Emerging proudly among the rugged peaks of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, Gergeti Trinity Church stands as a testament to human devotion, cultural traditions, and the awe-inspiring beauty of Georgia’s natural landscapes.
This iconic place of worship, also known as Tsminda Sameba or Holy Trinity Church, is more than just a religious landmark; it’s a sight for adventurers and pilgrims alike, accessible to everyone.
Perched at an altitude of approximately 2,170 meters (7,120 feet), Gergeti Trinity Church seems to touch the heavens themselves. Its silhouette, with its conical dome and sturdy stone construction, contrasts beautifully against the backdrop of the snow-capped Mount Kazbek, the second-highest peak in the Caucasus range. However, the most iconized image sees the Church from the front, featuring the wonderful wall of mountains to the east of Kazbegi.
I visited and hiked it twice during my visits to Georgia, and I have been caught in awe multiple times just admiring it from the streets of Kazbegi.
Whenever I visit Georgia, I can’t leave without spending a handful of days between these giant mountains. Taking in the fresh air, with stunning views all around and a great choice of activities, makes Kazbegi a perfect destination to disconnect for a while. Gergeti Trinity Church is the essence of it.
Check out my Kazbegi Travel Guide to explore this area in its entirety
As you embark on this adventure, you’ll follow in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have made this ascent to pay homage, or simply bask in the serenity of this high-altitude haven. You’ll forge a connection with Georgia’s rich heritage and immerse yourself in the stunning scenery that surrounds this UNESCO World Heritage sanctuary.
In this guide, I will give you everything you need to know in order to plan a visit to Gergeti Trinity Church and hike to it. Lace up your hiking boots, don your explorer’s spirit, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure to one of the world’s most breathtaking destinations.
Table of Contents
The hike from Kazbegi to Gergeti Trinity Church
Distance: 7 kilometers from Kazbegi Main Square / 4 kilometers (from the trailhead)
Elevation Gain: 445 meters
Duration: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy, appropriate for families
The hike to Gergeti Trinity Church is one of the main highlights the region and Georgia as a whole has to offer, which is why my goal is to help you have the best experience. I hope you’ll never forget the first time you reached the top.
Despite it being a short and easy hike, there are a few things you need to make sure you know before you embark on it.
Which trail should you take?
In recent years, the options for hiking up to Gergeti Trinity Church have slowly expanded, often creating confusion among hikers and more casual travelers alike.
Adding to the confusion, there really isn’t a huge deal of signs in town pointing to the trailhead.
A lot of people unfortunately take the wrong path to this day, making their journey more difficult and less enjoyable than it has to be, having to hike steep and loose terrain.
So, let’s set the record straight.
Assuming the main square in Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) is your starting point, you want to head north and walk over the bridge crossing the Terek River, leaving the center of the town.
Take the first road to the left and you’re now on Gergeti Street, on the side of the river where the village of Gergeti lies.
The asphalted road slowly starts to gain elevation, and to me, this is the most tiring part of the whole hike. Luckily, the views make it easy to power through it.
Follow the asphalted Gergeti Street for about 10 minutes, or until you reach a fork in the road, one street leading right and one left.
Head to the left towards Gergeti Cafe, a cafe with a parking lot that’s mostly used by the same people who will be hiking or have already hiked to Gergeti Trinity Church.
There, you have to head past the parking lot, where your view finally opens up to the trail.
You’ll see an ancient tower above you atop a hill, which will serve as a guide for the trailhead.
The correct path is the one that follows the river while keeping it to the left and goes around the tower keeping it to the right. Once you do that, you really can’t lose yourself, as that’s the only trail available.
There used to be no indication, but now you can see the starting point on Google Maps. Still, make sure you follow the instructions, as the more difficult path is just to the right of the correct one.
Hiking to the Church
Having established the correct trail to take, let’s take a look at what the hike looks like.
From the trailhead, reaching Gergeti Trinity Church should take approximately 40 minutes. The distance is only about 2 kilometers, but it’s constant and steady ascent, which can be challenging for some people.
Despite that, I believe everyone can get up there fairly easily, with due exceptions.
The trail throws you right from the start into a different environment than what you got accustomed to during the first part of walk, rising through lush meadows, where wildflowers carpet the slopes, and the crisp mountain air fills your lungs.
Leave the tower behind you, but not before looking back at it, as the backdrop of Kazbegi and its iconic mountains fill your view for the last time until the top.
