The North Caucasus: the secrets of a successful journey

Full instructions for car travel in the Caucasus

North Caucasus is an integral part of our country, respectively, no additional documents and permits to visit the region do not need. Take your Russian passport and drive safely.

The roads in most of the Caucasus are very good, and there is smooth asphalt in all the major directions. It is a pleasure to travel by car. But there are still a lot of serpentine and gravel in the mountains. Therefore, it is better to put a strong rubber.

Money prefers cash. Terminals for accepting cards are not installed everywhere, only in large stores and cafes. The scheme with a direct transfer of money to the card does not always work, many do not even have cards.

ATMs of all major Russian banks are in cities and district centers, but it is better to withdraw money in advance on the way.

Unfortunately, cell phone coverage is not yet sufficient. Often there is complete silence when you leave the village. But in settlements stable 4G Internet. All operators are working in roaming-free mode.

Documents for the car, as in the rest of Russia, in addition extended insurance is mandatory. It is so customary that local drivers often drive without insurance. This negligence on their personal responsibility, and guests on the road need to be extremely careful.

There are a lot of police on the roads, but the tourists are treated leniently, if not violate rudely. There is also a rule “for a non-serious offense, the first time verbal warning”. Whereas in the rest of Russia, you are immediately fined.

There are often checkpoints with military personnel between the republics and the towns, and this is the norm. At first glance it is alarming, but you quickly get used to it and stop noticing. It even adds its own harsh flavor.

Security is needed only for safety, to cool down the hot heads. Now the Caucasus is probably one of the safest places in the country. According to official statistics, there is much less crime than in other regions. In Chechnya they say that one can leave his car unlocked and no one will touch him.

The stores in the Caucasus sell absolutely everything that we are used to seeing in our regions. Besides, in Dagestan you can buy the same goods for much cheaper. And the prices are lower than in most other regions.

Although this year there will be an influx of tourists and probably the cost of everything will go up.

Tourist infrastructure is actively developing. In recent years the number of cafes and hotels has increased dramatically. Because of rapid growth, the quality can leave, it is necessary to take it with understanding. Unfortunately, there are no campsites yet, but I think they will appear soon.

There are no federal network gas stations in the Caucasus. The last one is located in Kabardino-Balkaria. Further there are only local gas stations with funny names and branding.

The price of fuel is about the same as in all of Russia, not counting the quality of the fuel, which leaves a lot to be desired. I recommend always taking an octane corrector and spare filters. Diesel and all brands of AI gasoline are for sale.

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There are gas stations all over the place. Gas is cheap, so all local cars run on it.

When traveling be sure to take into account the fact that Muslim traditions are different from what we are accustomed to. There are a number of restrictions and rules different from those generally accepted in central Russia.

For example, on religious holidays, some stores and cafes may not work. Or the menu will be different from the usual one. You can practically not buy pork meat and alcohol.

The cooking is everywhere very tasty and always fresh. Not once yet came across a place that I would remember badly.

Many sacred places, which may require a certain form of clothing to enter. Covered knees and hair.

Women are given special treatment. So the more modest the behavior, the better. If you start recording TicToc in a swimsuit in a crowded place, it will not please anyone. But if you are an adequate girl, then no discomfort will not feel.

The guests are treated with understanding and no one will not “scapegoat” you. They may even pass you by. But if you start getting impudent, then anyone’s patience will run out.

The people are mostly very friendly and guests are welcome.

P.S. Share the post with friends and save it in the bookmarks. P.S. I invite you to my summer expeditions to the Caucasus and the Crimea, to Altai and Kola. My Instagram; YouTube and Website

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Planning to visit the Caucasus, would like to clarify what is the quality of gravel roads outside of asphalt, would like to visit Midagrabi waterfalls, Karmadon gorge, Dargavs? Is it possible to drive such a route with Toyota Auris? (the hatchback has not much ground clearance) or is it better not to go there without a jeep?

Cruzak inspires confidence

I would like to take this opportunity to address tourists from Moscow. Dear Muscovites, don’t be rude to local drivers. If you want to return home in one piece, of course.

