Beautiful Backpacking off the Beaten Track – Kazbegi, Georgia
Top Backpacking Destinations Ranking: 9/10
Heard of Kazbegi? Thought not. But if you’ve got any hint of an interest in travel then you’ll want to get very familiar with it soon as it really is a special place. With glaciers, gorges and tiny mountain villages it’s a European cross between the Inca trail and Patagonia.
Kazbegi is situated in the north of Georgia just a few hours away from the capital Tblisi. It has the village of Stepantsminda at its heart and this acts a destination in its own right as well as a jumping off point to other tremendous spots in the region. It is home to the Tsminda Sameba church, a symbol for the country, and a great place to get spectacular views of the village and the Kuro Mountains.
From Stepantsminda you can head out on treks around the region which will lead you to breathtaking scenery at every turn as well as wonderful people in the tiny mountain villages you stumble across. Take your pick of the glaciers; Gergeti and Devdoraki are both stunning. If you want to go a step further after reaching the Gergeti Glacier you can continue to Meteo Station which is the base camp for Mount Kazbek for all the climbers out there. It also offers beautiful vistas of the glacier if you don’t fancy heading for the summit at 5033m! Once you’ve had your fill of the glaciers you can head for Darial Gorge which will soon host the second largest monastery in the country (it’s still being built). It’s also a superb spot for bird watching if that floats your boat.
If you’re looking for people rather than birds then Kazbegi delivers on that front too. The region is littered with tiny mountain villages such as Arsha, Jutta and Tsdo which all have their own character and quirky features such as mineral springs or thousands of bees(!) in Tsdo’s case. Not all will be well populated, Tsdo in particular only has a few people there in summer months (maybe because of all the bees!), but they’re all worth a visit.
You won’t be disappointed by the people you do meet in Georgia, they’re renowed as some of the friendliest in the world and you can rely on them to be hospitable and helpful whenever you’re lucky enough to cross their path. The best way to travel around the country is in little minibuses (called Marshrutkas) and it is testament to the wonderful people that this small, personal method remains a safe one.
It’s hard to find any drawbacks for the backpacker in Kazbegi. It is cheap, has wonderful people and is accessible yet unspoiled. The range of things you can see and do when you visit is endless and when you’ve done them all you can just sit down with the local folk and have a fantastic time. Sooo, bad things? Its name is quite hard to say i guess….
You can check out other backpacking destinations in Europe here to see if any measure up to Kazbegi and it would be great to hear from you in the comments if you’ve been lucky enough to visit yourself.