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ALL the North Caucasus and MORE

North Caucasus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Crimea, 27th of April - 16th of May 2017

Guide — Dmitry Lemeshev and Vladimir Sevrinovsky

Group: 2 - 4 people

Дети-канатоходцы в селе Цовкра. Фото: Макс Новиков

Rope-walkers in Tsovkra village, Dagestan. Photo: Max Novikov

North Caucasus, historically one of the most turbulent parts of the world, the land of famous warriors and strange archaic traditions, is turning to peace now. This is an opportune time to be visiting North Caucasus, while it is still a largely undiscovered region.

We are going to North Caucasus next spring — the awakening time of first flowers and all shades of green. We’ll visit partially recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, steppes of the Rostov, Krasnodar and Stavropol regions and Crimea, along with all the beautiful mountainous Russian republics of the North Caucasus from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.

Eleven regions of Russia, two partially recognized independent regions, almost 3000 km journey, maximum altitude, over 2300 meters above sea level, dozens of ethnic groups, hundreds of dishes, and infinite magnificence. Most importantly, on this trip, one can’t stay an indifferent observer: in store for us are mountain sorties, master classes in arts and crafts, meetings with musicians, scholars, and ordinary villagers.
Back home, you’ll be able to rightly claim: “Oh, I’ve seen the Caucasus, and it is now a part of me!”

Along the way, we will visit four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the region including one on the Tentative List (list at end of itinerary). If you are a follower of www.thebesttravelled.com, you will be able to add thirteen TBT regions to your travels (list at end of itinerary)

Itinerary

27 April. Arriving

Gagripsh restaurant - the simbol of Russian Reviera. It was made of Norvegian wood, bought in Paris and constructed in Gagra in 1905year.

Gagripsh restaurant — the simbol of Russian Reviera. It was made of Norvegian wood, bought in Paris and constructed in Gagra in 1905year.

Arrive Sochi any time of day.
The guide will meet you at the airport.
Transfer to Gagra.
Walk around the historical part of the town.
Have dinner in the best restaurant of traditional cuisine.
Hotel: Old Gagra. «Abaata» (3*)

28 April. Abkhazia

The decor of the pool in Litfond resort. Photo: Vladimir Losinsky

The decor of the pool in Litfond resort. Photo: Vladimir Losinsky

Visit sights of Russian Riviera: Pitsunda (the town which was a luxury resort in Soviet times), New Athos (the monastery, the ruins of the first capital of Abkhazian kingdom and the famous cave, which is huge).
In the evening we arrive to Sukhum — the capital of Abkhazia. Have dinner there.
Hotel: Sukhum. «Leon» (3-4*)

29 April. Abkhazia

Mather of our driver is preparing table for lunch. Photo: Dmitry Lemeshev

Mather of our driver is preparing table for lunch. Photo: Dmitry Lemeshev

Walk around the historical part of the town.
Go to Achandara village for lunch — the experience of traditional Abkhazian life-style.
Transfer to Sochi. Have dinner and walk in the center of Sochi in the evening.
Take a night train to Rostov-on-Don (20:54 — 4:23).

30 April. Rostov and Anapa valley

В таких "яйцвх" выдерживаются почти все вина Лефкадии. В них оно отдыхает от шума и любых других воздействий внешней среды.

Almost all wines of Lefkadia are kept in this «eggs». Wine have rest here of noise and any other effects of the environment.

Have coffee in a 24 hours caffe with our local guide and talk about the city. Then visit “must-see” sights of the city when the sun is rising (sunrise is 4:50).
7 o’clock have breakfast and leave the city for Anapa valley — the
reviving wine region, which already has created a few wine masterpieces.
Transfer to Anapa town which will take about 6 hours!
Along the way we’ll visit Lefkadia — the project of a Russian oligarch, who decide to turn a village of Moldavian settlers into Tuscany. Have lunch there and look at the the oligarch’s creation.

