This is a trip to the stunningly beautiful Republic of Dagestan situated on the eastern end of the Caucasus mountains next to the Caspian Sea, its name translates from the Turkic as the Land of Mountains. Dagestan is home to a fascinating mix of more than 40 ethnic groups, who speak various languages belonging to four language families.
The region’s troubled past meant that up until recently it was not advisable for tourists to visit, but now it is considered safe enough to visit and many tourists are indeed visiting and recommending the experience with stories of breathtaking nature, wonderful ancient traditions, delicious food and real Caucasian hospitality. Now is definitely the time to go as before long Dagestan is surely going to be overrun with tourists so visit while the republic is still off the beaten track and untouched by mass tourism!
During this tour, you will see the main sights of the republic, both natural and historical. You will see the southernmost and one of the oldest cities in Russia - Derbent, which has served as the Gates of the Caucasus for thousands of years, the exact figure is estimated as between two and five thousand years.
You will visit some of the republic’s most picturesque places: the Sulak Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon, and the Sarykum Sand Dune, the largest dune in Europe. But you will be treated to other stunning views practically the whole time you travel around Dagestan from place to place. Finally, you will also get to try some of the tasty cuisines Dagestan has to offer: khinkal (meat with boiled dough), chudu (flat pies with various fillings), urbech (nut paste), kurze (dumplings filled with meat or cheese) and natukh (a dessert made with nuts, honey and fried dough).
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS TRIP
- You will visit the most famous sights in Dagestan in one trip.
- You will learn about the fascinating traditions, history and culture of the republic, which is still untouched by mass tourism.
- You will taste some delicious local food.
- During the excursions, you will be escorted by professional guides and drivers.
1 DAY / ARRIVAL IN MAKHACHKALA
Transfer from your hotel in Moscow to the airport.
Flight to Makhachkala. Duration: 2h30
Upon arrival - transfer to the hotel and lunch in a restaurant serving national cuisine.
City Tour of Makhachkala - the capital of the Republic of Dagestan. Although this city does give off a certain vibe of chaos due to its erratic drivers and an apparent lack of a general plan for the city’s architecture, its historical centre and Caspian embankments are especially lovely and tranquil. The tour will also include:
Grand Mosque - Makhachkala’s grand mosque is one of the biggest in Europe and can hold up to 15,000 people; making it the largest mosque in Russia in terms of capacity. It is based on the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and its interior is beautifully decorated with chandeliers - the largest weighing almost a tonne - and luxurious carpets.
Makhach Dakhadaev Monument - a famous monument in Makhachkala as it depicts the revolutionary after whom the city is now named - Makhach Dakhadaev. Previously the city was called Port-Petrovsk after Peter the Great
Petrovsky Lighthouse - one of the oldest buildings and a symbol of the city. It was built in 1866. Over a century it is still doing its job of guiding ships around the bay.
Local market - here you can experience a Caucasian atmosphere and buy local spices, sweets and fruit, or even a traditional rug straight from the master who made it.
Night in Makhachkala.
2 DAY / SULAK CANYON
Breakfast in the hotel.
Excursion to the Sulak Canyon - one of the deepest canyons in the world, and the deepest in Europe. It reaches in places a depth of 1920 metres and a width of 3.5 kilometres, making the river, which is one of the biggest in the region, look like a small stream. It runs for 53 kilometres. The Sulak Canyon can be compared to the Grand Canyon in Colorado in terms of size, but Sulak is much greener and its river is a beautiful turquoise colour most of the time, making it one of the most popular natural sights in Dagestan.
Boat trip along the River Sulak - looking at the Sulak Canyon is not quite enough and on this trip, you will have the chance to take a boat trip along the beautiful River Sulak, which was responsible for the formation of the canyon, to the Chirkey Hydro-Electric Station. From the boat, you will enjoy a whole new view of the canyon with the rocky cliffs rising above you on either side, sometimes covered in moss, sometimes featuring small waterfalls.
Dubki viewing platform - this is one of the favourite places for locals from Makhachkala to come to relax in nature and enjoy spectacular views of the Sulak Canyon.
Chirkey Reservoir - The Chirkey Hydro-Electric Station is the largest in the North Caucasus. It was built by constructing a 232.5-metre long dam on the River Sulak, which in turn formed the Chirkey Reservoir. The massive man-made lake in fine weather acts as a massive mirror reflecting its stunning surroundings.
Lunch at a Trout Farm - this farm and eco-centre raise amber and rainbow trout meaning that your meal will consist of the freshest fish possible.