It should work both ways:

Here’s how not to express my indignation, I’ve already written here about our republic, and here’s another example of vandalism, we have the so-called dead town, a complex of tombs from the 14-18 centuries, the remains of the dead, a girl climbed into it, took out a skull and took selfies with a smile on her face, and posted on the Internet, if I’m somewhere in Russia for example went to the cemetery, opened up a grave and did the same – what would they do to me? At best I would probably be left with a disability. Or the other day I was driving in the mountains, a beautiful road between rocks. When they were making a road there, they cut off the rocks and put smooth walls along the road, and what do I see – huge slanted signs with paint, Kaluga 2021, and it’s not the first time, our guys are constantly plastered or if possible clean up such signs, and here again, if I wrote Vladikavkaz 2021 on the walls of the Kremlin, what would happen to me?

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You’re right. You have to act the way you want them to act towards you. Our tourists are often rude and not careful.

Hello, I am outraged, I write here because I have written above about the vandalism of tourists, less than a week, and here again, a girl (if you can call it that after that) climbed into the crypt, took a bone and with some wild cries got out of there, and her dog shoots it and swears, I wish I owned a computer enough to put it here, Let everybody see this bitch, the clip is on instagram, you can probably find it on this data, krilyatv, vestiossetia, northossetia, alania-online and probably on all the pages related to Ossetia, if someone puts out this clip, if you can do it here, I would be very grateful, maybe this way you can talk to the “dear” guests, real guests respect their hosts, and these?

Good afternoon. Did she do that in Dargavs? You should have sprinkled the couple there.

If locals saw them, they would have shown their corpses on TV. And she would have said nobody warned them and she thought they were fakes while at the entrance there was a black and white text on the history of the necropolis and what it meant for Ossetia and UNESCO

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Here’s how not to express my indignation, I’ve already written here about our republic, and here’s another example of vandalism, we have the so-called dead town, a complex of tombs from the 14-18 centuries, the remains of the dead, a girl climbed into it, took out a skull and took selfies with a smile on her face, and posted on the Internet, if I’m somewhere in Russia for example went to the cemetery, opened up a grave and did the same – what would they do to me? At best I would probably be left with a disability. Or the other day I was driving in the mountains, a beautiful road between rocks. When they were making a road there, they cut off the rocks and put smooth walls along the road, and what do I see – huge slanted signs with paint, Kaluga 2021, and it’s not the first time, our guys are constantly plastered or if possible clean up such signs, and here again, if I wrote Vladikavkaz 2021 on the walls of the Kremlin, what would happen to me?

There are enough freaks in all nations and regions – in the suburbs of Kislovodsk you can see the inscriptions and Digor and Vladikavkaz and other cities of other republics (Nalchik Grozny Khasavyurt)

All right, the freak is a separate nation.

I came home from Vladikavkaz 3 hours ago.

Business or pleasure? What are your impressions?

There’s Gazprom and Rosneft in North Ossetia. There’s Lukoil too, I think.

You are right about the look. I myself am from the Caucasus, and when you go to the store and you see a body in underpants it really hurts, understand? You’re not against tourism but you can’t be in your bedroom … Many are not interested in what color your clothes are and when you have to pee, there are gas stations, cafes, in the extreme case stay away from the road … Well, very annoying …

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All in style! The Saiman logo is even on the shirt

I am from North Ossetia, we are always happy guests, but there are some nuances, about which the author said, when you visit some interesting places for tourists, it would not hurt to ask in advance how to dress and how to behave in these places, in particular I mean Ossetia, unlike other republics we have a lot of holy places, These places for us are like a church for you, I think no one would enter a church half-naked and talk swear words, or drink alcohol, in these holy places, even a woman can not always enter, but when we see that they are tourists, we try to understand and not to notice, And if a guest asks what this place means, and at that moment meets a local resident, who can tell you about it, I assure you, you will be very interested and you will feel the same, as in church, I assure you that in Ossetia live not savages, it is one of the most educated and modern republics of Russia, But at the same time we honor the memory and traditions of our ancestors, and when we see that someone for ignorance or stupidity does not behave decently, it hurts, because we do not pry into someone else’s church with its own rules, but otherwise we are always happy to have guests, who have been here, I hope they will support me!

