When I learned I was going to Georgia, I had a few must stops in mind and one of them was Kazbegi, a small town in north-east Georgia, close to the Russian border. I did my research and found it so beautiful, so I told myself that I needed to make time for it.
Our first step on this trip was spent driving from Tbilisi to Kazbegi that took us 3 hours. My friends and I opted to rent a car since we wanted to do stops along the Georgian Military highway on the way to Kazbegi ( stepantsminda). This route houses the Defense Forces of Georgia tasked to defend the nation’s sovereignty, and territorial integrity. It consists of the National Guard, Land Force, Air Force, and Special Operations Forces.
Prior to the trip, I did some research and I was going to go for the easy hikes , I even showed myself the list of easy and moderate hikes. However, they had other things in mind. They chose the hard hikes hence, we went for the Gergeti Glacier.
Before the hike, download maps.me to guide you on the trails. They’re easy to follow so you’ll know where you are and how far you’ve gone. I didn’t succeed in finding it in Google maps.
First Part of the Hike to Gergeti Glacier Hike
A stop by Gergeti Trinity Church
The Gergeti Glacier is a day-hike and it’ll take you 7-10 hours if you include the hike to Gergeti Trinity Church. Also called Tsminda Sameba Church, this is the first point of interest. Built in the 14th-century, it’s perched atop a hill and overlooks the town, the ruins a testament of an era long forgotten, and with Mt. Kazbek as its backdrop. It took us a difficult 5 km steep uphill hike to reach, but after seeing the picturesque view, I knew the climb was worth it. Plus, this was only the beginning.
Most people stop here, so if you want to see this come early because when we got back from our hike at the Glacier—this was like a market place.
Just recently, it’s been easy to get here, for the non-hikers, you can just hire a car for 30 gel/car for a return trip.
Heading to Gergeti Glaciers Hike
I like doing things at random at times so, when we looked down and saw that there was a trail at the bottom that curved around the mountain, we thought it would be great to go that route. In truth, it just looked easier, as the one staring ahead of us was a steep uphill climb. Much to our dismay, we didn’t end up where we wanted to be but instead found ourselves in the village below. So we had no option but go uphill. As most of us didn’t want to circle and go to the beginning of the path, my friend Patrick decided to go off beat. We went off the trails. ( Not advisable).
The trail starts steep and you gradually go higher. The only thing I consoled myself with was the amazing view all around us. Because it was a steady uphill climb, it can get very exhausting so we took a lot of breaks, I needed it.
Around 3 to 3.5 hours from the church, we got our first view of the glaciers! It was a good day, and we were favored with a cool breeze instead of having the scorching sun at our backs. I can just imagine how much more difficult the trip would be if done on a sunny day or during the winter. In winter, the trail can be slippery.
Most of the people we were with who came from the hike said that it’s mostly cloudy up there. How thankful I was that our timing was perfect, and we could clearly see the trail and just take in the view of the snow-capped mountains. On our way back though it started to become cloudy.
Most people stop by the first view point with the graveyard, eat, appreciate the view and turn back. We went all the way to almost the camp site, which took us another 1.5 to 2 hours walk downhill then uphill at the end. If you are aiming to touch the glacier and walking over it then do this. But if you aren’t, then reveling in the lovely view of the glacier from across would do justice, it has a full view of everything from there.
My friends and I enjoyed our lunch just watching the mountain and the glaciers. We also packed our own lunch, ham and cheese, bread and eggs. There were no stores around the trail so it’s best you bring food. It is a long hike after all.
This trek definitely reminded me of the one I did in Nepal, the Langtang valley trek. The views are just as spectacular. Also this hike is easier in comparison, but still exhausting due to the continues up uphill climb.
The trip down from the glacier
It was a quick trek downhill, but it doesn’t mean it was easier. In fact, we had to be careful to avoid slipping by treading on grass. I did slip a couple of times, but still survived to tell the tale. How ironic that though I lagged behind during the climb, I lead the way during the trek downhill. We got back around two hours.
We also took a break in a nice viewpoint that showed the church on the way back and even took a quick nap. We wanted to rest and enjoy the trail, but it got too cold, so we had to walk back down.
What’s the weather like?
I can say the weather is unpredictable. Be prepared for it as it can go from clear, to windy, to cold, to hot all at once. We were lucky to have seen the peak most of the time it was clear but started to get cloudy on our way back.
Tips for the trip
Start early to avoid the church crowd. By the time we got back in the afternoon, it was crowded and felt like a marketplace. So, take as many pictures as you can while there are only a few of travelers. Second, bring lots of water. You’ll need lots of it. I brought 1.5 liters, but it wasn’t enough. And on a hot day, you’d feel like dying of thirst. There was a place by the glacier for a refill but that won’t be until 5 hours into the hike.
Next, bring food. This hike wasn’t like the ones we took in Nepal where there are tea houses to stop by and have a proper snack. Before the climb, we bought fresh bread at the bakery, salami and boiled eggs. I also brought snickers to keep me motivated because I’d eat them once I reached the top. I realized too that this was exactly what I did on the hikes I did in Nepal.
Should I mention that you need to bring winter clothes? You should! It gets freezing cold while you’re nearing the top, and don’t forget your raincoat too. Carry only what you need because it’s a long hike. Lastly, bring sunblock. I reapplied a lot since it was extremely hot on our way down in spite of it being cloudy.
This trip is definitely another one for the books. If you’re planning to go on the same hike, I’d highly recommend it.