Wild Frontiers of North Caucasus
Abkhazia, Ossetia, Chechnya, Dagestan & many more
September 08 to 24, 2018
The Northern Caucasus is northern part of the Caucasus region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea and within European Russia. North Caucasus, historically one of the hottest spots of the world, the land of famous warriors and strange archaic traditions, is turning to peace now. And we are going to explore it in the most beautiful time, when summer turns to autumn. That is time of weddings, red-yellow-green forests and abundant tables. We’ll visit Abkhazia, a partially recognized country, which was the pearl of Georgia in the Soviet period and also most of the other North Caucasian republics, including Chechnya and Dagestan.
We’ll move from developed West to wild East: from subtropical Abkhazia boasting treasures from so many historical periods (from Stone Age to Soviet era) to once again rising from the ashes, and the wine region of Anapa valley and further to Kabardian’s, where the secrets of medieval martial arts are kept with Ossetia’s pagans. And we’ll finish our expedition in the Muslim republics of Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan - the true treasures of Caucasus, keeping their ancient ways of life even on the streets of their modern cities.
So join us on this exploratory journey marveling at isolated villages, deserted orthodox monasteries, cultures that have survived centuries without outside influence and some majestic landscapes.
Tour cost (Air and Land): $7,995.00
Per person sharing in double occupancy
Single Supplement: $500.00
Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 10 participants
Credit for not using our included airfare $800.00
Escorted by Spiekermann Travel’s expert: Abdylla Geldiyev
Your tour does not include
- One visa needed for RUSSIA. (Double Entry)
- Airport taxes, fuel surcharges and security charges (Est. $485.00) - subject to change.
- Alcoholic beverages and any soft drinks.
- Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.
- Transfers if not arriving/departing on scheduled dates
- Dayroom or overnights necessitated by changes in airline schedules.
- Items of a personal nature (laundry, phone calls, emails, excess luggage charges, etc.).
- Travel insurance.
- Any services in Moscow (We can assist with hotels or extensions in Russia)
Your tour includes
- Roundtrip air from/to JFK via Istanbul into Sochi and out of Moscow.
- Internal flight Makhachkala to Moscow.
- All transfers and transportation by A/C minibus & 4x4 vehicles on some days.
- Accommodation in combination of 2, 3 and 4 star hotels and 2 nights in home stays.
- English speaking local guides throughout the whole trip.
- Meals as in program (B: Breakfast, L: Lunch and D: dinner)
- Mineral water during touring days on vehicle.
- Entrance fees to the museums and historical sites.
- Porterage of luggage (except at border crossings).
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers and restaurant staff for included meals.
Trip Grade: II Active - Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.
Lodging Level: *** Superior - Lodges and hotels with additional amenities, refined service and comfort level acceptable to western standards. (3 or 4 stars)
View Tour Itinerary
Saturday to Sunday, Sep 8 to 9
USA to Sochi
Depart your hometown arriving the next day at Sochi Airport. After passing through customs and collecting your luggage you will be met and transferred to Gagra – one of the oldest Russian imperial resorts on the Black Sea. Gagra is in Abkhazia, and is approx. 30 minutes driving from the Russian border. Overnight at Abaata hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)
Monday, Sep 10
Russian Riviera, Abkhazia
After breakfast, meet your guide at the lobby. Today we will start by a visit to Old Gagra. We will walk and feel the spirit of imperial Russia in this resort which was created as a Russian Riviera. Our next stop is Pitsunda which was also luxury resort town in the days of the USSR in the 1960s. It is known for its pine forests and also for the first Christian community created here (III century AD). Then head towards a traditional Abkhazian village where we will have lunch with the locals. Our next stop is New Athos. Hiking up Anakopia hill, where we will visit the cave and the monastery which was the biggest Orthodox center on the Black sea. Arrive to Sukhum in the evening. Overnight at Leon Hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, Sep 11
