In this blog I will share my favourite one-day hikes in the area of Kazbegi. I will also provide some practical tips to make your stay in Kazbegi easy-peasy. In my travel story about hiking in the mountains of Kazbegi you can get a taste of what it is like to explore this stunning area in Georgia on foot. If you are looking for practical info just read on because below I will share my tips for the best day hikes that we have done around Kazbegi to help make it easy for you to experience the same beauty during your hikes in Georgia.
We used Kazbegi (also called Stepantsminda) as our base from which we made these day hikes, as it is the only town in this area with a good array of guesthouses and restaurants. We stayed there for 4 nights. While there we explored the following three hiking trails around Kazbegi, returning to our guesthouse every evening (click to jump immediately to the section about each hike):
- From Kazbegi to the Gergeti Trinity Church and beyond to the Gergeti glacier
- Along the river to the ruins of a fortress in the Truso Valley
- Through the beautiful grassy fields of the Juta Valley to the Chaukhi pass
I can absolutely recommend each of these one-day hikes. I will describe them in more detail below so you will know what to expect if you decide to tie up your hiking boots and go for it. But first let me share some information with you about the town of Kazbegi which makes an excellent home base from which to make these hikes.
How do I get to Kazbegi?
Kazbegi sits on the Military Highway in the north of Georgia, near the border with Russia. From Tbilisi it is about 155 km / three hours driving to Kazbegi and there are four options to get there:
1. Driving to Kazbegi with your own wheels
Tthe town is easily reached with a rental car because the road is paved and of good quality all the way there, although it does run over the 2379m Jvari pass so be prepared for some serious hairpin curves.
2. Taking public transport to Kazbegi
From Didube bus station in Tbilisi there are mini-vans (known as marshrutka) that make the trip from early morning. The last marshrutka leaves Tbilisi at the end of the afternoon. This is a super cheap option at only 10 GEL (€ 3) per person and it is reasonably comfortable, but the driver may speed a little on those mountain roads . This could be unpleasant for anyone who is prone to get car sick.
3. Taking a private taxi to Kazbegi
This will set you back around 200 to 250 GEL for the ride, so this is far more expensive than taking a marshrutka. However, it will be a little faster (around 2.5 hours) and you will have the liberty to make stops at scenic points along the way.
4. Taking an organised group tour from Tbilisi
There are actually day tours leaving Tbilisi very early in the mornings and returning late at night. Why anyone would do this is beyond me, because all you’ll get to see is the church and some mountain views while spending 6 hours sitting in a vehicle, and I assume you are reading this article because you want to spend time in the area and hike around.
However, I’ve heard of some people who book the tour from Tbilisi and then just stay in Kazbegi that evening and don’t take the return ride. The advantage of this is that on your way there you will see various stops at monasteries and churches etc cetera, because this is usually part of the tour’s itinerary. Expect to pay around 100 GEL (€30) per person. You can easily book this kind of tour a day in advance; in the center of Tbilisi you’ll find plenty of agents offering this service.
Where should I stay in Kazbegi?
There is quite a big number of choices of places to stay in Kazbegi. If you are looking for something upscale, try the fancy Rooms Hotel. It sits at the back of the town overlooking the entire village. If you want something more basic (and less expensive!) there are plenty of smaller hotels and guesthouses around town.
We stayed across the river in the hamlet of Gergeti in Guesthouse Gergeti which is also known as Guesthouse Nazi, named after the kind owner (“I have a strange name, but I am a good person!” she tried to reassure us. She must have seen quite a few frowned eyebrows upon telling people her name). I can recommend this place but from what I’ve heard from other travelers the other guesthouses in the area are of similar quality.
Most places serve breakfast and also dinner on request, although there is also quite a bit of choice in restaurants in Kazbegi. So it is not strictly necessary to have dinner in your guesthouse. I do recommend to choose a guesthouse in the Gergeti area (across the river) because it will save you about 20 minutes each way on the Gergeti Trinity Church hike. Your feet will be very grateful that you don’t have to walk all the way across town after finishing your hike.
When is the best time to go hiking in Kazbegi?
We were there in late June and this is a period that I recommend. This is because the months of late June and July / early August bring the highest probability of warm weather and clearance of ice and snow from the mountain passes. In fact the Chaukhi pass had only very recently opened up when we were there. Most of the year it is blocked by ice and snow.
What should I bring on these day hikes in Kazbegi?
