Grand voyage around the North Caucasus
Day 1
Arrival to the airport or railway station of Makhachkala. Transfer and accommodation in the hotel. Sightseeing tour of Makhachkala. During the excursion we will admire the Grand Mosque of Makhachkala, take pictures of the Monument to the Russian Teacher, walk along Rodopsky Boulevard and see numerous theaters and museums of Makhachkala. Dinner. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 2
Breakfast. Transfer to Derbent. Sightseeing tour of Derbent. The name of Derbent is translated from Persian as «gate in the barrier». It reflects the fact that this ancient city occupies the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. Derbent originates from the Bronze Age and is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It occupies a tiny strip of land between the Caucasus mountains and the Caspian Sea coast! In this cosmopolitan town peacefully coexist Juma Mosque of Derbent which is the oldest mosque in Russia, Armenian Church of the Holy All-Savior and a synagogue. The main attraction of the old Debent is the citadel of Naryn-Kala surrounded by a strong double wall 3,6 km long. This powerful fortress has been guarding Derbent for more than 1500 years! Its large inner courtyard contains thermae, ruins of different buildings and the underground crypt in the shape of cross remained from the oldest Christian temple of the 4th - 5th centuries. Return to Makhachkala. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 3
Breakfast. Excursion to the mountain village of Gunib. Ancient aul (mountain village) Gunib was a place of the last battle between Russian Czar's army and heroic highlanders of Imam Shamil during the Caucasian War. The reserved plateau of Gunib looks like a dish with elevated edges with the mountain village in its center. Though nowadays there is an asphaltic road leading to the Gunib Fortress, getting there is still not an easy task, but in the 19th century this mountain aul was a real stronghold! There is a scenic waterfall in Gunib's neighborhood which we can also visit. Return to Makhachkala. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 4
Breakfast. Excursion to the Sulak Canyon and The Sarykum Dune. This morning we depart for the Sulak Canyon. When you are standing on the brim of the abyss which is 1920 meters in depth, with a blue band of the Sulak river meandering far beneath, your heart starts beating faster and you feel a little bit dizzy. Nearby we can admire the arches of the Chirkey Dam and an artificial lake formed as a result of its construction. The 233 meters high dam is one of the biggest in the North Caucasus. During summer months the water in the Chirkey lake gets warm and it is possible to swim there, drive a jet ski or have a rest on the beach. On the way back we will visit the mysterious Sarykum Dune. Nobody knows for sure how this golden sandy miracle appeared in Dagestan. Return to Makhachkala. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 5
Makhachkala — Vladikavkaz
Breakfast. Transfer to the Chechen Republic. Visiting the «Mother’s Heart» Mosque in Argun. We will see one of the most beautiful mosques in the whole North Caucasus. Transfer to Grozny. Sightseeing tour of Grozny. The capital of the Chechen Republic is a friendly city where one of the biggest mosques in North Caucasus and an orthodox church peacefully coexist. Not so long ago Grozny was totally ruined but now it is one of the most beautiful and modern cities on the North Caucasus, risen like a phoenix from the ashes, with shining towers and nicely smelling flowerbeds. Transfer to the Republic of North Ossetia. Accommodation in the hotel in Vladikavkaz. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 6
Breakfast. Visiting the medieval family towers of Ingushetia. We will spend the whole day exploring the mysterious and wonderful Republic of Ingushetia. It is a country of military and family towers. In ancient times the towers of Khamkhi, Targim and Egikal protected the Silk Road. The medieval tower complex Vovnushki in the year 2008 became a finalist in the «Seven Wonders of Russia» competition. Numerous Ingush family towers are built on bare rocks without any foundation. They are stable only due to the weight of the lower stones, some of which exceeds the human size! There are many springs in the mountains of Ingushetia, and today we will visit one of them. According to the recent research its water contains a lot of silver. Return to Vladikavkaz. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 7
