All the attractions of the region are conveniently located along the Georgian Military Road passing over the Caucasus range. It is worth visiting both during a one-day trip and on a longer tour.
All you need to know to plan a trip
The village of Stepantsminda is 185 km far from Tbilisi and just 15 km away from the Upper Lars checkpoint (land border with Russia).
This area belongs to Mtskheta-Mtianeti region with the biggest cities being Mtskheta and Dusheti. Also there are such urban-type villages as Stepantsminda, Tianeti, Sioni, Jinvali and Pasanauri.
Lowest temperatures are at the Gudauri ski resort: -10 - -5°C in winter and +20 - +15°C in summer. But the resort is very popular because a lot of sunny days. Average temperature in Stepantsminda is -5 - 0°C in winter and +25 - +15°C in summer.
Hot to get there
Georgian Military road is accessible by a regular car, from November to March you will need winter tires. In winter the pass may be closed occasionally because of avalanche hazard. Latest information about the situation on the pass is available at the Road department (0322 313076).
Best time to go
In winter it is best to go skiing in Gudauri, in April and November plan a trip along the Georgian military road only on a clear day and make sure the pass is open. High-mountain directions (Juta and Truso are available from the middle of June till the beginning of October.
Hotels and restaurants
The Rooms Kazbegi hotel is the absolute hit in the region offering the best views of the Kazbegi mountain and high standards of service. But you can also enjoy the views from the hotel terrace drinking a cup of coffee. Most hotels and guest houses are located in Stepantsminda. In winter in Gudauri it is better to stay at apartments, as their number increases every year.
Best tourist attractions
One of most preserved fortresses in Georgia. The date of founding is unknown, but historians say one of its towers was built in the XIII century. In the XVII the fortress was one of the main defense centers for the Aragvian eristavis who reigned over the region at the time. Later on, it also remained a reliable defense place. The Assumption church inside the fortress is especially noteworthy because it is a rare example of a church of that century. It has classic proportions, a dome and external decorations in the form of cross and vine. Entrance is free. Working hours: 10:00 – 18:00.
The ancient city of Jinvali gave its name to the reservoir and was founded in the second half of the XII century during the Queen Tamar reign. The reservoir was created artificially in 1984, when the Aragvi river was blocked during the construction of Jinvali HPP. Waters of Jinvali reservoir hide a lot of historical monuments and churches, including the church of Jvari Patiosani of the XII century. In spring, when the water level goes down, you can see the cross and then the church itself.
Confluence of White and Black Aragvi
The Black and the White Aragvis confluence near the village of Pasanauri. The White Aragvi is colored into light hues by the light-colored limestone it washes off, and the Black Aragvi acquires its dark color flowing through the black shales. The two rivers meet near Pasanauri and then flow for quite a long distance without mixing. It is better observed in warm seasons, in winter the difference in color is almost indistinguishable.
The monument was built in 1983 in celebration of the 200 years anniversary of the Treaty of Georgievsk. Zurab Tsereteli is the author. Now it is one of the best viewpoints in Georgia to enjoy the mountain landscapes. The Friendship Arch is a mosaic panel with motives from lives of people from the two states. An interesting fact is that the mating monument that is also designed by Tsereteli stands at the Tishinskaya square in Moscow. The monument is a column with interlacing Russian and Georgian letters. There used to be a third monument – Ties of Friendship – looking as two joined rings, but it was destroyed in 1991.
This unique natural object is located close to the Jvari pass. Reddish-brown slopes outstand and catch the eye of a passer-by. There are both outbowed areas with picturesque erosions and smooth and slippery surfaces. The water in the spring is medicinal, so a lot of people take it with them. But please note that its healing properties do not last, so it is better to drink it onsite.
Gergeti Trinity Church
The Trinity Church in Gergeti dated back to the XIV century is situated at a height of 2170 m asl at the foot of the Kazbegi mountain. It is the only cross-domed church in the Kazbegi region. Carving, bas-reliefs in the form of sun, vine and crosses, as well as other ornaments, decorate the exterior of the church. The interior is humble with no luxurious and expensive adornments. It is only possible to get to the church by an off-road car. The viewpoint offers unbelievable views of the mountain ranges and the villages of Gergeti and Stepantsminda.
Ancient geographers called the ravine "the Caucasian Gates". It was selected as the place for Georgian Military road because of its geographic location. The ravine is a natural crack in the mountain massif with the Terek river flowing on its bottom and linking the northern and the southern parts of the Caucasus. The rocks above the river are up to 1000 m high. The Dariali valley was praised in the works of A.S. Pushkin, M.Yu. Lermontov, painted by I.K. Ayvazovskiy and R.D. Sudkovskiy in their pictures.
Best trekking routes:
The Gveleti waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the region and it is 25 mters high. It is located in a narrow ravine on the way to the Russian border. The route starts at the Gveleti village, if you are on an off-road car, you can shorten the distance and get right to the bridge and walk 400 meters on a narrow path. Distance: 1,5 km Duration: 2 h, difficulty: easy
This ravine is sometimes called the Narzan valley because it is very rich in mineral springs. Before it was inhabited by the Ossetians, but now local villages are not inhabited. The ravine is situated on the northern slopes of the Caucasus in the upper Terek flow to the south from the Kazbek mountain. The hiking trail to the ravine starts in Kvemo Okrokana. On the way you will see travertines, mineral springs and an azure lake. The road ends near the Zakagori fortress checkpoint.
Sno Valley and Juta
The high-mountain village of Juta (2100 m asl) is the starting point of the trip to Khevsureti, but it is also worth visiting during a one-day trip. The road to the village goes at the edge of a cliff, so we recommend taking an off-road car to get there. Having climbed as high as 2100 m, we get to Juta, the second highest village in Georgia. Many centuries ago natives of Khevsureti from the Arabuli family got over the Chaukhi massif and settled at that place. The road ends in the village and further trip is possible only on foot on the trekking path. There you can meet experienced alpinists and hikers going on 2-3 day trips towards Khevsureti. Once in June we even met skiers coming down the glaciers with all the equipment. We recommend taking a walk towards the Chaukhi massif and get to the waterfall and admire the mountain lakes and alpine landscapes with unforgettable mountain views.
There are three waterfalls in the Arsha cascade: the Maiden's braid, the Men's tears and the Beard. The waterfalls are in a 20-minute walk from Arsha. It takes about 1 kilometer from the bridge and the path is easy and well-beaten. There you will see the wide and loud Beard waterfall. The Maiden's braid waterfall is another 400 meters upstream (30 meters high). The path is more difficult and the waterfall is higher than the first one. The Men's tears waterfall is located higher than the previous two.