Attractions of Dagestan: mountains, waterfalls and abandoned cities
Dagestan is not only the mountains of the Caucasus and the beaches of the Caspian Sea. It is enough to go 100-150 km in any direction from Makhachkala and you find yourself on another continent. Canyons and barchans, liana forests and highland villages, caves and grottos, ancient fortresses and almost Martian landscapes await you here.
There are indeed many such natural sights and other unique places in the republic. I will tell you what to see in Dagestan, and where to go with a guide, guided tours, or on your own by car.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~30 km.
Travel time : ~1 ч.
An amazing natural phenomenon – a solitary sand dune in the middle of the steppe. It is located outside the city, about 30 km from the capital. It is better to get there by car, the trip will take no more than one hour.
Sarykum is part of the Dagestan Reserve, it was here filmed frames of the film “The White Sun of the Desert”. There are different versions of the origin of the barkhan, the most realistic one is that for centuries, the winds carried here the sands from the nearby mountains. Legends, however, say that here is either buried a giant, or buried the unfaithful wife of the cruel khan.
You can climb to the top of the barkhan by a special bridge, which rises above the sand. The bridge is necessary not so much for comfort but for safety as different insects and animals, including large poisonous gurza snake, live here. You are unlikely to meet it, but you will definitely see the traces of small insects and lizards.
At the foot of the barkhan there is a museum dedicated to local flora and fauna. You can get a ticket to the museum at the entrance to the dune, it costs 100 ₽. And not far from the parking lot is a wildlife area with several birds.
There are no toilets or stores at the top, so think ahead: the ascent and descent will take at least an hour. Admission is ₽128 per person. To park your car closer to the climb, you’ll need to pay another ₽100. Any navigator will build a route here.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~80 km.
Travel time : ~1 hour 30 minutes.
One of the most popular attractions is located near Makhachkala – 2000 m deep canyon. There is an equipped observation deck and free parking. On the way to the Sulak Canyon you will meet the Chirkei hydroelectric power station and a large water reservoir – the places are also very beautiful.
On the way back I recommend visiting Glavryba tourist complex 20 km away from the canyon. While you admire the trout farm and mountain scenery, you will be cooked a dish of fresh fish. Here, for 300-500 ₽ you can also take a boat trip down the Sulak River: small groups of 5-7 people, the tour lasts about 15 minutes.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~150 km.
Travel time : ~2 hours 50 minutes.
High mountain village with a rich history: the Caucasian War which lasted tens of years ended here. The pavilion and gate of Imam Shamil will remind you about it. Gunib can be divided into three tiers: the lower tier contains houses, the middle tier contains stores and other establishments, and the upper tier contains the fortress and guest houses.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~130 km.
Travel time : ~2 hours 45 minutes.
This is another favorite place of tourists. At the height of the gorge of 150 m you will not find a passage wider than a few steps. It is better to come in dry weather, during rain everything floods here.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~145 km.
Travel time : ~2 hours 50 minutes.
Around the waterfall, which from afar seems a thin stream of water, there are fields, mountains and a deep canyon. In late spring, when the snow melts in the mountains, there are several waterfalls, mostly small. This is the best time to visit Tobot. In winter there is not much sense to come – the water freezes.
They say, they still jump from here with a rope, but we have not caught this “attraction”. You can easily find the way to the waterfall using navigator – look for the village of Hunzah.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~160 km.
Travel time : ~3 ч.
An abandoned ghost village whose last inhabitant died in 2015. The rest have long since dispersed to neighboring villages in search of better conditions. Here you can wander through the ruins, examine the barely surviving structures and, if you are lucky, find some everyday items.
You can get by car only to the foot of the mountain on which the village is located. From there you can walk. You will definitely meet travelling and returning tourists, so you will not get lost.
City of Derbent
Distance from Makhachkala : ~130 km.
Travel time : ~2 hours 10 minutes.
This is one of the oldest cities in Russia, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. First of all, visit the fortress, which was built back in the 6th century to protect you from nomads. The entrance fee is 150 ₽. For another ₽500 you will be offered the services of a guide.
After the fortress you can see the ancient mosque in the Magal neighborhood. This is the old part of town and it is interesting to walk around the narrow streets.
If you have time, go to the beach near the city to see the screen plane “Lun” – the only exhibit of the Soviet rocket plane. They say that foreign special services were so surprised when they first saw the machine that they nicknamed it the “Caspian Monster. The landmark is the village of Avadan, before it you have to turn towards the sea.
The “Lun” screen-plane was brought from Kaspiysk – in Derbent it is to become the main exhibit of the planned military park. Photo: pexels.com
Distance from Makhachkala : ~200 km.
Travel time : ~3 h 30 min.
In the southern part of Dagestan, almost on the border with Azerbaijan, there is a dense liana forest. Many plants and animals can be found there, which are included in the Red Book. For example, a flamingo or a curly pelican. On one side of the forest stretches the sea beach, but it is not very pleasant to swim and sunbathe here – the water is dirty, the sand is gray, similar to the river.
I advise to stop in the village “Primorsky”, in the forest. We rented a small cottage here for 2500 ₽ per day. If you want, you can hire a guide – local contacts will tell you. For 1000-1500 ₽ he will take you deep into the forest and show you the tree, which by different calculations from 700 to 900 years old.
