• KELITSADI LAKE TREKKING GUIDE

    GEORGIA

    Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
  • KELITSADI LAKE

    Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning

KELITSADI LAKE TREKKING GUIDE

GEORGIA

Crystal clear Kelitsadi Lake sits among volcanic peaks on a barren plateau, shades of rust, pistachio, and teal bursting from the surrounding land. It’s a remote, otherworldly spot. The journey requires 3 days of trekking over challenging terrain and two mountain passes, with little trail to follow and a distinct lack of water. It is definitely a hike best suited to those with experience. 

In this guide we cover everything you need to know about the Kelitsadi Lake Trek, including a detailed breakdown of the route with trekking distances and times, plus what to pack, how to get there, and more. We also provide maps and a GPX track download to help you find your way.

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KELITSADI LAKE TREK QUICK FACTS

            • Distance | 28 km
            • Duration | 3 days
            • Start/End | Kvemo Okrokana/Ketrisi (Truso Valley)
            • Min Elevation | 2030 m
            • Max Elevation | 3428 m
            • Total Ascent | 2077 metres
            • Total Descent | 1944 metres
            • Hiking Season | Summer (some snowfields until late Aug/Sept)
            • River Crossings | Day 3 (can cross on rocks)
            • Water Sources | LIMITED – only guaranteed at Kelitsadi Lake
              (end Day 2) & Esikomi River (mid-way Day 3)

KELITSADI LAKE TREK QUICK FACTS

Distance
28 km

Duration
3 days

Start/End
Kvemo Okrokana/
Ketrisi (Truso Valley)

Min Elevation
2030 m

Max Elevation
3428 m

Total Ascent
2077 metres

Total Descent
1944 metres

Hiking Season
Summer
(some snowfields
till late Aug/Sept)

River Crossings
Day 3
(can cross on rocks)

Water Sources
LIMITED
Only guaranteed at
Kelitsadi Lake (end Day 2)
& Esikomi River (mid Day 3)

 


WATCH OUR FILM

Watch the behind the scenes version of our Kelitsadi Lake hike on Instagram stories

Watch the behind the scenes
version of our Kelitsadi Lake
trek on Instagram stories 

KELITSADI LAKE TREK HIKING MAP

KELITSADI LAKE TREK

HIKING MAP

Use the map below to help guide you to Kelitsadi Lake and back. Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and switch between satellite and terrain view.

To use an offline version of this map, download our KML file for use with Maps.me (iOS/Android), or the GPX file for use with other offline mapping apps such as Gaia (iOS/Android) or OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android). See the expandable box below for tips on using these apps. 


To save this map to use online on desktop or mobile just tap the star symbol at the top. When you open Google Maps on your phone, navigate to ‘Saved’ at the bottom, then swipe along to ‘Maps’ at the top. You’ll find this map in your list of maps.

On desktop, click the three lines at the top left, select ‘Your Places’, then ‘Maps’. Click the map, then scroll down and select ‘Open in My Maps’ to access the interactive version.

Alternatively, just tap the rectangle symbol at the top right of the map in this blog post to view the My Maps version larger on desktop.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to view this version of the map offline, but we’ve provided a download for a similar version for offline use.


MAPS.ME

Maps.me is our go-to offline mapping app. We find it straightforward to use for planning routes in advance, as well as navigating on the trail. It doesn’t drain our phone battery, and it’s quick and easy to save and organise ‘bookmarks’. There are many trails already marked on Maps.me, plus you can download and import a KML track of your route to the app. 

To use Maps.me, first download the app (iOS/Android). Hover over the region or country that you want to visit and the app will prompt you to download this map. Once downloaded, it can be viewed offline. 

You can tap anywhere and save it as a ‘bookmark’ by tapping the star symbol at the bottom. Hit ‘Edit Bookmark’ to personalise the bookmark colour, organise your bookmarks into different folders, and rename them. 

You can navigate easily or plan routes in advance by tapping your start point and selecting ‘route from’, then tapping your end point and selecting ‘route to’. Tap the car, walking, or cycling symbol at the top of the screen to indicate your mode of travel. If you want to plot a different route to the one suggested by Maps.me, just tap a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) bookmark between the start and end points and select ‘add stop’. 

Maps.me shows the distance and travel time, plus elevation profiles for hiking trails. Note that the estimated time isn’t always reliable, but we’ve always found the distance and elevation gain/loss to be largely accurate. It only shows very basic contour lines.

You can track your progress on the trail using GPS. The arrow shows your direction of travel. Tap the compass at the top right of the screen to keep the map in a fixed position (the arrow will rotate). Alternatively, tap the arrow at the bottom right of the screen to rotate the map in the direction of travel (the arrow will stay in a fixed position).

