Tsminda Sameba Church
The 14th-century Holy Trinity Church above Kazbegi at 2200m has become something of a symbol of Georgia – its beauty and piety and the fierce determination to build it on such a lofty, isolated perch are all emblematic of the country and its people. The walk up to the church and the panoramas this affords are a highlight of Georgia. In 1988 the Soviet authorities constructed a cable-car line to the church, with one station in Kazbegi and the other right next to Tsminda Sameba. The people of Kazbegi quite rightly felt this defiled their sacred place and soon destroyed it.
You can still see its base in the village, almost behind the Alexander Kazbegi Museum. It takes about 1½ hours at an average pace to walk to the church from Kazbegi. Head up through Gergeti, turn right at a T-junction towards the top of the village, then go up a narrow path to the left after 20m. This leaves the village behind and reaches a broader vehicle track, with a cemetery to your right. Follow the track up to the left, winding through the woods, and after approximately 30 minutes’ walking you will emerge in an open area. Here take a path up to the left through the trees and in five minutes you’ll rejoin the track in grassy meadows with the church in view to the left – just five minutes’ more walk.
Vakhushti Batonishvili wrote in the 18th century that in times of danger the treasures from Mtskheta, as well as St Nino’s cross, were kept here for safety. The beautifully weathered stone of the church and its separate belltower are decorated with some intriguing carvings, one on the belltower appearing to show two dinosaurs. The interior is not particularly unusual, but certainly well worth a look if you get this far!
Gergeti Trinity Church is a tourist favorite, but doing it as a daytrip from Tbilisi really isn't practical at all. You'd be spending 7-8 hours in a bus. Much better to spend at least one night in Stepanstsminda. Many consider it a highlight of a visit to Georgia.