Along the way, you can find a handful of instances where the path breaks into an upper and lower one. There really aren’t indications in these cases, but luckily the ones that end in a dead end are just a few meters long.
If you do mess up, backtrack your steps and take the other path.
Don’t be worried, it’s more straightforward than you might think.
Wrapping around the south side of the mountain, you eventually reach a point where, if you look up to the right, you can see the first glimpse of Gergeti Trinity Church.
It’s not nearly as impressive as the view from the top, so take it as an incentive to keep hiking.
From there, the view also opens up to the peak of Mount Kazbek, the majestic symbol of the region. If you’re lucky with the weather, walking with that view will get rid of any fatigue.
There are hardly any changes to the path until you reach the point where you can easily climb up to the road level. There is a main track that follows a mostly panoramic path, but if you’re planning to visit the Church first, and soak in the best views later, you can just walk up the last slope.
More on the best panoramic spots later.
There are many smaller paths for convenience, but it’s really a choose-your-own-adventure situation.
Having now reached level field, you can simply walk up there and visit Gergeti Trinity Church.
When is the best time of day to hike to Gergeti Trinity Church?
Being a photographer, choosing the right time to visit a specific spot is always key. Go there with bad lighting, and even the most beautiful scene translates to disappointment in photos.
On the other hand, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the sensation of witnessing the most beautiful sunset on a random sidewalk and thinking “This is the best view of my life”.
All of that really adds or detracts from an experience, which is why I want to make sure you have all of the information to visit Gergeti Trinity Church when it’s at its best.
To me, the best time to visit Gergeti Trinity Church is definitely sunset. Hike up just a couple of hours before sunset, and you’ll see the whole landscape changing – slowly, the shade starts to invade the lower slopes of Mount Kazbek, eventually reaching a point where it helps to spotlight the Church at the edge of the cliff, which is by then shining in golden light against the massive backdrop of mountains surrounding Kazbegi.
Those same mountains are the last thing the light touches as it fades out, but not before painting them with the most vibrant oranges and red of late sunset, with the Church already in the shade.
Witnessing that for the first time was one of the most special experiences I’ve had.
Visiting Gergeti Trinity Church earlier in the day also has its undeniable perks, but to me, it’s best to do it in the afternoon. Possibly after a phenomenal lunch at Maisi.
In the morning, the sun rises behind the Church to the east, making the iconic view backlit, which is suboptimal.
What should you wear for the hike?
Despite the hike being simple and short, we should always consider the type of terrain we’re dealing with.
In this case, the path you should take isn’t bad. It has some sections with loose-ish rocks, but nothing to really change your plans for.
Unless you’re hiking in the rain, there should be no substantial difference in difficulty between doing it with sneakers or hiking boots.
Of course, if you do have hiking shoes, wear them! They will surely make the hike more comfortable, and if you brought them you might as well put them to good use.
As far as clothing goes, this obviously changes by the season, but I do have some tips that are encompassing.
Considering the high altitude of the area, it’s always a good choice to bring warm layers with you. Whether you use them to avoid getting sick after being sweaty for the hike or to warm yourself up as the sun starts to go down, you’ll be glad you brought them.
Is there a dress code at Gergeti Trinity Church?
Yes, there is a dress code to enter Gergeti Trinity Church.
As in most Orthodox Churches in Georgia, both men and women should cover their knees and shoulders, and in addition, women must cover their hair as well.
The Church provides scarves for women to cover up their hair with at the entrance.
Can you go to Gergeti Trinity Church by taxi?
You sure can!
Although I would say that it takes away a lot from the experience, hiking just isn’t for some people, and others simply can’t.
This is the point where most taxis aggregate. Head there to catch a ride.
You can also find some taxis in the main square in Kazbegi.
You should expect to pay around 60 GEL for the whole vehicle for a return trip – wonderful Delicas by the way – or around 15 GEL each if you’re in a group of 4 or more. It also depends on the driver, so ask before and make sure you agree to the terms.
Can you go to Gergeti Trinity Church by car?
In recent years, a lot of improvements have been made to the site in order to make it more accessible to everyone.
An asphalted road connects Kazbegi to the site through a 10-minute drive up the slopes of Mount Kazbek. Nearly every car can make it, you don’t need a 4×4 in order to get to Gergeti Trinity Church.
Keep in mind that you can only use that road during the warmer months, as it’s closed during the winter. The recommended period is from mid-May to mid-October.
