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Wild Frontiers of North Caucasus

Abkhazia, Ossetia, Chechnya, Dagestan & many more

September 07 to 23, 2019

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.

Led by Prof Emily O’Dell, Professor Intercultural Studies, Archeology and Cultural Heritage

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

Remark: 4 days - 3 nights Post or Pre tour of Moscow is available as an extension.

Feel free to inquire.

Optional 4 days – 3 nights pre or post extension tour of Moscow

$2,683.00 per person in single occupancy

$1,483.00 per person in double occupancy

Single Supplement: $ 320.00

Escorted by Spiekermann Travel’s Tour Manager

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.).

  • Travel insurance.

  • 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 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)

About your lecturer...Dr. Emily Jane O’Dell has had the unique experience of teaching Islam in the Ivy League, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf, and she has had the very rare opportunity to live twice in Turkmenistan, where she excavated the medieval Islamic bazaar of Merv and preserved Sufi shrines on the Silk Road.  Her recent and upcoming academic publications on Central Asia touch upon Islam, Sufism, shamanism, archaeology, and cultural heritage.  For her field-research on these topics, Emily has been a Fulbright-Hays Scholar (Indonesia), a Harvard Traveling Fellow (Iran), an Edward A. Hewett Policy Fellow (Tajikistan & Afghanistan), a Columbia University Pepsico Fellow (Uzbekistan/Karakalpakstan), an IREX Fellow (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic & Hungary), an American Center for Mongolian Studies Fellow (Mongolia), an American Council Fellow (Turkmenistan), and a State Department Fellow in Critical Languages (Persian & Tajiki) in Tajikistan.

View Tour Itinerary

Saturday to Sunday, Sep 7 to 8
USA to Sochi

Depart your hometown arriving the next day at Sochi Airport on Sep 8’Th (First Hours of Sep 9’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 Sep 8’th.

Monday, Sep 09
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 fish restaurant. Overnight at Leon Hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Sep 10
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 Abaata hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Sep 11
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 Ordjonikidze sanatorium, 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 near the Marine Station 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, Sep 12
Stavropol kray (Min vody) –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 have picnic-style lunch and explore Shaukam pass (2925 meters). On the way we will stop by Tyrnauz ghost-town in the middle of nowhere and then 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, Sep 13
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 Ossetia 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, Sep 14
Vladikavkaz- Dargvas- Dagom- Ursdon- Vladikavkaz (NorthOssetia)

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), Midagrabin waterfalls (one of which is the Great Zeigalan, that is over 600 meters high). After mountain adventure we will drive back to Vladikavkaz and take relaxing walk in the downtown. After dinner we’ll meet and listen to “Kona”, a local folk-ensemble. Overnight at hotel Aleksandrovsk 4*. (B,L,D)

Sunday, Sep 15
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, Sep 16
Grozny-Argun-Kezenoy (Chechnya)

After breakfast we will have Grozniy city walking sightseeing tour which will give us opportunity to explore downtown of the Grozniy. 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, Sep 17
Kezenoy-Untsukul-Gunib (Chechnya-Dagestan)

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, Sep 18
Gunib-Sogratl- Andalal-Chokh-Gamsutl-Gunib (Dagestan)

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. If the time will permit we will hike up to Gamsutl’, an eerie-looking abandoned village to enjoy the surrounding landscapes and impressive highlander’s architecture. 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, Sep 19
Gunib - Kumukh - Tsovkra (Dagestan)

Start the day by driving 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 beautiful mosque structure 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 20
Hoyhi - Balkhar – Kubachi (Dagestan)

In the morning we leave Hoyhi and go to the last Lak village on our way known as Balkhar. It 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 like the ones you will see is exhibited at the Metropolitan museum in New York and in The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Have lunch with one of the jewelers. Explore life of jewelers and their village. Dinner and overnight at local guest house in Kubachi. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Sep 21
Kubachi- Derbent (Dagestan)

Drive from Kubachi to Derbent. Upon arrival to Derbent we are going to have lunch at the local café near by the sea. After start 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”. Overnight at Scarlet Sails hotel 3*. (B,L,D)

Sunday, Sep 22
Derbent-Makhachkala (Dagestan)

After breakfast continue our sightseeing of Derbent and 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. Continue drive to the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala city. Upon arrival visit 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. We will have sightseeing of Makhachkala downtown and stop by souvenir shops. Overnight at Metropol hotel 4*. (B,L,D)

Monday, Sep 23
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 have cooking-class in traditional cuisine restaurant and have lunch there. After, we will head to the airport of Makhachkala to catch the flight to Moscow. 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. (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.

Remark: 4 days - 3 nights Post or Pre tour of Moscow is available as an extension. Feel free to inquire.

We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed