Chechnya, Dagestan and Russia’s Deep South
The Russian Caucasus is an enchanting region, ethnically diverse with towering, rugged mountains. Since the end of the Soviet Union, it has been more infamous for insurgency. Chechnya was for 20 years a byword for a failed state. However, behind the headlines, there is much to enjoy in this misunderstood region.
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely
Group Size Small Group
Chechnya, Grozny and Dagestan are names synonymous with the destruction and terror that followed their attempted breakaway from the Russia motherland following the break up of the Soviet Union. Yet the Caucasus is a place of great natural beauty with fascinating cultures set in the shadow of the mountains that mark the border between Europe and Asia. This trip offers a view into a region that remains almost unexplored by western visitors.
We will visit four of Russia’s least visited republics to get an insight into life in Russia’s restless underbelly. Starting in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia’s fading yet elegant capital, we’ll travel to Beslan and the sobering memorials to the Beslan school massacre before passing through Ingushetia to Chechnya. There we will have time to see how the world’s most destroyed city has been rebuilt into a gleaming capital complete with visible personality cult to the new Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. A truer insight into traditional Chechen life will be found in nearby Itum Kale where some of the regions best preserved traditional watchtowers still are found. From there we’ll pass through turbulent Dagestan staying in Makhachkala before heading down to the UNESCO world heritage town of Derbent. Derbent means “closed gate” in Persian and the town boasts the world’s only surviving Sassanid fortress which used to be part of a 40km stretch of wall that kept the Persian empire safe from the barbarians to the north. A truly groundbreaking trip into a much-misunderstood region.
- Be one of the few non-Russians to explore the UNESCO world heritage city of Derbent.
- Sample the atmosphere in the newly built Grozny.
- Visit the Chechen watchtowers of Itum Kale.
- Entrance fees
- Lunch & Dinner
Arrive in Vladikavkaz
We’ll take you to your hotel for a briefing followed by a trip to Beslan, a town that is now infamous following a school siege by Chechen rebels in 2005. The school is now a moving memorial to the people killed in the massacre. Then we will have a short city tour of the capital of North Ossetia.
Overnight in Vladikavkaz.
Vladikavkaz - Dargavs - Vladikavkaz
We will drive into the mountains of Vladikavkaz to visit the village of Dargavs and the nearby Plague huts. In the early 19th century, when the plague came to the village, local people would lock themselves in the huts to die, to prevent the spread of plague to other villagers.
Overnight in Vladikavkaz.
Vladikavkaz - Nazran - Grozny
We will head to the Republic of Ingushetia, stopping in Nazran to see the towering monument to the victims of Stalin’s repression and to eat lunch. Then we will enter Chechnya and spend the afternoon exploring the newly rebuilt Grozny.
Overnight in Grozny.
Grozny - Itum Kale - Grozny
We will take a trip into the Chechen countryside stopping in beautiful Itum Kale. The area contains ancient watchtowers that were used by the Chechens to get advanced warning of attacks by other Caucasian tribes. You will also be able to get an insight into life in rural Chechnya before returning to Grozny to experience the newly rebuilt city.
Overnight in Grozny.
Grozny - Kezanoy Am
After a morning exploring Grozny and the modernist mosque in Argun, we will head again into the mountains of Chechnya. Taking lunch at the village of Vedano before staying the night at the lake of Kezanoy Am – right on the Dagestan border. Soviet-era Olympic rowers used it as a high altitude training lake.
Overnight in Kezanoy Am at a hotel.
Kezanoy Am - Gunib
We will cross over the border into our final republic, Dagestan, where we will take a drive through the mountains, stopping for photos and lunch en route. We will overnight in the village of Gunib. This village is set on a high plateau, the natural fortress saw the final stand of the legendary Imam Shamil after his 30-year fight against Tsarist troops in the 19th century.
Overnight in Gunib.
Gunib - Derbent
We will leave the mountains and head down to the UNESCO world heritage city of Derbent. Derbent means “shut gate” in Persian, and for 2,500 years it was a fortified town with the sole purpose of defending the Persian Empire from the barbarian hoards north of the Caucasus mountains. The world’s only surviving Sassanid era fort was the endpoint of a 40-kilometre wall that stretched from the Caspian Sea to the mountains. We will have time to explore the fort, the walls, the old city, and the atmospheric Islamic mausoleums and tombstones that litter the hills around the city.
Overnight in Derbent.
Derbent - Makhachkala
A morning in Derbent to visit parts of the city not seen on day 7 then drive along the Caspian Sea coast to the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala.
Overnight in Makhachkala.
Makhachkala - End
We will arrange transport to take you to the airport.
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.
The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing.
- Entrance fees
- Lunch & Dinner
We do not directly arrange flights. There are daily flights between Moscow and Vladikavkaz/Makhachkala with S7 airlines, UTAir and Vim Air.
We do not arrange Russian visas directly. The Russian Caucasus is a sensitive region so please contact us as best to apply for the visa.
If you are based in the UK or Australia and require a visa agent to assist with the visa process then we can recommend The Visa Machine. Click here for more details.
We include breakfast every day. In our experience people sometimes want to eat different things in different places at different times and when there is an option we will be happy for you to have your say. We know some great places and will also happily show you some of our favourite restaurants. Some are luxurious, some are more earthy but all have character. However, we do not pretend to be the arbiters of good taste and are equally happy for you to go off and find your own favourites.
When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. The distances on this trip are quite short but we could be held up by police and security checkpoints.
On this trip you will be accompanied by a European team leader from Untamed Borders plus a local guide. This allows for greater flexibility and means that there will always be someone on hand to help or assist you even if the other team leader is busy arranging something.
Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan and North Ossetia are areas that have a very volatile recent past. However, we feel we have the contacts and experience to guide there safely. We do monitor the situation closely and we listen very carefully to advice from the foreign office and from our friends in the areas we visit. Our client’s safety is our primary concern. We must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas which we consider to be stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.