September 3 - 10, 2023
Duration: 8 days / 7 nights
Number of participants: 6 – 12
Cost per person:
- 87 900 Russian rubles subject to 10 - 12 participants, or
- 93 400 Russian rubles subject to 8 - 9 participants, or
- 98 900 Russian rubles subject to 6 - 7 participants.
Everything is included except for:
- international flight to Makhachkala and back from Grozny,
- medical insurance,
- Russian visa (if required).
Estimated flight cost from Moscow to Makhachkala and from Grozny to Moscow: 4000 – 9000 rubles. To be bought on your own.
Single supplement: upon request.
TRAVEL PROGRAM: DAGESTAN AND CHECHNYA
Day 1. September 3, 2023. Makhachkala – Derbent – Caspian Sea
Arrival to Makhachkala at 10 – 11 am. Meeting and acquaintance with the guide at Uitash airport of Makhachkala.
Departure by 4WD SUVs to old city of Derbent (110 km, 1,5 – 2 hours drive).
Derbent was previously recognized as the oldest city in Russia. In 2014, with the annexation of Crimea, it yielded this title to Kerch, but nevertheless still remains the oldest continuous settlement in the country, having 26 centuries of history. The present city was founded in 438 AD as a Persian fortress, consisting of a citadel on the hill and two stone walls leading from it to the sea. It locked a narrow three-kilometer passage between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains and protected the territory of the city from the north and south. Throughout its history, Derbent, being a tasty morsel, passed several times from hand to hand, and this is obviously reflected in its architecture and culture.
After lunch, we will visit the main attraction of Derbent – the citadel of Naryn-kala, with a beautiful view of the city. We will take a short walk through the historical part of the city, visit the Juma mosque, the central Muslim shrine, and descend underground into the famous Devichy Banyi (steam batch) dating back to the 16th and 19th centuries, where unmarried girls used to meet on a special girl's party before the wedding. In the evening we will visit a specialized cognac store at the Derbent Cognac Factory, where you can buy the best souvenir from Derbent.
Transfer to the recreation base "Parnas", located on the shore of the Caspian Sea (70 km, 1 hour).
En route, dinner with traditional Dagestan cuisine in the "Forest Estate".
Overnight stay in double rooms at the recreation base Parnas on the Caspian Sea.
Lunch, dinner included.
Day 2. September 4, 2023. Caspian Sea
Breakfast in the restaurant at the recreation base Parnas and the whole day on the clean Capsian Sea beach, with large-grained sand and emerald water.
The Caspian Sea, with the area bigger than Germany, is the largest closed-water body on Earth, called both a lake and a sea. With a maximum depth of more than a thousand meters (the 3rd deepest lake in the world), the Caspian Sea contains the volume of water more than three times that of water in Baikal. The water in the Caspian is moderately cool and only slightly salty, which makes bathing really comfortable.
Lunch and dinner at the sea-side.
Accommodation: double rooms at the recreation center Parnas on the Caspian Sea.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included
Day 3. September 5, 2023. Caspian Sea – Saltinsky waterfall – Gamsutl – Chokh
After an early breakfast at the sea-side, we leave the coast and set off for the mountainous part of Dagestan, to Gunibsky district, rich in its natural and cultural diversity.
Transfer to Saltinsky waterfall (120 km, 3 hours drive) – one of the most bizarre waterfalls in Russia, and the only underground one in Dagestan. The waterfall and the cave are located in the Saltinskaya Gorge, where the Saltinka river flows. Hike to the waterfall right on the river bed, over a large pebble, between the narrow walls of the gorge, over which goats sometimes jump. At the end of the path we find ourselves in a cave illuminated by light through a hole in the stone made by water.
Lunch in Chokh. After lunch, transfer to the ghost aul of Gamsutl (30 km, 1 - 1.5 hours drive), spread as a volcanic lava flow on the ridge of mount Gamsutlmeyer, at an altitude of 1730 meters above sea level. This village is one of the most ancient settlements on the territory of Dagestan. In Avar language, "gamsutl" means "at the foot of the khan's fortress," from which it can be assumed that in ancient times, before the spread of Islam in Dagestan, the local khan chose this mountain for building his tower or fortress. What is noteworthy is that the rocks literally form part of the houses. They were chipped off as needed, and the rest became a monolithic base or wall of the house. From here there's a great view on the surrounding territory. The aul itself is surrounded by steep slopes and precipices, from where you can take wonderful photos of the "dead city". For his apparent similarity with the Incan settlement, Gamsutl has already received an unofficial name of "Dagestani Machu Picchu" :)
You can reach the village only by a narrow path which used to be a road. Climbing takes about an hour (elevation change of 230 m).
A short drive to the neighboring village of Chokh, where we will take part in an excursion about Avar culture and village history, and we will stay for a traditional dinner and overnight stay in an ethnic guest house.
The Chokh settlement is one of the oldest in the North Caucasus. Here a Neolithic site was discovered. The remains of the settlement near the village of Chokh date back to the 6th millennium BC.
Accommodation: guest house Etnodom in Chohh or in tourist complex Orlinoye Gnezdo in Gunib.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included
Day 4. September 6, 2023. Chokh – Gunib
After breakfast in the guest house, a short drive to Gunib (20 km, 1 hour drive). We will climb up a twisting mountain road to the observation deck from where you get a stunning view of the eastern slope of Mount Gunib, and the same-name village located in the "bowl" of the mountain at an altitude of 1600 m above sea level.
The modern village of Gunib originated in 1862 in the area between Kara-Koisu and Avarsky Koisu rivers, in connection with the construction of a Russian military fortification. The fortification was named after the former aul Gunib (from Avari Guni-meer - "haystack", which outlines of the mountain in fact resemble) located at the top of the plateau. At the time, the natural fortress of Gunib was the last stronghold of Imam Shamil and was taken and destroyed by Russian troops in 1859.
We will visit Shamil's gazebo, the place where imam, the national hero of Dagestan and Chechnya, was captured, and the "Tsar's Glade" in a birch grove, the place where, 12 years after the conquest of Dagestan, the emperor Alexander II came to see it.
We will make a two-hour track to the tunnel that was cut directly into the rock specifically for the visit of the emperor. There was a kind of superstition: the royal people should not walk twice along the same road.
After lunch, by off-road cars, we will climb mount Mayak (2,400 meters above sea level) – the highest peak of the Gunib dustrict.
In the evening we will take a stroll in the birch grove of the Upper Gunib natural park in search of a giant birch. Here, the pine trees coexist with the local endemic – the Radde birch. Such a unique combination is pecularity of some regions of Switzerland. This makes the air curative and helps with somatic diseases. That was a reason to establish a children's sanatorium nearby.
Dinner and overnight stay in the tourist complex Orlinoye Gnezdo in the Upper Gunib.
Accommodation: double rooms in tourist complex Orlinoye Gnezdo.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included
Day 5. September 7, 2023. Gunib - Karadach gorge - Goor - Kakhib - Khuchada
After breakfast in Orlinoye Gnezdo hotel, transfer to the Karadach defile (35 km, 1 - 1.5 hours drive).
The defile is a narrow, in some places only two-meters-wide gorge in a mass of rock, with a length of almost half a kilometer. The gorge is so narrow that even at noon it is dim. That's why Avars call it: "betts-kvarili", meaning "a dark gorge". Imagine a mountain with a height of 400 – 450 meters, cut as with a sharp razor, from the top to the bottom – this is how the Karadach gorge looks like. They say that even the Emperor Alexander II himself was surprised.
After a two-hour walk, transfer to Goor (45 km, 1 hour drive). En route, visit Datuna temple – Georgian Orthodox Church erected by missionaries in X-XI centuries, located in a wild and beautiful gorge. Of interest are the double walls in which the cells are located, which may indicate that monastic life existed here at some point.
In Goor, a village with traditional Avar architecture, we are met by Avars with a short cultural program and a national dinner with khinkal.
The history of the village, formerly located at 1,800 meters, dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when after being conquered and burned out twice, the residents of the village found shelter here on the edge of the abyss where they felt safe from almost three sides. There are 3 defensive towers of 15-meter height, and that is why today Goor is called the "Country of the Towers". Thanks to the towers and dizzying view from the rock, Goor resembles Georgian Svanetia.
No matter how strong the Khunzakh khans were and how high were they sitting on their steep plateaus – and in their best years they could afford not only to besiege Derbent but also to destroy Georgia – but still, they did not conquer the whole Avaria. Villages of free Avars climbed the steepest slopes and bristled with battle towers!
Not far from Goor, another awesome place awaits us – the ruins of the ancient Kakhib, another "ghost village". Kakhib (or Bakdab, as this specific place used to be called) is perched on the steep ridge of the left bank of the river Kakhibtlyar, at an altitude of about 1700 meters. According to scientists, the village was built in the 8 – 10 centuries, as evidenced by pagan frescoes on the foundation of buildings. The central building is a mosque and a 20-meter battle tower which you can climb. Trekking to the ruins of Kakhib takes at least two hours (elevation change of 200 m).
In the evening, on SUVs, we climb high into the mountains, where the pine forest begins, and from the top of the mountain Khabirokh, from an altitude of 2200 meters, we admire the surrounding peaks.
Return to the village of Khuchada, to the guest house at the children's health camp "Spartak", where dinner awaits us.
Accommodation: guest house DOL Spartak (basic conditions).
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included
Day 6. September 8, 2023. Khuchada – Khunzakh – Irganaisky water reservoir – Akhulgo mountain – Sulak canyon – Sarykum (or Kizilyurt)
Early breakfast and departure to Khunzakh, through a picturesque pass where instead of other cars we will be accompanied by eagles hovering over the precipice (60 km, 2 hours drive).
We find ourselves in the Khunzakh, with its cows on the green, Swiss-meadows-like mountain plateau, and famous waterfalls. A view of Tobot waterfall, which breaks down into the gorge, and the spurs of the Khunzakh plateau are particularly impressive.
