Stepantsminda (Kazbegi, Georgia) is an urban-type settlement, the administrative center of the Kazbegi region. According to 2014 data, its population is 1326 people.
Kazbegi is located 165 km north of Tbilisi and 43 km south of Vladikavkaz. It lies on a mountain plateau at the foot of Kazbek, its height above sea level is 1744 m. About 10 km from Kazbegi there is a border with Russia, and through the city itself is the famous Georgian Military Road connecting Georgia and Russia.
From 1921 to 2007, this town was called Kazbegi. This name was given in honor of the writer Alexander Kazbegi who was born here, and not in honor of the mountain Kazbek standing here, as many people think. Stepantsminda and Kazbegi – these names are confused now, even on the maps and in the navigator the city can be marked in different ways.
You will be interested: What to see in Stepantsminda and its environs are the sights of the town .
How to get from Stepantsminda from Tbilisi
There are several options for how you can get from this Georgian capital, Tbilisi, to this small village hidden among the mountains.
The cheapest and most popular way is the minibus “Tbilisi – Kazbegi”. She runs every hour from 07:00 to 18:00, the departure point is the Okriba bus station near the Didube metro station. Travel time is 3 hours. In 2016, a ticket cost 10 GEL.
At the same bus station there are many taxis that take you to Stepantsminda. Of course, given how many kilometers are from Tbilisi to Kazbegi (156 km), it becomes clear that a taxi ride will cost much more than a minibus: if the car is on gas 130-150 GEL, and if the car runs on gasoline 230-250 GEL. By the way, a well-prepared car can be ordered in advance using the KiwiTaxi service , which works worldwide.
There is another option, how to get from Tbilisi to Kazbegi – you can rent a car and drive on your own. The main advantage of a rented car is that you don’t have to depend on anyone, you can stop anywhere along the way. But you need to consider that the road is quite complicated – almost all of it passes through the mountains, there are many sharp turns and long climbs. The shortest travel time is 2.5 hours.
Stepantsminda is a very small town in which everything valuable for tourists is located on the main street. A little to the west of this street is the cliff under which the Terek flows, and on the mountain slope to the east – the city outskirts, due to shaggy mountain cows causing associations with Tibet.
The development of infrastructure in Kazbegi owes much to tourism, especially notable changes occurred here in 2014 – 2015.
An exchanger is installed on the central square of Stefantsminda, money can also be exchanged at Liberty Bank. True, the course in Tbilisi and Kazbegi is slightly different – in the capital it is more profitable.
A Beeline SIM card center has been opened on the square, although they can also be bought in ordinary stores.
There are several food stores in Kazbegi, where there is always everything you need.
In 2015, the House of Wine store was opened in Stepantsminda, right on the main city square. And this is not a banal outlet, but a really good shopping center! They offer wines of different brands, you can always get professional advice and tasting products. Thanks to this shopping center, the level of the village as a holiday destination in Georgia has significantly increased.
On the main square of Kazbegi there are the most prestigious local institutions – the restaurants “Heavy” and “Stepantsminda.” At Stepantsminda, the prices are higher, but the food quality is better, there is also Wi-Fi. A restaurant and a bar open until one in the morning are available at the Kazbegi Hotel. Cafe 5047 is notable for the fact that visitors sitting on the open veranda on a cool evening will be given blankets.
It must be said that food prices in all Kazbegi establishments are on average 15-20% higher than in Tbilisi. And wine, if you take it with glasses, will be almost 50% more expensive.
Cozy khinkals managed to get huge popularity among holidaymakers, which offer simple, but very tasty and always fresh homemade food: khachapuri, khinkali, tea.
Having figured out how to get to Kazbegi, you need to take care of where to stay.
There are many guest houses in Stepantsminda, and the conditions in them are approximately the same, that is, without any frills. Such housing can be found on the spot yourself, simply by asking local residents, or wandering around the village in search of signs “rooms for rent.” If you do not want to waste time searching, it makes sense to rent a room in advance – most of the houses are presented in popular reservation systems on the Internet.
- Guest House “Soul Kazbegi” (prices from $ 16), located in the center of the village, you can choose a room with a private bathroom.
- Red Stone (prices from $ 16) has parking and free Wi-Fi, offering delicious homemade breakfasts.
- The Leo Hostel (prices from $ 23 per room) in the rooms has a shower, very comfortable new beds.
Well, then the cost of living only grows: you will have to pay 400 lari per day for a room in the 4 * hotel “Kazbegi” – so far there is only one such comfortable and luxurious establishment in Stepantsminda. You can rent a mountain bike here, but this service is only available to hotel guests. From its terrace you can observe wonderful views: Gergeti Church, the mountains of Kazbegi and even the majestic Kazbek. And even without being a hotel guest, you can always have coffee on its terrace and enjoy the mountain views of Georgia opening from here.
In 2016, a tourist information center began operating in Kazbegi. It is located in a modest one-story house, located on the main street, near the central square.
With the opening of this center, traveling has become much easier. The main thing is to take care of how to get from Tbilisi to Kazbegi on your own, and already on the spot you can rent a wide variety of equipment for climbing into the mountains: helmets, sleeping bags, carbines. You can also buy gas cylinders – a half-liter rifled one costs 30 GEL.
As the guides working here joke, all you need to take when heading to Stepantsminda is money.
A two-day tour, during which an ascent to the Gergeti church and a trip to the Gveleti waterfall is carried out, will cost $ 85. This amount includes payment for guide services and transfers from Tbilisi, as well as trips around the area by car. If you add more living expenses, food and gas, then a two-day trip for one person will cost at least $ 130.
You can find a guide for excursions to the sights in the village itself. In Kazbegi, for 60-80 GEL, you can hire a car for a trip to the Gergeti church, you can go to the Gveleti waterfall for 100-120 GEL.
Climbing to Kazbek will cost much more. The accompanying person is gaining a small group, payment per person is 600-700 €. It is impossible to get to the top of Mount Kazbek on your own – this task, to put it mildly, is not an easy one.
Horseback riding will cost $ 100-200 – it’s all about the distance. So, for $ 200 a tourist with his things can be taken to a weather station.
By car, you can go to the village of Dzhuta or to the Trusovsky Gorge – such routes will cost about 100 GEL.
Weather conditions in Stepantsminda
Despite the small distance between Tbilisi and Kazbegi, their climate is completely different. It is best to go to the mountain village in August to escape from the Tbilisi heat. The rest of the time here is quite cold, it is not for nothing that this area is called Georgian Siberia and come here in search of silence and loneliness.
Stepantsminda is characterized by mild winters with stable snow cover (in January the temperature is kept within -5 ° C) and relatively warm summers (in August the average temperature is + 14 ° C). About 800 mm of precipitation falls during the year, in summer the relative humidity is 72%.
The climate feature in Stepantsminda is volatility. The weather in this region of Georgia often changes even throughout the day: a warm summer day can be replaced by night, when the temperature drops to 0 ° C.
In general, Kazbegi (Georgia) is a cold town blown by mountain winds. Therefore, going to visit him, even in the summer you need to take warm clothes and raincoats with you.