Ninety percent of the time I’m a budget traveller. Whilst I now choose private rooms over sleeping in dorms (unless I’m travelling somewhere where I simply cannot afford or cannot justify the price of a private room), I always favour spending my money on experiences over accommodation. As long as I can find somewhere comfortable, secure, and relatively central with reasonably good reviews then I’d rather spend the money on travelling longer and exploring a destination in more depth, on ticking off a bucket list adventure, or learning a new skill (from cookery classes to Spanish lessons) than I would on what is essentially just a place to lay my head each night.
However, my stay at Rooms Hotel in Kazbegi was an exception.
This is the post that sold it to me.
About Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
Located in the sleepy mountain town of Stepantsminda (in an area known as Kazbegi), the former Soviet elite sanatorium lay abandoned for decades, but has now been transformed into a five-star hotel where alpine cosiness meets industrial chic.
The 155-room wood, glass, and steel structure was designed by Adjara Arch, in conjunction with Tbilisi-based architects Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia, and incorporates timber interiors (reclaimed from dilapidated buildings in the west of the country), cosy leather armchairs and pendant lighting throughout. The bright and spacious communal lounge and dining area incorporates shelves filed with Russian and English language books, and its walls are decorated with vintage Soviet sports posters.
In their own words, it’s an “alpine hotel reinvented.”
Rooms Home Kazbegi opened its doors in 2012, with the intention of bringing city-worthy digs and amenities to the highlands of northern Georgia.
Arrival at Rooms Hotel Kazbegi
When I originally booked our stay here, we were going to be arriving by car (the hotel offers free parking in their spacious car park; no reservation required), but we abandoned our hire car booking at the last minute (you can find out why in this post). What this meant was that we then had to walk to Rooms Hotel from the bus station in the centre of Stepantsminda, complete with heavy packs on our backs.
What I failed to realise before setting out was that this was one kilometre of uphill walking in heat we hadn’t prepared for (I was imagining it to be cold in Kazbegi, like it was in the mountains of eastern Montenegro at the same time of year). If you’d rather not turn up looking suitably sweaty and dishevelled, you may want to hop in a taxi.
We arrived at the hotel at around 15:00 hours – exactly the time that our reservation details stated we’d be able to check in from. However the reception staff politely informed us that our room wasn’t quite ready, but invited us to take a seat out on the terrace where they’d bring us a complimentary coffee each while we waited.
When I saw the view from the terrace, I was perfectly happy with that suggestion.
The terrace is one of the best things about this hotel in my opinion. If I did nothing in my time in Kazbegi other than sit on and take photographs of said terrace and the stunning views it affords, I would’ve been a very happy girl.
The sweeping terrace – which extends across the entire length of the hotel – provides the perfect vantage point from which to take in the rugged surroundings, and offers unobstructed views of Mount Kazbek and Gergeti Trinity Church.
Although there’s always a steady stream of people coming and going out here, I never found it to be overly busy, which definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the whole experience and added to the overall ambience. Whilst I was well aware that I was sharing my space in the Georgian mountains with potentially over 100 other guests, I didn’t want to feel as though I was.
We experienced all sorts of weather during our short stay at the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi (sunshine, cloud, wind and rain), but the good news is that there are plenty of places to sit on the terrace beneath the shelter of the first floor balconies, and – in the absence of outdoor heaters – the hotel provides blankets for you to snuggle up in if it gets cold.
All rooms at the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi are designed with rustic minimalism, featuring floorboards and furniture made from local 150-year-old oak. On the writing desk you’ll find a hardback book all about the history and design of the hotel, complimented by some stunning photographs.
There’s also floor to ceiling windows leading out on to a private balcony where you’ll find a couple of wicker chairs and some cosy blankets – enabling you to sit outside and enjoy the views, regardless of the weather.
The cheapest rooms available at Rooms Hotel are the twin rooms with forest view, but as far as I’m concerned if you’re going to spend this sort of money on a room, you may as well go for the best one available: the one with the view of Kazbek Mountain. So we booked a king room with mountain view (as below).
The cheapest rate we found for a room like this was on booking.com. We paid £174 to have the benefit of free cancellation. However, the non-refundable rate is £16 cheaper. It also pays to book in advance: if you were to book now for June (the month we travelled to Georgia) next year, the rate is currently advertised as £164 (free cancellation) or £148 (non-refundable).
All these prices include an incredible buffet breakfast.
It wouldn’t be a five-star hotel if there weren’t a wealth of facilities and services on offer here. Here’s what you can expect:
Inclusive buffet breakfast every morning. Ok, I admit I’d be disappointed to find a five-star hotel that didn’t offer a complimentary breakfast, but the breakfast at the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi is out of this world. They even had smoked salmon!
On-site bar and restaurant. Again, considering that the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi is a good walk from the centre of town, I would have been very unimpressed to discover that they didn’t have an attached restaurant. I expected the prices to be inflated and I was willing to pay more for the convenience of not having to leave the hotel (and for the views of course!). However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food and drink was all very reasonably-priced – and delicious! The menu is a mix of traditional Georgian dishes and European fare, all made with seasonally available ingredients sourced locally.
Swimming pool, sauna, spa and gym. Marketed as “mindfulness in the mountains,” the hotel’s wellness centre is open from 08:00-00:00 hours. Ordinarily I’m not a huge fan of swimming in pools, but this particular pool has floor to ceiling windows which offer stunning views of the snow-capped peaks of the great Mount Kazbeg while you swim. Robes, towels and slippers are provided by the hotel, and there are sun loungers on the terrace to relax on following your swim. If you’ve forgotten your cozzie, fear not because the hotel sells those – along with goggles, hats and sunscreen.
Casino. Whilst this was of absolutely no interest to me (the only gambling I indulge in from time to time is buying a lottery ticket or playing the two pence coin pusher at my local (which is around a two-hour drive away) amusement arcade), I guess there are people who stay in 5-star hotels who can afford to take risks with their cash.
Kazbegi Tours. Yup, that’s right, the Rooms Hotel Kazbegi can organise tours and transport for you, to enable you to get the most out of exploring the surrounding area. We only used them to book a taxi up to the Gergety Trinity Church, but it’s also possible to book trips to Sno, Juta, and Gveleti Waterfall, as well as quad biking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and camping experiences. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
You can even book a ride in the Next Generation Jet Ranger Helicopter, Bell 505. I have no idea what sort of price an experience like this starts from; we didn’t enquire as we knew it would be way, way above our measly travellers’ budget.
Events and meeting spaces. Again, not one relevant to our stay, but if you’re travelling to Georgia on business, it might be worth noting that the hotel offers on-site conference equipment and spaces for hire for meetings and events, and can organise a comprehensive programme of outdoor pursuits for employees.
Incidentally, we spent just £327.47 (or 1059.38 GEL / $435.06) per person on accommodation and transport (including return flights from the UK) for 10 days/ 9 nights in Georgia, which is proof that it is possible to experience a little slice of luxury on a traveller’s budget. You can read our full itinerary here.
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