Today is a walking tour of the city of Sukhum and have lunch. We will have a chance to visit the Botanical Garden, and walk in the historical part of town. After lunch we leave towards the Russian border. On the way we’ll visit Pitsundo-Myussersky reserve (the only reserve in Abkhazia, placed on the shore of the sea) and we will reach a wild beach by motor-boat. The forest surrounding the beach is famous for Iberian oaks, treelike heath and arbutus. Have some time to stroll and take pictures then we are back on the mainland to head to visit Stalin’s “dacha” (he had 5 of them in Abkhazia). Overnight at Abaata hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, Sep 12
(The option from the below will be dependent on train and flight schedules)
Today we will cross the Russian border and travel by train to the Goryachiy Klyuch (10:37 - 15:51). Upon arrival we will be picked up by mini-bus and go to Moldovanskoe village, where one of the most interesting Russian wine-projects is located. It is called “Lefkadia”. This is one of the biggest money investments by Russians to produce wine and eco-food. The region is like Tuscany in the middle of South Russia. We are here today for our cooking-class, wine-tasting and beautifully-prepared dinner. Overnight at boutique-hotel of Lefkadia. (B,L,D)
After breakfast in the morning we will go the Ritsa Lake and enjoy the lovely scenery and in afternoon we are going to cross the Russian border by land and take a flight from Sochi to Krasnodar (16:20 - 17:10). Upon arrival we will be transferred to Moldavanskoye village. Free evening at leisure. Overnight at boutique-hotel Lefkadia. (B,L,D)
Thursday, Sep 13
Krasnodar – Stavropolskiy kray
In the morning we will be exploring the vineyard of Valery Aslanov who was the judo champion of the USSR. His Greek heritage has contributed to making his greatest pleasure in life to take care of grapes and display artifacts of Greek civilization at the his vineyard. We will try wine and cheese which was made by him. After lunch we will be transferred to Prokhladnaya Station to take our train to North Ossetia. Overnight in the train. (B,L,D)
Friday, Sep 14
Kabardino Balkaria- North Ossetia
In the morning we will be picked up from the train station and start our road trip to the Aushiger thermal springs (1 hour by mini-bus). We will have time to experience the healing effects of the thermal springs and have our breakfast/brunch there. Later on we will have a chance to meet Felix Nakov, the master of Kabardian martial arts with his disciples. They will show us their martial art skills with shashkas (swords) and daggers. After their performance, we change our transportation to 4x4 vehicles and start our way to the Digoria valley (in North Ossetia). We’ll visit ancient villages, holy places and the towers which are made of stones. Enjoy lunch at the old village situated in high mountains. Upon arrival free afternoon at leisure. Overnight at hotel Aleksandrovsk 4*. (B,L,D)
Saturday, Sep 15
Today we will be exploring the mountains of Ossetia. We’ll visit the most famous sights: the greatest necropolis in the Caucasus (near Dargavs village), Midagrabin waterfalls (one of which is the Great Zeigalan, that is over 600 meters high). Moreover, we’ll drive up to the Arkhonsky pass by 4x4 vehicles to enjoy the panoramic view and then go down to Dagom and Ursdon villages famous for their crypts and towers. Later on we will return back to town. After dinner we’ll meet and listen to “Kona”, a local folk-ensemble Overnight at hotel Aleksandrovsk 4*. (B,L,D)
Sunday, Sep 16
North Ossetia- Ingushetia-Chechnya
Today we will have a chance to visit the market of Vladikavkaz where we can try the local specialties and get our food supplies for the picnic lunch. Then we start our way towards the mountains of Ingushetia. We’ll visit the most interesting medieval settlements with defensive towers: Erzi, Egikal, Vovnushki and also the most ancient Christian church in Russia - Tkhaba-erdy. Continuing our drive, we arrive to Grozny. We will enjoy dinner and panoramic view at the restaurant situated on the 33rd floor. After dinner we will take a short walk around the city-center to marvel at the illuminated mosque known by the locals as “Heart of Chechnya”. It is one of the grandest mosques in Europe. Overnight at Grozniy city hotel 5*. (B,L,D)
Monday, Sep 17
After breakfast we start our day visiting some of the museums of Grozny: the museum of A. Kadyrov and the National Museum of the Chechen Republic. Later on we will have traditional style lunch and head towards Kezenoy-am Lake. On the way we’ll visit another impressive mosque in Argun town, before continuing on our way to the biggest lake in the mountains of the Caucasus. We may have a chance if time allows taking rowing boats on the lake. Dinner and overnight at Kezenoy-am hotel 3*. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, Sep 18