GAIA

Gaia (iOS/Android) is another offline mapping app that is very useful. It shows the contours in much more detail than Maps.me, as long as you have previously viewed the section of map online. With a paid membership you can download various maps in advance for offline use. The app has existing OpenStreetMap trails marked and you can import GPX tracks and view them offline. You can also create new routes online yourself and export them as GPX or KML files. You can navigate easily on the trail using the arrow that shows your GPS location. Unlike with Maps.me, it isn’t possible to quickly check distances between two points (or at least we haven’t figured out a way to do it). There are a lot of useful features in the free version and even more benefits if you have a paid annual membership, so if you spend a lot of time outdoors it is worthwhile learning how to use the app to its full advantage. 

In our experience, Gaia drains your phone battery much quicker than Maps.me, even in flight mode, so it’s best to shut down the app completely each time you finish using it. 

OSMAND MAPS

OsmAnd Maps (iOS/Android) is another great offline mapping app with lots of useful features. In our opinion, it’s not as intuitive as Maps.me, and it has so many features that it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Like Gaia, we recommend checking out the written and video tutorials on the OsmAnd website to learn how to fully use the app. The benefits of the app include being able to plot routes in advance and save them as GPX tracks, and to view detailed elevation and terrain information, including surface types. You can also import GPX tracks. One downside is that the free version does not include contour lines, but these can be added via a paid plugin.


KELITSADI LAKE HIKE

We’ve broken down the Kelitsadi Lake trek into separate days and hiking sections below.

We’ve also given approximate timings and distances for each, as well as approximate figures for elevation gain and loss. The total daily figures for elevation gain and loss are based on our exact recorded route using Garmin and may not be 100% accurate, but they are a good guide of what to expect. The elevation gain and loss figures for each hiking section are estimates based on our recorded track and mapping apps.

The timings are based around average hiking speeds and are intended as a rough guide. If you’re a fast hiker it may take you less time, and conversely, if you’re a slow hiker it may take you longer. As always, our personal hiking time was at the longer end of the scale because we stopped to film, drone, and photograph a lot.

As Day 1 is a short day, it would certainly be possible to hike all the way to Kelitsadi Lake in one day, and some people do this. However, because you camp above 3000 m at the lake, it is best to stick to the three day plan and ascend gradually. This is especially true if coming straight from Tbilisi (400 m) to do the hike.

ELEVATION PROFILE AND 3D ROUTE MAP VIDEO

The elevation profile of the trek, starting near Kvemo Okrokana and finishing at the village of Ketrisi in Truso Valley



DAY 1 | KVEMO OKROKANA → KELI PLATEAU

6.4 km | + 643 m / – 27 m | 2 – 3 hours

DAY 1

KVEMO OKROKANA
KELI PLATEAU

6.4 km

+ 643 m / – 27 m

2 – 3 hours

Day 1 is a fairly easy introduction to the trek. There are fantastic views and an early finish at a scenic plateau. You’ll need to carry a lot of water though as there is no reliable source until Kelitsadi Lake at the end of Day 2.

KVEMO OKROKANA → TOP OF HILL | 4.6 km | + 550 m | 1.5 – 2 hours

KVEMO OKROKANA
→ TOP OF HILL

4.6 km / + 550 m

1.5 – 2 hours

The trail actually starts a little before Kvemo Okrokana, just beyond Nogkau village. Head up the dirt road, climbing the hillside steadily on a series of switchbacks. There are wonderful views of snow capped Mount Kazbek and the surrounding mountains (weather permitting of course). The turn-off from the road is 3.8 km from the start and it takes around an hour to reach it. The trail heads to the left, through the bushes and up the rocky hillside. Keep your eyes peeled and pay attention to GPS as this turn-off is easily missed.

From the turn-off there is a steep climb on a not-so-obvious trail (which we didn’t find until much higher up). It takes around 35 – 40 minutes to reach the top. The panoramic view of Kazbek and co is spectacular.

Two hikers climb gradually past jumbled rocks with Mt Kazbek marking the skyline behind, on the Kelitsadi Lake Trek in Georgia

After reaching the top of the hill, the trail climbs gradually past jumbled rocks, with Mt Kazbek marking the skyline behind



Two hikers climb gradually past jumbled rocks with Mt Kazbek marking the skyline behind, on the Kelitsadi Lake Trek in Georgia

After reaching the top of the hill, the trail climbs
gradually past jumbled rocks, with Mt Kazbek
marking the skyline behind



TOP OF HILL → PLATEAU CAMP | 1.8 km | + 93 m / – 27 m | 30 – 60 min

TOP OF HILL →
PLATEAU CAMP

1.8 km | + 93 m / – 27 m

30 – 60 min

The toughest part of the day is now behind you. From here it’s a gentle climb through an impressive grassy landscape with bizarrely shaped rocks. The trail leads to a wonderful viewpoint with 360 degree views, where you get your first sight of what lies ahead. The trail then heads to the right, curving around small hillsides before climbing to a viewpoint on a rocky ridge. Here the grassy plateau reveals itself – a perfect stretch of flat grazing land, narrowing towards the top.