The essentials are: enough food and water (bring your own lunch to all hikes, and also some snacks to keep you energised, and bring at least 2 liter water per person); good hiking boots (although Truso and Juta Valley could be done on sturdy sneakers, but only if you decide not to go up the pass); and dress in layers. Few things are as unpredictable as mountain weather and we changed from t-shirts to a fully layered up outfit including down jacket throughout the day. Make sure to bring rain gear! We noticed that around 16h/17h every day rain clouds would roll in. We experienced a few pretty heavy thunder storms.
Where can I buy food and drinks in Kazbegi to bring on the trail with me?
At the main square there are a few bakeries that sell fresh bread, and a little bit up the road from the square is a medium-sized supermarket that sells all kinds of fruits, breads and snacks.
My recommendation for the best day hikes in Kazbegi
I was able to try three different hiking trails around Kazbegi, each lasting a full day. There are also several overnight hiking trails but we decided to make day hikes and use Kazbegi as our base. Below are my three favourite day hikes in and around Kazbegi.
Day hike from Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church and the Gergeti Glacier
What is the Gergeti Trinity Church and Gergeti glacier hike?
This is a full day hike that first takes you to one of Georgia’s most famous sights: the lonely orthodox church that sits high on a mountaintop overlooking the town of Kazbegi. It is beautifully framed by the mountain ranges opposite. From the church you can decide to continue hiking through a quite barren landscape until you arrive at the Gergeti glacier. The glacier is an imposing force of nature that can be admired from a distance from the trail or from up close (if you have enough time). From the glacier you walk the same way back to Kazbegi, or you can make a small loop by going back on a parralel trail.
What is it like to hike the Gergeti Trinity Church and Gergeti glacier trail?
I found this to be a very rewarding trail. It is truly a day hike because it’ll keep you busy from morning till evening. It takes you through a very green landscape (mostly grassy and rocky mountain terrain) with spectacular vistas on the church and the mountain range behind Kazbegi. The trail itself mostly runs through grass, in some parts it is rocky and near the glacier you just walk through the rock-strewn fields without a clearly defined trail.
How long does the Gergeti Trinity Church and Glacier hike take to complete?
Count on 1 to 1.5 hours to hike to the church. It is not far, but the trail is pretty steep. If you wish to continue to the Gergeti Glacier, count on being away for the full day. On the day of our hike we left our guesthouse at 08:30, arrived at the view point from where we could see the glacier at 14:30, and returned to our guesthouse around 17:30. If you are a very fast hiker and start out at first daylight, you could even make it to the base of the glacier and back in one day.
How difficult is the Gergeti Trinity Church hike?
As I wrote above, getting to the church doesn’t take long, but the trail is pretty steep and can be tricky in places with loose rocks and big boulders to climb over. You’ll probably want to have at least a moderate level of fitness to be able to enjoy it. Alternatively, you could “cheat” and arrive at the church by taxi (and miss out on the sense of accomplishment).
Beyond the church travel by motorized vehicles is no longer possible as there are no roads going up to the glacier. So if you want to push on you’ll really have to rely on your own two feet. I found the remainder of the trail to be far easier than the initial hike up to the church. It is not very steep nor difficult to navigate. It does ascend continually but gradually, hence I found it to be a pleasant and fairly easy hike – it’s just a bit far!
Is there any water or food available on the Gergeti Trinity Church and glacier hike?
Make sure to bring your own lunch and snacks. At the church there is a water well from where you can fill your bottle. However, beyond this point you will not find anywhere where you can find food or drinks. If you plan to set out early like we did, take note that there is nowhere to buy food in the Gergeti village across the river from Kazbegi at that hour. We had assumed that there would be a bakery or something similar but there wasn’t. So make sure to buy your lunch and snacks in the part of Kazbegi before you cross the river, for example at the small bakeries around the main square.
Are there toilets anywhere on the Gergeti Trinity Church and glacier hike?
The only toilets are at the church – these are clean and have running water. Beyond the church there are no man-made opportunities to relieve yourself so be ready to seek a secluded spot along the trail if you have to go. Being a female I found this to be quite tricky. Much of the trail runs through a quite barren landscape with few places to squat outside the view of fellow hikers.
How do I get to the trailhead of the Gergeti Trinity Church hike?
You can start walking right from Kazbegi. Cross the river and walk up the main road until you reach the edge of the village. From here you will have a few choices of trails that will all take you to the church:
Option 1 – Through the pine trees
Up through the meadow past the graveyard into the pine tree forest. If you use this trail you will approach the church from the front.
