Explore a Spectacular Landscape.
Georgia is blessed with some incredible landscapes. Although bubbling lakes, geysers, mineral travertine and springs are generally associated with places like Iceland, we were amazed to discover that the Truso Valley offered us all these spectacular natural wonders in one place, without climbing or difficult access. The valley is only a short drive from Stepantsminda towards Gudauri, and we chose to wander and discover this exciting gorge for our last day in Kazbegi, before heading back to Tbilisi.
Start of the Hike
The off-road track leading to the Truso Valley might be rather bumpy and we recommend using a sturdy 4×4 if you want to avoid a bouncy slow ride and damage to your car. Parking is easy and plentiful near the small bridge that crosses the Terek River at the point to the nearby Okrokana village, where we started our hike. Hikers and those interested to discover the Truso Gorge with little time on hand (and a good off road car) may drive further up the valley but be aware that the narrow single track is perched above the steep river valley and at one point a narrow but fairly deep mountain stream needs to be traversed! Alternatively ask one of the local taxis to take you and wait while you explore the area. Please also note that the access road is not marked on Google Maps so you need to use initiative to the find the places.
Follow the Terek River
Having parked our car near Agatkau village we followed the dirt track above the murky Terek River full of melt water from the snowy peaks above. I found the road dust caused me troubles breathing, especially when sometimes a car passed and looking back on it now I wished perhaps we had driven further up the valley and had a chance to walk deeper into the countryside. The scenery from the road though was stunning, the rocky cliffs reaching for the sky and we already spotted some bubbles and orange coloured mineral deposits at the river’s edge at some points.
Families with kids, especially, might find the first three kilometers walk in a bit tedious, the way follows the rough road until another bridge crosses the river and reaches the first large mineral springs that have created a large travertine outcrops on the hillside, like a giant white carpet. The texture was similar to the one that we climbed on our brief stop en route from Kutaisi to Stepantsminda, the unusual surface is best explored barefoot especially during warmer days. Here however the colours of the minerals were more pronounced and the area seemed larger.
Finding the Bubbling Lake
Our aim was mainly to visit the bubbling lake and find the geyser that had been mentioned in the few posts that I could find about the Truso Gorge. We had nearly missed the path to the mineral lake, and had a friendly shepherd not informed us of our mistake we might have wandered by on the wrong side of the river. Just after the main outcrops of mineral travertine a narrow track leads down into the river valley, where a footbridge leads across past a camp. I would highly advise you to not cross the river by wading through the mountain stream as one guide suggested. Even during our visit in early August, when the water levels should be at its lowest, the riverbed was not visible and the water appeared to be rushing along with enough force to knock even the strongest of grown ups over and sweep them away! Beside the bridge slung across the river is a fun way to cross the torrent.
Iron Deposits Created Red Veins
On the other side of the Terek River, a small camp had been created and a few locals wanted to entice us to have a drink. We politely declined and wandered on, up the makeshift steps, created with old tires to a well-trodden path in the blossoming hillside. After a short stroll we discovered bright red veins running through the green field below like the veins through a body. We decided they must be iron deposits from the mineral water, surfacing from the underground and running towards the river. Once the track reached the valley again we walked over to inspect the veins to discover the water literally bubbling out of the depths of the earth.
The Mineral Lake
Further along we finally arrived at the shores of the mineral lake, its shores glowing a florescent orange against the turquoise of the water. Indeed, the surface of the lake appeared to be boiling, like a hot pot of water and the strong smell of sulphur permeated our sensitive noses. A Strange but equally mesmerizing, we were fascinated by this otherworldly sight. The bubbles in the lake are not created by any monsters lurking in the depth of the pond but by the carbon and sulphur dioxide bursting out of the ground below the water, hence creating the bubbling effect. A sign next to the pond suggested that the water is drinkable, one sip however left us disgusted and the taste foul eggs lingered longer than we had hoped.
Do Not Camp or Swim!
Anyone who might think of putting up a tent next to the bubbling lake should refrain from the idea, the carbon dioxide and other gases in the air might have a fateful effect when inhaled for too long. Likewise the prospect of a refreshing swim in the clear water, especially during the hot summer, should be avoided as the gas hangs near the surface and you could easily be overcome.
Walking Towards the Abandoned Village
We had hoped to have a picnic next to the mineral lake but the number of other hikers in the area put us off. So seeking a peaceful spot, we walked on towards the towers of the abandoned village further up the gorge and the geyser that we knew had to in the proximity. Taking what appeared to be a short cut across the fields near the river ended on marshy and wet ground and we had to return to slightly higher ground, where sheep were hiding in the shadow of an overlap of the cliffs to bypass the marsh. Not long after that we could see a group of shepherds sheering off the wooly fur of their herd that they had gathered in a pen. They greeted us from afar and Jerome curiously watched the animals being shorn naked.
At this point we could also see the water sprouting out of the ground, on the opposite river side joining the torrent in bursts. Sadly we were not able to cross to the Terek River to get any closer, a walk on to the abandoned village and along the road would have taken too much of our time. However we were able to take a few photos with our drone and they probably provided us with a much better picture than any close up could have ever done. The geyser water periodically spurts from underground and creates another modern masterpiece made by nature in the Truso Valley.
Highlight of our Trip to Georgia
Happy and content having witnessed these incredible sights in the Truso Valley we started our return walk through the gorge. The sun had already started to set behind the stunning mountaincape of the High Caucasus. The walk would remain in our memories as a highlight of our trip to Georgia and had increased our appetite for a future visit to Iceland.
Dinner With Views of Mount Kazbek
On our last evening in our beautiful hotel we treated ourselves to dinner on the terrace with views of the majestic Mount Kazbek knowing sadly we faced the drive back to Tiblisi after some wonderful days in the high mountains.
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