secretive mountain Republics
Kabardino-Balkaria – North Ossetia – Chechnya – Ingushetia – Dagestan
This tour is offered on a regular monthly basis. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the learn-more button below: we will match your preferences with the next relevant scheduled group departure. If you are still unsure about your desired departure date, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will provide you a range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with more than 4 friends, you can set your own departure date: we will arrange a bespoke tour just for you for the same price per person advertised below. If you are travelling solo or with less than four companions, we will then organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
DAY 1 - Caucasian foothills: Spa Towns
In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel in Mineralnye Vody (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in the North Caucasus.
We'll spend the day touring the historical Russian spa towns of Mineralnye Vody, Kislovodsk and Essentuki.
These elegant cities used to be the romantic setting for rocambolesque intrigues, flings, duels and adventures during the second half of XIX century: such reputation still lives on thanks to the work of great Russian poets and novelists like Lermontov and Pushkin, who set many of their masterpieces in these stylish frontier towns.
Besides admiring the graceful lines and the fine decorative elements adorning the luxurious baths from the late Tsarist epoch, we will, of course, also explore the vast plethora of Soviet-era cyclopic modernist resorts rising high over the historic cityscapes.
Dinner and overnight in Essentuki.
DAY 2 - Kabardino-Balkaria: Elbrus
We'll start the day early heading to Terskol, a Soviet resort town lying under the shadow of Europe's highest peak: the mighty Elbrus.
Once in Terskol, we’ll have a walk around the village and then take a ride on the aerial tramway leading up to the Gara-Bashi viewpoint.
In the afternoon we'll visit the Soviet mining town of Tyrnyauz and the traditional village of Bylym.
We’ll then transfer to Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, an autonomous republic named after the two main ethnicities inhabiting it: the Kabards, current descendents of the ancient Circassians, and the Balkars, Turkic-speaking people with Central Asian roots.
Nalchik Soviet stroll: Central Mosque, Friendship Square, Lenin Square, Park of Culture and Recreation, Parliament, Lenin Avenue, Deportation Memorial, Komsomol Sculpture and plenty of Soviet Monuments and Socialist architectonic shapes.
Dinner and overnight in Nalchik.
DAY 3 - North Ossetia: Vladikavkaz
Early in the morning we’ll enter the cultural heartland of the Balkar people, driving south across the breathtaking sceneries along the Chegem river.
Near the traditional Balkar village of Eltyubyu, we’ll also visit an impressive monumental necropolis of mysterious pre-Islamic origins.
We'll then head back to the plains and move on to Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia-Alania, a peculiar autonomous republic, where ethnolinguistic Persian roots blend together with Christian Orthodox traditions.
We'll break the 2-hour journey in Elkhotovo (for the unmissable Memorial to the Unbending Defenders of the Elkhotov Heights) and in Beslan, a small Ossetian city that sadly became well-known around the world media during the dramatic 2004 school siege.
Vladikavkaz city walk: Soviet monuments, Tsarist architecture, Soviet concrete giants, traditional Ossetian churches and ancient mosques.
Dinner and overnight in Vladikavkaz.
DAY 4 - North Ossetia: Tsey
We’ll leave Vladikavkaz after breakfast and head to the Ossetian mountains, stopping en route in Gizel, home to the impressive memorial complex erected to Petr Barbashev (hero of the Soviet Union), in Mizur, a rough-and-ready quintessential Soviet mining town, and, of course, in Tamisk, for a mandatory visit to the larger-than-life monument to Saint George the Slayer.
We'll then devote the entire day to Tsey, a Soviet mountain resort renowned for the pristine nature of its surroundings and the mystic atmospheres of the ancient Ossetian temples scattered around the surrounding forests.
Once in Tsey, you will be spoilt for choice: for the sporty ones there are plenty of hiking trails, of various length and difficulty, waiting to be trodden; whereas the bon viveurs will be able to indulge in culinary pleasures and lazy walks through the forest.
Dinner and overnight in Tsey.
DAY 5 - Ossetia - Ingushetia: Dzheyrakh
We'll move eastwards through a breathtaking mountain scenery and head to the tiny and isolated Republic of Ingushetia to reach the remote mountain hamlet of Dzheyrakh, famous for its medieval watchtowers looking at the Great Caucasus Range.
On the way to Dzheyrakh, before leaving Ossetian territory, we'll drive to the mighty Fiagdon Valley and stop for a picnic lunch at Dargavs, the Caucasian City of the Dead, a monumental necropolis hidden set against a lovely alpine backdrop.
Dinner and overnight in Dzheyrakh.
DAY 6 - Ingushetia - Chechnya: Grozny
Morning hike along one of the many wild trails crisscrossing the area.
