Backpacking in Georgia: The Gergeti Glacier Hike

jonny blair georgia northern hike gergeti

The amazing Gergeti Glacier hike in northern Georgia.

Georgia is a backpackers dream and should be on your list before you venture to places like Germany and Thailand. Hindsight is wonderful thing – I did the same as everyone else and only visited Georgia in 2013 when my bandwagon had finally rolled me to the Caucauses. After visiting Stalin’s town of Gori, the city of love in Sighnaghi, Batumi and a few other places, it was time for a winter hike to the Gergeti Glacier. It’s in the north of Georgia, not far from the border with Russia or indeed the disputed country of South Ossetia.

Leaving Tbilisi for Kazbegi

Leaving Tbilisi for Kazbegi

There were so many highlights in this country. We headed on the Georgian Military into the Ossettia region, on a shared marshrutka up north towards Russia. We stayed in the town of Kazbegi and found the Nazi Guesthouse in this town to be perfect, Sure it is no Travelodge but it suited us for three nights. You could of course check for your own transport options and look for all sorts of offers in advance of your trip on sites such as dealslands.co.uk/

Backpacking in Kazbegi

Backpacking in Kazbegi

Backpacking in Kazbegi

Backpacking in Kazbegi

Nazi Guesthouse in Kazbegi/Gergeti, Georgia

Nazi Guesthouse in Kazbegi/Gergeti, Georgia

Nazi Guesthouse in Kazbegi/Gergeti, Georgia

Nazi Guesthouse in Kazbegi/Gergeti, Georgia

Monastery on the trip to Kazbegi

Monastery on the trip to Kazbegi

From Kazbegi there are two main walks to do, both uphill and offering scintillating views of the surrounding mountains.

Starting the hike

Starting the hike

On the way to the top

On the way to the top

On the way to the top

On the way to the top

We got a huge breakfast at our base – Nazi Guesthouse and then headed through the village of Gergeti and up the hill with the famous Tsminda Sameba Church the first point of interest, after an uphill hike.

Huge breakfast

Huge breakfast

View over Kazbegi on the way up

View over Kazbegi on the way up

The famous Tsminda Sameba Church

The famous Tsminda Sameba Church

The famous Tsminda Sameba Church

The famous Tsminda Sameba Church

Incredible views

Incredible views

After visiting the Tsminda Sameba Church, we decided to head up further towards the Gergeti Glacier.

Flying the Northern Ireland flag on the Gergeti Hike

Flying the Northern Ireland flag on the Gergeti Hike

Further up the hike

Further up the hike

Textbook tourist photo including a Solitudinal Sphere

Textbook tourist photo including a Solitudinal Sphere

Panny and I before the snow

Panny and I before the snow

Panny before the snow

Panny before the snow

Panny and I on the hike into the snow

Panny and I on the hike into the snow

It was a long upward walk past stray wild dogs that follow and rocky terrain. Half way up it started snowing. It was a marvellous winter wonderland all around. We were there in October time and this was the first time I had seen snow in about two years since I was in Seoul, South Korea. In the intervening years I had only been in the Middle East and parts of Asia without snow. There was a grave and memorial on the way up and some information boards that could not be read so we had to wipe off the snow to read them.

A grave and memorial on the way up

A grave and memorial on the way up

Continuing the hike through the snow

Continuing the hike through the snow

The Gergeti Glacier is somewhere in here.

The Gergeti Glacier is somewhere in here.

Frozen over information boards we had to clear of ice

Frozen over information boards we had to clear of ice

We had a lunch stop on the way up and we decided that we would keep walking until 2 pm ish. At that point, we knew it was time to head back down. It was getting dark around 6 pm on that day, and we wanted to be back in Kazbegi by then. Well the village of Gergeti, as we believe it is known as it sits opposite the river from Kazbegi.

Reading an information board on the hike

Reading an information board on the hike

Admiring the scenery

Admiring the scenery

Flying my flag against the mist

Flying my flag against the mist

Walking towards the glacier viewpoint

Walking towards the glacier viewpoint

The Gergeti Glacier Viewpoint.
Around 1.30pm and we reach the Gergeti Glacier Viewpoint. Of course the snow is heavy and deep by this point and therefore the view is obscured. I’m not bothered by it at all – I’m not a weather freak! In fact it was amazing to see snow again for the first time since my South Korea trip in 2011.

Enjoying the snow in Gergeti

Enjoying the snow in Gergeti

Enjoying the snow in Gergeti

Enjoying the snow in Gergeti

Enjoying the snow in Gergeti

Enjoying the snow in Gergeti

My girlfriend wasn’t too keen on the snow and also said it ruined the view! For me it was the opposite. The views were simply beautiful as the photos hopefully show. The actual viewpoint looked down the other side of the mountain. In the distance you could make out the Gergeti Glacier, camouflaged by the valleys of snow. There was a small noticeboard with information. It was iced up. We took our photos and breathed in the ice cold air. We walked back the same way – we weren’t carrying tents or planning to camp out up there but we heard of people who did that. On this day though, we backpacked it alone. There wasn’t a soul in sight. We were at two with nature.

Back down to the lower parts without the snow.

Back down to the lower parts without the snow.

Back down to the lower parts without the snow.

Back down to the lower parts without the snow.

Posing on the way back down - we used a tripod - there was nobody else in sight

Posing on the way back down – we used a tripod – there was nobody else in sight

In the end we stayed an extra day in the town of Kazbegi, as my girlfriend was keen to see the Tsminda Sameba Church on a sunny day so we hiked up to it again the day after, booking another night in the hostel at Nazi Guesthouse.

Day 2 - we saw the same area shrouded in sunshine.

Day 2 – we saw the same area shrouded in sunshine.

Day 2 - we saw the same area shrouded in sunshine.

Day 2 – we saw the same area shrouded in sunshine.

We were there in October time and there were hardly any other tourists about which we found surprising. Apparently most of them go there in the months before that – July, August, September. This was a really worth while trip and I recommend Georgia a lot. I still haven’t got round to writing all about it yet. As ever, the stories are backlogged for years to come.

Here are some of my videos from the trip to Kazbegi and Gergeti from Tbilisi:

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6 thoughts on “Backpacking in Georgia: The Gergeti Glacier Hike

  • I have to agree that the snow capped scenery made it more special for you to climb up to the Gergeti Glacier. it really adds to that “isolationist” feeling that I would probably expect when backpacking around the Caucasus Region. Just the peace and tranquility would make it an inspiring hike. But to get to the top, you said it was about an 8 hour hike one way?
    Ray recently posted…Wrigley Field TourMy Profile

  • Hi Ray, thanks for the comment. To get to the actual glacier itself I think was a 2 day hike, we hiked to the glacier viewpoint only and back down on the same day. From memory it was an 8am start and 6pm finish, so probably was 6 hours up and 4 hours down. I do have a travel diary from it but I wrote most of this in 2013 and the rest from my memory. There were many other adventures in Georgia (the country) that I didn’t cover yet. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Awesome! Glad to see you are writing again on your own terms, BTW. Looking forward to reading the rest of your Georgia stories whenever you have the time and energy to post them.
    Ray recently posted…Wrigley Field TourMy Profile

  • Hi Justin, thanks for the comment. Yes but the word is Polish and spelt Nazi and pronounced “nazzy”, I’m sure the German word is more like “natzee” and harsher but indeed, the spelling is perhaps the same. A good place to stay. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Ray I am, but this post (along with 100 others) was actually written back in 2013, I just edited it and finally posted it. I have about 100 like this in the archive and have posted a few more of them recently. Safe travels. Jonny

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