Get behind the wheel and explore the breathtaking Georgian Military Highway | The Escapist

The Escapist

Where?

Georgian Military Highway, Georgia.

What?

If you need yet another excuse to visit Georgia, this is it. The Georgian Military Highway, a serpentine journey across the country’s highest peaks, is the ultimate road trip for aspiring globetrotters and devoted Caucasusophiles. Start in Vladikavkaz, Russia’s southernmost city, and make your way along the Terek river gorge to the Verkhny Lars border crossing, where the encroaching mountainous landscape will make the checkpoints stops more than bearable. Alternatively, take the Russian-Georgian border as your starting point, and rise up to the base of Mount Kazbek (5,047m), Georgia’s third highest mountain. Climb the opposite hill, starting from the village of Stepantsminda (better known as Kazbegi) to the peak’s Gergeti Trinity Church, and enjoy the best viewing spot of this monumental dormant volcano.

For the more intrepid among you, reaching the summit of Mount Kazbek is worth a try. Climb up to the foothill, and keep ascending towards Betlemi Hut, a converted ex-meteorological station that makes an excellent base for acclimatisation and summit attempts. On summit day, be ready for glacier travel in the morning, followed by a steep climb up the saddle and icy conditions on your final push to the peak. From there, the vast expanse of the Caucasus will open up, with Mount Elbrus visible in the distance. Head back to Stepantsminda, where paragliding instructors and horseback guides are easy to come by, making it the ideal place to spend a full day resting before moving on the next morning. Get back behind the wheel and keep cruising downhill through the Jvari pass, driving across jaw-dropping alpine landscapes before you hit rush hour in Tbilisi, Georgia’s bustling capital.

What not to miss along the way:

Make an obligatory stop at the iconic Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument. The monument was built in the USSR before the conflicts that de facto separated South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgian control. Perched on a hill before a stunning view, this semicircular mosaic wall acts as a reminder of the country’s complex history.

— Stop off and explore the unusual salt-rock formations along the road just before the Russia-Georgia Friendship Monument, a unique natural wonder.

— Before the road trip draws to a close, make sure to treat yourself with a break by the famous lake at Ananuri. Its light blue, mountain water, and fortified church are a necessary pick-me-up after venturing across the mighty peaks of the Caucasus’ most iconic car journey.

Gerd Eichmann under a CC license
Gerd Eichmann under a CC license
Max Benidze under a CC license
Max Benidze under a CC license
Young shenahan under a CC license
Young shenahan under a CC license
Shalika Malintha under a CC license
Shalika Malintha under a CC license

Text: Lucía de la Torre
Top image: Paulo Aruijo under a CC license

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