Option 2 – Around the watchtower
A trail that starts just past the last small café/campground and that runs past the ruins of an old watchtower. This is the one we took on our way up. It was very steep but approaching the church from the back (where the cars don’t drive) was a reward in itself.
Option 3 – Steep and stupid trail
A trail that branches to the right off trail no. 2 described above. Before the steep ascent watchtower, you can climb up the sharp rocks of the mountain wall. I guess this is a shortcut but I would really not recommend it. We took it by mistake on our way down and it was horrible; very steep and unpleasant.
Option 4 – The lazy way
Just follow the paved road along with the taxis. No fun, of course.
To find the trail to continue to the glacier beyond the church, climb the big hill behind it. The best views on the church are from here, so even if you don’t want to continue walking, at least make the effort to get to the top of this hill! Continue walking on the spine of this hill and you will see that after not too long the path branches out. You can go either left or right and both trails will take you to the glacier. We took the left path up and I think it was a good choice as it was the rockier path so easier to ascend than descend. The other path was easier to come down on.
Day hike – Truso Valley hiking trail
What is the Truso Valley hike?
True to its name, this 21 km / 13 miles return trail runs through a valley towards the ruins of an ancient fortress. It is both a linear trail and a loop trail: you will walk back the same way you came. However you can decide to hike on one side of the river on your way there and take the trail on the other side on your way back. Despite it being the same route it technically still gives you a slightly different perspective on the landscape.
What is it like to hike in Truso Valley?
To me, this hike was like something out of a fairy tale (probably one by Grimm, though, because of its eerily abandoned buildings and packs of wolf-like mountain dogs). The first hour runs through an imposing gorge. When you enter the valley the landscape is super pretty and wide. Almost from the start of the hike you can see your destination, the fortress ruins, far off in the distance. And standing on top of the fortress it is gratifying to be able to look back along the entire valley to survey the distance that you have walked to get there.
We found the right side of the river (facing the fortress) to be the most beautiful side. Firstly because it runs through gorgeous wild meadows, while the trail to the left of the river is more of a gravel road that passes a few abandoned settlements. Secondly, this right side is also where you’ll find the special streams of red water and deep blue water pools. Be mindful when passing groups of abandoned watchtowers. We were told not to go near them as a pack of wild and aggressive dogs that are known to attack hikers apparently lives there.
How long does the Truso Valley hike take to complete?
The entire loop from the start of the trailhead at the beginning of the gorge to the fortress ruins and back takes 5 to 6 hours (including some short stops for lunch and snacks).
How difficult is the Truso Valley hike?
This is a very easy hike that can be completed by anyone, even if you have only a moderate or even low fitness level. It is very level and the trail is well-defined. Getting lost is near impossible. The only steep section is the short climb up to the fortress at the end of the trail.
Is there any water or food available on the Truso Valley hike?
About one hour into the hike, upon leaving the gorge and entering the valley, you will see a small cabin that serves as a bar with an outdoor seating area. You’ll have to cross a little bridge to get there. The owner sells a limited selection of water, beer and soft drinks. It’s not guaranteed to be open though, so don’t place all your bets on this bar. It is best to bring your own lunch, water and snacks. The bar is a nice area to take a rest; there are also some hammocks tied between the trees and apparently a small number of wooden cabins were being built. Perhaps in the near future it will also be possible to spend the night here.
We also saw a few signs advertising snacks and drinks in the abandoned villages; there are still some people there in summer and they may or may not have a small supply of things like bottled soft drinks and home baked cake. But again, don’t count on their presence and BYO just in case.
Are there toilets anywhere on the Truso Valley hike?
I didn’t see any on the trail, so be prepared to find your own bush toilet. The little outdoor bar mentioned above has a long-drop toilet in a wooden shed with plenty of flies buzzing around 🙂
How do I get to the trailhead of the Truso Valley hike?
It is about 20 minutes by car from Kazbegi to the start of this hike, with the last part through very rough terrain that requires a 4WD (don’t attempt this with a simple rental car). There are no public transport options.
With your own wheels
Go off-road at the village of Khobi (on the Military Highway from Kazbegi to Tbilisi) on the dirt track until you reach the beginning of the gorge at the tiny village of Nogkau.
