Day 1: Arrival in Makhachkala via Moscow
Met on arrival and transfer.
Day 2: Makhachkala-Derbent
We enjoy a walk in Old town and visit the rehearsal of the city’s dance ensemble to observe the tradition of Caucasian dancing. In the afternoon, we drive to Derbent.
IF JOINING FROM OUR DISCOVER THE CAUCASUS TOUR:
Day 2: Drive Baku-Quba-Derbent
We drive to Quba, capital of the Quba Rayon of Averbaja. We will have an opportunity to meet Aikun Agamirzaeva and Fatima Agamirzaeva, leaders of the revival of the carpet weaving tradition in Quba. Onward to Krasnaya Sloboda (a suburb of Quba). This is a large Jewish community. There is a group of big fancy houses, which look very different from other parts of the town. We have lunch with Jewish family in their home. Afterwards, drive to Derbent.
Day 3: Full Day Tour of Derbent
We explore Old Town with many historical UNESCO sights and meet the locals. The Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent were part of the northern lines of the Sasanian Persian Empire
Day 4-5: Villages of Dagestan
We venture into the rural countryside visiting several villages. Jewelry of Kubachi is exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and in Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. We’ll meet masters and observe their life. In Balkhar village we see local (very archaic!) pottery tradition. Balkhar is a very traditional photogenic highland village of Laks. Chokh village, in the Avar Mountains, is known for architecture of XIX century.
Day 6: Chechnya Mountains
Along the ay we stop for a walk to Karadakh Canyon; then visit Rakhata village to see how they make burkas and urbech (Dagestani traditional Nutella). In the evening we’ll arrive at Kezenoy-am lake, on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan.
Day 7: Grozny
Tour the city and visit the museum of Akhmad Kadyrov - the first president of Chechnya. In the evening we’ll taste traditional Vainakh cuisine.
Day 8: Mountains of Ingushetia
This morning after a visit to the Dondi-Yurt Museum – a private ethnographic museum of Adam Satuev, we drive 3.5 hrs to the mountains of Ingushetia. This afternoon, we visit Tkhaba-erdy - one of the most ancient Christian churches of Russia, Vovnushki - the most impressive towers probably of all the Caucasus, which are built on the top of cliffs. At sunset we’ll see Djeyrakh and Targim Valleys from the Tsey-Loam Pass.
Day 9-10: North Ossetia: Vladikavkaz
A short drive to to Vladikavkaz - the capital of North Ossetia. Vladikavkaz was the center of Western culture in Caucasus from XIX century. Vladikavkaz was the center of Western culture in Caucasus from XIX century. We’ll see many examples of Russian Modern architecture of the beginning of XX century, visit museums and experience the multicultural spirit of the city, visiting Kirche, Orthodox and Armenian churches and a Sunni mosque. In the evening we’ll meet an ensemble of traditional Ossetian music.
Day 11: Mountains North Ossetia
We head to mountains again to visit holy places of traditional Ossetia, a mixture of Paganism and Christianity. We’ll visit mountain valleys and cross couple of picturesque passes. At the end of the day we’ll come to the “City of the Dead” near Dargavs village, a huge complex of medieval crypts.
Day 12: Nalchik
We travel to Nalchik, the capital city of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, Russia, located in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.
Day 13: Elbrus
Today we’ll have an off-road tour in Elbrus area. We’ll have opportunity to see Mt. Elbrus from it’s base.
Mount Elbrus, a dormant volcano, is the highest mountain in Europe, and the tenth most prominent peak in the world.
Day 14: Pyatigorsk and other SPA towns
We’ll explore architectural heritage of that time and also experience Soviet mud baths and gym of XIX century.
Day 15: North Ossetia: Alania-Arkhyz
We travel to the Karachay Mountains, where the heritage of Alania - medieval state of mighty warriors, is kept alive. We’ll see churches built in X century in picturesque mountains. Also we’ll visit the biggest radio-telescope on the Earth and communicate with Russian scientists working there.
Day 16: Mezmai
Today we’ll travel to the plains of Krasnodarskiy Kray and the Adygea Republic. In the suburb of Maikop we’ll visit the house of Zamudin Guchev and his museum. Zamudin is a master of weaving Adyghe rugs and Adyghe music. In the evening we’ll come to Mezmai village to experience culture of Cossacks and Russian colonists.
Day 17: Sochi
This morning either enjoy a light hike in the forests or visit locals to observe the lifestyle of Russians in the deep south of the country.
This afternoon, we board a high speed train to Sochi. Early evening a walk in Sochi city center.
Day 18-20: Eastern Abkhazia
We travel to Abkhazia, a disputed territory on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are partially recognized republics in the Caucasus, claiming independence from Georgia. We visit old Russian resort towns, and Myussera, an abandoned town in the jungles of Pitsundo-Myussersky Reserve, Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia and a few small villages.
Day 21: Return to Sochi
Today we’ll visit the small town of New Athos, a 40 minute drive from Sukhum. Here we’ll visit ruins of the first capital of Abkhazian kingdom, then the huge New Athos karst cave, the New Athos Monastery and other places.
Afterwards, we drive 1 hour and enjoy a farewell dinner in Old Gagra in the best restaurant of the country with traditional Abkhazian dancing.
Cross the border back to Sochi, Russia (20 minute drive to border, 1 hr for border formalities). Transfer 30 minutes to hotel near the airport. Flights may depart late night or early am.
Day 22: Depart
Transfer to the airport for your departure. Carriers departing Sochi with connections to US include Aeroflot, Turkish Air, FinAir.