A town in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains, in a gorge surrounded by mountains on all sides. The main city of Kazbegi municipality, the population is 1,850 people. Someone compares these places with Tibet - perhaps because of the ascetic atmosphere of the settlement blown by the mountain winds or because of the numerous mountain cows that are freely walking around. And someone calls Georgian Siberia because of the extraordinary silence and emptiness. But with confidence we can say: this region will not leave anyone indifferent. No photos will convey the beauty of the local nature, the majestic Kazbek. This must be seen with my own eyes.
The history of Stepantsminda
In the old days, this region was called Moheve or Mokheviya, and the inhabitants were Mohevi, a pure people by blood, who avoided mixing with different conquerors, repelling numerous attacks and remaining undefeated over the centuries.
From 1921 to 2007, the city was called Kazbegi, by the name of Alexander Kazbegi, a native of this settlement, a writer and poet, a singer of highland peasantry.
And the historical name (sometimes pronounced Stepantsminda) immortalized the name of the monk Stepan Pitskhelauri, who saved the local residents: at night he rang the bells, warning the sleeping residents about the mudflow as a result of heavy rain.
Climate in Stepantsminda
Alpine with short summers and long winters, abundant precipitation, sharp temperature fluctuations and high solar radiation. The average annual temperature is +5 degrees: in the summer +14, in the winter - 18. The gorge is blown with cool winds even on hot days of summer.
How to get there
In about 3 hours from Tbilisi you can get by bus from the bus station near the Didube metro station (depart every hour, the first at 7 am), the last bus from Stefantsminda leaves at 18 o'clock.
Where to stay in Stepantsminda
There are three hotels: four-star "Kazbegi" and two three-star, "Stefantsminda" and "Green Sheep" (Green Sheep). "Kazbegi" is among the ten best hotels in Georgia and one of two expensive hotels overlooking the glaciers: the design bureau "Rooms" has changed beyond recognition the old Soviet guesthouse, "wearing" it outside and inside the tree. In the three-storey modern "Stefantsminda" there is a restaurant, terrace, windows of some rooms overlook Kazbek.
There are also several hostels and guesthouses. In general, finding accommodation is not difficult: many houses are ready to shelter you and provide a guesthouse, even without prior booking.
Attractions in Stepantsminda
On the bank of the Terek, in the former Kazbesh Palace, the Kazbegi Museum is located, its exhibits tell about the history of the mountain tribe of Mokheev, one of the sections of the museum is dedicated to the life and work of A. Kazbegi (in the courtyard of the museum - the grave of the famous writer, a monument to him). The exposition houses the iron gates of the Betleme Cave, the oldest Christian cave temple found at an altitude of 4000 meters.
Of interest is the Russian church of St. Nicholas with stone carvings on the facade. Near the cemetery, where there are gravestones of Russian officers of the XIX century.
The most famous sight is the monument of the XIII-XIV centuries of Tsmind Sameba (Holy Trinity Church) in the village of Gergeti, three kilometers from Stefantsminda. The spectacular location of the temple invariably attracts tourists: it is located on a mountain with a height of 2,200 meters, and Kazbek serves as its “background”. Incredibly beautiful sight! In addition to the will, the lines of the great Pushkin are remembered: both about the royal tent shining with eternal rays, and the transcendental cell, and the Ark in the sky, singing in the sky, and the neighborhood of God ... There is a beautiful panorama from the temple.
Not far from the village of Gveleti there is the Gveleti Falls, one of the highest in Georgia: a mountain stream falls in two cascades from a height of more than 20 meters. Of course, the main natural attraction is Kazbek (Mkinvartsveri, as Georgians are called). On its slopes subalpine meadows, and at the top - eternal snow. On one of the peaks the river Tergi (Terek) originates.
Excursions in Stepantsminda
You can take a few walks and excursions.
Two kilometers away is the village of Pansheti with a source of mineral water (sulfuric, slightly carbonated, quite tasty). In Soviet times, there was a small plant here; at present, it is planned to build an enterprise for bottling mineral water. At the top of the cliff stands a well-preserved tower (there are three of them).
Four kilometers from Stefantsminda (two kilometers from Pansheti) are andesite caves, hollowed out of a rock at an altitude of 1900 meters. They offer a picturesque view of Aragvi, flowing from the wide Gudushaur gorge, the Gudushaur fortress. The path from the caves leads to a small stream, on which stand interesting mountain mills.
You can visit the fortress and waterfalls (there are two of them, "The Maiden's Spit" and "Men's Tears") near the village of Arsha. According to legend, the Arsh fortress, located on a high cliff, has never surrendered to the enemy.
Through the Kazbegi district stretches the Georgian Military Highway, the most picturesque automobile road of our planet. For more than 200 years, it is rightly called the main gate from Russia to Georgia.
Not far from Stefantsminda on the area of about 9 thousand hectares Kazbegi National Park is located.
Recently, these places have become very popular for tourists who love outdoor activities: from here start climbers, conquering Kazbek; paragliders are flying, you can fly with an instructor and see these places from a bird's-eye view. Here you can ride horses or find guides and horses for long journeys or climbing; take a walk to the glaciers or rafting on mountain rivers and artificial rowing canals; There are trails for cycling and motocross.
• Prepare your local currency in advance: the bank is here, but does not work on weekends, and it changes at an unprofitable rate.
• Be careful in the mountains, dress warmly, shoes should be comfortable.
• Going to Pansheti, grab a mug and a towel.
• If you are planning a trip in July, then visit Tsminde Sameb at Gergetob, the Day of Spiritual Love, the oldest Christian holiday traditionally celebrated in Georgia on July 16.