By shuttle bus
An agency called Mountain Freaks offers a twice daily shuttle bus. They charge 30 GEL per person return trip. They leave Kazbegi at 09:15 and 11:15 from their office just down the road from the main square (click here to view on google maps). At the end of your hike they will pick you up again at 16:00 or 18:00h respectively. This will give you sufficient time to complete the hike at a fairly leisurely pace. Be mindful that their shuttles fill up fast, so book at least a day in advance. I found them to be unresponsive on whatsapp and quite rude in person at their office. So don’t expect any service beyond simply a drop-off and pick-up.
By (shared) taxi
In Kazbegi it will be very easy to find a ride. At the main square a number of locals will be soliciting you to let them take you to the trail. A shared taxi should cost 80 to 100 GEL total. This price includes the driver to wait for you at the trailhead and bring you back to Kazbegi at the end of your hike. The taxi is your cheapest option if you are with 3 or more persons. You may find other travellers wanting to go in your direction on the streets of Kazbegi around the main square in the morning.
You may also agree with the taxi driver to be taken right into the valley. That would help you skip the first 3 KM through the gorge. In my view, that would be a pity because the walk through the gorge is beautiful in itself. However, it could be an option if 21 KM is too far for you to walk in one day as you’ll cut about 6 KM off your route.
Day hike – Juta Valley trail and Chaukhi Pass
What is the Juta Valley hike?
This 20 km / 12.5 miles hike takes you deep into the Juta Valley. You’ll walk along a clear and rapidly flowing mountain river, past inviting mountain lakes and – if you are up for it – all the way up through the Chaukhi pass to mountain tops that offer spectacular views back onto the valley. You return the same way you came, but backtracking is no punishment here because it means you’ll just see more of this truly gorgeous valley.
What is it like to hike in Juta Valley?
This hike was absolutely jaw-dropping for me. In fact, I think it was my favourite of the three hikes we made around Kazbegi. The valley is just spectacularly beautiful. Its natural environment is so pure and unspoilt. The green of the valley contrasts with the white of the snow on the mountain tops, the river is so clear and cold, and the wild roaming horses complete the idyllic picture. The push to the Chaukhi pass added just that little bit of effort that made the hike all the more gratifying. I found it to be a great combination of leisurely strolling, picnicking in the most gorgeous spots, and some sweaty climbing to spectacular views.
How long does the Juta Valley hike take to complete?
If you want to go up the Chaukhi pass, count on spending some 6 hours back and forth (including a stop for lunch). Alternatively you could decide to only walk the length of the valley. That shouldn’t take you more than 1.5 to 2 hours. It will also allow you some time to swim in the mountain lakes at the base of the pass. If you have an extra day and camping gear you could camp up in the Chaukhi pass and continue to Roshka on the other side.
How difficult is the Juta Valley hike?
The stretch through the valley is super easy: the well defined paths are level all the way. The only climbing you’ll have to do is a short stretch at the very beginning from the village of Juta to where the valley opens up. Anyone can do it, also younger kids. Going up the Chaukhi pass requires more effort: the climb is pretty steep. The first part is a trail made of loose rocks and schist stones. At some point there isn’t really a trail anymore, but you can see vaguely where other people have gone before you. Be careful not to lose your way (like we almost did!)
Is there any water or food available on the Juta Valley hike?
The only places where you can buy food and drinks are in Juta village, where there are a handful of cafes and a big ugly hotel, and a little bit higher up at the opening of the valley where there is a gorgeous bar / guesthouse / campground which also makes a great spot for relaxing in this beautiful environment. Beyond that, it’s just nature so you should bring your own lunch and plenty of water.
Are there toilets anywhere on the Juta Valley hike?
There are no toilets beyond the above mentioned campground.
How do I get to the trailhead of the Juta Valley hike?
This also requires a short drive from Kazbegi. Your options are the same as for the Truso Valley hike described above: there is no public transport. With your own wheels you get off the Military Highway at the village of Sno until you reach Juta. This can be done without a 4WD but it’s still a pretty rough and dusty road. Alternatively take the Mountain Freaks Shuttle or shared taxi as described above. Prices and timings for the shuttle are the same as for the Truso Valley Hike.
For me these were the best day hikes in Kazbegi
I hope this resource about the best day hikes in Kazbegi was useful for you. I wish I would have had more time to explore other trails but so far these were absolutely the best ones for me. They provided a great mix of easy valley walks and some challenging mountain hiking. Enjoy your hikes and I’ll be happy to hear from you in our comments section below!
A great general online resource for anything about hiking in the Caucasus is the website https://www.caucasus-trekking.com/