Wild Frontiers of North Caucasus
Russia, Abkhazia, Kabardino Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya & Dagestan
May 23 to June 08, 2020
The Northern Caucasus is northern part of the Caucasus region between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea and within European Russia. Historically North Caucasus is one of the hottest spots of the world, the land of famous warriors and strange archaic traditions which 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 start from Abkhazia, a partially recognized country, which was the pearl of Georgia in the Soviet period and marvel other North Caucasian Autonomous republics, including Kabardino-Balkaria, Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya and many others. We’ll move from developed West to wild East: from subtropical and friendly Abkhazia and all the way to Dagestan where we will explore ethnicity and history from Stone Age to Soviet era. We will witness daily life of highlanders up in the high mountains with centuries-old forests that are filled with oaks, firs and wild blueberries. The culmination of our adventure will be exploration of the most visually striking and culturally different villages. So join us on this fascinating journey marveling historical monuments, isolated settlements, towers, orthodox monasteries, majestic landscapes and cultures that have survived centuries without outside influence.
Ukraine and Russia’s Imperial Capitals on the Golden Ring trip
can be added as pre tour. (May 08 to 24, 2020)
Led by Nancy Weber
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
Your tour does not include
One visa needed for RUSSIA. (Multiple)
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.).
The accommodation for Sep 24 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 3 and 4 star hotels and 1 night 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)
About Nancy Weber, Nancy loves travel, learning languages, people, and sparkling wine! Nancy worked in the chemical industry in the US and Canada, and lived and worked in Russia for four years as a business training consultant. She also lived in Jordan and Iraq for eight years, working as a training consultant and as Iraq's Country Director for an NGO. Nancy speaks Russian, and she loves Russia and adores the people who live there. Nancy traveled to the North Caucasus last September with STS - she was so happy to finally see and experience Chechnya and Dagestan! She has traveled extensively and enjoys visiting off-the-beaten-track places the most, especially those countries that see very few tourists/travelers. She is thrilled to be returning to this beautiful part of the world and reconnecting with its fascinating people. The Fine PRINT:Being a very off-the-beaten track journey to an area of the world that is least visited by any foreigners and travelers. Joining this tour will require a high level of flexibility and tolerance and willingness to go with the flow when things change, or if the itinerary or hotels used or sequence or visits change due to any unforeseen conditions. Also the standard of the local guides as far as their English language abilities are concerned is rather moderate though their in-depth knowledge of the region and its culture and also their connection to the local population and to the many special people who will meet us is phenomenal. Anyone joining this trip must understand that in many places the tourist infrastructure is very primitive. Some days are long and the level of services will not match those offered in more tourist locations. Some roads are in poor state By signing up for this tour, participants are acknowledging their full understanding and acceptance of all terms and conditions and are admitting that they are in good physical and mental health and are equipped with open mind, a sense of adventure and a tolerant and patient spirit to cope up with the tour.
View Tour Itinerary
Saturday to Sunday, May 23 - 24
USA to Sochi (Russia)
Depart your hometown arriving the next day at Sochi Airport on May 24’Th (First Hours of May 25’th by Turkish Air). After passing through customs and collecting your luggage you will be met and transferred to the hotel located at Adler which is the district of Great Sochi for rest after Trans-Atlantic flight. Overnight at Russian Season hotel 4*. (B,L,D) Note: Hotel is available from 12:00 midday May 24’th.
Monday, May 25
Adler- Old Gagra- Sukhumi (Russia-Abkhazia)
After breakfast, we will cross the border between Russia and Abkhazia. Today we will start by a visit to Old Gagra. We will walk in the park which was established before Russian revolution and feel the spirit of imperial Russia. Afterwards we will continue to Achandara village which is one of many traditional Abkhazian villages. We’ll see lifestyle of one of the families, learn how to cook abysta (Abkhazian bread) and have lunch with the family. After that we’ll drive to Sukhumi - the capital of the Abkhazia. Upon arrival we will visit national museum, walk in historical part of the town and have dinner in a restaurant. Overnight at Leon Hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)
Tuesday, May 26
Sukhumi- New Athos- Old Gagra
In the morning we will drive to New Athos town which is town located close to Sukhumi. Today we will explore ruins of the first capital of Abkhazian kingdom, New Athos cave, monastery, which was established in XIX century by monks, who came from Greece, and one of the most beautiful railway stations of the Soviet era. In the evening we’ll drive back to Old Gagra and have dinner in the restaurant, which was built in 1902. Overnight at Continent hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, May 27
Old Gagra- Ritsa Lake-Sochi-Stavropol Kray (Abkhazia-Russia)
In the morning will go up to mountains to enjoy beautiful scenery of Ritsa Lake and visit dacha of Stalin, which was erected near by the lake. After our lunch in mountains we’ll go back to cross Russian border. After border crossing we’ll go to central Sochi to see the most important architectural sites like Old sanatoriums, Marine Station, Art museum and the memorial of Russian victory in the war of 1828 - 1830 against Turkey. We will finish sightseeing of Sochi and have dinner at quay of Sochi and then go to the railway station to get on the night train, which will take us to Central Caucasus. Train departure at 22:05 (subject to change). Overnight in the train. (B,L,D)
