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.
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/
From Kazbegi there are two main walks to do, both uphill and offering scintillating views of the surrounding mountains.
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.
After visiting the Tsminda Sameba Church, we decided to head up further towards the Gergeti Glacier.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: