Stepantsminda is a small urban-type settlement located at the foot of Mount Kazbek. It is known far beyond the borders of Georgia due to its healing mineral springs, favorable climate and unique architectural and natural monuments along the Georgian Military Highway, which runs along the Darial Gorge. See ANDYEDUCATION for education and training in Georgia.
According to legend, the first settlement of the Mokhevites, the local indigenous people, was first located in another place – at the foot of Mount Kuro. One night, after a heavy downpour, a mudflow descended from the mountain, which could sweep away the houses standing at the foot of the earth from the face of the earth. Then the monk Stepan Pitskhelauri began to ring the church bells, the inhabitants woke up and were able to avoid death. People left their destroyed dwellings and moved to the foot of Kazbek, founding a new settlement there: from 1921 to 2006 it was called Kazbegi, and in 2007 it was renamed Stepantsminda as a sign of respect for the monk who many years ago saved the settlement from destruction.
How to get to Stepantsminda
The easiest way to get to Stepantsminda is from Tbilisi. Minibuses depart daily from Didube metro station in this direction. They don’t have an exact timetable, they leave as they fill up, but it’s better to come in the morning or call the bus station in advance. The distance is just over 150 km, the road is beautiful, but not easy, so you will have to spend about 3.5 hours on the way.
Taxi to Stepantsminda and back will cost from 150 GEL. Prices on the page are for July 2021.
Stepantsminda has a good choice of housing – from the private sector with its simple village houses to luxury hotels. Here is one of the best hotels in Georgia – Rooms Hotel Kazbegi. This five-story hotel is built on a mountainside, far from the highway, one of its main features is a wide wooden terrace overlooking Kazbek. When booking, you should ask for a room with a mountain view, as half of the rooms face the opposite side, where there is no such a gorgeous view. The cost of accommodation is from 100 USD per day for a double room, you need to book in advance, as here everything is often reserved for weeks or even months in advance.
It’s worth stopping by Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, even if you didn’t get a room here, for example, to have a cup of coffee on the terrace, or even better to have lunch or dinner – the food here is excellent.
For budget tourists there are guest houses and cheap hotels (usually without stars). There are a minimum of amenities: a bed, a shower, Wi-Fi and sometimes breakfast, but it’s inexpensive – from 50 GEL per day for a double room. It is better to count on 80-100 GEL, in this case, the choice will be greater.
Cafes and restaurants in Stepantsminda
Most restaurants and cafes are located on the square or in its vicinity. There are two restaurants there – “Khevi” and “Stepantsminda”, which are famous for their beautiful interiors and good cuisine. In addition, there are many khinkal and other eateries with simple Georgian peasant food, they cook delicious food everywhere, almost every establishment has its own homemade wine, which is quite good.
If you want beauty and chic, stop your choice at the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi restaurant: they offer modern authentic Georgian cuisine, and after dinner you can play in the casino.
Entertainment and attractions of Stepantsminda
People go to Stepantsminda primarily for the sake of beautiful views of Kazbek, which open here from almost anywhere. Other sights of the village include the Trinity Church in Gergeti, the Church of St. Nicholas with luxurious carvings and bizarre ornaments, ancient Khevsurian fortified houses and the house-museum of the famous Georgian writer and poet A. Kazbegi.
Among the natural monuments in the vicinity of Stepantsminda, the lakes of the Kelskoye plateau and the Gveleti waterfall deserve special attention. Lakes Archvebistba, Kelistba and Kelitzad form a closed system and gradually dry up. These places are considered one of the most beautiful in the region and in the country as a whole, so popular trekking routes of medium difficulty pass here (it will not be easy for beginners without sports training).
Gveleti waterfall is another popular attraction in these parts. It falls in a powerful stream of andesite rocks from a height of 25 m away from the road connecting Gergeti and Gveleti. The stream gradually expands from 2 to 4 m at the place where it flows into the font formed under the pressure of the jets at the foot of the waterfall.
Historical and architectural monuments
The most popular attraction in Kazbegi is Gergeti Trinity Church, or Gergeti Church. It is located high on a mountain at an altitude of about 2000 m above sea level and was presumably built in the 10th century. Outside, it is decorated with ornaments and bas-reliefs, but the interior contrasts strongly with this external beauty: unplastered walls and a gray stone floor appear to tourists. But on the other hand, the iconostasis of the 4th century BC has been preserved here. and the icon of the Mother of God, miraculously survived a three-day fire built by the communists in the 1930s.
Believers claim that on August 28, 1989, pilgrims observed the appearance of the Mother of God in the temple for 20 minutes.
Tourists come here primarily for the beautiful views from the top. You can climb the mountain on foot, but without good physical preparation it will be quite tiring. The road to the church is narrow and bumpy, so driving (unless you have a jeep) can be dangerous. Local residents earn extra money by private cabs and for 40-45 GEL they will take you to the church and back.
Not far from Stepantsminda, the Georgian Military Road, about 3 km long, passes through the Darial Gorge – a popular tourist route rich in natural and architectural monuments. On the first kilometer of the road stands the Friendship Arch – a monument to the friendship of the peoples of Russia and Georgia with a mosaic panel and an observation deck. You can also see Tamara’s castle with the ruins of defensive structures dating back to the 2nd-3rd centuries. n. e.
At the confluence of the Kistinka and Terek rivers, another architectural monument rises – the temple of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel: a beautiful building made of pink stone with a cozy interior in the ancient Georgian style.
There is a small house-museum of Alexander Kazbegi in Stepantsminda. It is interesting both as the house where the writer lived and as a museum of local lore. The first floor of the house is reserved for the exposition of the museum: ancient coins, books, manuscripts, documents telling about the conquest of Kazbek and the construction of the Holy Trinity Church in Gergeti, as well as a massive iron gate with a chain, taken from the entrance to the mysterious Bethlem cave. The writer’s museum is located on the second floor. There you can see Kazbegi’s study, manuscripts and editions of his works, illustrations for his works.