The trail leads down a gentle slope to the plateau. Behind you, Mt Kazbek can still be seen clearly. There is ample space for camping, so just pick any spot that takes your fancy. There may be sheep grazing here, and as always this comes with the chance of sheepdogs (although in our experience, they left us alone).

A wide grassy meadow surrounded by hills and mountains on the Keli plateau, the ideal place to camp on Day 1 of the Kelitsadi Lake Trek

Looking down on the grassy plateau, which narrows and then rises towards the saddle in the distance



A wide grassy meadow surrounded by hills and mountains on the Keli plateau, the ideal place to camp on Day 1 of the Kelitsadi Lake Trek

Looking down on the grassy plateau, which
narrows and rises to the saddle in the distance



DAY 2 | KELI PLATEAU → KELITSADI LAKE

9.4 km | + 965 m / – 529 m | 5 – 8 hours

DAY 2

KELI PLATEAU
KELITSADI LAKE

9.4 km

+ 965 m / – 529 m

5 – 8 hours

Day 2 is a tough day but spectacular scenery is the reward. For the most part, there isn’t much of a trail to follow. Instead, you’ll spend much of the day navigating towards key landmarks and double checking your GPS. The terrain consists of a lot of big rocks, shale, and loose scree. Snowfields around the saddle and pass are common until late summer. You may be able to get water from these but it’s best not to rely on it. Instead, ensure that you have enough water to reach the lake itself.

Note that this trail description outlines the route via Khorisar Pass, not the ‘Northern Route’ which is marked on Maps.me/OpenStreetMap sources. The Northern Route is considered harder and potentially more dangerous.

You should also be aware that Kelitsadi Lake lies very close to the de-facto border with South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region. Be very careful not to ascend to the wrong pass when leaving the lake, and don’t go anywhere near the ‘border’ line. It is illegal to cross it and you risk being arrested.

PLATEAU CAMP → SADDLE BETWEEN HIGHER AND LESSER KHORISAR | 4.2 km | + 600 m | 2 – 3 hours

PLATEAU CAMP
SADDLE

4.2 km | + 600 m

2 – 3 hours

From the flat plateau, the gradual incline on grass becomes rockier until finally you cross a large boulder field. There is no obvious trail so just pick your way across the rocks in the direction of the saddle ahead. There aren’t any super steep sections, but it’s fairly time consuming due to the necessary route finding and unstable footing. A path of sorts appears here and there, becoming a bit more obvious closer to the saddle.

The saddle between Higher and Lesser Khorisar is wide, with some perfectly positioned rocks where you can rest and enjoy the view back towards Mt Kazbek. Lap it up while you can, as the iconic mountain soon disappears and doesn’t reappear until you reach High Esi Pass on Day 3.

A hiker climbs over jumbled reddish rocks with mountains all around, on Day 2 of the Kelitsadi Lake Trek

Picking a path through the rocks, not far below the saddle



A hiker climbs over jumbled reddish rocks with mountains all around, on Day 2 of the Kelitsadi Lake Trek

Picking a path through the rocks below the saddle



SADDLE → KHORISAR PASS | 1.2 km | + 200 m | 45 – 60 min

SADDLE
KHORISAR PASS

1.2 km | + 200 m

45 – 60 min

Heading up to the right in a westerly direction, aim for the dip to the right of the jagged shards of shale. There isn’t much of a path, but once the rocks near the saddle give way to soft shale and small loose stones, a faint trail becomes a little more obvious. After reaching the flat dip the trail continues climbing on soft shale and sandy ground. You may be able to fetch water from a melting snowfield to your left. It doesn’t take long to climb this part, after which an almost flat trail gently rises to the pass, which is wide and comfortable with plenty of space. The views down to Kelitsadi Lake are wonderful, and looking back to the east, you can see the distinctive profile of the Chaukhi Massif on a clear day.

The view of Kelitsadi Lake from Khorisar pass on Day 2 of the trek

The view of Kelitsadi Lake and surrounding mountains from Khorisar Pass (3428 m)



The view of Kelitsadi Lake from Khorisar pass on Day 2 of the trek

The view of Kelitsadi Lake and surrounding
mountains from Khorisar Pass (3428 m)



KHORISAR PASS → KELITSADI LAKE | 4 km | – 500 m / + 150 m | 2 – 4 hours

KHORISAR PASS →
KELITSADI LAKE

4 km | – 500 m / + 150 m

2 – 4 hours

From Khorisar Pass it’s a steep, arduous, and time consuming descent on a trail which intermittently crosses boulders and loose shale. The initial section is straightforward, but you soon hit a long steep part which requires concentration and great care. Trekking poles are definitely a help as you slip and slide down on small loose rocks. The trail is mostly apparent, with cairns guiding the way and keeping you on track. The surrounding volcanic mountains, with their distinct rhubarb and pistachio hues, are spectacular.