Itinerary of the trip in 12 days in the North Caucasus

The North Caucasus Tour itinerary

In July 2021 my family and I made a 12 days trip to the North Caucasus. This is what we accomplished on this itinerary:

We visited 7 subjects of the Russian Federation:

  • Stavropol Krai;
  • Karachaevo-Cherkessia;
  • Kabardino-Balkaria;
  • North Ossetia;
  • Ingushetia (through passage);
  • Chechnya (through);
  • Dagestan.

We got acquainted with 4 cities:

  • Kislovodsk;
  • Nalchik;
  • Vladikavkaz;
  • Makhachkala.

Top 8 impressions of the trip along this route:

  • The incredible Bermamyt plateau in Karachay-Cherkessia;
  • Climbing to the altitude of 3,100 meters with a beautiful view of Europe’s highest point – Elbrus and the Seven glacier;
  • saw more than 10 big waterfalls, including one of the most beautiful in the North Caucasus – Karakaya Su and Terskol;
  • visited Karmadon Gorge, the place where Sergey Bodrov died;
  • walked the grandiose and dangerous Karadakh Gorge in Dagestan;
  • saw the Caspian Sea;
  • rode in a boat through the most beautiful place of the Sulak Canyon;
  • we visited the world’s third highest barkhan – Sarykum.

In fact, there was a lot of impressions, above I have given only a brief list of the main ones. I consider that the route made by me was successful, therefore I am going to share it with you.

I will begin with a description in general terms, and in subsequent posts in this series I will detail the individual stages of the journey. As soon as the notes are ready I will put the links to them in this material so that you can go straight to the description of this or that point of the route.

By the way, if you find that planning your own route in the North Caucasus is too difficult or too time-consuming, you can order one of the 200+ author’s multi-day tours in this region from YouTravelMe service at this link.

Moving along the route: why I gave up renting a car

Usually we tend to travel on our own by renting a car, but in this case I decided not to. Here are the reasons for doing so:

  • As we compiled the route of the trip through the Caucasus, it became clear that to SEVERAL points you can get only in a full off-road vehicle. These points are few, but they are very interesting. Even after putting up with the extra expense and renting the appropriate vehicle, there were places I could not cope with the route, because I have no skills to drive in the mountains off-road. In some places, even with a navigator it would be difficult to find my way.
  • You should only drive yourself while traveling in the North Caucasus if you are an excellent driver (this is definitely not my case). Dangerous mountain roads, livestock on the roadway here and there, and no less dangerous “features” of road behavior of temperamental local drivers – all this will be at your service. If you want to travel quickly and without unnecessary nerves – it is better to rely on the local driver.
  • If you don’t rent a car it saves you from having to “loop” the route to return the car in the same place you took it. By doing so, you can create a longer travel itinerary.
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On the tour from Kislovodsk: view of Mount Elbrus

Moving through the itinerary: why I chose a cab

Giving up renting a car, the bet was on moving around in cabs and guide cars, with whom we planned to go on day-trip tours. If you are traveling with three or (even more so) four people, this arrangement is well worth it. If you go only 1-2 people, the unit cost per person is already pretty high, and it makes sense to think about replacing the cab by public transport.

Comparison of the cost and speed of cabs and public transport on the example of the section Mineralnye Vody / Kislovodsk.

For example, the ticket for the train Mineralnye Vody – Kislovodsk, as of May 2022, costs about 200 rubles / person, travel time – 1,5 hours. Accordingly, for three people you will pay 600 rubles.

The cab on the same route costs 960 rubles, travel time is 1 hour.

You will pay about 360 rubles more, but it will save you half an hour. Moreover, the taxi will pick you up from the airport and bring you directly to the hotel.

In the case of the train you will spend an unknown amount of extra time on the way to and from the station. Given that neither trains nor buses leave every minute, you’ll also have to spend an undetermined amount of extra time waiting for them.

That being the case, I opted to overpay and save time.

If you have four adults in your group, the train/taxi difference is only 160 rubles, and the choice in favor of a cab is quite obvious.

Flight .

The starting point of the route in the North Caucasus was chosen Kislovodsk (the nearest airport in Mineralnye Vody). The terminal point was Makhachkala.

