Georgia: 1-day hike from Stepatsminda to Mt. Kazbek

Georgia: 1-day hike from Stepatsminda to Mt. Kazbek

Our first hike in Georgia was from Stepantsminda to the foot of the Gergeti glacier covering Mount Kazbek. Stepantsminda is a small town in 1,740 m surrounded by mountains and one of them is the highest one – Mt. Kazbek (5,047 m). To climb up Mt. Kazbek to the top is very difficult because you need proper climbing equipment such as ropes, helmets, Ice Gripper Cleats for your shoes, etc. The top and the way there are covered by glaciers (one of them is Gergeti glacier) – even during the summer months.

The hike can be started from Stepantsminda and climb it all the way to church and then continue to Mt. Kazbek (20.4 km). Or you can save some time by driving to the church, park there and then continue on foot (11 km). The route from Gergeti Trinity Church to the foot of the Gergeti glacier took us 7 hours with a couple of breaks to enjoy the views, touch the snow and fly the drone. The total elevation was 1,170 m.



Gergeti Trinity Church

The first stop was Gergeti Trinity Church from the 14th century in 2,170 m. This is one of the most popular Georgian landmarks and it is truly remarkable. It is a beautiful building in the middle of the mountains. The views are just amazing and the place is just magical! It is not a surprise that we witnessed a proposal when we were there. It is a functioning church so be respectful, don’t forget to wear appropriate clothes, and stay quiet.

Gergeti church with Mt. Kazbek in the background and the view back on Stepatsminda

Mt. Kazbek from the Trinity Church, still fully visible

Hike from Trinity Church to Altihut 3,014

11km | 7 hours | 1,170m up and down

From the church, we headed towards Mt. Kazbek on foot. There are two routes you can choose from – the scenic route going on the right, or the classic one on your left. I recommend starting with the scenic one because you will have unforgettable views of Mt. Kazbek. It is super important to start the hike early in the morning since Mt. Kazbek covers up in clouds around 10 am and you won’t get a second chance. As running late is our second name, we started the climb up at around 9 am, so we only had one hour to enjoy the view. In one hour we reached a nice viewpoint, where we said goodbye to Mt. Kazbek already covering in clouds, and continued towards the top.

That’s where we met two dogy friends who basically accompanied us on our way up. From this viewpoint, it was a nice walk up around the mountain. At the top of the mountain, there is a nice view of small waterfalls, which is basically water rushing down from the glacier. With good visibility, you will also see a small mountain cabin on the right – that’s Altihut 3,014 where we wanted to get.

Altihut 3014 from the mountain top

Altihut 3,014 on the left and glacier made waterfalls on the right – Mt. Kazbegi already well hidden in clouds

Before heading there we stopped for our first lunch on this tiny little gas stove. By the way, it wasn’t easy to find it in Tbilisi. After driving around the city we got it in a hidden tourist shop called Geoland (it was their last). We had delicious Chinese noodles and salami – yummy. 🙂


We thought we started the hike very early, but the real hikers started even earlier. And when we were reaching our top, they were already coming down so we could see what kind of equipment they had. This was the moment of realization, that I was not that prepared and equipped as I’d thought I was. Before going to Georgia, I bought my first big backpack thinking this is already too much, and I’ll be a proper hiker with the proper backpack accompanied by my pink Adidas running shoes. But seeing all those real hikers with proper bags, proper light tents, proper light sleeping pads, helmets, ropes, shoes for snow, I realized the final part of this hike (going through the glacier) will not be for us.

When we reached an altitude of almost 3,000 m there was a small river which we had to cross on a tiny bridge and most importantly there was a little bit of snow. Snow in July? We had to touch it.


After crossing the river we finally reached our top – a hut and a Sabertese campsite next to it. From this point, there was just a path going directly to the glacier and further to the top of Mt. Kazbek. The Hut, house, with Georgian flags all over and a heliport next to it is Altihut 3,014, which is a brand new mountain hut. This ambitious, private project funded by three Georgian entrepreneurs strives to provide Swiss quality for Swiss prices. You can book a night or go just for a beer. That is something unusual in the Georgian mountains since most of the other places have nothing but nature. But also expect to pay a little extra since it’s very special and all the things are transported here on horses or by helicopter.

Altihut 3014 and its heliport

Altihut 3014 and its heliport

Bird perspective from the Glacier.

…and this is the glacier leading the way to the top of Mt. Kazbek.

As mentioned before next to this building there is a campsite, where the hikers usually sleep and gather energy before going up to the top of the steep road down. The next stop on the way up is usually the famous Betlemi hut (3,650 m). We read a lot about Betlemi before we began our expedition, however, did not reach it and only searched for it by eyes while looking around from the Altihut 3.014. The view was amazing even though we couldn’t see the Betlemi Hut. There is still a full view of the top of Mt. Kazbek and the path going there. After a while, we just turned around and headed back. For the way back we chose the classic route which should be faster and without the views on Mt. Kazbek. It was pretty steep and we bumped our butt more than once. So be careful and wear appropriate shoes if possible.

The whole trip ended by meeting with our car inside of a group of horses.

Sheep and goats rushing to the water source

Betlemi Hut

The experienced mountain hikers can continue their way up through the glaciers. Their next stop is usually a former weather station called Betlemi Hut. It is situated at 3,650m on the slope of Mt. Kazbeg. The climbers can choose if to stay indoors or build a tent next to the station. The Hut can accommodate around 50 people. But don’t expect any fancy equipment or a clean environment.

Mt. Kazbek thanks to his height had always people’s respect and is strongly connected to Georgian mythology. Legend says that there is a cave monastery Betlemi built in the 6th century. The monastery is hidden in a rock wall 80m above the ground at an elevation of 3800m. It is the most inaccessible monastery in Georgia. The monks had to climb the iron chain to get inside. During the Mongol invasion, it is believed that a group of soldiers hid royal and church treasures. And when the treasure was hidden in the cave, they killed each other so none of them is able to reveal the secret. The monastery was hidden so well that it was rediscovered only during Second World War. During the war, only coins, books, and other antiquities (but no royal treasure) were found.



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