Finally, you’ll reach the dry riverbed of the White Aragvi at the bottom and can breathe a sigh of relief. However, the final stretch to Kelitsadi Lake does require a little more climbing (about 100m in elevation). Cross the riverbed and start traversing the lower slopes of Sherkhota. There are a few gullies to cross. Join the other dry riverbed and climb to a small rise, where the view of Kelitsadi Lake appears again. From here it’s an easy stroll down to the lakeshore.

The best camping spots are at the grassy areas on the northern and western shores (where you first arrive at the lake, or at the bottom of the High Esi Pass trail). The lake water is crystal clear and looks clean  (in our experience), but of course it’s advisable to treat it before drinking.

A hiker skirting the base of Sherkhota on the final climb to Kelitsadi Lake, after the steep descent from Khorisar Pass (seen behind)

Skirting the base of Sherkhota on the final climb to Kelitsadi Lake, after the steep descent from Khorisar Pass (seen behind)



A hiker skirting the base of Sherkhota on the final climb to Kelitsadi Lake, after the steep descent from Khorisar Pass (seen behind)

Skirting the base of Sherkhota on the final climb
to Kelitsadi Lake, after the steep descent from
Khorisar Pass (seen behind)



DAY 3 | KELITSADI LAKE → TRUSO VALLEY

12 km | + 469 m / – 1388 m  | 5 – 8 hours

DAY 3

KELITSADI LAKE
TRUSO VALLEY

12 km

+ 469 m / – 1388 m

5 – 8 hours

Day 3 starts with a steep climb to High Esi Pass (3426 m), where you have spectacular views back over Kelitsadi Lake and ahead to Mt. Kazbek. Then comes a long descent on scree, rocks, and finally grassy sheep trails. There isn’t much of a trail to follow for the first half of the day, so once again navigating with the help of GPS and landmarks is key. You can get water from the Esikomi River, around 5 km from Kelitsadi Lake.

    • Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning

    Morning reflections at Kelitsadi Lake



    KELITSADI LAKE → HIGH ESI PASS | 2.3 km | + 350 m | 1 – 1.5 hours

    KELITSADI LAKE
    → HIGH ESI PASS

    2.3 km | + 350 m

    1 – 1.5 hours

    From the northern shore, skirt around the north side of the lake until you reach the next flat grassy area. You can choose to carry on to the big cairn before beginning the climb (ie. the Maps.me / OpenStreetMaps trail), or start climbing right away (ie. the Caucasus-Trekking (CT) GPX track). We started climbing early, but in the end our GPX track lay somewhere between the two.

    Either way, the climb is mostly on shale all the way to the top. You can see cairns and a couple of poles marking the pass (note that the Maps.me trail will bring you out higher than the actual pass!). In hindsight, the easiest approach is probably to stick on the Maps.me trail (which is less steep), then cut diagonally across the mountainside straight towards the poles on the pass once you have them in your line of sight (as per our own GPX track).

    The shale is largely packed hard and isn’t as bad to walk on as it might seem. It takes around an hour to reach the top, more if you stop to take in the lake views (which are better on the way up than they are at the top!).

    Looking down on turquoise Kelitsadi Lake from the climb to High Esi Pass in the Kazbegi region of Georgia

    Make sure to look back and appreciate the view on the climb to High Esi Pass



    Looking down on turquoise Kelitsadi Lake from the climb to High Esi Pass in the Kazbegi region of Georgia

    Make sure to look back and appreciate
    the view on the climb to High Esi Pass



    HIGH ESI PASS → START OF NARROW VALLEY |  3.5 km | + 30 m / – 600 m | 1 – 2 hours

    HIGH ESI PASS →
    START OF NARROW VALLEY

    3.5 km | + 30 m / – 600 m

    1 – 2 hours

    There’s no obvious or easy trail down from the pass, so it’s a case of just picking your way down the shale towards the narrow channel at the bottom, marked by a cairn. This initial section is the steepest. Again, the Maps.me trail and CT GPX track each take quite different routes on the descent. The first stays high, traversing the hillside, the second mostly sticks to the dry, rocky riverbed. We descended to the cairn and then largely followed the Maps.Me route for a while, up onto the hillside to the left of the riverbed. This route involves a little up and down as you traverse the hillside and negotiate a few small gullies, but the terrain is pretty easy to walk on and you don’t have to pick your way through the boulder field at the foot of the red and green mountain.

    Once we hit the longer clumpy grass on the hillside, we descended to the riverbed and carried on over the rocks for a while (here our GPX track departs from the Maps.me one and rejoins the CT one). There are water sources here and there. Just before the riverbed reaches the big bend, a trail leads up the embankment to the right. You’ll spot a cairn at the top. Follow the trail up the hillside and around to the right. A view down towards Truso Valley opens up ahead of you.

