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If you’re planning a trip to Georgia (the country in Europe, not the state in the US), then Kazbegi absolutely needs to be on your itinerary. The first thing to cover is that the town of Kazbegi was renamed Stepantsminda, however many people still refer to it as Kazbegi. Therefore, the two names are essentially interchangeable, and you’ll see both used throughout maps and signage, as well as throughout this guide.
Kazbegi is a mountain town nestled at the foot of the Caucasus mountains in the northeast of Georgia in a region called Mtskheta-Mtianeti. Located just 153 km (95 miles) north of Georgia’s capital, Kazbegi can be reached by car in under 3 hours along the Georgian Military Road. It is a must-visit on any trip to Georgia in my opinion!
Getting from Tbilisi to Kazbegi and How Much it Costs
The route from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is one of the most popular in Georgia along the Georgian Military Highway, and for a good reason. The drive between these two areas is one of the most scenic, with a well-maintained road. It offers one of the best opportunities to reach the Caucasus mountains, especially if you don’t have time to visit further areas such as Mestia and Ushguli. Luckily, getting from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is simple, and can be done a number of ways depending on time and budget.
Self-driving to Kazbegi from Tbilisi is by far the fastest and most comfortable option. Assuming you are a confident driver, having your own car in Georgia is an incredible, and easy, way to experience the country. Having your own car will allow you to stop as often as you’d like — which I promise will be all of the time! There are a number of car rental companies in Tbilisi, but I recommend booking with CITY RENT CAR. We had originally booked our rental with Budget, only to find a closed office and no car in sight on our arrival. Another option is to book through rentalcars.com to compare rates.
As mentioned above, the road from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is completely paved, so any car will you do. However, if you plan to visit Juta, I recommend either renting a Jeep or hiring a driver in Kazbegi to drop you off. We hired a driver with a car that was suitable for off-road driving, and still managed to get a flat tire on the way.
By private driver
If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself, you can consider booking a driver through GoTrip.com. Their drivers are reputable, fairly priced, and many of them speak English. This option is probably best if you plan on visiting Kazbegi on a day trip — however I definitely recommend overnighting for at least a night in the town of Kazbegi if you have the time in your itinerary..
By public transportation
If you’re on a budget, you’re in luck! You can grab a marshrutkas for just 10 GEL (~$3 USD). This is by far the cheapest way to get to Kazbegi, but of course it will be less comfortable than the other options mentioned. One disadvantage of this option is that you won’t have the flexibility to make stops along the way. However, it is still an easy way to get from point A to point B.
We did not take any marshrutkas during our trip, but I have heard that they are quite easy. Simply head to the Okriba Bus Station and look for a van labeled Stepantsminda. The vans depart about once an hour, and the journey will take between 3 to 4 hours. Be prepared for some crazy local driving!
If you only plan on visiting on a day trip, or are traveling to Georgia solo, then you might want to consider a group tour to Kazbegi. Tours typically last 10-12 hours, with rates starting around $25 USD. This won’t give you nearly as much flexibility, but it is a good option if you’re short on time.
When to Visit Kazbegi
Kazbegi is a beautiful destination to visit year-round. In the winter, you may want to add a few days in Gudauri, the ski village in between Tbilisi and Kazbegi. While the town is accessible year round, parts of the road may close due to heavy snowfall or avalanches, so make sure to plan accordingly. If the road does close, there is an option to take a cable car from Gudauri, and then hire a taxi for the rest of the trip. Note, if you have your own car you will need to leave it here if the road is closed.
We visited in mid-September and the weather was perfect. The evenings were chilly with a bit of frost, however the sun was strong during the day.
How much time do you need in Kazbegi?
This is always one of my least favorite questions to answer, but yet one I seem to ask the most when visiting a new place. We had 2 nights in the Caucasus mountains, 1 night in Kazbegi and 1 night in Juta. This was definitely enough time to relax and enjoy the sights, plus some small hikes. If you have more time available or are looking to do any multi-day hikes, you’ll definitely want to tack on a few extra days. That said, it is worth a visit even if you are only about to spend 1 night here!
