Stepantsminda is a small town in north-eastern Georgia. It is the center of the Kazbegi Municipality with an elevation of 1,740 m. It is located on one of the Georgian military highways and you will have to overcome lots of trucks going to Russia on the way here. Even though the town is pretty small and has just a couple of streets, it is a strategic spot for all kinds of hikes and trips.
The whole town is surrounded by mountains (4k to 5k m tall). The view from here is amazing The highest mountain of all is Mt. Kazbek (5,054 m) with its icy top. This mountain can be seen only in the morning. Since 10 am the clouds cover it up fully and you have to wait another day to see it.
I would say that most of the time of the year there are more tourists than locals. And the town is equipped just for that. You can find lots of small hotels, B&Bs, and restaurants there. Most restaurants are along the Military road going through Stepansminda. They usually serve local Georgian cuisine and are all very similar. The restaurant with the best google rating is Beba Bari.
Traditional food, beer, and the view
Saint Michael The Archangel Orthodox Church is located inside the town, Behind there is a 5k mountain, which is hiding by the clouds.
How to get to Stepatsminda?
You can rent a car in Tbilisi and drive all the way up here. That was our case since we planned to be on a move during our stay in Georgia and wanted to be flexible with timings. This was our first stop on the way from the airport in Tbilisi. It took us around 3hrs 15 mins. It is a nice road going through the famous ski center Gudauri, where the views are also amazing. Else there is plenty of buses and taxis going from Tbilisi which can take you here.
If you are fancy having some local experience, use Marshrutka (shared vans) that go from Didube station in Tbilisi (one way is usually 10 GEL)
Where we stayed in Stepatsminda?
We spent two nights in a small hotel – Hotel Elegant. Nothing really fancy, but it was ok. The hotel has around 5 rooms in total and the staff lives next door. The rooms have a balcony, where you can relax and watch mountains or dry out your clothes. There was also a kitchen downstairs, which can be used to cook your own meals. The lady accommodating us did not speak English and was only smiling. She was not able to tell us how to pay. Even though you book your accommodation through Booking.com, they always prefer cash (or it is the only option how to pay at the property). We were leaving on Sunday pretty early in the morning and since the hotel lady was still sleeping we left her a message that she can deduct the payment through booking.com and left the hotel. I think her husband saw us leaving and must have woken her up. She ran out to the street in a bathrobe with still one eye closed and was asking for the payment. Other than that we did not have any issues and she was really nice and kind, but the language barrier is frustrating. ?
View from Hotel Elegant
So why is it that this place is so popular and tons of tourists are streaming in and out every day? This town has a strategic location if you wish to visit the most famous and beautiful church in Georgia and if you are interested in other wonderful hikes in the neighborhood such as Mt. Kazbek, Gudauri, and more.
Gergeti Trinity Church and Mt. Kazbek
Gergeti Trinity Church is not far from the town. And it is the main reason for the tourists to come to Stepantsminda. It is a nice walk, but careful! the church is on a hill inside of mountains. So be ready to climb up. Or take your car and drive to the church. Parking is available just next to it.
Apart from the church you can continue the hike and climb up the mountains until you reach Mt. Kazbek, which is the highest peak and you can touch snow (even in July) and see an iceberg. The views are just amazing!! More about the hike to Gergeti Trinity church and Mt. Kazek here.
Gergeti Trinity Church
Stepantsminda from the top
You can find more tips on hikes around Stepatsminda in this article.
Gudauri – stop on the way
Since I mentioned Gudauri. We went through it on the way to and back Stepantsminda but did not spend much time there. It is a big ski areal, which has great ski slopes. However, as of now, there is a huge reconstruction happening and a lot of hotels and resorts are being built. (It’s also an option for investors).
Memorial of Russo-Georgian friendship, 1983 to commemorate 100 years of common existence.