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Georgian Military Highway: most beautiful stops from Tbilisi to Kazbegi

The Georgian Military Road or Georgian Military Highway is also considered one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world. Despite the ominous name of this road, there are indeed plenty of wonderful highlights. This 200 km route takes you from capital Tbilisi to Kazbegi, paving its way through the beautiful Caucasus Mountains. Find out everything you need to know for this little road trip along Georgia’s military road here: the most beautiful stops, the best way to get around and where to stay!

What is the Georgian Military Highway?

The Georgian Military Road or Georgian Military Highway has played an important role for thousands of years. Today, Georgia’s military highway is a route that takes you past historic landmarks and beautiful viewpoints of the Caucasus Mountains . Ever since the first century v. Chr. this route was used for trade and pilgrimages. In the 19th century, it took its current form as a crucial military link between Russia, Europe and Asia, hence its name. Because of its strategic location, it played an important role in numerous conflicts and invasions throughout history.

Today, the highway remains an important trade route between Turkey, Georgia and Russia, evident by the long line of trucks waiting to enter Russia. This is often caused by weather conditions, the narrow roads and strict controls to enter Russia.

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Is the Georgian Military Highway safe?

Despite the current conflicts unfortunately taking place in the world right now, it is very safe to visit this road. You start in the capital Tbilisi and follow the road all the way to the mountain village of Kazbegi, now called Stepantsminda. This village borders near Russia, but it is also very safe to stay here. We spent 3 days there ourselves and were warmly welcomed by the Georgian locals. In Kazbegi, you have plenty of wonderful walks you can take such as the one to the iconic Trinity Church.

How to travel.

The easiest way to visit the Georgian Military Highway is via an organized day tour from Tbilisi toward Kazbegi. This way you will see the highlights along the military highway and the Trinity Church in Kazbegi. We went on this tour to Kazbegi, but then stayed overnight there and did not ride back with them. With the day tour, you can also return to Tbilisi the same day, but keep in mind that you will be on the bus for a long time because of the longer distances.

With your own transportation, you have more freedom and flexibility to drive along this beautiful route. You can easily rent a car in Tbilisi for one or more days. If you like more adventure, consider traveling by 4×4! The road itself is in fine driving condition, but the word “highway” should be taken with a grain of salt. The Georgian Military Highway is a two-lane road that paves its way through the mountains via a variety of hairpin turns.

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If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can book a private car with driver through GoTrip. Just indicate via the website/app which stops you wish to make, and you will be paired with a driver who will take you to your chosen stops. You pay a fixed price and can stay as long as you want at each stopover.

A final and cheapest option is to travel by Marshrutka. This is public transportation in Georgia where you travel from A to B in a small van. This mode of travel gives you limited flexibility because the Marshrutka makes no stops along the way. It is the cheapest way though as a single ticket costs only 15 GEL (~ €5.30). You can consider this for your return trip from Kazbegi to Tbilisi after you have already done the stops along the highway in the outward journey.

The most beautiful stops along the Georgian Military Highway

The E117, as the Georgian military road is also known today, technically begins 30 km north of Tbilisi. However, it used to run all the way to the capital. So we will take you starting from capital Tbilisi along the highway all the way to Kazbegi. Although you can drive down the road in 3 hours, we still recommend you allow a full day for this. That way you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful views!

1) Tbilisi

Tbilisi is the capital and beating heart of the country. It is a vibrant city, full of history given its location on the Silk Road. Today you will find a nice mix of old charm and modern energy. There is a lot to see and do in Tbilisi. Besides all the beautiful buildings, you can also taste the delicious Georgian cuisine. We therefore recommend spending several days here in the city. Afterwards, this is the starting point of the Georgian Military Highway.

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2) Mtskheta

Mtskheta is the former capital of the country and the first real highlight along the Georgian Military Highway. A half-hour drive from Tbilisi, you can take a look at this small but cozy UNESCO city. Mtshketa also played a big role in the past in the rise of Christianity in Georgia, and you can tell by the many religious buildings. The Jvari Monastery and the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral are fine examples. Now you can also buy numerous local products and delicacies on its streets.