    A hiker descends the shale slope from High Esi pass on Day 3 of the Kelitsadi Lake trek

    Descending the shale slope towards the first cairn, below High Esi Pass



    A hiker descends the shale slope from High Esi pass on Day 3 of the Kelitsadi Lake trek

    Descending the shale slope from High Esi Pass



    START OF NARROW VALLEY → KETRISI | 3.5 km | + 60 m / – 780 m | 2 – 4 hours

    START OF NARROW VALLEY
    → KETRISI

    3.5 km | + 60 m / – 780 m

    2 – 4 hours

    At the bend in the river, descend to the rocks below, and climb again to the top of the grassy hill on the right bank. Here you’ll find the first real trail of the day, clearly leading along the hilltop then down to the river again, now a dramatic red colour thanks to the sulphurous water staining the surrounding rocks. An obvious trail sticks close to the river for a while.

    You’ll come to a section where there’s a flattish grassy part of the hillside over on the left bank. In hindsight this is probably a good spot to cross the river, after which you can climb the embankment. We chose to carry on up the overgrown grassy hillside on the right bank (following the available GPX tracks), which led us to a beautiful white and grey travertine. We crossed this, then descended back to the river and hopped across the orange-hued rocks to the left bank. The Caucasus Trekking GPX track carried on further still on the right bank, but we couldn’t see a way of continuing. After a short steep climb up to the flatter grassy area, the final section on narrow sheep trails begins.

    A hiker makes their way along the grassy hill on the right bank of the river: the ‘first real trail of the day’ on Day 3 of the Kelitsadi Lake Trek

    Hiking along the grassy hill on the right bank of the river: the ‘first real trail of the day’



    A hiker makes their way along the grassy hill on the right bank of the river: the ‘first real trail of the day’ on Day 3 of the Kelitsadi Lake Trek

    Hiking along the grassy hill on the right bank
    of the river: the ‘first real trail of the day’



    There is no ‘right trail’, so just pick one and keep following it along the hillside high above the river. There are about three or four tricky sections where the trail has fallen away a bit, or where it crosses a gully. Take extra care here, climbing up or down to a different sheep trail if it looks like an easier spot to cross. The last of these is the widest and trickiest. Beyond here, the trail is straightforward for the final 2.8 km. You’ll emerge at a viewpoint over the Truso Valley, with Zakagori Fortress to the left, the monasteries at Abano straight ahead, and Ketrisi village to the right. Work your way down the hillside towards the river, crossing it on a wooden bridge, then carry on towards the largely abandoned village of Ketrisi.

    From Ketrisi village you may be able to hitchhike out of the valley back to Kvemo Okrokano, Kobi, or Kazbegi (Stepantsminda). Otherwise you can call a driver (with a good 4×4) to pick you up, or walk to Kvemo Okrokano first where any car can reach. If you’re still feeling fit and have the time and inclination, you can walk all the way back to the main highway (12 km). Note that there aren’t any guesthouses in Truso Valley, but you may wish to camp another night and walk out the next day. There are some huts and camping spots at ‘Truso Camping and Cafe’ (42.5846, 44.4266).

    See More From Georgia

    A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
    Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
    A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
    The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
    A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
    Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
    Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
    A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
    A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
    Snow capped Mt. Kazbek shining bright at sunrise, as seen from the town of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in northern Georgia
    The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
    One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
    Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
    A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau
    A person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
    Two people watch something in the distance from outside a parked 4x4 vehicle in the hills of Racha, Georgia.
    A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
    Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
    A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
    The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
    A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
    Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
    Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
    A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
    A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
    Snow capped Mt. Kazbek shining bright at sunrise, as seen from the town of Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in northern Georgia
    The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
    One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
    Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
    A UAZ Buhanka campervan parked at the side of a grassy track to Levani's Lake on the expansive Javakheti Plateau
    A person walks beneath the huge dusty sky looking at the seemingly endless hazy view at Takhti-Tepha Mud Volcanoes in the Vashlovani Protected Area
    Two people watch something in the distance from outside a parked 4x4 vehicle in the hills of Racha, Georgia.

    WHAT TO PACK AND OTHER PRACTICALITIES

    There are no guesthouses or shops on the Kelitsadi Lake trek. It is very remote and you need to be completely self-sufficient. You’ll need camping gear, all weather clothing, food, lots of water, and various other items to make your trek run smoothly and safely. We’ve compiled some packing lists and more info below.

    ALL WEATHER CLOTHING

    Make sure you pack clothing for all weather eventualities. The weather can be unpredictable, change quickly, and vary greatly between the lower and higher altitudes. It can get very cold camping at the lake (3080 m), even in summer. You need waterproofs and layers (including a base layer, mid layer, and outer layer). Ideally your base layers should be made from merino wool or sweat-wicking material. Avoid jeans or any cotton materials – if they get wet they are heavy, take forever to dry, and you’ll get cold easily.