Today we will see a big change of landscapes. Dagestan truly differs from other Caucasus and reminds us of the huge mountains of Central Asia. We’ll have a lot of impressive views on the way!First we’ll visit the factory specializing in the production of burkas (traditional Caucasian felt coats) and also we’ll visit a mill where villagers make urbech (traditional paste of flax seeds and apricot pits - Dagestani Nutella). Then we will continue our way to Dagestan. We will also stop at Gotsatl village which is known for its very fine and intricate jewelry craftsmanship. We’ll explore this ancient village and its craft tradition. Drive to Gunib village for overnight at Radde hotel 3*. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, Sep 19
After breakfast we’ll drive to visit Karadakh gorge (1 hour walk for those who would hike) then we drive to Old Karada village which is known for its very unique architecture. Then the group will split: the most active ones will hike up to Gamsutl’, an eerie-looking abandoned village to enjoy the surrounding landscapes and impressive highlander’s architecture. The others will be taken to Gunib - a village where Imam Shamil’ (the famous leader of gazavat in XIX century) was captured. This war lasted for 29 years. In Gunib you will visit the small historical museum depicting the history of Shamil’s last battle. Both groups will reunite back at the hotel overlooking Gunib village for overnight at Radde hotel 3*. (B,L,D)
Thursday, Sep 20
Dagestan (Gunib - Sogratl’ - Kumukh - Tsovkra – Hoyhi)
Start the day by visiting Chokh to look at the XIX century architecture and have tea with the locals. Then we’ll have some off-road driving in the historical area called Andalal. Local people in the XVIII century stopped the 50,000 soldiers’ army of Nadir Shah. We are going to visit the museum of that battle. Continue our drive to the Kumukh village - the capital of Laks and the second important center of spreading Islam in the Caucasus region particularly in Dagestan. We’ll visit the mosque built in 778 AD by the Arabs. Then we’ll go to Tsovkra village where we will have a traditional lunch. This village is famous for rope-walking tradition, so we will enjoy a special performance of children, studying in a school of rope-walkers. In the evening we’ll go to the ethnic-style new “Shunudag” hotel 2*, at Hoyhi village. (B, L, D)
Friday, Sep 21
Dagestan (Hoyhi - Balkhar – Kubachi)
In the morning we leave Hoyhi and go to the last Lak village on our way known as Balkhar (1 hour drive). It is famous for a very archaic ceramic technique. We are going to explore it and make our own souvenirs from clay with our own hands. After lunch in the village we’ll go to the Kubachi (2 hours’ drive) - the most famous craft-village of Dagestan. Jewelry of the Kubachi region like the ones you will see exhibited at the Metropolitan museum in NYC and in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. We’ll meet jewelry masters and explore their life. Dinner and overnight at a traditional home. (B,L,D)
Saturday, Sep 22
Dagestan (Kubachi-Kala-Kureish – Derbent)
Today we will have light trekking to Kala-Kureish (1 hour) - another Islamic center which was run by Arabs. Then we go to Derbent. We’ll have lunch in the most ancient town of Russia! Dagestan, this tiny republic is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse places in the world. More than 30 languages are spoken in an area smaller than Scotland.Have some rest and free time at the hotel after all the mountainous roads and impressions of the last days. Our hotel is located on a sandy beach. Overnight at Scarlet Sails hotel 3 *. (B, L,D)
Sunday, Sep 23
Today we will be exploring the Old Town of Derbent with its abundance of historical UNESCO sights and ample chances of meeting local people. We will visit Naryn-Kala, the citadel of Derbent and walk around the narrow streets of the Old Town. Here we’ll find the oldest mosque of Russia dating back to the 8th century, and look at old baths or “hamams”. We are going to visit the Muslim shrine of a saint and Kyrkhlyar cemetery. This is a burial place of the 40 warrior-martyrs who according to the legend brought Islam to Derbent. After lunch, we’ll go to the Armenian Church turned into the Museum of Carpets and rugs. Overnight at Scarlet Sails hotel 3*. (B,L,D)
Monday, Sep 24
Makhachkala - Moscow
After breakfast, transfer to Makhachkala to visit the colorful bazaar and exploring the city center. Visit the Dagestan Museum of Fine Arts, which had just gone through a high-spec restoration to provide a fitting home for its extensive and invaluable collection of local paintings, weaponry and jewelry with its lovely collection of clothing, houses and local society. After lunch, head to the airport of Makhachkala to catch the flight to Moscow (B,L)
On arrival in Moscow, connect to your International flight that same evening or first hours on Sep. 25th
OR Extend your stay in Moscow and Russia.
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed