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Hedonistic tour to Western Caucasus: from Elbrus to Black Sea

Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Adygea, Krasnodarskiy krai

Guide — Dmitry Lemeshev

Group: 2 - 7 people

Elbrus view from Pyatigorsk.

Elbrus view from Pyatigorsk.

The Western Caucasus is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, which is an obvious reason to visit this part of the world. However, there are also hidden treasures such as the culture of the Caucasus peoples and the legacy of the pre-revolutionary Imperial Russia. On this tour we will see Mt. Elbrus, the highest summit in Europe, and get familiar with the martial traditions of the Western Caucasus. We’ll stroll around picturesque foothills and get to know the traditional SPA culture of the Cossacks, and finally, we will visit the reviving wine region of Anapa.

Itinerary

Day 1. Imperial SPA resorts

Mud bath was built in 1915, in 1923 it was named in honor of N.А. Semachko – one of the creators of Societ health care system.

Mud bath was built in 1915, in 1923 it was named in honor of N.А. Semachko – one of the creators of Societ health care system.

This day we’ll find ourselves in Yessentuki and Kislovodsk, towns established by Russian aristocracy in the 19th century to eclipse the popular health resorts of the time, Baden-Baden and Bath. Vast parks, Narzan mineral water galleries and SPA resorts built in a classic Greco-Roman style.
Night in 5* hotel.

Day 2. Mt. Elbrus and Caucasus Samurais

We'll have local Herb tea with Khychins (crepes with cheese) and jam of pine cones, enjoying Elbrus view.

We’ll have local Herb tea with Khychins (crepes with cheese) and jam of pine cones, enjoying Elbrus view.

In the morning we are leaving for Kabardino-Balkaria. This republic unites the Balkars, Turkic mountaineers, and the Kabardins, autochthonous inhabitants of the Central Caucasus foothills.
First, we’ll climb the Balkar mountains to see Mt. Elbrus, the highest summit in Europe (5462 m). The most dramatic view on it opens from Mt. Cheget which we’ll climb by ropeway.
Thereafter, we’ll get back to the plain and ride to Nalchik, the capital of the republic. We will be introduced to Kabarda national cuisine at lunch in the “Sosruko” restaurant, a remarkable monument of Soviet architecture.

In the afternoon, we’ll meet Felix Nakov, the director of Kabardino-Balkaria National Museum. This versatile personality is a master of traditional Adyg swordsmanship (the Kabardins are an ethnic sub-group of the Adygs), and a Ph.D. holder in history. Felix and his disciples will demonstrate their swordsmanship and tell us about the distinctive features of Adyg martial arts and etiquette. This culture is oftentimes compared to that of Japanese Samurais.
In the evening we’ll get back to Yessentuki.
Night in 5* hotel.

Day 3. Gumbashi Pass and the largest radio telescope in the world

Внутри радио-телескопа. Фото: Тимур Агиров

Inside the Radio telescope. Photo: Timur Agirov

Today we head westward to the Black Sea and explore the plains and mountains of Karachayevo-Cherkessia. We’ll ride down the scenic road through Gumbashi Pass and the River Mara valley. The main landmark of the day will be RATAN-600, the largest radio telescope in the world.
This telescope is a typical example of Soviet heritage: huge, rusty but still functioning for the benefit of international science, thanks to sheer enthusiasm of the researchers. The latter are always glad to find time for guests, and tell them about the design of the observatory, and the role of astrophysics in the life of modern man.

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

The Alanian church of X century near Zelenchukskaya village. Photo: Timur Agirov

Later we’ll visit one of the most ancient churches in Russia, the Zelenchuk church built by the Alans in the 10th century.
By day’s end we’ll arrive in the alpine resort of Arkhyz.
Night in 4* hotel.

Day 4. Adyghe mats and music

Zumidin Guchev invited us to his workshop and we helped him to cut body Adyghe violin out.

Zumidin Guchev invited us to his workshop and we helped him to cut body Adyghe violin out.

Today we’ll arrive in Maykop, the capital of Adygea, to meet Zamudin Guchev, a devotee and guardian of traditional culture. He is a professional cultural anthropologist who since the Soviet times has been working on traditional “ardjen” mats and Adyg music. Presently, his daughter teaches children the art of mat weaving, while he teaches traditional music and leads the “Zhyu” folk ensemble.

