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Updated 2019. At 10:00am Goram, our driver, picked us up in Tbilisi, Georgia and led my Dad and I to his silver Honda in preparation for our day trip from Tbilisi to the Kazbegi Mountains via the Georgian Military Road! Before we knew it we were heading up the highway, out of the City of Tbilisi with Goram pointing out iconic Tbilisi buildings in his broken English.
A trip to Kazbegi in Georgia had been on my Georgia bucket list from the moment Dad and I decided to go. I did look into staying for one night or two nights in Kazbegi but as we were spending just one week in Georgia and didn’t want to be moving from place to place constantly we decided to base ourselves in Tbilisi and do a day trip to Kazbegi from Tbilisi which was a great decision.
To see full details of what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Tbilisi check out my
There are organised group day tours to Kazbegi on offer in Georgia but because we made a last-minute decision to go to Kazbegi at 20:00 the night before we could only find a private tour on offer that’s what we did and it turned out to be my best day in Georgia!
Joining a group tour will keep costs down for you, especially if you’re travelling solo. I found that by going into tour offices and travel agencies in Tbilisi they said the tour would only run if there was enough people (which leaves you in a weird not knowing situation) or you have to pay the whole amount (not ideal), so I would recommend booking a group tour like these online to Kazbegi so you know you’re guaranteed a place:
If you wish to have a private tour like I did with my Dad, again I’d still recommend booking online to get the best price and so you can read the reviews:
After we left the city behind us we soon started to see farm land surrounding both sides of the road and straight away I was happy that we had done the trip as it reminded me that there’s so much more than just the capital city to Countries and it’s good to see more of a Country by car. We were heading North to Kazbegi through Georgia just a few km from the Russian border and would be travelling up the Georgian Military Road from Tbilisi which if followed would take us all the way to St Petersburg in Northern Russia (and probably even further).
The landscape was quickly changing, Dad pointed out a big mountain in the background and Goram simply laughed and told us that this was a tiny mountain compared to what we would see later in the day, our excitement was building!
Our first stop on our day trip to Kazbegi was the start of the Zhinvali Dam and Reservoir, it was just a quick pull-up-on-the-side-of-the-road stop but it was certainly very pretty. Although Dad and I were more distracted with the herd of sheep passing us a long the road with the shepherds, donkeys and dogs keeping all the sheep together. Dad said they were taking the sheep to higher grounds now Spring was here and this was another stark reminder of how traditional ways of farming and living were still in tact here.
We carried on driving along the edge of the Reservoir until we got to the Ananuri Fortress Complex which is a very iconic place in Georgia now. We parked up and headed straight to the church and to look out at the surrounding mountains. It was an iconic Georgian scene with the mountains, river, and cross on top of the fortress.
After some photo taking we headed back to the car via the market stalls that were in the car park, I was pleasantly surprised to not have locals shouting at us to look at and buy products, instead we were able to browse in peace.
From here we carried on North getting closer to Kazbegi from Tbilisi and getting higher and higher. The scenery also got more incredible as we went. After about an hour we reached a really mountainous area in Georgia and started passing some towns that in the winter are bustling Ski towns. We stopped for lunch at a petrol station with a deli area and of course I had to a cheese bread type thing as this is one of their local foods!
We jumped back into the car, really keen to reach Kazbegi and the mountains around us started to get more incredible with every corner we turned! Now and again we’d also see lone houses and churches up on the hill and I couldn’t imagine living so isolated!
On the horizon we saw a crescent shaped concrete thing, I had no idea what it is was and quickly started taking pictures but luckily we had a stop here, so we pulled into the car park and jumped out. The first thing that hit me was how fresh the air was!
We were surrounded by huge snow-capped mountains, there was a person paragliding between the mountains and in front of us we still had what now looked like a crescent shaped viewing platform, so we headed up the road to check it out. At the time I had no idea what it was which was the only down side to not being on an actual tour with an English speaking guide. I did look it up later though and it is the Georgian & Soviet Russia Friendship Monument built in 1983 which is one of the most popular places to visit now in Georgia.
I was even more surprised as we got closer to it as I realised it had been painted and was incredibly colourful. I had a sudden realisation that I had never seen a picture of this before…ever! It’s still a bit of a hidden gem, just like Georgia in general.
The view from up here was possibly even better than the view from where we had parked! A bit of research later on once I was back in Tbilisi told me that we were now overlooking Devils Valley of the Caucasus Mountains!