Things to do in Kazbegi
Hike to Gergeti Trinity Church
A visit to the famous Gergeti Trinity church is a must on any Kazbegi itinerary. This 14th century church is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the country. You can hike or hire a car to take you to the top. The road to the church is currently under construction (as of September 2021) so you will need a 4-wheeler for some off road driving. We paid a local driver to take us to the top, and then hiked down after watching the sun rise over the mountains. Expect to pay around 40-60 GEL for a taxi from town up to church and back, including waiting time at the top. Or you could just pay the driver for a one-way trip, and hike back down like we did!
Make sure to get a viewpoint with Mount Kazbek (Kazbegi Mountain) in the background. Sitting at 5,047 meters above sea level, it is the 3rd highest mountain in Georgia.
There are a number of different routes that you can take to the top, so I recommend following this guide if you plan to hike. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, once you reach the top you can continue a few more miles to Gergeti Glacier. This hike is a full day hike so plan accordingly. I promise you that you’ll be ready for a glass of wine and a large plate of khinkali after that!
Spend a night at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
This hotel is undoubtedly much pricier than the other simple guesthouses in the area, but I promise you it is worth the splurge! It was by far one of my favorite places that we stayed throughout our trip to Georgia. I’m not usually one for fancy hotels, as they can often feel sterile and a bit isolating from the local community. However, between the incredible views of Mount Kazbek and intricate interior details, a visit to Rooms Hotel is an experience in itself. You could spend a whole day just swimming in the mountain-view hot tub or pool, hanging in one of the hammocks, or simply enjoying a glass of wine of the patio. In the evening, you can cozy up by the fire as you sip chacha and play a round of pool. No detail goes unnoticed!
Explore the nearby towns of Sno and Juta
Just 5km outside of Stepantsminda you’ll arrive in the small town of Sno. It is actually on the way to Juta, so you can plan to stop here on your drive to Juta. In Sno you’ll find a number of sites, including a small church. However, the most remarkable site is definitely the Sno Heads. These heads, carved by local artist Merab Piranishvili, are of prominent figures in Georgia history. You can’t miss them as they are right on the side of the main road through town.
Located just 20km from Kazbegi town, Juta may have been my favorite place that we visited in all of Georgia. It reminded me of the jagged peaks of the Dolomites in Northern Italy. In order to reach Juta, you’ll want to make sure that you have a car that is suitable for off-roading, as you make your way through the (very) windy mountain roads. We hired a driver with an off-vehicle, and he still managed to get a flat tire on the way back.
Where to Eat in Kazbegi
Admittedly, we ate the majority of our meals at our hotel, Rooms Kazbegi. This was mostly out of convenience, however the food is also quite good! Even if you don’t stay here, make sure to stop by to enjoy a glass of wine and their delicious falafel salad with a view! While prices are higher than the local restaurants, they are still very reasonable. I recommend grabbing a falafel salad for 17 GEL and a glass of house wine for 9 GEL, and you can enjoy a meal for under $10 USD. And whatever you do, you must order a slice of the Rooms cheesecake. I still dream about it every day!
If you’re looking for more local spots, especially if you’re dining on a budget, I recommend the following:
- Kazbegi Good Food
- BeBa Bar
- Restaurant Cozy Corner
Where to Stay in Kazbegi
If you have the money in your budget to do so, definitely book a night at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi. We opted for a mountain-facing room, but I personally don’t think the upgrade is worth the money. This is because there are so many great viewpoints throughout the property. The hotel’s location just north of town gives it one of the best views in town. Rooms typically range from $150-200 USD per night.
If you are traveling to Kazbegi on a budget, there are still plenty of great accommodation options. However, if you are traveling during the high season, make sure to book ahead of time! Here are a few good options for any budget:
- Chemodann Kazbegi ($80 USD/night)
- Hotel NOA Kazbegi ($25 USD/night)
- Homestay Lela and Mari ($20 USD/night)
Wherever you choose to stay in Kazbegi, you’ll just want to make sure that it is walking distance from the center of town if you don’t have your own car.
Visiting Georgia? Make sure to check out this article on Sighnaghi as well!