By the evening we’ll arrive in Mezmay in the backwater district of Krasnodar Province. It is situated in a depression between beautiful canyons with waterfalls and box-tree groves. It has a diverse population ranging from Cossacks whose ancestors settled here in the 19th century and all kinds of downshifters who preferred life in the mountains to noisy megacities: Orthodox fundamentalists, Yogi, and adepts of modern teachings.

In the Russian "black" bath.

In the Russian «black» bath.

In Mezmay we’ll partake in the Russian bath SPA tradition. The owners of the bath are professionals who will describe the advantages of the “black” bath compared with the modern “white” bath, and explain to us the intricacies of the bath science, and be our guides in this magical domain.
Night in 3* hotel.

Day 5. Easy trekking in the Caucasus foothills and a Russian bath

In the canyon of Kurjips river. Photo: Alexandr Sheikin

In the canyon of Kurjips river. Photo: Alexandr Sheikin

We’ll stroll down the River Kurjips canyon. It is an incredibly gorgeous trail through a wild box-tree forest with waterfalls, cliffs and dizzying precipices. There are no special pathways and railings but it is quite safe both for children and elderly travelers.
Those who are not ready for long walking tours can socialize with the remarkable villagers and participate in a lesson at the Cossack arts and crafts school for children. In the evening the journey to the realm of the Russian bath will continue.
Night in 3* hotel.

Day 6. Sochi, Russian Riviera

Marine Station of Sochi.

Marine Station of Sochi.

In the morning we are leaving Mezmay and departing to Sochi. First, we’ll be riding the alpine roads in a car, and then we’ll take a modern train of the Russian Rail Roads.
We’ll have lunch at Sochi Marine Terminal, a perfect specimen of Soviet architecture.
Then we’ll visit a few facilities of the Soviet cultural heritage and Winter Olympics-2014.
Night in 4* hotel.

Day 7. Anapa wine region

Vineyards of Lefkada.

Vineyards of Lefkada.

In the morning we’ll fly over to Krasnodar airport and then move to Anapa wine region. We’ll have lunch at a small private wine farm «Villa Vitorio», and spend the night at the mansion of a Russian oligarch “Lefcadia” where Camembert cheese and the most alpine wine in the region are produced.
Night in 4* boutique-hotel.

Day 8. Relict juniper grove

"Vinoteka" in the cellars of Sau-dere. It is a museum of the best wine and brandy made in Soviet Unuon. The collection was started in the 50s.

«Vinoteka» in the cellars of Sau-dere. It is a museum of the best wine and brandy made in Soviet Unuon. The collection was started in the 50s.

In the morning after a brief familiarization with the distinctive features of wine-making at “Lefcadia” and the wine museum in the cellars of Sau-dere, legendary Soviet winery, we’ll ride towards the sea.
Near Novorossiysk, at Abrau-Durso there is the oldest champagne winery in Russia, established before the revolution.

The wine-house of Abrau-dyurso. Here best sparkling wine of Russia is made.

The wine-house of Abrau-dyurso. Here best sparkling wine of Russia is made.

We’ll stock up with champagne for the evening and embark on a journey to a relict juniper grove that is unique in the entire Caucasus region. It is located in the Utrish Reserve. Entry to the reserve is strictly monitored and guarded. We are going to be some of the rare lucky guys who will be permitted to walk in the grove and have a picnic there.
We’ll be leaving the reserve by motor boat, and will spend the night nearby, at the sea resort Anapa.
Night in 4* hotel.

Day 9. Departure day

Transfer to Anapa airport and departure.

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Conditions

Included:

  • guide 24 hours per day;
  • all local guides;
  • accomodation (3-5* hotels);
  • 3 meals per day;
  • transportation;
  • wine-tasting and cooking classes;
  • all tickets, entrance fees and so on;

Not included:

  • your tickets to Mineralniye vody and back from Anapa;
  • extra alcohol;
  • souvenirs and other personal expenses.

Price:

  • 2 pax - 5 100 USD
  • 3 pax - 4 200 USD
  • 4 pax - 3 500 USD
  • 5 pax - 3 000 USD
  • 6 pax - 2 750 USD
  • 7 pax - 2 600 USD

Single supplement 600 USD