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3) Ananuri fort

About 70 km from Tbilisi, you will find the Ananuri Fortress, located on the Aragvi River and the Zinkhali Reservoir. This fortified site is a classic example of Georgian architecture. Its strategic location, protected by confluent rivers in the valley, makes it a stop with both scenic and historical significance. Climb the stone tower for a great view of the complex with the river in the background. Or go take a look at the beautiful Orthodox church.

TRAVEL TIP : There are hundreds of Georgian Orthodox churches in the country. As a woman, make sure you always cover your hair and wear a long skirt when entering a church. Men should wear long pants. You can usually find cloths at the entrance to churches that you may use.

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4) Pasanauri

Pasanauri is a small village along the military road in Georgia known primarily as the birthplace of Khinkali. Khinkali is a typical Georgian dish which can be described as dumplings filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. Ideal to pause here for a tasting at one of the village’s charming restaurants. Our suggestions are Chveni Ubani and Guda to try this national dish.

5) Gudauri Ski Area

As you continue along the Georgian Military Highway, you will notice that the road becomes more and more winding. You go higher and higher and deeper into the Caucasus Mountains, and you notice that at the Gudauri ski resort located at 2000 m altitude. In winter, it is a popular ski destination for locals, given its higher elevation in the Caucasus. But even in summer, you can enjoy beautiful views, hikes and atmosphere here in a typical Georgian ski village surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks.

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6) Friendship Monument

A 10-minute drive past the Gudauri ski area you will find the Friendship Monument. Georgia and Russia have a history full of highs and lows. Built in 1983 during the Soviet Union, this monument of friendship symbolizes cooperation between the two countries. However, due to recent conflicts, the monument now carries a fraught symbolism that reflects the complex relationship between the countries. Nevertheless, it remains a beautiful monument, set in breathtaking surroundings with wide panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

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7) Jvari Pass

Located at an elevation of nearly 2,400 meters, this is the literal highlight of your journey along the Georgian Military Highway. This is the ideal place to take in the imposing mountains of the Caucasus. Be sure to get out and take some pictures of these beautiful surroundings. Afterwards, leave your car window down and take in the fresh mountain air as you begin the last 25 km toward Kazbegi.

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8) Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)

Kazbegi, now known as Stepantsminda, is the final destination for your route along the Georgian Military Highway. The highlight of this village is the Gergeti Trinity Church or Trinity Church. With its picturesque backdrop, situated on a hilltop surrounded by snow-capped mountains, this is an absolute must-see. You can reach this church either by car or by walking or horseback riding. If you have time, be sure to stay a few days longer in this charming mountain village. There are lots of hikes in Kazbegi itself such as those to the Kazbegi Glacier or explore the nearby Truso Valley.

TRAVEL TIP : If you are in a hurry, you can jump into one of the jeeps waiting in Kazbegi to take you to the Trinity Church. For 15 GEL they take you to the church and back.

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Where to stay.

You can easily cover the Georgian Military Highway in one day, starting from Tbilisi or Kazbegi. Considering Tbilisi is the capital, you have plenty of options for accommodation here. We also recommend staying a few days longer in this city to explore all the highlights. During our stay in Kazbegi, we stayed at Eco Cottage Kazbegi. If you prefer a hotel experience, Graf comes highly recommended.

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Best time to visit

The best travel time for Georgia is from May through October. The summer months of July, August and September are ideal if you enjoy hiking. Both Kazbegi and other popular destinations in Georgia such as Tusheti and Mestia are located in the mountains where you can do beautiful trekking. But that means that in May and June, you still have a high chance of snow on the trails and these areas may not be accessible yet. The Georgian Military Highway to Kazbegi does open year-round.

Further travel

The Georgian Military Highway is easy to incorporate into your itinerary through Georgia. Departing from Tbilisi, you can travel on to Kazbegi via this road full of highlights. Afterwards, you can travel on from Kazbegi to the Kakheti region in the east or Kutaisi in the west of the country.

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Have you also been to Georgia and found it as wonderful a country as we did? Let us know in a comment below! Looking for more information about your next trip to Georgia? Please do not hesitate to contact us or send an email to snoezelsontheroad@gmail.com

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