After getting lots of photos we headed back to the car. I honestly felt high on life from seeing such a beautiful sight and breathing in such fresh air.
I was also very excited as this stop seemed like the grand finale of our day tour from Tbilisi to Kazbegi however we were yet to even reach our actual destination of Kazbegi. We still had about a 40 minute drive from the monument to Stepantsminda which is the town below the Mt Kazbeg but also referred to as Kazbegi in a lot of accommodations location info.
Now, honestly I wasn’t too sure what was going to happen next. I knew that the church I wanted to see, and that I assumed we were going to see, was high up on a mountain but I didn’t know how high, how far and how steep!
The lady who sold us the tour said it would take 30 minutes to walk to the top or advised that we could get a jeep by ourselves or share with other people who were at the bottom. So when we pulled into a car park after arriving in Stepantsminda and were ushered straight from the car into a 4×4 with another local driver and waved off by Goram it left both Dad and I feeling rather confused. Naturally we tried to put our seat belts on to be told, no they didn’t work..
We started driving a long a narrow, windy road through what appeared to be a village and straight away we were on an incline up. We were also driving past a lot of people walking.. why aren’t we walking I wondered??!! My Dad does have a bad knee which Goram must have picked up on and I just assumed that he assumed we wouldn’t do the walk for some reason.
That reason became clearer however as we got further and further away from the car park and higher and higher up and passed more and more people and the road become bumpier and bumpier (literally the road was so bumpy!!) because I realised that it is one hell of a walk and that indeed, we were being taken right to the top.. which yes, I was pleased about, as was Dad.
(Note that it seems that most tours do not include this jeep in their packages and it will cost extra)
The journey was bizarre thats for sure, we were bumping around, I was trying to film and take pictures but quite frankly getting motion sickness looking through the lens, we often had a huge drop down one side of us with nothing but a bit of chicken wire between us and the drop and we were also catching up with some other vans and 4×4’s which were in-front of us. If you drive like we did then you take a slightly different route towards the church than if you walk due to where the road goes and after a 15 minute or so drive we were entering a field with a church perched high on the top of another small hill.
This wasn’t quite what I had been expecting, admittedly I hadn’t researched the church or how to get to Gergeti Trinity Church from Stepantsminda so I didn’t have many prior, accurate expectations but this certainly wasn’t it! We navigated one of the dirt tracks which led to a car park area before getting out extremely dazed and still quite confused at what had just happened in the last 15 minutes!
We quickly shook this off though and headed up the little hill to the church. This is the Gergeti Trinity Church. Basically this church is one of Georgia’s icons and one of the best places to see in Georgia. If you’ve seen a picture of a church in Georgia surrounded by mountains it’s likely to be this Church.
(2019 Update – From what I have heard this road is a little better and not as bumpy as of very recently)
We had a look around and took in the incredible views and from here you can see down to the town of Stepantsminda which is actually bigger than I expected it to be. We didn’t stay for too long as there isn’t that much more to see. I did keep a look out for people who were crossing the field on foot and wondered how they’d actually found the walk. It seemed to be pretty intense and wondered if they had known that before starting off or not!
We were then back in our 4×4 for another bumpy journey back down to the town. We got out and of course I wasn’t sure what the set up was in regards to payment, had we already paid for this in the main tour cost? Had we not?
As I expected it was extra so we paid the guy 80GL (£25.00), got back into Goram’s car and were heading down the Georgian Military Road back to Tbilisi which took about 3 hours. Even though we had done the exact journey just a few hours before I still loved looking out the window at all the scenery as Georgia is one pretty Country!
Overall it was such a great trip! The stop at the friendship monument was by far the highlight of the day trip from Tbilisi for Dad and I, maybe because we didn’t expect it and didn’t expect such incredible views and fresh air or maybe because getting to Gergeti church was bit of an unexpected whirlwind.
There is no public transport that will allow you to do this tour in one day and see all the stops on the way, so unless you hire a car, you’ll have to do a tour. This group tour is a great price, a best seller and highly rated. This private tour is also a really good price and will work out very reasonable when split between people and it’s got good reviews.
Here are my other 3 blog posts from Georgia which will help you out:
To SEE this trip check out my Vlog! Which shows you all of the amazing views (or at least most of them!) and just how bumpy that ride was!
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
JANUARY-MARCH: INDIA FOR MY GROUP TOURS!
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.