Central Caucasus adventure tour
Stavropolskiy krai, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya
Guide — Dmitry Lemeshev
Group: 2 - 7 people
On this tour we’ll see Mt. Elbrus, the highest summit in Europe, get familiar with the Kabardins, and explore the dinner-time culture of the Northern and Southern Ossetians, and then visit their non-drinking neighbors in Ingushetia and Chechnya.
To keep clarity of mind and coherence in the midst of culinary abundance, we’ll be making strolls to waterfalls, ancient shrines and churches.
Day 1. Imperial resorts
The guide will collect us at the Mineralnye-Vody airport and take us to Pyatigorsk, a town founded near medicinal mineral water springs at the height of the Great Caucasus War (in the 19th century). At first, officers wounded in action were treated here, and, thereafter, wealthy aristocrats and bourgeois, and in Soviet times, rank and file citizens. Presently, Pyatigorsk is the capital of the North-Caucasus Federal District, one of the most dynamic towns in the region.
On the same day we’ll see the nearby resorts, also founded in the 19th century, Yessentuki and Kislovodsk. Each one is singular in its own way but there are landmarks and entertainments to fit every taste.
Day 2. Mt. Elbrus and Caucasus Samurais
In the morning we are going towards Mt. Elbrus, the highest summit in Europe. By ropeway, we’ll climb Mt. Cheget from which opens a most breathtaking view on the immensity of Mt. Elbrus.
On the slopes of Mt. Cheget we’ll have a snack at a Balkar cafe and descend to the plain, to Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. In town, we are going, first of all, to taste Adyg cuisine in the “Sosruko” restaurant, a most amazing piece of Soviet architecture, built in the shape of a national epic hero.
The bulk of the republic’s population consists of the Kabardins. The martial culture and etiquette of the latter are incredibly close to the ones of Japanese Samurais. We’ll learn more about it at Kabardino-Balkaria National Museum. Its director, historian Dr. Felix Nakov and his disciples will demonstrate the distinctive features of this martial tradition. We’ll be treated to a small performance with swords and daggers.
Thereafter we’ll visit the studio of the artist Ruslan Mazloyev who sustains the tradition of the “ardjen” mat weaving. This mat reminds of the Japanese tradition but the local ornamentation is probably more attractive. Ruslan has gone farther than his ancestors and transformed ancient craft into modern art.
Day 3. Antiquities of Digoria
In the morning off-road vehicles will take us to the Digor gorge which is believed to be the most beautiful one in Ossetia.
We’ll make a stopover at the village of Zadalesk and walk to the ancient shrine in the nearby cave. Then we’ll ride to the villages of Kamunta and Galiat, the oldest ones in the gorge. Here the old masonry has mostly survived.
At an old house, we’ll have time-honored Ossetian lunch headed by the host who is well versed in traditional culture.
Next comes an alpine cross-country ride. In our tuned off-road vehicles we’ll try to negotiate the Zgid Pass to get straight to the Alagir gorge. On our way, we’ll stop at old mining communities of Zgid and Sadon, and spend the night at the Tsey gorge regarded as sacred in the Ossetian religion.
Day 4. South Ossetia: horse riding, rural life and dinner
In the morning we’ll make a short pilgrimage to the Rekom shrine, the most revered one in Ossetia. Then we’ll travel south of the Main Caucasus Range, to South Ossetia.
Lunch at the picturesque village of Kroz, from whence we’ll make a horse ride to the most revered shrine (and Christian church) Dzhery-Dzuar.
By nightfall, we’ll reach the River Mejuda valley to explore the peculiarities of the South Ossetian feast. We’ll spend the night in a village house without much comfort but in a hearty atmosphere!
Day 5. Trekking to a shrine and transfer to the capital
After an unhurried breakfast we’ll depart to the shrine of Usanet situated on the very hilltop amid alpine meadows. The ascent will be long and steep but the passage to a sacred place must be hard…
By supper time, we’ll be back to the village.
In the evening we’ll arrive in Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia.
Overnight accommodation at a hotel.
Day 6. Tir monastery and back to North Ossetia
Tir monastery is situated 9 km from Tskhinval. It is a wholesome site and a most beautiful monument of medieval architecture. This morning we’ll visit the market place to buy local produce and have a second breakfast at the monastery walls.
Then we’ll get back to North Ossetia to visit the places where the Alans (ancestors of the Ossetians) initially settled after their flight from the Mongol invasion, and adapted to mountainous conditions. We’ll climb to their earliest strongholds, the fortresses on the cliffs. Lunch in the form of a picnic at the village of Ursdon or Dagom. Later, over the Arkhon Pass to Fiagdon, where we’ll stay overnight in a art-hotel «Valley of Sun».
Day 7. North Ossetia in the superlative
Before noon, we’ll visit «must-see» places in Ossetia: the highest waterfalls in the Caucasus, the Great Zeygalan, and the largest necropolis in the Caucasus, the Dead City at the village of Dargavs.
Lunch in town, later a tour of its streets and museums. If we are lucky, we’ll visit the rehearsal of the Ossetian folk music ensemble “Kona”.
Day 8. Ingushetia: the land of towers
Ingushetia is like a fairy-tale land. Two sacred mountains are towering over the country: Mt. Myat-Loam where in time immemorial the god of fertility was worshipped and the rocky and scary Mt. Tsey-Loam where the god of thunder Sela resides. Sometimes he turns into an eagle, watchfully soaring over the country, spotting each and every man, and giving everyone his due for good and evil deeds.
It was here where the culture of tower construction originated and spread all over the Caucasus, and where it reached its peak.
We’ll visit the most famous and dramatic tower compounds Erzi and Vovnushki, as well as Tkhaba-Yerdy, the most ancient Christian church in the Russian territory.
By nightfall, we’ll arrive in Grozny, have dinner at a national cuisine restaurant and walk around the city center. The best time for a stroll is when facade lighting is on.
Day 9. Grozny
In the morning we’ll explore Grozny and then go to “Dondi-Yurt”, private ethnographic museum in Urus-Martan. We’ll have lunch with the founder of the museum. Then we’ll go to the airport of Grozny.
- guide 24 hours per day;
- all local guides;
- accomodation (3-5* hotels, 1 home-stay and 1 guest-house);
- 3 meals per day + resonable amounts of alcohol;
- all tickets, entrance fees and so on;
- your tickets to Mineralniye vody and back from Anapa;
- extra alcohol;
- souvenirs and other personal expenses.
- 2 pax - 4 000 USD
- 3 pax - 3 865 USD
- 4 pax - 3 200 USD
- 5 pax - 2 300 USD
- 6 pax - 2 530 USD
- 7 pax - 2 350 USD
Single supplement 250 USD (impossible when home-stay)