North of Kazbegi the Georgian Military Highway follows the Tergi River 11km to the Russian border in the grimly spectacular Dariali Gorge. Here granite cliffs tower over the road, which runs along a narrow shelf above the river. The gorge inspired much awe among 19th-century Russian artists and writers such as Lermontov and Pushkin.
Much of the gorge is across the Russian border, but you can walk or take a taxi (around 20 GEL return) as far as Tamar’s Castle, on a big rock above the left bank of the Tergi, 10km out of Kazbegi. These ruins are from many different periods. This Tamar, a legendary cruel beauty who chopped off her lovers’ heads, is not to be confused with the great 12th-century queen of Georgia.
From Gveleti, 3km before Tamar’s Castle, a fine day walk heads up through birch forests and rocky wildernesses to Devdoraki Glacier on the east flank of Mt Kazbek. It’s 9km from Gveleti to the glacier, with an ascent of 1100m: allow nine or 10 hours there and back. At research time this route was blocked by rock falls, so check beforehand.