A proper mountain hike was one of our top bucket list items for Georgia. The only thing is, I really don’t like trekking.
Give me a flat trail or city and I can walk all day, but as soon as there’s an incline involved, I’m out. Despite my complete ineptitude for strenuous walking or climbing of any sort, I always manage to sign us up for treks. I guess I enjoy the challenge. Or maybe it’s just FOMO that pushes me into it. Either way, our trekking experiences usually suck at the time, but we always wind up looking back on them fondly.
Serious trekkers might not even consider the walk from Stepantsminda (otherwise known as Kazbegi) to the 14th century Gergeti Trinity Church a trek at all. At an elevation of 2170m, the uphill walk takes the better part of two hours, but it’s nothing compared to hiking to Gergeti glacier or Mount Kazbek. I would class it as an entry-level trek, which is exactly what we were looking for.
The reason I wanted to do this particular trek so badly—and why I encourage you to do it to—is simple: this part of the world is absolutely stunning, and you can only get a true appreciation for the scale of the mountains if you’re travelling on foot. Besides, there’s not much else to do in Kazbegi aside from eating at Rooms Hotel—and trust me, that burger will taste so much better if you’ve done the trek first.
We visited Kazbegi in May 2017. It was extremely foggy on our first day—so much so that we couldn’t see anything of the landscape on the drive up from Tbilisi. Luckily on the day of our hike, the clouds lifted and the weather was perfect. I saw photos of Kazbegi just a few weeks prior to our visit and was shocked at how brown and lifeless the landscape looked. May might be a bit wet, but I would definitely pick a time of year to visit Kazbegi when it’s nice and green.
THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED
I was originally going to make this blog post all about hiking tips, but I only have one: Choose the path less travelled. Literally.
When you first approach the base of the mountain to ascend to the church, you’ll notice there are three or four different paths cut into the grass. Choose the wrong one, and you could be setting off on the hike from hell. Choose the right path, and you’ll have an awesome hiking experience – even if you’re unfit like me.
One or two of these paths shoot straight up the mountain at an impossibly steep angle. It’s pretty easy to identify them. There is another path on the far right of the mountain that looks pretty gentle, but eventually becomes interwoven with the road—meaning you’ll have to cross the road over and over again, constantly negotiating 4WDs and Jeeps. We came down on this path and it wasn’t very nice at all. Plus, nearer the top, it becomes very steep and treacherous.
The trail you want to go for is on the far left. At first, it looks like a flat track with no elevation at all, but eventually it starts meandering upwards. (At the time of our visit, there was a barking dog chained up right near the trailhead, but I’m not sure if it’s always there.) It probably takes longer to get up to the church via this route, but there are a few major advantages:
- It’s very lightly graded, so you’ll have more energy once you get to the top.
- The terrain is much better – no loose rocks or rubble.
- The path follows a pretty stream and takes you through fields and past a few ruined towers. There are some good photo opportunities on the way.
- You probably won’t see another person on the trail (we only encountered a few grazing cattle).
- You approach the church from a completely different aspect to the other paths. You get a much nicer view of the church, with green hills in the foreground and Mount Kazbek as a backdrop.
I cannot stress this enough: take the path on the left! (We got this tip from a couple staying at our guesthouse who had done the trek on the previous day. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I could have made it to the top.)
You should set aside at least three or four hours to do this trek justice. To get you inspired, here are some of my favourite photos from Kazbegi and Gergeti Trinity Church, plus a bit more information about the trek in the captions.
Do you have tips for the Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity trek or other treks in Georgia? Please leave them in the comments.