Where are the best viewpoints?
The first time I visited Gergeti Trinity Church I spent a few hours looking around for the best way to catch a sunset there and chill out.
My conclusion is that there are quite a few spots to do that, but one will always be my favorite.
Before I tell you about number one, I should mention that some of the best views can be admired from the path that leads to Gergeti Glacier (another, longer hike starting from there), which you can climb up from the parking lot 200 meters before the Church, not the one below it.
If you’re tired of hiking or want to look at Mount Kazbek instead, the best view is from the actual site of the Church. Mount Kazbek stands out between the two buildings of Gergeti Trinity Church in all of its glory.
But let’s talk about my favorite one. As I mentioned, a trail leading to Gergeti Glacier starts from the parking lot about 200 meters away from the Church, but as you’ll see, it’s not the only path.
There’s a smaller track on the opposite side of the parking lot, one that goes around the slope but doesn’t climb it much. That track leads to some sort of old building, probably dedicated to some animals.
Walking towards that building, the valley from which we came up hiking opens up, leading directly to Gergeti Trinity Church.
If you descend from the track to the sides, you’ll be able to stand near the impressive edge of this valley, having a unique and grandiose view of the landscape.
I recommend spending sunset there, as it’s not only a unique spot, but also away from the crowd that so often gathers at the Church.
History and Overview of Gergeti Trinity Church
It might come unexpectedly, but the history of Gergeti Trinity Church is a rather mysterious one to this day.
It was built in the 14th century, but we don’t know by who. Some theorize that it was mainly built as a refuge for Christian monks fleeting from the populations that were invading Georgia at the time.
In fact, the Church has always served as a hideout for people and religious artifacts. Most invaders would have been unwilling to hike up to Gergeti Trinity Church, almost as if blinded by its sighting below Mount Kazbek.
Its remote location amidst the peaks of the Greater Caucasus made it an ideal sanctuary in turbulent times.
Nowadays, the Church is one of the most famous spots in Georgia, drawing incredible amounts of tourists each year.
As you approach the site after the hike, the low exterior walls present themselves, with their dark-colored stone common to all the buildings of Gergeti.
The entrance to the grounds is the bell tower, the smaller building, built slightly after the actual Church. The reason why it was built separately is not clear, but it makes for a unique layout.
The interior is very dimly lit, a commonality of Gergeti Trinity Church, giving it a particular atmosphere that brings your mind back.
Getting out to the other side, the view opens up the Church and to the surrounding landscape – a glorious reward for the hiking effort.
Both of the buildings are very simple, with subtle works decorating both the exteriors and the interiors, leaving the most awe-inspiring moments when in tune with the landscape.
One major factor of Gergeti is that it blends in with its surroundings seamlessly, almost as if it has always been there, since the beginning of time. Its uncertain history only adds to this sensation.
Gergeti Trinity Church holds a special place in Georgian culture, and to this day it still serves as an active place of worship for the Georgian Orthodox and Apostolic Church, hosting a mass every Sunday.
What’s the best time to visit Gergeti Trinity Church?
We went over the best time of the day to visit the site, but what’s the best time of the year to do so?
Let’s start with the easy task, and let’s discard winter. I’m sure someone gets up there with snowshoes to avoid even the shadow of people swarming the site, but for the average traveler, this is not part of the plan.
From May to October there simply isn’t a worse period to visit, as every time has its perks – if you’d like to admire the vibrant green slopes surrounding Gergeti Trinity Church, with layers of snow still covering the highest mountains around, then definitely go in the Spring.
Summer is highly popular for many reasons, one of them being that it’s the most common vacation period for workers around the world, but it’s not just that.
The colors of the valley are at their peak, with flowers dotting the slopes, Mount Kazbek is almost always visible, and the weather is warm all day, unlike earlier and later in the year.
Autumn in Gergeti Trinity Church and in the Kazbegi region as a whole offers incredible sceneries all around, but not much foliage. Most of the trees here are larches, which turn a beautiful yellow hue constellating the lower slopes.
Choose the ideal time of your visit based on what you prefer, but I promise you that whatever period you choose, it’s going to be special.
Keep on Walking – Hiking to Gergeti Glacier
The Kazbegi area is the hotspot of Georgian mountaineering, with several hikes bringing thousands of visitors each year through some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth.
One of these hikes is the one to the Gergeti Glacier, the glacier of Mount Kazbek, conveniently starting from Gergeti Trinity Church.