Vineyards of Lefkada. Photo: Alina Voynova

Vineyards of Lefkada. Photo: Alina Voynova

Go further in the direction of Crimea and visit another winery with the opposite style. By the way it is placed in the most scenic terroir. It is called Gai-Kodzor.
Finally, we arrive at Anapa town. We’ll stay here for the night.
Anapa is a popular Russian resort. But also it is an ancient historical place. History of wine-making started here in antique period (it was inspired by the Greeks). But the tradition was interrupted many times because of wars. In XIX century the wine culture of Adygs was destroyed because of the Great Caucasian War. And 30 years ago it was destroyed again by Gorbachev.
Hotel: Anapa. Anapa Lazurnaya (3*)

1 May. Crimea

"Swallow's Nest" palace of 1911 year - the simbol of  south coast.

«Swallow’s Nest» palace of 1911 year — the simbol of south coast.

Transfer to Crimea (Feodosia) by ferry (8:00 — 11:30).
The local guide will meet you there to commence the tour.
Stay in Balaklava.
Hotel: Gomer (3*)

2 May. Crimea

Mangup-kale monastery.

Mangup-kale monastery.

Visit Soviet submarines military base museum (if it’s schedule will allow us). Visit Hersones — the the ruins of the ancient Greek city.
Visit Bakhchi-saray palace (if have time). Transfer to mountains of Crimea — to see ancient cave city Mangup-kale.
Have lunch in the traditional Tatarian restaurant.
Transfer to the airport of Simferopol.
Flight to Krasnodar 16:40 — 18:25. Transfer to Mezmay. This is the most remote village of Krasnodarsky krai.
Hotel: Mezmai (3*)

3 May. Krasnodarsky krai

In the canyon of Kurjips river. Photo: Alexandr Sheikin

In the canyon of Kurjips river. Photo: Alexandr Sheikin

Do light trekking in a beautiful canyon full of relict boxwood.
Have a Russian steamed bath with a professional bathhouse attendant — very Russian SPA tradition.
Have dinner in a local house.
Hotel: Mezmai (3*)

4 May. Adygea and Karachaevo-cherkessia

Zamudin Guchev - the creator of the museum and master of traditional music and mats veawing. Photo: Dmitry Lemeshev

Zamudin Guchev — the creator of the museum and master of traditional music and mats veawing. Photo: Dmitry Lemeshev

Transfer to Maykop (capital of Adygea) to visit home-museum of Zamudin Guchev — the master of weaving traditional mats of reedmace and traditional music.
Transfer to Karachaevo-cherkessia…

The greatest radio-telescope in the world. Photo: Timur Agirov

Ratan-600 — the greatest radio-telescope in the world. Photo: Timur Agirov

We’ll stop in Zelenchukskaya village to visit the biggest radio-telescope in the world. Then we’ll visit Alanian churches of X-th century.

Один из аланских храмов X века у ст. Зеленчукской. Был отреставрирован русскими монахами в XIX веке. Фото: Тимур Агиров

One of alanian churches of X century. It was was restored by Russian monks in XIX century. Photo: Timur Agirov

And finaly we’ll arrive to Arkhyz and spend the night in a modern ski-resort.
Hotel: Arkhyz area. Romantik-1 (4*)

5 May. Stavropolsky krai

Вид на Эльбрус

Elbrus view from Gumbashi pass.

We’ll go via Gum-bashi pass with a nice Mt. Elbrus view and soon will come to Essentuki, which is one of the towns in the Caucasian Mineral Springs region. We’ll have a walk there and have lunch.

Грязелечебница в Ессентуках

Mud baths in Essentuki. It was built in 1915 and in 1923 it was named after N.A. Semashko — one of the founders of the Soviet health care system.

Then we’ll move to Pyatigorsk (another town of Caucasian Mineral Springs) and spend a relaxed afternoon after the last several intensive days of traveling.
Hotel: Pyatigorsk. Bristol (3-4*)

6 May. Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia

Transfer to Nalchik. Meet Felix Nakov, the master of kabardian martial arts, and a doctor of historical sciences. He will make a small performance for us.
Then transfer to North Ossetia, change our normal car for an all-road-car and go into the mountains of Digoria. We’ll take a long and beautiful mountain off-road to get to Kamunta, the highest village in the valley.

