Gudauri is home to the highest altitude adventure tourism school in Europe, where mountain, alpine, ski, and walking guides and ski instructors teach aspiring tourism professionals to international standards, including the IFMGA certification for mountain guides.
It only takes about two hours to get to Gudauri from Tbilisi, and it is an exceptionally picturesque drive.
The first landmark along the way is the impressive Zhinvali Reservoir, notable for its sparkling, clear, turquoise water in a massive basin carved out from the mountains. It is 11.5 square kilometers large and 75 meters deep at its deepest point. In the summer months, it is a popular place for water sports, but even in the colder months it makes a great background for a photo.
Next you will pass through the small village of Pasanauri, the home of authentic khinkali. It would be a shame to pass through Pasanauri without stopping at one of its many restaurants to sample the iconic Georgian dish in its birthplace.
You’ll soon begin your ascent into the mountains, with the towering mountain range on one side and a sheer drop on the other. The winding road offers up some truly breathtaking views, so make sure you’ve got your camera ready!
The first hotel in Gudauri, the Marco Polo, was built in the second half of the 1980s. During the same period of time, an Austrian company built the first cable car there, which was very modern for the time. The original resort in Gudauri was a Heli-Ski resort, with the cable cars added later as an alternative way to ski in bad weather. Since 2010, both mid- and high-class hotels, rental homes, restaurants, and other infrastructure have been built at the resort. There is also a selection of mountain cafés and bars at the resort.
Gudauri is the highest mountain resort for ski sports not only in Georgia, but also in the entirety of eastern Europe. The lower part of the resort is 1,989 metres above sea level, while the cable cars will take you as high as 3,276 metres.
There are twenty slopes at Gudauri Resort, divided into the four European difficulty classes and designated with colors: green for beginners, blue for intermediate-level, red for professionals, and black for very difficult.
The difficulty of the ski slopes is determined by their incline. A slope may be at a great height and still be a teaching slope. There are slopes, like the “Snow Park” slope, which are at a height of 2,720 to 2,845 meters, but are still considered to be beginner slopes.
If you don’t ski, you can still take the ski lift up to enjoy fantastic views, especially when it is sunny, and then take the ski lift back down to the hotel. With eighteen working ski lifts at the resort, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
The total length of all the packed-snow slopes at Gudauri is 37 kilometers. During the season in the mountains at Gudauri, the snow reaches a height between one and two meters, and sometimes even more, creating the perfect conditions for skiing. There is also the option to Heli-Ski there, which is the specialty of the resort.
If you’re looking to learn how to ski or snowboard, there are professional instructors available for hire, with many hotels having their own teams on staff.
Since 2016 there has been a permanent ski patrol on the slopes of Gudauri for the purposes of safety, and lifeguards have been looking after the safety of vacationers since the founding of the resort.
The ski season in Gudauri starts in December and continues until the middle of April.
Gudauri allows you to ski on the northern and southern slopes of the main range of the Caucasus Mountains, at the price of the Kobi ski lift, with an exceptional view onto Kazbegi Mountain. It should be noted that the snow on the northern slope retains its quality for a longer period of time, so the ski season there is comparatively longer.
There is also a snow park in operation in winter, which will attract people who love freestyle skiing.
During the warmer months, the well-prepared local paragliders will offer you an unforgettable trip through the skies over the Caucasus Mountain range. However, do keep in mind that you can paraglide any time of year at Gudauri, as long as the weather is suitable for it. In both summer and winter you can fly down from the highest point of the Kudebi ski lift.
In the summer, there are well marked bike paths around Gudauri, which you can get to using the designated ski lifts.
Just 32 kilometres from Gudauri is the quaint mountain town of Stepantsminda. This small settlement is nestled in between the Caucasus Mountains and is proudly watched over by Mount Kazbegi, whose massive slopes make the peak atop which the iconic Gergeti Sameba Trinity Church stands look tiny by comparison. It is possible to visit the church on foot or by taking a taxi up the mountain, with a paved road covering the 5.6 kilometres from the town’s centre to the church.
It is also possible to take a cable car from Gudauri to the village of Kobi, from where you can reach Stepantsminda in just twenty kilometres. The cable car connecting Gudauri and Kobi offers absolutely stunning views, so be sure to pack your camera!
For more convenience, you can buy a Multicard for the mountain resorts and use it on the ski lifts of all four ski resorts in Georgia: Gudauri, Bakuriani, Goderdzi, and Svaneti (Hatsvali and Tetnuldi).