1.Kazbegi (officially called Stepantsminda)
To get there, you need to take the Georgian Military Road built in the 19th century. The way is full of scenic views and is an adventure in its own right. In the mornings and again in the evenings, be prepared for the company of herds of sheep and cows on their way to and from grazing pastures (this is true for every major Georgian road and motorway). The Georgian Military Road passes by the 13th century Ananuri fortress. It stands along the Aragvi River and is definitely worth a visit.
Like any tourist place, Ananuri and other rest or photo stops along the road will offer souvenirs for sale. Among them, the famous Georgian churchkhela. I don’t advise buying them there as no grapes grow at that altitude. They probably bring all the churchkhelas from Kakheti. However, this area is the best place in Georgia for khinkali.
Don’t miss the chance to taste some in any of the little restaurants in and around the village of Pasanauri.
You will probably also see locals selling sheep’s wool hats – fluffy white ones called papakhi. Traditionally shepherds wear it as sheep were their main livelihood (cows could not survive at the high altitudes).
Afterwards, you will drive past the Gudauri ski resort. Expect considerable traffic between the hours of 9:00-11:00 am during the winter; because many people travel from Tbilisi for a day of skiing. Just as you pass Gudauri, take a quick stop for a look at the Caucasus Mountains from the lookout balcony decorated with Soviet-style mosaic artwork.
Finally, you will pass through several tunnels through the mountains, some of them dating to the time of Russian Tsar. In between the tunnels, you will also see travertine rock, rust-coloured from the iron in the local mineral water (you may drink the water if you are so inclined).
Once you get to Kazbegi, you can hike up the mountain to the Gergeti Trinity Church. You may sit on the veranda of the beautifully-designed Rooms Hotel and reflect upon the majesty of the Greater Caucasus; or, no less appealing, continue driving in the canyon and enjoying scenic views