    A hat, gloves and sunglasses are also needed. Make sure you have proper footwear (ideally hiking boots) that are broken in already. You may want to pack a pair of sandals for wearing around camp.

    Merino T-Shirt
    His/Hers

    Merino Thermal Baselayer
    His/Hers

    Merino Thermal Leggings
    His/Hers

    Merino Underwear
    His/Hers

    Sports Bra

    Fleece
    His/Hers

    Down Jacket
    His/Hers

    Rain Jacket/Shell
    His/Hers

    Waterproof Trousers
    His/Hers

    Quick Drying Hiking Trousers
    (preferably with zip-off shorts)
    His/Hers

    Trousers to wear around camp
    (Lightweight, similar to above)

    Trekking Socks x 2
    His/Hers

    Warm Socks for night x 1

    Buff

    Gloves
    Liner & Waterproof Outer

    Sun Hat

    Warm Hat

    Sunglasses

    Hiking Boots
    His/Hers

    Sandals for evening

    Bandana

    Belt


    CAMPING EQUIPMENT

    As a minimum you’ll need a tent, sleeping mat, and sleeping bag. We always like to have a pillow and sleeping liner too. You’ll also need a small burner, gas canister and cooking supplies.

    HIKING GEAR

    You’ll need the usual hiking gear, such as a backpack, hiking poles, a refillable water bottle or water bladder, a water purification method, a first aid kit, rubbish bags for carrying out all your waste, a headtorch, suncream, and a toilet trowel (for digging a hole and burying human waste).

    50-70L Backpack + rain cover

    Hiking Poles

    Water Bladder/Water Bottle

    Water Purifier (eg. Steripen, purification tablets, LifeStraw, etc.)

    First Aid Kit

    Penknife

    Maps (offline GPS + paper)

    Rubbish Bag(s)

    Headtorch

    Suncream

    Basic Toiletries

    Toilet Paper

    Toilet Trowel 

    Hand Sanitiser


    FOOD

    You’ll need plenty of snacks to keep you going, plus food for at least 2 x breakfasts, 3 x lunches, and 2 x dinners.

    Pack food that is high in calories, but low in weight, and make sure you have a good mix of proteins and carbohydrates. If you can, bring dehydrated meals from home. This is by far the easiest option (Firepot are our favourite, but others include Mountain House and Good To-Go).

    You can also bring food from Tbilisi, or stock up in Kazbegi. There is a great bakery with fresh shoti bread and khachapuri, right next door to a decent supermarket (42.6596, 44.6424).

    You need to carry all of your waste out with you, so it’s best to avoid excess packaging like tins, cans, bottles, jars, etc. These are often heavy, too. Store bread in a cloth bag (available to buy at Zero Effect in Tbilisi), and wrap cheese in muslin/gauze (you can buy a big enough roll at pharmacies in Georgia) to keep them fresh.

    SNACKS

    Pre-made Trail Mix
    (eg. nuts, raisins, M&Ms)

    Churchkhela
    (traditional Georgian snack of nuts on a string dipped in grape juice)

    Tklapi
    (Georgian fruit leather)

    Trekking Bars
    (available in Tbilisi supermarkets: Goodwill, Carrefour, etc.)

    Snickers
    (widely available)


    BREAKFAST

    Pre-mixed Muesli
    (eg. oats + cinnamon + almonds + flax seeds + desiccated coconut – buy in Tbilisi) 

    Porridge
    (widely available)

    Powdered Milk
    (available in Carrefour, Tbilisi)

    Honey
    (small sachets available in Goodwill, Tbilisi)

    Extra Toppings
    (eg. chia seeds + goji berries + dried fruit + walnuts – buy in Tbilisi)

    Coffee
    (instant or use an
    X-Brew + real coffee)


    LUNCH

    Hard cheese
    (wrapped in muslin)

    Bread
    (stored in cloth bag)

    Nutella/Peanut Butter
    (carry in reusable secure plastic container)

    Olive Oil
    (carry in reusable secure plastic container)

    Savoury Biscuits
    (widely available)

    Cured Meats
    (available in bigger towns and cities)


    DINNER

    Dehydrated Meals
    (bring from home)

    ‘Yelli’ Meals
    (available to buy in Carrefour)

    Pasta + Tomato Sauce + Cheese + Cured Meat
    (small cartons of sauce available in Carrefour)

    Pre-mixed ingredients portioned in ziploc bags
    (bring dehydrated veggies from home as limited options available in Tbilisi).

