There are many amazing places to visit located close to Tbilisi. From the old capital of Mtskheta to the wine region of Kakheti, you are never short of day trips or weekend getaways to add to your Georgia itinerary. However, arguably the most spectacular trip that you can take is to travel from Tbilisi to Kazbegi and explore the mountains.
The town of Kazbegi is officially known as Stepantsminda after having its name changed back to its original version in 2006. However, it is still commonly referred to as Kazbegi, probably due to the star attraction of the village being the imposing Mount Kazbek.
If you want to see some of the Caucasus mountain range during your time in the region, then travelling from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is undoubtedly the easiest option. In this article, we’ll break down the best way to get between the two destinations, how many days to spend and the best things to do in Kazbegi when you arrive.
How to Travel from Tbilisi to Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)
There are four main options for travelling from Tbilisi to Kazbegi: bus, taxi, car or organised tour. The distance from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is 155km.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi Bus
The most affordable option to travel from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is the same as for most routes in Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan – the mighty marshrutka. If it’s your first time in the region, marshrutkas are minibuses that are the main form of transport for locals. The marshrutka to Kazbegi departs from Didube Bus Station — the same station where you can get transport to many other cities in Georgia such as Kutaisi and Borjomi.
You can get to Didube Bus Station from the centre of Tbilisi by either taking the metro which costs 50 tetris a ride (you’ll need to buy a card for 2GEL) or a taxi for around 5-7GEL. We recommend using the Bolt or Yandex taxi apps to order a taxi to ensure you get a fair price.
When you arrive at Didube, look for the elevated yellow sign that you see in the picture below that says ‘Stefancminda-Kazbegy’. If taking a taxi, you can ask your driver to drop you off in the right part of the bus station or, chances are when you are close, one of the marshrutka drivers will approach you asking if you want to go to Kazbegi.
The bus from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda costs 10GEL and is paid to the driver when you board the bus. The bus timetable is almost hourly leaving 8am, 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, 5pm, 6pm and 7pm. Unlike other marshrutkas in the region, they tend to leave on time even if not completely full so it’s best to get there a bit before departure to secure a spot.
The journey from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda takes about 3 hours with a brief stop half way where you can use the bathroom and buy snacks. The journey itself is quite spectacular and you are treated to some amazing scenery, particularly for the second half of the journey.
It is also possible to take a ‘sightseeing marshrutka’ for 20GEL that includes stops at some of the attractions on the way from Tbilisi to Kazbegi. These don’t appear to run on a specific schedule so you’ll need to check on the day of your departure if this is an option.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi Taxi
If you prefer not to take the marshrutka from Tbilisi to Kazbegi, then you can also find a shared or private taxi from Didube Bus Station. The prices will vary on a number of factors including the type of car and whether you want to stop on the way.
On the way back from Kazbegi to Tbilisi, we ended up paying 20GEL each for a seat in a shared minivan as the marshrutka was already full. However, the minivan could accommodate 8 people who brought the per person price down. For a regular car that can fit up to 4-5 people, I would expect to pay around 120-150GEL for the whole taxi one way.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi Tour
In the same way, you can organise transport at Didube Bus Station, you’ll also find a number of taxi drivers wanting to organise your whole trip to Kazbegi. This can be a great option if you’re only planning on visiting for a day, don’t want to spend much time hiking and would like to visit a few stops on the way.
If you prefer to book your Kazbegi day trip in advance, then there are also some options online for group tours or private tours. This guided Kazbegi group tour leaves daily and includes a visit to the Gergeti Trinity Church, Ananuri and Gudauri which is a great option if travelling solo. You can also book this similar, but private, tour if you are travelling as a family or with friends.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi Car
A great way to travel from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda if your trip budget allows it is by renting a car. This gives you the ultimate flexibility to stop where you want on the way and also be able to explore some of the attractions located outside of the main town when you arrive.
I recommend browsing on Rentalcars.com to find the best deals for car hire in Georgia from major international companies.
Walking around Tbilisi Old Town you will also see a number of private owners advertising cars for rent. If you want to rent from a private individual, you can use Myrentacar which connects these private cars with renters.
If renting a car in Georgia, I suggest taking out an excess insurance policy through a third party like iCarHireInsurance. This will ensure you don’t need to pay any excess if you have to make a claim and will be cheaper then taking out the equivalent insurance through the car hire company.
How Many Days in Kazbegi?
The decision for how many days to spend in Kazbegi comes down to a couple of factors. For most people, I think spending 2 nights is sufficient if you are not planning on doing a lot of hiking and are limited in the amount of time you can spend in the region. 2 nights will allow you to have one full day exploring the nearby attractions and if you’re really tight for time you could spend only 1 night in Kazbegi and take a marshrutka back to Tbilisi in the late afternoon on your second day.
I would only recommend doing a day trip to Kazbegi if you’re really short on time and don’t want to do any hiking in the region.
On the hand, if you have time available, you could spend up to 3 or 4 nights in the region which will allow you to do additional day trips from Stepantsminda such as to Truso Valley and Juta.
