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Wild Frontiers of North Caucasus

Russia, Abkhazia, Kabardino Balkaria, North & South Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya & Dagestan

September 05 to 24, 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, North & South 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.

Tour cost (Land only): $7,995.00 Per person sharing in double occupancy

Single Supplement: $650.00    

Price based on a minimum of 6 participants and maximum of 10 participants

Escorted by Spiekermann Travel’s Tour Manager

Your tour does not include

  • International air into Sochi and out of Moscow.

  • One visa needed for RUSSIA. (Multiple Entry)

  • 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

  • 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 stay.

  • Spiekermann tour manager throughout the trip

  • English speaking local guides throughout the 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 Abdylla Geldiyev: Abdylla was Tour Manager for many years. He was born and raised in Turkmenistan which is one of the Ex-Soviet Republics.  His ability to speak several languages like Turkish, Turkmen and Russian makes him perfect candidate to lead tours to North Caucasus and any of autonomous republics of Russia Federation. Abdylla is our leading travel specialist, who is familiarized with Europe, Caucasus, Far East and Central Asia. Working in travel industry more than decade, he managed and facilitated film projects for National Geographic’s and BBC in Central Asia. He had led dozens of tours and gained valuable experience. Being previously employed for Travel Company which was based in Central Asia he had extensively travelled in Japan, Turkey, Europe, Russia, Central Asia and South East Asia where he tailored his knowledge about travel and tourism. He has always enjoyed more unusual destinations - and that’s why he likes leading tours to the destinations which are less known to the western world.

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

Sat-Sun, Sep 05-06
USA to Sochi (Russia)

Depart your hometown arriving the next day at Sochi Airport on Sep 6’Th or (First Hours of Sep 7’th). After passing through customs you will be met and transferred to the hotel located at Adler which is a 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 6’th.

Mon, Sep 07
Adler- Old Gagra- Sukhumi (Russia-Abkhazia)

After breakfast, we will cross the border between Russia and Abkhazia. Today we will visit Old Gagra and walk in the park which was established before Russian revolution. 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. Overnight at Leon Hotel 3-4*. (B,L,D)

Tue, Sep 08
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)

Wed, Sep 09
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. 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 and the Marine Station. We will finish sightseeing of Sochi and have dinner at quay and then go to the railway station to get on the overnight train, which will take us to Central Caucasus. Overnight in the train. (B,L,D)

Thu, Sep 10
Stavropol kray- Djily Su -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 thermal springs and waterfalls. We’ll stop for picnic-style lunch and continue to Shaukam pass 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 peak of Elbrus. Overnight at ski –resort 4*. (B,L,D)

Fri, Sep 11
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. 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 before revolution; mansions of historical part of the city. We will participate in cooking class and try to cook Ossetian Pie. Overnight at hotel Aleksandrovsk 4*. (B,L,D)

Sat, Sep 12
Vladikavkaz- Dargavs- Upper Fiagdom- Tsey

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 the village. We will cross Arkhon pass to visit Alagir valley and several beautiful villages in that area. Overnight at hotel Vertikal 3* (B,L,D)

Sun, Sep 13
Tsey- Dzhary Dzuar -Tskhinval(North Ossetia- South Ossetia)

In the morning we will visit Rekom shrine in Tsey valley. This mysterious structure is 2,000 meters above sea level, is of great sacral significance. Rekom is the only log sanctuary in Ossetia built without the use of nails or any other iron items. Iron was only used for the purposes of decoration. Then we’ll head to South Ossetia. We will be right below the Great Caucasian Ridge, which we will cross through the Roksky tunnel that is 3,730 meters long. Once we cross to South Ossetia we will stop at Dzhery Dzuar the most important shrine of Ossetian people living in the South. We will have chance to intermingle with locals. Arrival to Tskhinval and enjoy walking excursion with local war veteran. Overnight at Uyut 3* hotel. (B,L,D)

Mon, Sep 14
Tskhinval-Znaur -Tskhinval

Today we will explore two villages - Lower Monastyr and Upper Monastyr. Both are located on the left bank of the Mumla River. Between the villages, right by the road, stands the Tirsky Monastery. Monks lived there until 1811, after that the monastery was turned into a rural parish. The complex consists of a functioning church, bell tower, refectory, as well as outbuildings and small artificial grottoes which were probably used as cells. The main advantage of the temple is its rich and diverse stone carving. The frescoes of the 14thcentury are quite interesting. After we’ll visit few other sights and return back to Tskhinval. Meet one of the local cultural experts. Overnight in Uyut 3* hotel (B,L,D)

Tue, Sep 15
Tskhinval - Valdikavkaz(South Ossetia – North Ossetia)

In the morning we’ll leave Tskhinval to Urstualta valley. We’ll hike up to Lower Ruk medieval tower, visit mineral springs of Zgubir village. After lunch in Zgubir we will cross the border to Vladikavkaz. Upon arrival check into hotel. After having rest in hotel we will continue exploring Vladikavkaz and have folk dance class or visit wine makers. Overnight at Aleksandrovsk 4* hotel. (B,L,D)

Wed, Sep 16
Vladikavkaz - Grozny(North Ossetia- Ingushetia-Chechnya)

Today we will visit the market of Vladikavkaz where we can try the local specialties and get our 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 and observe the illuminated mosque known as “Heart of Chechnya”. Overnight at Grozniy city hotel 5*. (B,L,D)

Thu, Sep 17

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. Dinner and overnight at Kezenoy-am hotel 3*. (B,L,D)

Fri, Sep 18
Kezenoy-Untsukul-Gunib (Chechnya-Dagestan)

We will start our drive to Dagestan which truly differs from other Caucasus. 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 (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)

Sat, Sep 19

Today we’ll explore the historical area called Andalal. and 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. 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. 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” 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)

Sun, Sep 20

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 and the Hermitage museum. 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)

Mon, Sep 21

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)

Tue, Sep 22

Start day by exploring the Old Town of Derbent with its abundance of historical UNESCO sights and 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/hamams. After lunch visit the Muslim shrine of a saint and Kyrkhlyar cemetery. This is a burial place of the 40 warrior-martyrs who 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)

Wed, Sep 23
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. After drive to Sary Kum – the highest dune of Europe and observe sunset there. Enjoy the evening dinner and vernight at hotel 4*. (B,L,D)

Thu, Sep 24
Makhachkala – Moscow

After breakfast, visit the colorful bazaar of Makhachkala where people from Dagestan join to sell their goods. Later on will explore city center of Mahachkala and try the traditional cuisine in 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 Sep. 25th with Turkish Air. (B,L)

Note: Hotel night for September 24’th is not included in Moscow

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