    Suggested ingredients: 

    Buckwheat/Bulgar Wheat + Spices + Stock Cube + Dehydrated Veggies + Parmesan + Olive Oil + Seeds/Nuts + Dried Apricots + Cured Meat


    ELECTRONICS

    You’ll need a power bank (and appropriate cables) for charging your phone, plus camera batteries, etc. We also carry our own small solar panel. We have a satellite communication device too for emergencies, the Garmin InReach. Note that you’ll likely lose phone reception before reaching the grassy plateau on Day 1, and it will reappear at some point near Truso Valley on Day 3.

    WATER

    There are limited water sources on the Kelitsadi Lake trek. You need to carry several litres to get you through the first two days. Plan accordingly and have a water bladder and/or enough refillable water bottles with you.

    There is the opportunity to fill up from melting snowfields near Khorisar Pass, but it is not guaranteed.  Water can be taken from Kelitsadi Lake at the end of Day 2, but it should be treated. Mid-way through Day 3 you can get water from the Esikomi River. To treat water, have a Steripen, purification tablets, or such like with you. Some electrolyte tabs are also good for giving you a boost, especially in hot, sweaty conditions.

    A hiker and her tent on the Keli plateau, camping on Day 1 of the Kelitsadi Lake trek

    Camping with sheep and mountain views for company on the Keli Plateau on Day 1



    A hiker and her tent on the Keli plateau, camping on Day 1 of the Kelitsadi Lake trek

    Camping with sheep and mountain views
    for company on the Keli Plateau on Day 1



    MAPS & NAVIGATION

    You can buy the Geoland trekking maps of the area in their shop in Tbilisi. You can also follow the trail using GPS on your phone with Maps.me or another offline mapping app like Gaia or OSMand. Remember to download the relevant map online beforehand, and switch to flight mode to conserve battery. You can set this blog post to read offline also, and download our GPX/KML files.

    WEATHER FORECASTS

    Yr.no is the best weather app (iOS/Android) we know of, covering specific places like Kelitsadi Lake (Ozero Kelitsad). It doesn’t work offline, but it is very useful for checking the weather in advance. If you have a Garmin InReach like us, you can get weather reports at any location.

    TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR HIKING AT ALTITUDE

    It’s important to note that most travel insurance providers will only cover hiking up to a certain altitude as standard (often 2500 m or 3000 m). In order to be covered for hiking above this, you will probably need to add on an ‘activity pack’ or such like. The highest point on the Kelitsadi Lake trek sits at over 3400 m, so make sure you check in advance whether your travel insurance policy covers you or not.

    Whether you are currently in your home country or are already travelling, two travel insurance policy providers that can cover for hiking above 3000 m are World Nomads (for residents of 140+ countries) and True Traveller (for UK and EEA residents only). We have purchased travel insurance policies from both of these companies in the past. We have found their policies to be comprehensive, and their online claims and extension processes straightforward.

     If you still need to organise your travel insurance, we’d suggest getting a quote from each to see which suits you best.

    HOW TO GET THERE

    The Kelitsadi Lake trek starts just before the small village of Kvemo Okrokana, about 3.6 km west of Kobi, a village on the Georgian Military Highway. The closest big town is Kazbegi (Stepantsminda). It ends at Ketrisi village in Truso Valley, a further 8 km west of Kvemo Okrokana.

    HOW TO GET TO KAZBEGI

    (STEPANTSMINDA)

    Kazbegi is about 150 km north of Tbilisi, along the Georgian Military Highway. The road is generally open year-round, but can close at times in winter if there is heavy snow. It takes about 3 hours to drive. Check Holiday Autos for car hire options if you want to self drive the route.

    You can take a marshrutka to Kazbegi from Didube Station in Tbilisi (10 GEL, approx. every hour from 0800 – 1900). It takes around 3.5 hours, usually with one toilet stop en route. You’ll be dropped at the bus station (more of a stand really) in the centre of Kazbegi. Return marshrutkas from Kazbegi to Tbilisi leave hourly on the hour between 0700 and 1200, then at 1330, 1400, 1530, 1700 and 1800, departing from the same place.

    There are also shared taxis departing from Didube Station. These cost about 20-25 GEL per seat. Alternatively, book a private car and driver with gotrip.ge and make as many scenic stops as you like along the way. This will likely cost around 140 GEL, with door to door service.

    HOW TO GET TO THE TRAILHEAD AND BACK

    TAXI

    From Kazbegi the easiest option is to take a taxi to Kvemo Okrokana, and call for a car to pick you up again at Ketrisi. Note that 2WD cars can make it (slowly) along the bumpy road/track to Kvemo Okrokana, but only proper 4WD vehicles can drive all the way into Truso Valley. It should cost no more than 40 GEL one way to Kvemo Okrokana (we paid 30 GEL during a quiet time), but if it’s a busy tourist season then taxi drivers may charge more. It could cost 80 – 100 GEL to be picked up in Ketrisi (we paid 80 GEL).