На внедорожниках через Згидский перевал

Crossing Zgidsky pass in spring. Photo: Elnar Mansurov

We’ll have a rest there and then go further to Tsey valley. That off-road way will impress you!
Night in a hotel in Tsey.
Hotel: Tsey valley. Vertiakal (3*)

7 May South Ossetia

Джеры дзуар

Djery dzuar — the places, where you can feel the spirit of nation’s religion. Photo: Lana Parastaeva

Start from Tsey to South Ossetia. In route, the 3,5 km long one-way Roki tunnel at the border crossing will impress you. You’ll visit Djery dzuar — the most respectable holy place of South Ossetia (in a nice place in high hills), then we’ll go down to Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia. We’ll explore the town and meet one of the city defense veterans.
In the evening go back to Tsey.
Hotel: Tsey valley. Vertikal (3*)

8 May. North Ossetia

Комплекс склепов в Даргавсе

«toen if Dead» in Dargavs is the greatest complex of medieval crypts. Photo: Alexandr Zheleznyak

Today you’ll continue exploring mountains by all-road-car. You’ll see castles-on-rocks near Ursdon village, you’ll get up to Arkhonsky pass by car and then get down to Fiagdon valley for nice national lunch. Then you’ll be taken to Midagrabin valley to see the highest waterfall in Caucasus and the biggest necropolis.
In the evening you’ll be in Vladikavkaz.
Hotel: Vladikavkaz. Alexandrovsky (4*)

9 May. North Ossetia and Ingushetia

Экскурсия по Владикаказу, прогулка по Проспекту

«Mira» avenue — the pedestrianized street in historical center of the city. One of the best views on Table mountain is from here. Photo: Timur Agirov

Explore the city in the morning and afternoon. It is nice to slow down the pace in Vladikavkaz.
For the evening we’ll move to Ingushetia and have dinner with a family, living in mountains.
Hotel: Mountain Ingushetia. Armkhi (3*)

10 May. Ingushetia and Chechnya

Вовнушки, горная Ингушетия

Vovnushki — complex of defensive towers in mountains of Ingushetia. Photo: Timur Agirov

Then we’ll start exploration of the medieval Ingush towns with formidable outpost towers: a tour around Erzi, the view of Egikal, a picnic at the famous Vovnushki complex of watchtowers.

Частный этнографический музей под открытым небом "Донди-юрт" (Урус-мартан, Чеченская Республика). На фото создатель музея Адам Сатуев. Фото: Абдуллах Берсаев

Adam Satuev — the creator of the «Dondi-yurt» museum. Photo: Abdullah Bersaev

In the evening – visit “Dondi-yurt” private museum and finish the day in Grozny.
Hotel: Grozny-City Hotel (5*).

11 May. Chechnya

Вид на Грзный ночью. Фото: Абдуллах Берсаев

Night view in Grozny. Photo: Abdullah Bersaev

After the sightseeing tour around Grozny and brief visits to city museums, we are going back to the mountains. We’ll spend the evening near the largest lake of Caucasus – Kezenoy-am.
Hotel: Kezenoy-am (3*)

12 May. Dagestan: Gotsatl’

Kezenoy-am lake - the biggest in mountains of Caucasus.  Photo: Abdullah Bersaev

Kezenoy-am lake — the biggest in mountains of Caucasus. Photo: Abdullah Bersaev

The morning begins at the village of Rakhata, one of the few places in the Caucasus where genuine, heavy-duty felt cloaks are still manufactured for shepherds and hunters, and not for folk dancers. At the same time, we’ll see the production of the traditional Daghestani delicacy “urbech” that is gaining popularity all over Russia.

В селе Гоцатль

The director of Gotsatlinsky art workshop tells about the features of the local etching. Photo: Vladimir Sevrinovsky

Thereafter we’ll head off to the hospitable Avar village of Gotsatl famous for its jewelers. The road will be really picturesque!
Staying overnight at a country house.

13 May. Dagestan: Chokh, Balkhar, Kubachi

Карадахская теснина - невероятно глубокое и узкое ущелье, промытое небольшим ручейком . Впрочем во время ливня ручеек превращается в бушующий поток, который гладко полирует скалы. Фото: Магомед Шапиев

Karadakh gorge. Photo: Magomed Shapiev

We’ll move on to Chokh village famous for its unique architecture. On the way we’ll take a walk to see a nature’s miracle, the Karadakh gorge, a narrow passage through the mountain reminiscent of Oriental fairy-tales. After tea in Chokh we will go to Balkhar — the village famous for very archaic ceramics.

