Stepantsminda: The Rugged Georgian Town with a Striking Brutalist Hotel

In Stepantsminda, retro cable cars, crashing waterfalls and the Caucuses' diverse cuisine are best bookended with sauna sessions at a newly refurbished hotel housed in a Soviet-era sanatorium


Stepantsminda, Georgia.

Why now?

Whether February's avalanche of red roses and heart-shaped baked goods makes you want to run for the hills or ride off with your beloved into the (wildly remote) sunset, Stepantsminda provides. Getting to the townlet - known locally as Kazbegi - in Georgia's mountainous north-east, from the capital, Tbilisi, is half the fun. The three-hour road trip along the Georgian Military Highway takes in Ananuri's domed 1689-built Church of the Virgin, emerald-green rivers and reservoirs, cattle and sheep pastures, the vast Treaty of Georgievsk Monument - its bold tile mural contrasting brilliantly with the surrounding snowy peaks - and the odd roadside stand selling traditional sheepskin hats.

Book now and you'll be among the first to enjoy the newly refurbished Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, a reinvented mountain bolthole housed in a former sanatorium that had lain abandoned for decades prior to its 2012 transformation. Think Soho House minus the "look at me", Gstaad minus the sky-high prices, and Soviet brutalist architecture minus the communism.

Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, Georgia
 Rooms Kazbegi, Stepantsminda, Georgia

Mountain views from Rooms Hotel Kazbegi. | Photo credit: Ana Gabashvili / Design Hotels

Don't miss

Make time around skiing, hiking or horse riding to visit the Easter Island-esque Stone Heads of Sno, a collection of sculptures hand-carved from massive slabs of granite by local artist Merab Piranishvili; the 14th-century Gergeti Church, in the shadow of the 5,034m-tall Mount Kazbek; and the thundering Gveleti Waterfall, from where eagles, hawks and Griffon vultures swoop across the valley.

Where to stay?

The 155-key, Adjara Arch-designed Rooms Hotel Kazbegi, whose breakfast spread is as epic as the views through the floor-to-ceiling windows and whose pine-clad wellness area - all vintage ski posters and Caucasus-facing poolside lounge chairs - takes mindful R&R to new heights.

Where to go for dinner?

For refined Georgian-meets-international cuisine made with ingredients sourced from local growers and farmers, the hotel restaurant can't be beaten. The honey cake dessert is worth a visit in itself.

Restaurant at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
A suite at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi

Dining at Rooms Kazbegi, left, and a mountain-view room.| Photo credit: Ana Gabashvili / Design Hotels

And for a drink?

Georgians were experts in natural wine long before it started appearing on London menus. Get to grips with the country's indigenous grape varieties on a tour and tasting at Stepantsminda's Winery Khareba.

Who to take with you?

Your secret lover. Chances of you bumping into anyone you know in a lift queue or on a riverside walk around here? Low to zero.

Essentials to pack

Your phone, loaded with the Night Sky app, designed by indie studio iCandi. With no light pollution, this is a perfect place for star-gazing, and the tech will assist you in telling your stars from your satellites.

How to get there

Fly from London to Tbilisi via Munich, then either rent a car or take a taxi (shared or private) or bus for the awe-inspiring three-hour ascent to Stepantsminda.

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