There aren’t any indications that I’m aware of on-site, so I highly recommend using an app with hiking tracks – my personal favorite is Wikiloc, home to dozens of options for this specific route.
The track starts from the parking lot of the Church and swiftly starts to climb the slopes of Mount Kazbek, leading directly to a panoramic ridge.
If you want to attempt this hike, make sure to take this route, and not the lower one. Not only it is more panoramic, but it’s also much more manageable.
As a guide, the distance for this hike is around 16 kilometers for a round-trip, with the highest point being about 3300 meters.
I recommend setting aside about 6 hours to complete the hike comfortably. The elevation gain is no joke, totaling in at about 1100 meters, and the altitude makes itself be felt.
The reward is most definitely worth it.
Getting back down to Kazbegi
In order to get back to town you have a couple of options.
The more straightforward of the bunch is to take the same path you came up from, with no surprises for the good and for the bad.
Otherwise, the only other walking option is to take a new path starting from behind the parking zone below the Church. This leads through the forest going down and offers a different kind of experience.
On my first visit to Gergeti Trinity Church, I spent a little too much time taking photos, and as the sun set, I was left in the dark.
Luckily, quite a few taxis wait at the parking spot until late, as their groups also enjoy the sunset from the grounds of the Church. I was able to negotiate a deal with a driver to get down with them, avoiding a dark descent to the town.
So, if you’re also planning to spend every last second at Gergeti Trinity Church, don’t worry, there will definitely be some taxis right below it until late.
The price for a ride depends – if you can find a spot in a group, that should cost around 15 GEL, although some drivers try to take advantage of the situation by asking even three times as much.
If you only find regular taxis with no passengers, expect to pay the full fare, at around 60 GEL.
Where to Sleep in Kazbegi
Hostel: HQ of Nove Sujashvili
This extremely affordable hostel is situated on the western side of the river, making it a good halfway option between the center and the hikes.
The rooms are cozy, the bathrooms are clean and modern, and the check-in process is smooth, as the host speaks good English.
Low Budget: Riverside Kazbegi
The cute and quiet rooms at Riverside Kazbegi offer the perfect solution for a budget option that still grants privacy and comfort.
Medium Budget: Home Kazbegi
Located a stone’s throw away from the main square, Home Kazbegi has modern, well-equipped rooms that ensure a great night of rest after long days in the mountains.
Where to Eat in Kazbegi
This is one of my favorite places in Georgia, and I’m not even limiting it to restaurants.
Maisi is a small open-kitchen restaurant with a few tables inside and outside at the top of the village of Gergeti. Despite the effort to get there from the center, it’s more than worth it.
The atmosphere is soft and cozy, accompanied by traditional music taken from Georgian movies. The staff is well-prepared, friendly, and knows English very well.
The crowning jewel is obviously the food – it’s all Georgian, with bases of dishes that you’ve probably tasted all along the itinerary, but elevated with sublime technique and balance.
Everything I’ve ever had here was a delicacy, I can’t recommend it enough.
How to Get to Kazbegi
Getting to Kazbegi by Car
Renting a car is always a great choice in Georgia, and Kazbegi is no exception.
Many stops along the Georgian Military Highway, such as Ananuri Fortress, can only be properly appreciated with stops, and having a car gives you the best flexibility to do this at your own pace.
Also, lots of hikes and attractions around Kazbegi are quite distant from the main town, and although it’s easy nowadays to hire a taxi, hitchhike, or use organized busses, having a car often makes it easier, especially in the evening when it’s time to go back.
Getting to Kazbegi from Tbilisi is as easy as getting out of the capital and entering the Georgian Military Highway – from there, everything is very straightforward, enabling you to admire your surroundings safely.
Getting to Kazbegi via Public Transport
Marshrutkas for Kazbegi leave from Didube Bus Station in Tbilisi every day and once every hour, starting at 8 am.
The journey is 3/3.5 hours long and the cost is 15 GEL.
An intermediate option is to share a taxi with other tourists. Shared taxis can also be arranged at the Didube Bus Station, and you should expect to pay around 120 GEL for the whole car, or 30 GEL each at full capacity.
Not only is a shared taxi more comfortable, but it’s also possible to arrange stops along the road by asking the driver, which is definitely something you want to do in Kazbegi.
Are you planning to visit Kazbegi? Check out my Kazbegi Travel Guide to prepare the perfect itinerary