Stepantsminda, სტეფანწმინდა (formerly Kazbegi, ყაზბეგი) is a village in the north of Georgia, popular for the trekking opportunities in the visually spectacular surrounding mountains, its views of the mighty Mount Kazbek, and for the beautiful view from the town of the Holy Trinity Church outlined against Mount Kazbek itself.
The town of Stepantsminda is a mountain town on the Georgian Military Highway. The town is 10km 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 (routed taxis) leave the Didube bus station in Tbilisi roughly every hour, fare: 10 GEL (as of November 2015). There are also a few private car drivers who will ask around for people going to kazbegi, they charge 20 GEL per person and will leave when their car is full (usually 6 people) and if you take their car, you can ask them for 15 minutes stop each at Ananuri castle and Gudauri panorama.
Last public marshrutka to Tbilisi is at 17.30 p.m. If you have a bunch of people in your party, you can almost always find a driver hanging around the marshrutkas who is going there anyway, and hitch a ride for a fare similar to what your group would pay on the marshrutka. If you have big backpacks marshrutka drivers may try to get you to pay extra.
You can order personal private and group transfer with online booking and payment in Kazbegi-Transfer Company.
The town is easily covered on foot.
If you would like to hike anywhere else than Trinity Church be prepared to get a ride which tends to be pricey (Juta 80 GEL, June 2015). There is plenty of drivers on sort of a square where marshrutka station is as well. Go around at least to get the best price.
Holy Trinity Church in the mist
- 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.
- Alexander Kazbegi Museum Entrance fee; 3 Lari. This museum houses personal items related to Alexander Kazbegi (dating to the beginning of the 20th century on the first floor and a collection of Georgian folk items and historical items in the ground floor.
- Sno Valley Juta town. To get to the Sno Valley take a jeep from Stepantsminda. It's a long and pretty scary way but really worth it.
- Truso Valley another favorite hiking destination.
- Hike up to the Gergeti Trinity Church (1,5 hour of climbing, or take a jeep taxi up from the main square for 40 GEL as for December 2014).
- Hike further into the mountains via a path starting behind the ridge to the start of the Gergeti Glacier (at 3000m).
Summer flowers nearing the Gergeti Glacier
- Climbing Mount Kazbek (5033m).
- Hike in wonderful nearby Juta valley.
- Paragliding with instructor, ☎ +995568114453, . Every day from May to October. edit
- Easy rafting in Snotskali river.
- Experience kayaking in Tergi river.
- 4 waterfalls, 2 in Arsha-Pansheti and 2 in Gveleti.
- Visit nearby mineral water springs (drinking and/or bathing in the water is said to cure ailments).
- 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.
- An ATM is located in house of Municipalitet of Stepantsminda on the 1st floor, left side. A 2nd ATM can be found in Rooms Hotel.
- You can find various money exchange bureaus around the city centre, working at a reasonable exchange rate.
- There are multiple small shops in the village where you can buy basic food.
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.
- Cafe 5047m;
- Cafe Shorena;
- Cafe Khevi.
There are several shops and houses where you can find both bottled and housemade wine and chacha, a local spirit made from grapes. Most of guesthouses are having homemade wine and chacha and can sell it for their guests on a resonable price.
Plenty of homestays, with older ladies swarming any arriving mashrutkas. Expect to pay around 15-20 GEL/person/night for a bed, and 30 GEL to include breakfast.
- Hotel Stepantsminda on the main square.
- Hotel Rooms Kazbegi and casino.
- B&B Jago Arabuli, ☎ +995593422951. Nice homestay in remote Juta in Sno Valley (13km from Kazbegi) with welcome hosts Jago and his wife. Delicious dinner and good breakfast are included into price. By request Jago's wife can prepare picnic lunch for you. Home made wine and beer are available. Two rooms with four separate beds in each. To get there: pass big hotel building at the entrance, cross the small bridge, if you come by car, leave the car there (no roads available for a car further) and go up the hill for 2-4 mins starting with the workout place. Jago's house is two storey white and red building at the end of this way from your left side. Languages: Georgian, Russian, German, English. Great starting point for hiking tours. 50 GEL. edit
- Anano's Guesthouse, ☎ +995 593 34 42 74 ([email protected]). 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. Notice: they host only travellers with booking in advance. 40 GEL per person. edit
- Rhezo Guest House, Gergeti, ☎ +995599404090, . The Rhezo guest house - very good location and exceptionally tasty food. Solo Kazbek climbers choice! 35 GEL. edit
- Kazbegi Mountain Hut, Gergeti, ☎ +995 99 180806 / + 995 99 497764, . Accommodation for climbers; can arrange guides, horses, porters, etc. edit
- Ketino's Guesthouse, Qvemo Gergeti Street (Head across the river and take first left.), ☎ +995 571 032439/ 571 032439. One of the best guest houses in all of Georgia. The older rooms are spacious and have cool artwork. The value though is in the food and Ketino herself. Ketino is like the Georgian grandmother you never had that will fret about your lack of socks and speaks good English. Tip: The price can differ quite a bit depending on the season, so negotiate in advance. Price including breakfast and dinner can run from 40-70 Lari. edit
- VANO's Guesthouse, ☎ +995599420414 / ([email protected]). Vano speaks several languages (English, Italian, Japanese and so on). He has a Jeep Mitsubishi Montero Sport (Red Color). His guesthouse was opened from 1992. Has private rooms, running water hot and cold with bathrooms. edit
- Sabauri guesthouse, Gergeti (Stepantsminda) (after the city center, pass the bridge and take left (100m walk)), ☎ +995555435745. Nice and comfortable place in center of Stepantsminda. ideal for hikers and families. Option to dinner and breakfast with traditional Georgian food. +995555435745 speak several languages: English, Russian, Georgian. edit
- Nino Gigauri Guesthouse, ☎ +995 599 975691. Warm, clean, comfortable rooms with delicious home cooking and a lovely host. Free Wifi, computer, TV, warm showers. edit
- Guest House Vasili, (100m from the city centre on the right side, driving uphill on the main road), ☎ +995 599 9187 87. Avoid this place. Vasili is very nice at first sight, but he can be very aggressive. He likes to change the overnight fee late in the evening after you moved in, and after you can't go anywhere else. If you don't pay the extra (often the double) he switches off the hot water, or just make you leave. edit
- Guest House Stepane & Tsitsia, (uphill from the centre (500m) almost at the end of town), ☎ +995 599 704 739. Rooms are ok with bathroom and food is really very good. If you can go to the rooms in upper floor as lower floor rooms are just next to eating area and you will get disturb by preparing breakfast pretty earlier as they usually clean up after dinner in the morning as well. edit
Mount Kazbek looming over the church
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