Kazbegi National Park is located in the historical gorge on the northern slopes of the Caucasus range. The territory of Kazbegi Protected Areas is fragmented, with a total area of 8707 hectares. All of the Kazbegi National Park is mountainous. Its lowest part is located at 1400 m above sea level.
Kazbegi National Park is located on the northern slopes of Main Caucasus range, in the basin of the Tergi River in the Kazbegi district (gorge); lower marker of its territory is at a height of 1400 m above sea level, and the upper one is within 300 – 4100 m.Establishing of Kazbegi National Park serves the purpose of protection of the high mountain ecosystems.
Its relief is complex, mountainous and very rugged.Kazbegi National Park as well as the whole gorge are constructed with basalt formations such as quartzite, carbonaceous clay shales of the lower Lias age and argillaceous sediments of the lower Toarcian age, where there are many diastase layer-veins. The so-called lava pillows are part of the region’s geology. In Dariali gorge, and even to the south, everywhere, where the Tergi River has cut its way through the canyons, the slopes of the gorge are the perfect examples of the local geology. It is easy to see the basalt sections and lava layers in the cliffs.
Vegetation cover of Kazbegi National Park is quite diverse. It is enclosed in the very part of the Kazbegi florist zone of the Greater Caucasus, which is distinguished by richness of endemic species. 1347 species of plants can be found in this florist zone, 26% out of them are endemic. The alpine, sub alpine, xerophyte and plants of other ecological communities can be found here.
The forests of Kazbegi National Park are located on the steep slopes. 105 species of wood plants can be found in the Strict Nature Reserve, though mainly there are Litvinov’s birch (Betula litwinovi), Sosnovski’s pine (Pinus sosnowskyi), junipers(Juniperus – 3 species), Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). It is remarkable that in Georgia there is a very rare large grove of Sea-buckthorn nearby the settlement of Stepantsminda, and the Caucasian rhododendron (Rhododendron caucasicum), Oriental beech and high-mountain oak are widespread in the vast areas.
Existence of diverse vegetation indicates to richness in fauna. And exactly in the Kazbegi Strict Nature Reserve can be found the Georgia’s Red List species, such as East Caucasian tur (Carpa cylinricornis), chamois (Rupicarpa rupicarpa), wolf (Canis lupus), Pine Marten (Martes martes), et al.
The Strict Nature Reserve is the best environment for birds of prey. Namely, here can be found the Golden eagle, griffon vulture, Bearded vulture, et al.
Attention draws the Caucasian Black grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi) and Caucasian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caucasicus) as well.
National Park is rich in Fauna. Here can be found the Georgia’s Red List species, such as East Caucasian tur (Carpa cylinricornis), chamois (Rupicarpa rupicarpa), Brown bear, lynx, et al. Birds of prey can be found in the National Park, which are also included in the Red List of Georgia, such as the Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).
Historical monuments, such as the fourteenth century Sameba temple, tenth century Garbani church, Sioni three-parted basilica, Akhaltsikhe basilica and seventeenth century Sno castle are very interesting for the visitors as well. Religious traditions and habitsof the local people that is a mix of Christian and Pagan habits attract the visitors.
The local people call themselves the Mokheves (habitants of the gorge). Like the Tushetians and partially, like the Khevsurs, the independent highlanders lived beyond the Caucasian watershed range for centuries and protected Georgia from the northern side. They managed the main way to Georgia – narrow and deep gorge of Dariali (“dari allan” – “the gate of Osetians”) and defended it for centuries.
The Mokheves have not forgotten their old traditions and habits like to highlanders of other mountain regions of Georgia and keep them even today, but unlike the rest of the mountain regions, due to the military road, the capital occurred here very fast just in the nineteenth century. Even today, the Mokheves are hospitable and rightly business oriented people. Even during disaster and hard times – in the beginning of the 1990s, no cases of robberies of tourists or travelers were recorded. Numerous Georgian and foreign tourists visit the gorge annually and one of the reasons of it is the amazing local landscapes and unique fauna together with the local people’s hospitality and desire of visitors to conquer the high summits.
Kazbegi has quite rich tourist potential: breath-taking nature, biodiversity, historical-cultural monuments, local traditions and habits. In the near future the improvement of the infrastructure of Kazbegi National Park is being planned, which will actively promote the development of tourism in this region.
Tours to Kazbegi region: