Rather hidden away in the mountains of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania is one of the most mysterious ancient architectural complexes in the whole of Russia. The remote settlement of Dargavs has been inhabited since the bronze age, but the main “attraction” here (if that is the right word for describing what is essentially a graveyard) are the tombs built by these people known as the Alans in the middle ages, which have been extremely well preserved.
On this day trip from Vladikavkaz you will be met at your hotel by your guide and taken from the city in a private car with a driver into the Kurtatinskoe Ravine - a part of North Ossetia along the River Fiagdon where many sites of cultural and historical importance can be found. You will then have lunch at a beautiful restaurant which serves national Ossetian cuisine, before making the final section of the trip to Dargavs. You should be back in your hotel in Vladikavkaz by 18:00 or 19:00.
Total distance of the tour: 120km - 120km
• 09:00 •
Your guide will be waiting for you in the reception of your hotel in Vladikavkaz.
On the way to Dargavs you will make several stops at spectacular natural and architectural sites and your guide will tell you about the region’s history and the many fascinating legends:
Kurtatinskoe Ravine - For a large part of this trip you will be travelling alongside the River Fiagdon which was responsible for creating the ravine in the first place. You will stop at a site where you can clearly see how over millennia the river has cut through mountain rock leaving behind a massive pillar. Nearby is a tourist viewing platform with some trails over the river to enjoy good views of the ravine.
Dzivgis Fortress - this ancient fortress has been built into a natural cave and served to defend both the road through the Kurtatinske Ravine and the local people from invaders. According to legend it stopped Shah Abbas the Great of Persia from continuing one of his campaigns. Next to the fortress is the 12th century St George’s Church plus some tombs, the likes of which you will see many in Dargavs.
Lenin and Stalin Monuments - just before reaching the larger settlement of Verkhny Fiagdon, you will make a brief stop at two unique Soviet era monuments. The first is a simple slab of stone with the word Lenin. At first glance it appears to be a very basic Lenin monument, but if you look at the date of installation you will see 22 January 1924 - the day after Lenin’s death. It is in fact the first ever monument erected to Lenin in the Soviet Union. A few metres away is a bust of Stalin - a rarity considering most were removed in the 1960s. Several still stand in North Ossetia, perhaps explained by the belief that Stalin was of Ossetian descent.
Tsimiti - just outside Verkhny Fiagdon on the slope of mount Kariy-Khokh is the ruins of the mediaeval settlement of Tsimiti. It is believed to have been founded in the 14th century and is named after its founder - a military commander called Tsymyti. In total there are over 30 architectural monuments here, including houses and the traditional towers.
Alansky Uspenskiy Monastery - in the village of Khidikus outside Verkhny Fiagdon is a Byzantine-style monastery dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. Although most buildings here date from the early 21st century, the Myrrhbearers’ Church was built in the mid-19th century.
• 14:00 •
Traditional Ossetian Lunch - you will have lunch in a restaurant where you can taste some local delicacies such as Ossetian pies and grilled meat and fish, while at the same time enjoying great views of the surrounding mountains
• 15:00 •
Ruined Watch Towers - before making the final journey to Dargavs, you will make a brief stop at the ruins of watchtowers high above Verkhny Fiagdon.
Dargavs Architectural Complex - in the afternoon you will reach the final and main destination of this trip - Dargavs, the so-called city of the dead. On arrival you will immediately see all the crypts standing on the hill - just under 100 of them - with a damaged watchtower at the top. The complex is now a museum and you will visit it to get closer to the tombs. It is not known for sure when they were built but some experts believe the first ones date back to the 12th century, if not older. The largest have three layers and each layer has its own window to allow the air to circulate. A warning before you look into these windows though: the bodies are still there. Some now are just skeletons while others have mummified to some degree. What is especially interesting is that some of them are in specially made boats, even though the neighbouring River Gizeldon is not navigable. It is assumed that these boats were needed to take the souls into the next world. After looking around the site you will have an opportunity to look around the exhibition building to learn more about the people who built these crypts.
• 17:30 •
Transfer back to Vladivkavkaz
• 19:00 •
Arrival in Vladikavkaz.