Thursday, May 28
Stavropol kray (Min vody) –Kabardino Balkaria(Djili su) -Shaukam Pass –Tyrnauz – Terskol (Russia- Kabardino Balkaria)
We’ll have breakfast on the train. Our arrival to Mineralniye Vody train station will be at 9:00 am. We will be met by our drivers with 4x4 vehicles and start our adventure to Djily-suu - located at the foot of Mount Elbrus with few thermal springs and waterfalls. We’ll stop for picnic-style lunch and continue to Shaukam pass (2925 meters) to reach Tyrnauz ghost-town in the middle of nowhere which was miner’s settlement in the soviet era. Continue to Terskol Mountain resort. – The ski-resort is a base for hikers who are ascending to the pick Elbrus. Overnight at ski –resort 4*. (B,L,D)
Friday, May 29
Terskol - Nalchik – Vladikavkaz (Kabardino Balkaria- North Ossetia)
Today we drive to Nalchik - the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria. Our first stop will be in National Museum, where we will meet Felix Nakov, the master of shashka (adygean long swords). We will enjoy the exposition at the museum and Kabardian martial arts performance with his disciples. They will show us their martial art skills with swords and daggers. We will enjoy Kabardian cuisine lunch in the city. After we drive to Vladikavkaz to enjoy our sightseeing by visiting the Ossetian church; Armenian church; Sunni mosque built by European designer before revolution; mansions of historical part of the city. We will participate in cooking class and try to cook famous Ossetian Pie. Overnight at hotel Aleksandrovsk 4*. (B,L,D)
Saturday, May 30
Vladikavkaz- Dargvas- Upper Fiagdom- Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia)
Today we will be exploring the mountains of North Ossetia. We’ll visit the most famous sights: the greatest necropolis in the Caucasus (near Dargavs village). Continue to Khidikus village to have our lunch at “Sunny Valley” restaurant. After we will explore the most highland monastery of Russia which is located in this village. Drive back to Vladikavkaz and take relaxing walk in the downtown. Before dinner we’ll meet and listen to “Kona”, a local folk-ensemble. Overnight at hotel Aleksandrovsk 4*. (B,L,D)
Sunday, May 31
Vladikavkaz - Grozny (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, June 01
After breakfast we will have Grozniy city walking sightseeing tour which will give us opportunity to explore downtown of the Grozniy. Our next stop is the museum of A.Kadyrov and National Museum. We may also stop to see rehearsal of the ethnic dance troop and have a small coffee break. Later on we will have traditional style lunch and head towards Kezenoy-am Lake. On the way to the biggest lake in the mountains of the Caucasus, we’ll visit another impressive mosque in Argun town. 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, June 02
We will start our drive to experience 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 Untsukul village. Although wood carving has been popular nearly everywhere in Dagestan, the village of Untsukul has won special fame in this area of expertise. For 200 years Untsukul masters have been developing unique methods of decorating spoons, plates, and walking sticks. We’ll explore this ancient village and its craft tradition. Drive to Gunib village for overnight at Eagles Nest 3*. (B,L,D)
Wednesday, June 03
After breakfast we’ll drive to visit Sogratl village to interact with local people. We will stop by the school of Sogratl and learn more about daily life of students. Stop to visit the museum of battle. Then we’ll be 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. Stop for lunch in open air cafe "Andalal". Our next stop is Chokh village to see its architecture and meet local young men, who are reviving their village. Continue 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 dedicated for the village. Overnight at Eagles Nest 3*. (B,L,D)
Thursday, June 04
In the morning we leave Gunib and drive to the Lak village on our way named as Balkhar. On the way we may stop at the underground waterfall of Salta. Balkhar is famous for a very archaic ceramic technique. After, we’ll go to the Kubachi - the most famous craft-village of Dagestan. Jewelry of the Kubachi region is exhibited at the Metropolitan museum in New York and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Have lunch with one of the jewelers. Explore life of jewelers and their village. Dinner and overnight at guest house in Kubachi. (B,L,D)
Friday, June 05
In the morning we will explore daily life of Kubachi village. Afterwards head to Derbent and make stop for lunch in one of the most ancient towns of Russia. Arrive to Derbent and check in Hotel. Free afternoon at lesure. Overnight at Scarlet Sails hotel 3*. (B,L,D)
Saturday, June 06
Start day by 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”. After lunch 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 we’ll go to the Armenian Church turned into the Museum of Carpets and rugs. Overnight at Scarlet Sails hotel 3*. (B,L,D)
Sunday, June 07
Derbent-Buynaksk-Sulak canyon- Sary Kum- Mahachkala
After breakfast start our way to North and arrive to Bunaksk which is a former capital of Dagestan. Upon arrival enjoy visit to the museum in the former theater which resembles to famous Vienna Opera house. Continue our way to the deepest Canyon of Russia named as Sulak. Enjoy the panoramic view. We will be hosted for lunch by the owner of the fruit garden who used to work in Hi-Tech business. After drive to Sary Kum and observe the unique sunset. Enjoy the evening dinner in the local restaurant. Overnight at hotel 4*. (B,L,D)
Monday, June 08
Makhachkala - Moscow
After breakfast, visit the colorful bazaar of Makhachkala where people from all over the country join to sell their goods. Later on will explore city center of Mahachkala and try the traditional cuisine in local restaurant. After, we will head to the airport of Makhachkala to catch the flight to Moscow. On arrival in Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, connect to your International flight that same evening or first hours on June 9’th by Turkish Air OR extend your stay in Moscow and Russia. (B,L) Note: Hotel night for June 8’th is not included in Moscow.
We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed