Georgian Military Road: steeped in trade, wars, and legends

The Georgian Military Road, part of the E117 road, is a highlight of any trip to Georgia and one of the South Caucasus' most scenic roads, steeped in trade, wars, and legends. This ancient passage from Georgia to Russia is a spectacular adventure.

Georgian Military Road

When was the Georgian Military Road built?

 It follows an old path used by invaders and traders throughout the ages. It had existed since before the 1st century BC but had only evolved into a crude horse trail by the time the Russians finally converted it, through the Herculean efforts of 800 soldiers, into a carriage road in 1783. This historical road was considered a masterpiece of quality in its time, with iron bridges and multiple lanes used for both strategic military and civilian transportation between Russia and Georgia.

How long is the Georgian Military Road?

The road, also known as Georgian Military Highway, is 212km (131 miles) long, running from Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia) to Vladikavkaz (in the North Ossetia region of Russia), crossing the Great Caucasus Range.

Is the Georgian Military Highway paved?

The surface of the road is mostly paved, but in parts (due to snow and bad weather), the surface is pretty bad, turning to gravel. The road is pretty busy and heavily used by trailer lorries.

Is the Georgian Military Road open?

Set high in the Great Caucasus Range, the road tops out at 2,395m (7,857ft) above sea level, at Jvari Pass, also known as Krestovy Pereval or Cross Pass. This part of the road is notorious for avalanches, but galleries have been built for winter traffic, and the pass stays open for all but a few days most years. Altitude sickness (associated with heights over 2,300 m) should not pose a problem on the road itself, but it may affect travelers who venture off the highway into the mountains. Always check the weather forecast before you start your journey: adverse conditions are common. The road is typically open all year round, with the occasional closure in winters due to dangerous weather conditions, heavy snowfalls, blizzards, and low visibility.

Is the Georgian Military Highway scenic?

The road is said to be a highlight of any trip to Georgia. It offers stunning views of Mt. Kazbek and crosses the challenging Kazbegi Tunnel. The drive offers tremendous scenery and a quick route into a very interesting region of the world. It serves as the best route via which we can enjoy the dramatic scenery, crystal-clear air, and indescribable grandeur of the mighty Caucasus Mountains. There are many viewpoints on the way, including one spot where you’ll find natural mineral (sparkling) water, very popular among locals. The landscape - formidable mountains, great defiles of gorges, and isolated valleys - inspired Tolstoy, Dumas, and Gorky to feature it in their writings.