Things To Do in Kazbegi
There isn’t much to do in the actual town of Stepantsminda, so the main reason people come to Kazbegi is to explore the surrounding countryside.
Hiking to Gergeti Trinity Church
Arguably one of the most popular things to do in Kazbegi is to tackle the hike to Gergeti Trinity Church. The road to the church has been improved in recent times so while it is possible to visit the church without hiking here, the highlight of our time in Kazbegi was undoubtedly some of the amazing views we got during the hike. In fact, the church itself is nothing spectacular particularly compared to other ones you will see during your time in Georgia.
There are a few different trail options that will take you to the top of the church and I strongly suggest downloading Maps.Me so you can view all the trails offline. The first part of the hike if you’re staying in Stepantsminda is to walk to the next village which is called Gergeti. The path follows the main road out of the town and takes about 20 to 30 minutes to walk.
The most popular trail that hikers seemed to be taking to the top was the one that goes straight up the side of the hill and intersects the main road. We ended up taking this path down and wouldn’t recommend it. The path is extremely steep and the views are far inferior to what some of the other trails offer.
Instead, I recommend following the map to Gergeti Summer Cafe and taking the trail that starts there. There is a water tap to fill up bottles here.
You will see some ruins in the distance that you should walk towards. After you pass the ruins, the path will eventually break into two. We kept to the path on the left which follows the stream for the majority of the hike. The path itself isn’t very well marked which is why having an offline map is important, particularly if you’re not an experienced hiker. The path is primarily loose rocks and at times there might be some scrambling involved so make sure you have appropriate footwear.
During the final stretch of the hike, you will need to turn right and walk through a pasture where you will get a glimpse of the Gergeti Trinity Church. This trail actually leads to you walking around the church and hiking to it from behind so you will get a unique vantage point.
Once you view the church, it’s a short (but steep!) walk up through a cow pasture until you get to the church and can enjoy the fruits of your labour. The hike takes about one hour from Gergeti and I would say is of moderate difficulty. As long as you have a basic level of fitness you should be able to complete it.
If the hike to the church felt like a walk in the park, then you can continue your hike by walking towards the Gergeti Glacier. This is an all-day hike that will cover over 20 kilometres and take at least 8 hours.
We ended up spending about an hour at the top, enjoying the views and hoping the clouds would clear from the top of Mount Kazbek. As mentioned earlier, we took the main path back down to Stepantsminda, however, if we had our time again I would probably take the same path back that we took up.
Once back in Gergeti, there is a small shack opposite Panorama Kazbegi that serves delicious barbeque, donors and cold beers which was much needed after our hike!
Other trips from Kazbegi
We only spent 2 nights in Kazbegi so didn’t have time to visit any of the other sites in the region. Two of the most popular places to visit as day trips from Stepantsminda are Tusco Valley and Juta Valley. Both have unique landscapes and more hiking opportunities as well as significantly fewer visitors when compared to Stepantsminda.
To visit these places you can either other a taxi from the centre of Stepantsminda or take one of the scheduled buses organised by Mountain Freaks. During the summer months, they organise group day trips leaving to either Tusco or Juta Valley at 9:00 am or 11:00 am and costing 30GEL per person. In the offseason, you should contact them directly to see if they have any departures or alternatively, you can organise private transport through them.
Alternatively, you can also book a half-day tour from Kazbegi here that will take you to Juta Valley as well as Gveleti Waterfall.
Travelling back from Kazbegi to Tbilisi
Your options for travelling back to Tbilisi from Kazbegi are the same as when you arrive. The marshrutkas leave hourly based on the timetable in the pictures below. If leaving in the morning, I suggest getting there early to secure a spot as we arrived about 15 minutes before departure and it was already full.
Nevertheless, there will be opportunistic taxi drivers who will take you to Tbilisi for a slightly higher rate. We ended up paying 20GEL each for a seat in a shared minibus which on the plus side was infinitely more comfortable than the marshrutka!
Where to Stay in Kazbegi
There are numerous options for where to stay in Kazbegi ranging from small family run guesthouses to modern luxury hotels. These are some of our recommendations.
Guest House Kavtarashvili 38 – A lovely small family-run guesthouse, located on a quiet street a few minutes walk from the bus station. Rooms are clean, comfortable and the owners are very friendly with a delicious breakfast available. Click here to check their availability
Red Stone Guest House – This guesthouse is located between Stepantsminda and Gergeti, making it a good option if your priority is to hike to the church. Their rooms are spacious, clean and breakfast is included in the daily rate. Click here to check their availability
Rooms Hotel Kazbegi – If you want to travel to Kazbegi in style then this is the place to stay. This luxury hotel has a range of moderns rooms with spectacular views and great facilities such as a swimming pool and sauna. Even if you’re budget doesn’t allow you to stay here, you can still pop into the bar for a drink! Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Kazbegi!
A trip from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is undoubtedly a must when travelling around Georgia if you want to see some of the spectacular Caucasus mountain range!
When travelling in Georgia, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you travelling from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda? What are some of your favourite things to do in Kazbegi? Let us know in the comments below!