Stepantsminda is located on the river Terek, about 150 km north of Tbilisi, at an altitude of 1,740 metres. Surrounded by mountains, it is a popular starting point for hikers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.
In good weather, you can even see one of the kings of the Great Caucasus from Stepantsminda: Kazbek, the third-highest mountain in Georgia at 5,047 metres.
Stepantsminda lies on the Georgian Military Road, the country’s most important north-south link. It leads from Tbilisi via Gudauri and Stepantsminda to the northern Caucasian city of Vladikavkaz, which belongs to Russia. 12 kilometres north of Stepantsminda, you will find the border crossing «Larsi», in front of which the trucks sometimes queue for kilometres.
Stepantsminda or Kazbegi?
You may have noticed already: When the village is reported on, sometimes the name «Stepantsminda» is mentioned or sometimes the name «Kazbegi». The following is correct: The village itself is called Stepantsminda, and the municipality which it belongs to is called Kazbegi. In addition to the main town Stepantsminda, the municipality includes Gorisziche, Gudauri, Kobi, Sioni and Sno, five other communities, which in turn consist of several villages. Put simply, this means Stepantsminda = village and Kazbegi = region.
But where does all the confusion come from? Originally the village was called «Stepantsminda» after a Georgian Orthodox monk, which means «Saint Stephen». In 1925, when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union already, the place was renamed «Kazbegi» – because of the famous poet Alexander Kazbegi. Finally, in 2006, the place was renamed «Stepantsminda» again, and the surrounding municipality kept its name «Kazbegi».
Gergeti Trinity Church
The Gergeti Trinity Church above Stepantsminda is said to be one of the most beautiful and remarkable churches in the world. It is located on top of a mountain near Stepantsminda at an elevation of 2,170 meters above sea level. Built in the 14th century, the Gergeti Trinity Church in the Greater Caucasus Mountains has become the poster child for Georgian tourism. It is the only cross-cupola church in Khevi province. Surrounded by high mountains and the vastness of nature, it has become a national symbol of Georgia.
Gergeti’s remarkable architecture
The church has been restored several times. The last restoration was held in 1970-74. Parts of the roof and laggard, the neck of the dome, have been restored. Gergeti Trinity Church with a central dome is built of hewn stone. The inside of the dome is made entirely of brick. Entrance from the west and south. To the south of the temple, ten meters away, stands a two-story bell tower built in the second half of the 14th century. The first floor of the bell tower was the entrance to the fence. There are small windows on the east and west walls.
Stepantsminda is the gateway to Khevsureti
Stepantsminda is also an ideal starting point for trekking tours. As there is a wide range of hotels and guesthouses in the village, many tourists spend the night here before they go on a trekking tour the next morning. 20 kilometres southeast lies the village of Juta, from where the ascent to the Chaukhi Pass begins. Behind the pass, there is the hiking paradise Khevsureti.