We set off for Mount Akhulgo, with several stops in picturesque places (80 km, 2 drive). We make a stop at the Andian Koisu, where the river forms a bend, very reminiscent of the "horseshoe" in the Grand Canyon, and several stops at the Irganaisky reservoir. At one of these stops we will take a boat trip along the reservoir to enjoy the nature of these places: the surrounding mountains contrasting with the emerald water.
Excursion on Mount Akhulgo – sacred place for Dagestanis, a place of military glory and national pride. During the Caucasian War, in 1838-1839, the mountain and two fortified aul-castles on its top served as the capital for the hillmen leader Shamil. In the fortress of Akhulgo, the hillmen, led by Shamil, steadfastly withstood the siege by the Russian troops. With a strength of 400 men against the enemy's 32,000 strong army, Shamil and his companions held the height for 80 days until one of them betrayed the imam and showed the path leading to Akhulgo.
Then, after having lunch on the way (national cuisine), we cross the pass leading to the Chirkey reservoir (80 km, about 2 hours drive), the largest in the North Caucasus, and further to Dubki, from where a dizzying view of the Sulak canyon opens. The Sulak canyon is one of the deepest in the world. Its length is 53 kilometers, and its depth reaches 1920 meters. It is 120 meters deeper than the famous Grand Canyon on the Colorado Plateau.
At the bottom of the canyon, the Sulak River twists like a thin turquoise snake, while in fact it has the largest water flow in Dagestan. We will have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the canyon at sunset from two viewpoints.
We will descend (1 hour drive) to Sulak River on the opposite bank, we will take a boat trip on the river to enjoy the nature of these places: the surrounding mountains, contrasting with emerald water.
Evening transfer to Sarykum Hotel (100 km, 1,5 hour drive). Dinner and overnight at Sarykum Hotel or in the entertainment complex Parnas in Kizilyurt.
Accommodation: double rooms in Sarykum Hotel or in hotel and entertainment complex Parnas in Kizilyurt.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included
Day 7. September 9, 2023. Kizilyurt – Barchan Sary-Kum – Lake Kazenoyam
Breakfast and transfer to the barchan of Sary-Kum (15 km, 1/2 hour drive).
Sary-Kum, according to various sources, has a height of 244 to 262 meters – one of the highest barchans in the world, competing the Sahara and Namibian dunes, and appears the highest isolated mass of sand in the world. A lot of mysteries and legends are associated with this place, it has always attracted the attention of travelers and scholars. Local people called this mountain Sary-kum, which in Turkic means "yellow sands". Sary-kum stretched for 3 kilometers at the very gates of mountainous Dagestan in the valley of the Shura-Ozen river, which divides the barchan in half. It is a mystery what is a barchan doing here, so far from the Central Asian deserts. Another mystery is why the sand is not being blown away by the wind. Here the well-known movie "The white sun of the desert" was filmed.
Transfer to the Chechen Republic with a stop for lunch (national cuisine) in Khasavyurt (200 km, 3 hours drive). Along the way, there is an opportunity to study Chechnya and how modern and well-groomed this mountainous republic looks today.
In the south of Chechnya, on the border with Dagestan, the lake Kazenoy-Am is squeezed between the mountains. It appeared as a result of the natural collapse of the channels of two mountain rivers, probably caused by an earthquake. It is not only the largest lake in Chechnya, but certainly one of the most beautiful lakes in Russia. From each and every viewpoint a new surreal view is opened. We will enjoy the turquoise water of the lake, swimming in it and, if you wish (to be paid separately), flying from one shore to another on a zipline.
For dinner today, the national Chechen cuisine. Overnight stay at the hotel Kazenoy-Am.
Accommodation: double rooms in the hotel Kazenoy-Am on the lake.
Breakfast, lunch, dinner included
Day 8. September 10, 2023. Lake Kazenoy-Am – Grozny
Leisure breakfast and first half of the day at Lake Kazenoy-Am. Archaeological finds, as well as historical and architectural structures, such as the Nakh (Chechen) battle and residential towers, sanctuaries, numerous Chechen auls located around Kazenoyam indicate the most ancient settlement of this area by the Chechen Taips.
After swimming, we go to Grozny - the capital of the Chechen Republic (100 km, 1,5 – 2 hours drive).
Lunch in Grozny in local café (national Chechen cuisine).
Today we will visit the mosque "Heart of Chechnya" - the largest Muslim temple in Russia and one of the largest mosques in the world. Built only 10 years ago, the building is truly impressive. The mosque was built in the traditional Ottoman style, the prototype of it was the famous Blue Mosque of Istanbul. During the erection of the temple, the latest construction technologies and unique materials were used, for example, white marble. Each of the four minarets of the mosque has a height of 63 meters. The chandeliers placed in it, which resemble the famous Islamic temples of Jerusalem, Medina and Mecca, also give a unique character to the temple.
The mosque is located on the picturesque bank of the river Sunzha, in the middle of a huge park with a view of the "skyscrapers" of Grozny-city. Walk through the park to Grozny City, to the observation deck with a view of Grozny.
In the evening, transfer to Grozny airport and departure home.
* Recommended flight from Grozny to Moscow with Utair airlines at 20:25 or another flight with departure no earlier than 19:00.
Breakfast and lunch included.