Thinking of doing the Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church hike in Republic of Georgia? Don’t attempt the trek without reading these essential tips first!
1/ How to hike from Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church (and actually enjoy it) 2/ Hiking route map 3/ Photos from the hike & tips 4/ Other ways of getting to Gergeti Trinity Church 5/ How to get from Tbilisi to Kazbegi 6/ Where to stay in Kazbegi
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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. You don’t need any special hiking boots or poles or gear (I did the walk quite comfortably in sneakers). If you’re visiting in winter, you’ll obviously need to assess weather conditions when you get there. Please use common sense and don’t attempt this trek if you don’t have the proper winter gear, especially waterproof shoes.
In the warmer months, the only things you need to take with you are water, some snacks, sun protection gear. I did the trek in early autumn and found I still needed a jumper to fight off the chill at the top of the mountain.
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.
We visited Kazbegi in May. 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.
Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church hike: How to do the trek (and actually enjoy it)
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.
How to find the correct trail
This gentle trek takes about an hour to complete (one-way). I recommend setting aside at least three hours to walk up, visit the church, and get back down again.
First, make your way to Red Stone Guest House. Follow the sealed road up the hill. Eventually you’ll come to a T-junction where the road turns into a dirt track. Make a left, and continue straight. After you see the water spring on your right, you’ll see Cafe Gergeti up ahead.
Walk up the cafe driveway into the carpark, ducking under the boom gate. You’ll see a steep path up ahead, and a second black-dirt track to the left.
This path on the left is the one you want. It starts by winding around a stone tower (which you can see from the carpark) and follows a stream all the way to the church. As you climb up, keep the stream on your left.
The path isn’t marked—but it’s well-trodden and pretty easy going. It basically arcs around the mountain, so you approach the church from the south. For the final leg of the trek, you cross a green field to reach the entrance to the church.
Here’s a rough depiction of what the route looks like on the map (the preferred pathway is marked out in green).
Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church hike: Route map
There are a few major advantages to taking this route:
- 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 the south—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.)
To get you inspired, here are some of my favourite photos from the Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church trek (taken in March). You’ll find more tips for tackling the route in the captions.
What to wear/bring on the trek
This list applies to warmer months only. If you’re attempting the trek under snowfall (which I don’t necessarily recommend), you’ll need to make sure you have proper gear.
- For this trek, you’ll need a lightweight day pack. Here are my favourites.
- As mentioned, you can do this walk quite comfortably in good-quality sneakers. I wore my Nike Flyknits, and Ross wore his Merrell Men’s Bare Access runners.
- If you’re expecting weather, bring a wind-proof jacket and a waterproof cover for your backpack.
- One important thing to note is that men will not be allowed into Gergeti Trinity Church wearing shorts. Convertible pants are ideal for summer trekking (these ones are breathable and rated UV 50).
- Women need to cover their hair to enter the church. There are apron skirts and scarves on loan at the door, but I recommend carrying your own scarf for ease.
- Bring a reusable waterbottle and plenty of drinking water. You can fill your bottle up outside the church.
- Reusable Tupperwear will come in handy for carrying snacks (if you’re staying at a guesthouse, your host will undoubtedly outfit you with breakfast leftovers for the trek!). These collapsible containers are great for travel.
More packing inspiration: What to wear in Georgia, and everything you should pack for a trip to the Caucasus.
Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church hike: Photos & additional info
Other ways of getting to Gergeti Trinity Church
While I highly recommend the hike, I do understand that it’s not for everyone. If you’re short on time or you just don’t want to walk it, you can travel from Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity and back by 4WD. Cars and drivers wait around the bus stop on the opposite side of the river. You can pool together with other people to get a cheaper price.
In the near future, a new road up to the church will open, making the drive quicker, cheaper, and easier for regular sedans (and, presumably, tourist buses) to negotiate.
Planning a trip to the Caucasus? Check out my epic Georgia Armenia Azerbaijan itinerary.
How to get from Tbilisi to Kazbegi
Kazbegi (the starting point for the Gergeti Trinity church hike) lies roughly 150km north of Tbilisi via the magnificent Georgian Military Highway—which really is an attraction in itself.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi by marshrutka | Marshrutka vans regularly depart Tbilisi’s Didube Station for Kazbegi. A ticket costs 10 GEL, and the journey time is roughly 3.5-4 hours (depending on traffic and road conditions).
When you arrive at Didube, just ask around for the Kazbegi departure area (in all likelihood, a driver will probably find you first). The bus stop in Kazbegi is located on the eastern side of the river, close to the police station.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi by taxi | If you want to get to Kazbegi faster (especially if you’re planning to visit as a day trip) or you want to make stop offs along the way, I recommend travelling from Tbilisi to Kazbegi by shared taxi.
We paid 27 GEL each for two seats in a taxi (three passengers in total). Our driver was happy to stop off at the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, and at Ananuri on the way up. The total journey time was approximately 3 hours—but it would be a lot faster without the stops.
Coming back from Kazbegi, ask around the bus stop area for a taxi—or inquire with your guesthouse.
Or you could use GoTrip to organise a private car and driver. The cost is dearer, but you have more flexibility with timing and the option to stop wherever you like along the way.
Organised tours to Kazbegi from Tbilisi
If you’re short on time, you can visit Kazbegi and Gergeti Trinity as a day tour from Tbilisi. Although it might not be possible to do the hike, these tours include transport up to the church by 4WD.
Where to stay in Kazbegi
There are lots of guesthouse options in Kazbegi. I highly recommend Red Stone Guest House, which is run by a very friendly couple and their daughter. The guesthouse is spacious and very clean, with a long front balcony that looks out over the town and valley. A home-cooked breakfast comes included in the rate.
The best thing about Red Stone is the location: Situated on the western side of town, it’s close to the Gergeti trailhead—meaning you won’t have to walk across town first to reach the starting point for the Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church trek. If you’re starting the trek from the other side of town, you’ll need to add at least 20 minutes to the trek.
You can find more accommodation options and Kazbegi restaurant recommendations here.
Travelling around Georgia? Here are my guesthouse recommendations for the rest of the country.