Travel Destinations

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

5 Reasons to Travel to Georgia (the Country) in the Winter

Purple Flowers Gergeti Trinity Church Hike Georgia Winter Travel

When we decided to travel to Georgia (the country), we hadn’t necessarily planned on traveling there in the winter.  However, when I searched Google Flights for a good time to visit with low airfares, amongst a sea of airfares over $1,100 there were some in the $800 range, roundtrip from LAX, in early March.  A $600 savings for the two of us seemed like a pretty good reason to travel to Georgia in the winter, but it turns out that isn’t the only reason why Georgia is a good winter destination.  Here are some other reasons to travel to Georgia in the winter. 

Trek to Gergeti Trinity Church

Gergeti Trinity Church Hike Georgia Winter Travel

Our favorite winter activity was hiking to Gergeti Trinity Church, a church and monastery high up on a mountaintop near Mount Kazbegi.  While this is an epic activity at any time of the year, it just felt a little more so since we had to trudge up the mountain through snow, and the snow-covered Caucasus provided an impressive snowy backdrop.

Gergeti Trinity Church View Georgia Winter Travel

Gergeti Trinity Church Winter View Georgia Winter Travel

Now, why would someone build a church so high up in the mountains?  The legend is that three kings wanted to build a church.  A wise man told them to throw some meat and build the church where a bird started to eat the meat.  They threw the meat in the old capital.  A crow picked it up and flew off with the meat and didn’t eat the meat until it landed far away from the old capital, on the steep mountain, at 2,200 meters, close to Mount Kazbegi. 

Hike to Gergeti Trinity Church Georgia Winter Travel

Snowy Gergeti Trinity Church Hike Georgia Winter Travel

The Gergeti Trinity Church hike starts in the village at the base of the mountain.  We started by walking up the winding dirt roads until they led to a narrow trail leading through the snow.  We hiked along the trail for a little while, but then found that the hiking trail was obscured by snow, so we followed the four-wheel drive dirt road that zigzags up to Gergeti Trinity Church.

Gergeti Trinity Church Hike Summit Georgia Winter Travel

It is possible to reach Gergeti Trinity Church, also called the Holy Trinity Church, by car, but it would have taken quite a vehicle to make it up in those snowy, muddy, frozen conditions.  Plus the effect of reaching the church just wouldn’t be the same.  We felt we had earned the amazing view that revealed itself to us after our one-hour trek.

Gergeti Trinity Church and Bell Tower Georgia Winter Travel

Gergeti Trinity Church Volcanic Rock Georgia Winter Travel

Mount Kazbegi is a volcano that last erupted in the sixth century, and Gergeti Trinity Church was built with volcanic stones in the 14th century.  It is built in the typical Georgian style, a cross-cupola church, and is the only one in Khevi province.  Centuries ago, in times of danger, the relics of Mtskheta were brought up the mountain to Gergeti Trinity Church for safekeeping.  The church is open to the public and a few monks still live there.

Stay at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi and Gaze at the Stars

Rooms Hotel Kazbegi Mountain View Room Georgia Winter Travel

Gergeti Trinity Church is located outside the town of Stepantsminda, previously Kazbegi.  The best place to stay if hiking to Gergeti Trinity Church is Rooms Hotel Kazbegi.  The Rooms Hotel Kazbegi is so perfectly mountainy with blonde wood, antler chandeliers, and a killer view of the snowy mountains.

Rooms Hotel Kazbegi View Georgia Winter Travel

The mountains and Gergeti Trinity Church can be viewed from all over the hotel.  The restaurant, bar, and lobby have big picture windows framing the view.  A porch spans the entire length of the hotel providing an outdoor view.  Many of the rooms have balconies with a mountain view.  

Rooms Hotel Kazbegi Night View Georgia Winter Travel

We took advantage of our mountain-view balcony to gaze at the myriad of stars sparkling over the snowy mountains with Gergeti Trinity Church glowing at the top of its peak.

If you want to see an aerial view of Kazbegi, a helicopter flight can be booked with Kazbegi Helicopters.  We saw helicopters taking off right next door to the hotel. 

See the Caucasus Mountain Range at Its Snowiest

Greater Caucasus Mountain Range Georgia Winter Travel

Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region, at the border of Europe and Asia.  The Greater Caucasus Mountain Range borders Georgia to the north, separating it from Russia.  The Lesser Caucasus Mountain Range borders Georgia to the south, separating it from Turkey.  Traveling to Georgia in winter means seeing the Caucasus covered in bright white snow.         

Drive the Winter Version of the Georgian Military Road

Georgian Military Road Georgia Winter Travel

Stepandsminda is reached by driving from Tbilisi on the Georgian Military Road, which passes through the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range on the way to Russia.  The Georgian Military Road follows the route used by invaders throughout the centuries. 

While driving along the Georgian Military Road, keep on the lookout for the remains of old signal towers.  These signal towers were spaced out just far enough that one could see the next in line.  Smoke signals were used to communicate and warn Tbilisi of invaders.

Georgia’s Military Road was first built around 1800.  While it was previously used to move troops, it is now used as a truck route for transporting goods.

Georgian Military Road Tunnel Georgia Winter Travel

In some parts, there are actually two roads.  One is for summer when there is no snow on the ground, and the other is for winter.  The winter road has a number of tunnels which were built by Russian prisoners of war in the 1950s.  The summer road wraps around these tunnels, but those parts of the road bypassed by tunnels are barely perceptible in the winter.

Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument View Georgia Winter Travel

Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument Georgia Winter Travel

Along the Georgian Military Road is an imposing and colorful monument.  The Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument was built in 1983 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the 1783 Treaty of Georgievsk.

The highest point of the Georgian Military Road is Jvari Pass at an elevation of 2,395 meters.  A cross marks the highest point.

Adventure in Gudauri Ski Resort

Gudauri Ski Resort Ski Run Georgia Winter Travel

If you’re into skiing, snowboarding, and other winter outdoor activities, Georgia is a great winter travel destination because of the popular Gudauri ski resort. 

Gudauri is the winter capital of Georgia and Georgia’s largest ski resort.  Gudauri’s slopes are covered with snow for four to five months of the year, December through April.  The Gudauri ski resort boasts over 20 runs for a total of more than 50 kilometers. 

Gudauri Ski Resort Paragliding Georgia Winter Travel

For extreme skiing, visitors can go up even higher into the mountains with a heli-ski tour.  Another extreme sport available in Gudauri in the winter is paragliding.

Hotel Gudauri Marco Polo Georgia Winter Travel

One of the popular hotels of Gudauri is Hotel Gudauri Marco Polo.  There is a lift and a run right out back of the hotel.

Whether you want to ski, snowboard, experience extreme winter sports, take an insanely awesome hike to a church on a mountain, or just drink a glass of Georgian wine and stare at the snow and the stars, Georgia is a unique winter travel destination.

Thank you to the Georgian National Tourism Administration for hosting our trip to Georgia and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are our own.  This article contains affiliate links.  Purchasing through them costs you nothing extra, and we earn a small commission which goes towards funding this website and bringing you more travel stories.
Travel the World: Five reasons to travel to Georgia (the country) in the winter, including the Gergeti Trinity Church hike.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.