    SHUTTLE BUS

    From April 15th to October 31st, Mountain Freaks operate a daily shuttle bus to Truso Valley. This service departs from Kazbegi at 9am and 11am, returning at 4pm and 6pm. It costs 30 GEL return per person, and you should confirm your seat at least one day in advance as they can fill up fast. There’s a minimum of 3 passengers and a maximum of 7.

    HITCHHIKE AND WALK

    If you’re on a budget, the cheapest way to get to the trailhead is to hitchhike along the Georgian Military Highway and get dropped off at Kobi. From here, walk up the valley to the west, past the new cable car station which goes to Gudauri. It’s a 3.6 km walk to the trailhead from the main road. From Ketrisi, it’s a 12 km walk back to Kobi.

    MARSHRUTKA AND WALK

    Alternatively, you can take the Tbilisi bound marshrutka from Kazbegi town, get off at Kobi, then walk. They depart every hour, on the hour between 7am – 12pm, with another 5 departures at various times in the afternoon, up until 6pm. You may well have to pay the full Tbilisi fare (10 GEL).

     It’s also perfectly possible to depart on the Kazbegi bound marshrutka from Tbilisi in the morning, get off at Kobi, and hike to Kvemo Okrokana or further the same day, without going to Kazbegi at all. If you want to overnight somewhere before you start your hike, Kobi House is the closest option (there is no accommodation in Truso Valley itself).

    KOBI-GUDAURI CABLE CAR

    It’s also possible to get to Kobi via the Kobi-Gudauri cable car/ropeway, which usually operates in summer as well as the winter ski season. This connects Gudauri on the southern side of Jvari Pass with Kobi on the northern side and takes about 15 minutes. In summer it operates from 1000 – 1800 and costs 30 GEL return.

    WHERE TO STAY IN KAZBEGI (STEPANTSMINDA)

    WHERE TO STAY IN KAZBEGI

    (STEPANTSMINDA)

    Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) makes a good base for visiting the region. There are numerous accommodation options ranging from homely guesthouses to swish hotels, and even a funky campsite. It also has the best transport links and tourist services, like restaurants, bars, and travel agencies.

    BEST MT. KAZBEK VIEWS

    If you’re looking for the best Mt. Kazbek views, opt for somewhere a little north of the town square such as North Kazbegi, or somewhere up the hillside on the east of town, for example Guesthouse Elia, Wooden Hotel Kazbegi, Sabuka Qushashvili or Kazbegi View. Stunning design hotel Rooms Kazbegi arguably has the best view of all, and an enormous terrace from which to enjoy it. Elia Loft has three gorgeous A-Frame houses in a lovely forest setting.

    Sunrise view of Mt. Kazbek and Gergeti Holy Trinity Church from Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in Georgia

    Sunrise view of Mt. Kazbek and Gergeti Holy Trinity Church from Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)



    Sunrise view of Mt. Kazbek and Gergeti Holy Trinity Church from Kazbegi (Stepantsminda) in Georgia

    Sunrise view of Mt. Kazbek and Gergeti Holy
    Trinity Church from Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)



    ON THE MAIN ROAD

    If you want to avoid walking up hills, choose somewhere along the main road such as Wooden Guesthouse or Traveler Kazbegi Guesthouse. Both are very conveniently located close to the Tbilisi marshrutka stand, shops, restaurants, travel agencies, and so on.

    GERGETI VILLAGE

    There are also plenty of accommodation options in Gergeti Village, which is across the river from Kazbegi and close to the trailhead for the Gergeti Trinity Church and Gergeti Glacier hike. Views from here overlook Kazbegi town and the mountains rising behind (not Mt Kazbek and Gergeti Trinity Church). Options include Guesthouse Ketino Sujashvili, Home of Bella & Tamo, Red Stone Guesthouse, and Kazbegi Cabins.

    CAMPING

    For camping, check out Camp at Kuro, a little north of the town.

    FIND MORE KAZBEGI ACCOMMODATION HERE

    Booking.com

    ADD-ON TREKS/HIKES

    From Ketrisi, you may wish to explore more of Truso Valley before returning to Kvemo Okrokana, or trek there via Suatisi and Mna Valleys (note that you need to arrange a permit in advance).

    From Kazbegi, there are many places to explore and excellent day hikes, such as Gergeti Glacier. Juta Valley is also nearby, home to the impressive Chaukhi Massif and the starting point for the Juta to Roshka trek.

    COME JOIN US ON INSTAGRAM

    KELITSADI LAKE TREK

    That’s the lot. If you have any useful info to add or stories to share, get in touch through the comments section below. Equally, if you have any questions, let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them. And if you’re planning your own trek, good luck and enjoy!

    ORGANISE YOUR TRIP


    Booking.com

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    A Guide To The Kelitsadi Lake TrekA Guide To The Kelitsadi Lake TrekA Guide To The Kelitsadi Lake TrekA Guide To The Kelitsadi Lake Trek
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