Breakfast. Visiting the Uastyrdzhi Monument and the Tsallagov Family Towers. This morning we will drive along the scenic Transcaucasian Highway. The road meanders peacefully parallel the Ardon river and the spa resort Tamisk is left behind when a giant horse rider statue comes out of nowhere. This mounted warrior is Uastyrdzhi (St. George), the heavenly patron of Ossetia. His giant statue emerging from the very rock has been guarding the road and travellers for centuries. The Uastyrdzhi Monument is one of the most revered sanctuaries in North Ossetia. Having known his story we continue our trip to the Tsallagov Family Towers. These old tower complex is reconstructed and transformed into museum exposing ancient artifacts of Ossetian household. Return to Vladikavkaz. A short guided walk in Vladikavkaz. The fortress of Vladikavkaz was built near the entrance to the Darial Gorge to protect the road between Russian and Georgia. Due to its perfect location the urban trade grew and developed very quickly. The historic center of Vladikavkaz still retains the atmosphere of a charming merchants town. The city is known for its green parks, the embankment of Terek river and well preserved historical buildings. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 8
Vladikavkaz — Azau Valley
Breakfast. Transfer to the Kabardino Balkarian Republic. Excursion to Cherek Gorge and Goluboye Lake. Visiting Cherek Gorge is always very exciting! To get there we will have to walk through a narrow mountain path, which looks like it was carved in the rock, above the river raging in the depth of the gorge. In Upper Balkaria village we will see ancient towers, some of which are placed right upon giant rocks, and an ancient fortress nestled on the shoulder of the cliff. Then you will admire Goluboye (which means «light blue») lake. Its history is full of mysteries and legends. There is a modern building of The Deep Water Research Center placed just on the shore of the lake. Transfer to the Elbrus region. Short stop in the Valley of Narzans. Accommodation in the hotel in Azau Valley. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 9
Azau Valley
Breakfast. Ascent to Mount Elbrus. This mountain has so many names! Different nations call it its own way: «mount of happiness», «mount of thousand mountains», «snow mane», but every name underlines that this mountain is really great and mysterious! Today we are going to ascend up the the middle of Elbrus by cable car. Enjoy the wonderful panoramic views from the local observation deck! Our guide will show us the most beautiful peaks towering around and tell some interesting stories about them. The popular ski resort Cheget is located not far from Elbrus. In the summer months numerous blooming herbs adorn the meadow near Cheget Mountain. If you ascend by the cable car a little bit higher you can enjoy (if the weather permits) the fantastic view of the giant Mount Elbrus itself. Return to Azau Valley. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 10
Azau Valley — Dombay
Breakfast. Transfer to Pyatigorsk. Sightseeing tour of Pyatigorsk. The spa town Pyatigorsk whose name means «Five Mountains» is the capital of the Caucasian Mineral Waters region. Its marvelous spa parks contains a lot of beautiful monuments. The most significant park is of course Tsvetnik (»Flowerbed») whose history is connected with many famous Russian celebrities. We will walk along Tsvetnik and taste famous mineral water. Transfer to the Karachay Cherkess Republic. Accommodation in the hotel in Dombay. Free evening. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 11
Breakfast. Ascent to Mussa Achitara Mountain. We will ascend Mussa Achitara Mountain by a cable car. From its observation deck one can enjoy panoramic views of 30 km long mountain range, coniferous forests, alpine meadows, raging rivers, sparkling waterfalls, snow-covered peaks, giant glaciers and picturesque gorges. The unique beauty of Dombay is seen here in full view. Here air is delightful, full of pine and flowers smells, and water in rivers is taste, cold and crystal clear. We will hear some authentic legends and find many gifts in the local market: souvenirs, herbal mixtures, honey and wool things. Return to the hotel. Overnight in the hotel.
Day 12
Dombay — Mineralnye Vody
Breakfast. Excursion to the Shoana Church. On the last day of our journey we will ascend to the 10th century Alanian church, located on the southeastern spur of Mount Shoan. The views from the local observation deck are breathtaking! Transfer to the airport of Mineralnye Vody. The end of the program.
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