Mtskheta-Mtianeti region (area is about 6.785 sq.km) is located to the north from Tbilisi, with the regional center in Mtskheta. The region includes five districts: Mtskheta district, Dusheti district, Tianeti district, Kazbegi district. There are two cities in the region: Mtskheta and Dusheti, small towns –are: Zhinvali, Pasanauri, Tianeti, Sioni and Stepantsminda, Kazbegi.
Pshavi (territory of about 550 sq.km) is situated in the Aragvi Valley. The Aragvi river flows through Pshavi (source at the Botana-Borbalo mountain (3.135m) and from Pshavi the Aragvi runs to the east, where it joins the Khevsureti portion of the Aragvi to form the “Oritskali” (Pshav-Khevsureti Argavi). The territory of Khevsureti, together with the neighboring area of Pshavi, was known to medieval writers under the joint designation Pkhovi. Khevsureti is bordered by Ingushetia in the north, Chechnya – in the north-east, Tusheti – in the east, Pshavi – in the south and Khevi and Gudamakari – in the west.
When you travel to the north from Tbilisi along Georgian Military Highway, near the village of Barisakho (60 km from Tbilisi) there is a sign (right turn) pointing to the direction of Shatili (100km), Khevsureti province (1.050 sq.km), a historical-ethnographic region of Georgia. The etymology of the word "Khevsureti" belongs to the late middle ages. Formerly, Khevsureti, together with the neighboring region Pshavi, was called ‘Pkhovi’. This ancient name is retained in the language of Chechens, neighbors of Khevsurs, who call then "Pkhie" even now. Officially Khevsureti belongs to Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, Dusheti district. Khevsureti is divided into Lower Khevsureti (‘Pirakiteli Khevsureti’) on the Southern slope of the Great Caucasus and Upper Khevsureti (‘Pirikiteli Khevsureti’) on the Northern slope of the Great Caucasus. It comprises the rivers Assa, Argun,Charokis Tsqali. In the north-east it borders to Ingushetia and Chechnya. Population is only 3.200. The climate here is severe, dry-continental. Geologically of interest are its mostly metamorphic shale rocks with some granite rocks. The largest villages are Barisakho and Shatili, and other destination places are Mutso, Khone and beautiful Juta-Roska Pass (3300m). Khevsureti’s highest mountain, Tebulos Mt. (4400 m) is situated above the small village of Khone. The border between Georgia and Chechnya crosses this mountain’s summit from south to north.
Stepantsminda & Khevi province
The town of Stepantsminda is part of Kazbegi district in Khevi province, in northeastern Georgia, and Mtskheta – Mtianeti region. Located on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus, Khevi province comprises three gorges of the rivers Truso, Tergi, Snostskali and the name of the province “Khevi” literally means “gorge”. People of Khevi are called ‘Mokheves’. Due to the location of the province not far from the Darial Pass connecting Transcaucasus countries with Northern Caucasus, for centuries, Khevi has been strategically top important.
Stepantsminda - literally ‘St. Stephen’, after monk Stephan, (formerly Kazbegi from 1921 till 2006) is located on Georgian Military Highway, in 157 km to the north of Tbilisi, along the banks of the Tergi river. The name ‘Kazbegi’ is the nickname of local lord Gabriel Chopikashvili from a very influential local clan, who was the son of Kazi-Bek. Gabriel Chopikashvili’s grandson was famous Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi.
Trapped in between the mountains at the elevation of 1745 m above the sea level, Stepantsminda can boast magnificent scenery and so much to do and to see in its alpine meadows dotted with rhododendron, mountain passes and waterfalls. Relatively dry cold winters and cool summers do not scare its ‘all the year round’ guests – some coming to hike, to trek, to wonder, to watch birds, the others to visit the Gergeti Sameba (Trinity) church (14th c), holy place of pilgrimage.
Stepanstminda is a prophylactic, pulmonologic, gastroenterological resort.
The population of Kazbegi district is 5,300, the area is 1081,7 sq.km. Average summer temperature: +10◦, average winter temperature: -11, -15◦.
The Tergi (Terek) river with its whole length 623 km and basin area 43,200 km2 flows from Georgia north through Russia (North Ossetia, Chechnia and Dagestan) into the Caspian Sea. Rising from the glaciers of Mt. Kazbek at the elevation source of 5,037 m in the main Caucasus range, the Tergi is the major river in the Northern Caucasus.
Ridges: the Greater Caucasus, Khoki, Khuro and Shavana
Mountains: Zilgakhokho, Adlasani, Laghztsiti, Esikomi, Khorisari, Sadzeli, Kvenamta, Chaukhi
Gorges: the Sno Gorge and the village of Juta (2,200 m), the Truso Gorge with spectacular views opening up to a high altitude valley dotted with towers and springs, including a small, naturally carbonated lake; the Dariali Gorge, the Devdorak Gorge.
Waterfalls: the Dariali Gorge, the village of Gveleti (Kazbegi District)
Trekking & camping: This area is a popular waypoint for trekkers. Camping areas: at the bottom of Mt.Chaukhi, 1.5hour drive from Juta, the Khada Valley, near the village of Sioni, Gergeti Trinity Church area, Elia Mountain. Other cultural monuments to see: Sioni Church - early medieval period, Sno Fortress - XVII century, Dariali Forts – medieval period