For the lazy ones: chill-out morning with the locals.
After lunch we'll head to the plains to visit Nazran, the largest town in Ingushetia, and Magas the surreal brand-new capital of the republic, where we'll pay a visit to the Memorial of the Ingush Genocide.
We'll then head straight to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
Evening stroll through Grozny downtown and traditional Chechen dinner.
Overnight in Grozny.
Day 7 - Chechnya: Itum Kale
In the morning we'll move again up to the mountains, this time to the gorgeous Sharoysky and Itum-Kalinsky mountain districts.
We’ll spend the morning visiting medieval watchtowers, obscure necropolises and traditional Chechen hamlets (auls): little stony jewels dotting a postcard-like mountainscape.
Back in Grozny we'll enjoy an in-depth tour around the city that back in the wild 90s used to be the most feared place of the entire former Soviet Union: mosques, memorials, Soviet heritage, war scars and shiny brave-new-world architectures.
Dinner and overnight in Grozny.
DAY 8 - Chechnya: Gudermes
Today we’ll visit the large towns of the Chechen flatlands, namely Urus Martan, Argun and Gudermes.
Once grim theatres of bloody battles and heavy bombings, these Soviet-built urban centres are now experiencing an oil-fuelled renaissance: UAE-style skylines, futuristic mosques and thriving city life.
Back in Grozny we’ll spend a slow-paced afternoon devoted to souvenir shopping and/or coffee pleasures.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Grozny.
DAY 9 - Dagestan: Gunib
Early in the morning we'll leave Grozny and head to Kezenoyam, a magnificent mountain lake surrounded by high peaks and green pastures.
On our way to the lake we'll stop for some food at the central bazaar of Vedeno, a small town notoriously known for having headquartered frightful Chechen rebels and Arab mujahideen under the command of Al-Khattab and Shamil Basayev, Russia's very own version of Osama bin Laden.
After having spent some relaxing time on the lake, we'll pay a quick visit to the nearby ghost village of Khoy and move further east to the highlands of Dagestan, arguably the most ethnically diverse republic in the whole former Soviet Union.
We'll travel scenic mountain roads visiting several traditional Dagestani villages along the way before eventually arriving in the mountain hamlet of Gunib, the very place where the legendary Imam Shamil made his last stand against the Tsarist forces during the XIX century Caucasian Wars.
From Gunib we’ll head south to Chokh, a lively traditional Avar village famous for its ancient mansions and vertigo-inducing escarpments.
Dinner and overnight in Chokh.
DAY 10 - Dagestan: Derbent
We'll continue our journey across the Dagestani mountains enjoying the eternal atmospheres of ancient settlements, abandoned ghost towns and stunning natural sceneries before finally reaching Kubachi, a pretty little mountain town renowned for the production of traditional silver jewellery.
From Kubachi we'll move on to Derbent, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and Dagestan’s only UNESCO world heritage site.
Derbent sightseeing: Old Citadel, Naryn Kala Fortress, Friday Mosque, Armenian Church, Lenin Statue and Park of Soviet Military Glory.
Dinner and overnight in Derbent.
DAY 11 - Dagestan: Makhachkala
In the morning we'll move north along the Caspian Highway and head to Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.
On our way to Makhachkala we'll stop for a seafood lunch in Kaspiysk, a gritty post-Soviet port town full of USSR nostalgia.
Here we’ll be able to admire two truly mesmerising Soviet-era sights: the abandoned Dagdizel Plant №8 (a torpedo factory emerging from the Caspian waters like a dystopian manmade island coming straight out of Kevin Reynolds’ Waterworld) and the photogenic rusty remnants of an original Soviet ekranoplan (a larger-than-life ground-effect vehicle used to travel across the Caspian Sea).
Makhachkala afternoon sightseeing: Lenin's Square, Central Bazaar, City Beach, Grand Mosque, Drama Theater, National Museum, WWII Memorial and a vast array of architectonically striking Soviet-era buildings.
Dinner and overnight in Makhachkala.
DAY 12 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last lavish Dagestani-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: transfer to Makhachkala International Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: transfer to the train/bus station.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 2300 € per person
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 20 euros/night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), visas if required, entrance to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility. It is also possible to make the tour the other way round, starting from Makhachkala and finishing in Minvody.
Mineralnye Vody has been chosen as the starting point of this route because the local airport is one of the busiest in the region and a relatively easy and cheap one to reach from Europe or North America. Alternatively you can also choose to land directly in Nalchik or Beslan and we'll then collect you for an additional fee of only 15 euros. Please contact us to learn more about that.
Airport pickup/transfer in Mineralnye Vody and Makhachkala is available for just 35 euros per ride.