Кубачинки набирают воду в роднике. Фото: Люк Даглби

Wumen of Kubachi take water from the spring to cary it home in jars. Photo: Luke Duggleby

Late in the evening we’ll come to Kubachi, the celebrated village of goldsmiths and bladesmiths. Its founders came from Turkey or Iraq. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg dedicated a large exhibit to this village, while other works by Kubachi craftsmen are exhibited in the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
We’ll stay overnight at a jeweler’s house.

14 May. Dagestan: Kaitag and Derbent

Надгробия курейшидов, правивших Кайтагским уцмийством в средние века. Кала-курейш.

Tombstones of Qurayshs, governed Kaitag in medieval times. In Kala-quraysh

In the morning we’ll tour around Kala-quraysh, an abandoned village with a 13th century mosque and the mausoleum of the medieval rulers of Kaytag, Arabs of the Kureyshid tribe from which Prophet Muhammad descended.
By lunch-time, we’ll be in Derbent, one of the most ancient cities of Russia.
Have rest there in the afternoon
Hotel: Scarlet Sails (3*)

15 May. Dagestan: Derbent — Makhachkala

Ворота в Старый Город. Фото: Дмитрий Чистопрудов, Николай Рыков

Gates of the Old City. Photo: Dmitry Chistoprudov and Nikolay Rykov

Before noon, we’ll see Naryn-Kala, the citadel of Derbent, and walk around the narrow streets of the Old Town. Here we’ll find the oldest mosque in Russia dating back to the 8th century, and look at old baths or “hamams”, and visit a Muslim shrine, the Kyrkhlyar cemetery, the burial place of the 40 warrior-martyrs who, according to the legend, brought Islam to Derbent.

Еще лет 50 назад, когда все крыши в Дербенте были плоскими, каждый житель города держал у себя на крыше голубей - это было всеобщее увлечение. Сейчас в городе осталось всего пара фанатиков  - Нияз один из них. Он держит более 3000 голубей у себя дома - некоторые из них по-настоящему удивительные птицы.  Мы обязательно зайдем к Ниязу на чай. Фото: Дмитрий Лемешев

One of the interesting characters of the town. Niyaz is a pigeon fancier, he has more then 3000 pigeons! Some of them are really intereting!

After lunch, we’ll go to the Armenian church turned into the Museum of Carpets and Jugs,
where we’ll get to know one of the most spectacular crafts of Daghestan, carpet-weaving.
In the evening we move to Makhachkala
Hotel: Metropol (3-4*)

16 May. Dagestan: Makhachkala and fly away

Transfer to the airport or railway station.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites to be visited:

  • Crimea — Ancient City of Tauric Chersonese and its Chora (Sevastopol)
  • Western Caucacus (only the exclave portion of the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve located in Greater Sochi, not the larger remote reserve)
  • Historical and Cultural Jeyrakh-Assa Reservation (on UNESCO Tentative List; Ingushetia)
  • Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent

www.thebesttravelled.com regions visited:

  • Russia — Krasnodar krai
  • Abkhazia
  • Russia — Rostovskaya Oblast
  • Ukraine/Russia (disputed) — Crimea
  • Russia — Adygeya Republic
  • Russia — Karachay-Cherkess Republic
  • Russia — Stavropol Krai
  • Russia — Kabardino-Balkar Republic
  • Russia — North Ossetia Republic
  • South Ossetia
  • Russia — Ingushetia Republic
  • Russia — Chechen Republic
  • Russia — Dagestan Republic
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Conditions

Included:

  • guide 24 hours per day;
  • all local guides;
  • accomodation (3-5* hotels, 2 nights - home-stay);
  • 3 meals per day;
  • transportation;
  • all tickets, entrance fees and so on;
  • border-zone permits and enter permits to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Not included:

  • your flights/trains to Sochi and back from Makhachkala;
  • extra alcohol;
  • souvenirs and other personal expenses.

Price:

  • 2 pax - 6 650 USD
  • 3 pax - 5 250 USD
  • 4 pax - 5 100 USD

Single supplement 565 USD