And Episode VI begins…yes I love Star Wars…and unlike the Star Wars franchise this will be the final episode. Before arriving in Georgia I had no idea what to expect in terms of culture, food, architecture and landscape (ok maybe a little bit… after all we live in a world of social media).
My last few days in Georgia were spent hiking in Tbilisi and Kazbegi, and it was probably one of my favorite memories from this vacation/visit. On Friday Ali took me to a Turtle Lake and we hiked up Mtatsminda Mount. We started at the carpark at the bottom of the lake (see that flat white building) and it probably took about 45 minutes to reach the top.
There were stunning views of Tbilisi and the mountains in the distance. Ali said it was mini practice for me before we made our way to Kazbegi, Georgia that afternoon.
Kazbegi, now called Stepantsminda, is about a 3 hour drive north of Tbilisi. It is located about 15 miles from the Russian border. The drive was incredible! The views were amazing, and we weren’t even at the highest elevation yet.
We drove by several ski resorts that are open during the winter – apparently it is much cheaper to ski in Georgia as a renter and the trails are much longer (even the easy ones) than the ones back in the United States.
After a quick (and sometimes bumpy ride), we arrived at the Rooms Hotel. Their interior design was very rustic, modern and beautiful. Below is a picture of their lounge area.
Here is a view from my room. I could see “Russia from my House”….. literally.
If you prefer “roughing it” or “glamping” people could also pitch tents outside on the lawn below.
Sitting on the deck we were treated with views of Mount Kazbek, which sits on the Greater Caucasus Range (you may have heard the term the Caucauses to describe countries in that area). See the peak with the tiny buildings to the left of Mount Kazbek? That is where we hiked to the next day. The Turtle paled in comparison.
After a laid back dinner with some yummy Georgian wine we called it a night. We slept in a little and started our hike around 11:00am, parking a little south of the town pictured above. Some people hike up the road, but there are a lot of switchbacks, dusty and not too scenic. We opted to take the road less traveled (pun intended).
So stunning!! We met a new friend along the way and he or she accompanied us for a majority of our hike.
At one point we were at that small fortress below.
After 3 hours we reached our final destination – Gergeti Trinity Church.
At an elevation of ~2100 meters, this church was built in the 14th century – how awesome is that! Ali’s husband hiked Mount Kazbek (the larger white peak in an earlier photo) and that elevation was nearly 3x our hike.
You could see our hotel in the distance (by the cluster of green trees in the background). Absolutely breathtaking! It was so difficult to choose from the hundreds of pictures I took during this hike (all via my phone).
After taking in the views, we made our way down the mountain and headed back to Tbilisi (my flight was later that evening). It was a memorable 9 days in Turkey and Georgia and I am glad I had the opportunity to spend time with my friends.
Do you like to go camping or glamping?
Do you have a favorite hike or National Park?