There are direct flights between Yekaterinburg, where we live, and these airports, which we used. The flight time was a little over three hours.

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However, connecting flights in Moscow were cheaper by 15%-20% but additional time was required (additional 4-6 hours one way). So I chose to pay more and fly directly.

So, it was better to describe my itinerary in general terms…

Itinerary for the Caucasus, day 1: Kislovodsk.

  • Arrival in Mineralnye Vody.
  • Transfer to Kislovodsk. Check in to hotel Germany.
  • Walk in Kislovodsk and Kislovodsk National Park, including the Rose Valley.

The Valley of Roses in Kislovodsk National Park, view from a copter:

North Caucasus itinerary: Valley of Roses in Kislovodsk

Tour of the Caucasus, day 2: jeep tour from Kislovodsk.

  • The Bermamyt Plateau.
  • Extreme Park “Honey”.
  • Honey Waterfalls.
  • Ring Mountain.

Plateau Bermamyt in Karachaevo-Cherkessia:

North Caucasus itinerary: Plateau Bermamyt

Route across the Caucasus, day 3: jeep tour from Kislovodsk to the Djili-Su tract

  • Kyzyl-Su, Sultan, Emir and Karakaya Su waterfalls.
  • Mineral springs of Dzhili-Su. The Valley of Narzanov.
  • Transfer from Kislovodsk to Nalchik, check-in at hotel “Fazenda”.

North Caucasus itinerary: Sultan Waterfall

Itinerary of the Caucasus, day 4: tour from Nalchik

    Blue Lake.
  • Cherek Gorge.
  • Upper Balkaria.
  • Small Chegem waterfall.
  • The main Chegem waterfall.

The Cherek gorge in Kabardino-Balkaria:

Trekking in the Caucasus: The Cherek Gorge

Itinerary of the Caucasus, day 5: Nalchik and its suburbs

  • Trip to Chateau Erken (by cab).
  • Nalchik, Atajuki Garden.
  • Ascent by cable car to Malaya Kizilovka mountain.
  • The river Nalchik, Lake Trek.

Chateau Erken, a castle near Nalchik:

Caucasus itinerary: Chateau Erken

Day 6: tour from Nalchik to the Elbrus region

  • Doktorsky pass.
  • Komsomolsk lake.
  • Hike to Terskol waterfall.
  • Ascent on the Cheget ropeway near Elbrus.
  • The glade of Narzanov.
  • Ullu Gizhgit lake.

The Terskol waterfall in Elbrus, Kabardino-Balkaria, less than 8 km from the east summit of Elbrus:

Itinerary in the Elbrus region: Waterfall Terskol

View of Elbrus from the Cheget ropeway station:

View of Mount Elbrus

Day 7: Moving to North Ossetia

  • Transfer from Nalchik to Vladikavkaz.
  • Check in to hotel Olimp Plaza, walk around Vladikavkaz.

North Ossetia, Vladikavkaz:

North Caucasus itinerary: Vladikavkaz

Day 8: Tour from Vladikavkaz, moving to Dagestan

  • Karmadon Gorge.
  • Dargavs, “City of the Dead”.
  • Art-object BOOK Y4D4↩.
  • Kurt and Tag tower.
  • Alanian monastery.
  • Dzyvga fortress.
  • Trail of Wonders.
  • On return from the tour – transfer from Vladikavkaz to Makhachkala.

Dargavs, “City of the Dead”, North Ossetia:

Dargavs, the City of the Dead

Day 9: tour to the Sulak Canyon from Makhachkala

  • Barkhan Sarykum.
  • Sulak Canyon: viewing from several locations.
  • Boat tour of Sulak Canyon.

Sulak Canyon, Dagestan:

Sulak Canyon

Day 10: second tour from Makhachkala

  • Irganayskaya HPP.
  • Karadakh gorge.
  • Matlas Caves.
  • Matlas Plateau.
  • Tobot waterfall.

Matlas Plateau, Dagestan:

Matlas Plateau

Day 11: Walk around Makhachkala

Actually there was another tour planned for this day out of town, but it didn’t happen due to the bad weather. If not for this circumstance, we would have visited according to the plan:

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