Tour to Sarykum - Sarykum translates from the Kumyk language as ‘yellow sand’, which is appropriate for this approximately 260-metre high sand dune - the tallest in Europe. It is several dozen kilometres in length and at most 3 kilometres in width and stands alone among landscape more typical for the North Caucasus. It has stood here for several millennia, although the wind constantly changes its form, no one is quite sure how it was formed and where the sands came from. A unique ecosystem has formed on the dune and you can see various animals, insects and plants here that are more characteristic of central Asia, in fact, it is often 5 degrees warmer here than the surrounding area.
Night in Makhachkala.
3 DAY / CHOKH AND GUNIB
Transfer from Makhachkala to Chokh village. You will travel along the route which Emperor Alexander II travelled when he came here to survey the newly conquered lands. On the way, you will stop at the Andalal Architectural Complex - an example of traditional Dagestani stone architecture.
Excursion to Chokh - Chokh means “stopover” or “night lodgings”, and this is explained by the fact that for millennia it was located on a side route of the Silk Road and caravans would have a break here. Located on a hill, Chokh is an aul (village) famous for its levels of buildings where the roof of one house serves and the courtyard of the house above it.
Trek to the abandoned village of Gamsutl - Gamsult translates as ‘invisible fortress’ or ‘on the foothill of the fortress’. It is located at a height of 1700 metres and today you can only get there on foot. Due to its remoteness, the village has been abandoned for almost 60 years although one person did return to live there in the early 2000s and lived there until his death in 2015 making the village once more completely abandoned. Unsurprisingly the village today is slowly crumbling away, although some people are trying to maintain the houses of their ancestors. It is nevertheless a magical place full of history and has earned the nickname of the Machu Picchu of Dagestan.
Elevation to Gamsutl: 100m
After the trekking a transfer to Gunib.
Night in Gunib.
4 DAY / GUNIB - KUBACHI
Excursion to Gunib - Gunib is located 1600 metres above sea level on the left bank of River Karakoysu, in fact, its name means in Arabic ‘heights’. The settlement is like an open-air museum rich in historical and architectural heritage. Among the main sights, you will see:
- Gunib Fortress - while Gunib is located on what can be seen as a natural fortress, addition man-made fortifications tell of the settlement’s role in the Caucasian War. The fortress served as the last hold out of Imam Shamil during the war and it was here he was captured by the Russians on 25 August 1859. Following the war, the Russians used the fortress as a base for their own troops.
- Tsarskaya Polyana (Tsar’s Meadow) - this green meadow is known as the Tsar’s Meadow as Emperor Alexander II held a lavish feast here to mark the end of the Caucasian War. The ridges that were dug to install benches and a throne for the tsar can still be seen today.
Transfer to the village of Kubachi. Distance: 190km
Night in Kubachi
5 DAY / KUBACHI - DERBENT
Transfer to Derbent.
Night in Derbent
6 DAY / DERBENT - MAKHACHKALA
Tour of Derbent - this is the most southerly located city in Russia and one of the most ancient. Highlights of the tour:
- Naryn-Kala Fortress - located on a hill to the west of the city, this ancient citadel is part of the city defences, which were established to cut off when necessary what is known as the Gates of the Caucasus - a stretch of land between the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea. Naryn-Kala is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Grand Mosque — this is the oldest mosque in the whole of Russia, dating from 734. At that time there were seven mosques in the city, one for each magal - the Islamic division equivalent to Christian parishes. As the city grew, more districts and mosques were added, and this mosque became the Grand Mosque - a place for all the citizens of Derbent to come for Friday prayers.
- Maidens Banya - this banya (bathhouse) for women was built in the 17th century but fell into disrepair by the 18th century. It was only in 1788 that a local citizen took it upon himself to restore the banya. The underground bathhouse is typical in style for the East and similar examples can be found all over the Muslim world. Today it operates as a museum.
- Peter the Great’s House - in 1722 during his Persian campaign, Tsar Peter the Great came to Derbent and stayed in a small wooden two-roomed house. In the mid-19th century, colonnades were erected around the house, but the Bolsheviks later destroyed this monument. In the 2000s a new museum complex was opened around the foundations of the house displaying the archaeological finds behind a glass wall.
Transfer from Derbent to Makhachkala.
Night in Makhachkala.
7 DAY / DEPARTURE
Transfer to Makhachkala Airport.
Upon arrival in Moscow a transfer to the hotel.
- The tour is available the whole year round starting on any day.
- Optional excursions should be booked before the start of the tour to schedule the itinerary.
- Tickets to museums cannot be sold without an excursion with a guide.
- All excursions/guided tours included in the itinerary are private which means private guides and private transport along the programme - unless otherwise stated.
- Best time to travel on this route: from the end of April to mid-October.
• CANCELLATION POLICY •
DATE OF CANCELLATION
|FROM 60 TO 45 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||10%|
|FROM 44 TO 15 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||30%|
|FROM 14 TO 7 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||50%|
|LESS THAN 7 DAYS BEFORE THE DEPARTURE||100%|