Just outside of Tbilisi is the mountainous region of Kazbegi lies the small town of Stepanstminda. Stepanstminda also referred to as Kazbegi, is nestled between the beautiful mountains of Kazbegi and is a must-visit if you want to witness the spectacular views of the Caucasus mountains that Georgia has to offer. The best route of traveling to Kazbegi is from Tbilisi along the Georgian Military Highway where there’s also amazing sites that we’ve got to see along the highway in our journey to Kazbegi.
There are about four ways to travel from Tbilisi to Kazbegi.
How to get from Tbilisi to Kazbegi
The cheapest and fastest way to get to Kazbegi from Tbilisi is to pay for a ride in a minibus shuttle or better known as marshrutka.
You can get in a Marshrutka to take you to Kazbegi in Tbilisi’s Didube Bus Station just like if you are going for a day trip to mtskheta. You can either ride a taxi directly to the station for around 5-7 GEL or take the metro from the center of Tbilisi which costs 50 tetris a ride. Once you’ve arrived at Didube find a yellow sign that says ‘Stefancminda-Kazbegy’ where the marshrutka that’ll take you to Kazbegi is located. It’ll cost about 10 GEL per person for a one-way journey.
The marshrutka will leave by the hour or when full and the journey to Kazbegi takes about 3 hours with a brief stop halfway where you can go to the bathroom or buy some snacks. Prepare to see some spectacular views during the ride, especially during the second half of the journey.
If you want a more comfortable journey and if you have some money to spare, you hire a taxi for a private ride to take you to Kazbegi. The prices can vary depending on whether its peak season or not, the type of car, your haggling skills, and if you want to make stops along the way. This can cost you around 150-200 GEL for a one-way journey.
Multiple guided group tours can take you to Kazbegi, stop at various sites and locations, show you around Stepanstminda, and take you back to Tbilisi. If you’re alone and only want to go on a day trip to Kazbegi, this a recommended way to experience the Kazbegi mountain region.
This is the method that we used to travel between Tbilisi and Kazbegi, renting a car. Since there were four of us, it was a lot cheaper to rent an SUV for 160 GEL or 40 GEL ( 15 usd) per person for a more comfortable and flexible drive to Kazbegi. The good thing about renting your own car is that you can stop at any location you want for sightseeing and appreciating the many attractions along the road.
The average cost of renting a car in Tbilisi is 150-250 GEL for the entire day. But make sure that you get a four-wheel-drive or an SUV and that you’re a competent and confident driver as the Georgian Military Road is no more than a dirt road that can be winding and steep in certain areas.
What to see on the Georgian Military Highway from Tbilisi to Kazbegi
While Kazbegi is a great day trip destination, it will take about a total of 6 hours driving from Tbilisi to Kazbegi and back so I recommend staying a night in Stepanstminda to get the best out of your trip in Kazbegi. There are also sights along the Georgian Military Highway that’s worth a stop to admire and experience for more than a minute.
Forty km on the Georgian Military Highway on the right side of the road, we come across the Zhinvali Reservoir. It’s a huge body of water nestled between the mountains. We were lucky enough to visit the reservoir on a clear sunny day and the view was splendid with blue waters and blue skies.
Ananuri Fortress and Church
A few minutes later into the ride we stopped at the Ananuri Fortress and Church just at the Zhinvali Reservoir’s shores. The fortress looks ancient and the locals said it was built during the medieval period. I feel like I’ve stepped in the medieval times when we entered the fortress with its thick brick walls. And the fortress overlooking the waters is stunningly picturesque, especially during a clear day.
The church inside is also lovely and looks like it has both Christian and Celtic influences in its wonderfully preserved art and design. We were required to wear head covers to enter the church though.
Soviet-Georgian Friendship Memorial
As we continue to drive along the highway we stumble upon herders and their flocks of sheep navigating the road. We’re climbing higher and higher into the mountains and there are many viewpoints we stopped at but by far the best viewpoint we too a stop at is the Soviet-Georgian Friendship Memorial. We have easy panoramic views of the green valleys below and snow-capped mountains. The structure of the monument itself was unusual with interesting images showcasing the historic interactions between Georgia and Russia. But the view of the Caucasus mountains definitely steals the show. But make sure to visit during a clear day.
There’s also the option to go ATV riding and paragliding for the more adventurous fellows that allow a more close up and better view of the landscape. It costs around 290 GEL.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Then we’ve reached the small town of Stepanstminda nestled cozily between the mountains of Kazbegi. Everywhere we turn, the sight looked like it belongs in a postcard. The town is easy to explore on foot as its quite small. I recommend to hike up the mountain up to Gergeti Trinity Church as a climax of the trip, it was definitely the climax for ours. You can opt to drive up the hills or hike up. The way up takes an hour of hiking and another hour on the way down. The view of the church surrounded by clouds and mountains is absolutely breathtaking.