ☎ +995 99 180806, +995 99 497764. Accommodation for climbers; can arrange guides, horses, porters, etc.
- Rent a mountain-bike (Mountain Travel Agency - +995 55 64 92 91) and cycle towards the castle by the Russian border, and visit the small valleys south of the town.
- Russia (but be sure that your citizenship allows you to cross the border)
- Tbilisi: marshrutkas depart from the main square. Several departures in the morning. In the afternoon, departures at 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 5pm (last one). Price: 10 Lari.