Distance from Makhachkala : ~265 km.
Travel time : ~4 h 40 min.
If you want to climb to the altitude of 3800 m, come to the village Miskinja. From there cab drivers will take you to the nearest camp for ₽300-500 to the summit in four-wheel drive “loafers”. Many people consider Shalbuzdag a sacred place: they say that the mountain grants wishes. That’s why on the summit they tie scraps of cloth wherever possible. You will also see a small body of water, which freezes even in the heat.
Some people compare Shalbuzdag to Mars: bare and reddish ridges around, endless horizon, alternating hollows and uplands
There are two buildings in the camp – a mosque, where anyone can spend the night, and a canteen. It is better to come here in the evening to gain strength and early in the morning to start climbing. The way up and back will take from seven to ten hours. Overnight mattresses are given for free and sometimes you might be asked for a document as a deposit. You don’t need to pay for food in the canteen either – food is brought here by volunteers.
Please wear comfortable and sturdy shoes and take a thick cape with you: it may be hot and cold at the summit. It is better to stay close to other hikers on the way. For example, when we were descending from the mountain, fog and clouds came down and we couldn’t see anything further than a few meters. Fortunately, we had some climbers with us, and we managed to get back to the camp before the downpour.
What to see in Dagestan – 17 sights
Dagestan is one of the most amazing and unique places in Russia, where an amazing combination of historical life and works of nature. Dagestan is one of the most welcoming places in the North Caucasus. Dagestan has everything: from the depths of the sea to the high mountains. There are plains and steppes, architectural structures, etc. If you do not know where to spend your vacation in 2022 or already in 2023, then choose Dagestan for your vacation. Here you will find amazing sights, interesting excursions, hiking in the mountains, waterfalls and canyons.
Naryn-Kala Fortress in Derbent
Naryn-Kala fortress in Derbent is a citadel. Naryn-Kala is one of the oldest buildings in Russia. History tells that the date of its construction is 3rd century BC. There are ancient towers, wells, temples and mosques.
Located on a hilltop above the city, the fortress offers a picturesque view of the Caspian Sea and Derbent itself.
From the fortress you can see the view which is indescribably beautiful and feel the atmosphere of the old centuries. Ticket price in 2022 for adults – 150 rubles, for children – 50 rubles. Rest in Derbent you will like very much. From here you can order tours to Dagestan to the best sights.
Makhachkala – the capital of Dagestan is full of various Soviet-era apartment blocks and Khrushchev houses, 20th-century cottages, mosques and markets. However, in addition to antiquity, Makhachkala also has a modern flavor, including brand-name boutiques, coffee shops, etc. And then there are beautiful mosques, such as the Juma Mosque and numerous monuments – to Rasul Gamzatov, the Russian teacher and others.
If you go to Makhachkala for a vacation, you will see an amazing combination of Eastern and European cultures. The diversity of the city is its advantage. You can find in Makhachkala something amazing and beautiful just for you.
Samur forest is one of the most unique forests in Russia and has no analogues. It is the only liana forest in the whole country. It is located in the delta of two rivers. There are many interesting species that can’t be found anywhere else. Most are listed in the Red Book. And there are waterfalls, though we will describe and show you the most famous ones here in Dagestan!)
The waterfall in Dagestan flows through a plain and abruptly drops into a canyon surrounded by high cliffs. The plain turns sharply into a deep gorge. The Tobot waterfall is in the Khunzakh district of Dagestan, and it is particularly spectacular after the rain.
Kuzhnik Natural Bridge
Kuzhnik bridge in Dagestan is considered a natural monument. It is an unwrought work of nature. It passes through a gorge near the village of Kuzhnik. From the side, Kuzhnik bridge looks like a stone arch of mind-boggling dimensions and looks extremely beautiful and interesting. It represents a layer of sandstone, which fell away from the main part of the rock massif.
Barkhan Sarykum is a sand mountain in Dagestan and has a height of 262 meters. It is also called the shard of Asian deserts. It is the highest barkhan in Russia. The monument is unique not only in Russia, but also in the whole of Eurasia. According to scientists, the Sarykum Barkhan is several hundred thousand years old.
You can choose a tour of Dagestan to your liking right here:
Underground Salta Waterfall
Salta waterfall has been protected by the state since 1983. It is located at the entrance to the Saltine Gap. It is twenty meters high and is located on the Saltinka River. The peculiarity of the waterfall is that it is underground.
The Karadakh gorge is called the “gate of wonders” in Dagestan. The trench is a narrow cave or tunnel. The walls of the Karadakh gorge are painted in bright colors and it is a magnificent sight. In addition, one can see a thin strip of blue sky overhead. A bit like the famous Antelope Canyon in the United States.
Datun church in Dagestan is considered one of the oldest temples of Orthodoxy on the territory of the republic. Approximate date of the construction of the X-XI centuries. At that time, missionaries from Georgia were spreading Orthodoxy among the mountaineers. The temple has long been abandoned, but represents a unique construction, located among the mountains.
The Sulak Canyon in Dagestan is one of the most popular tourist destinations. It is considered the deepest canyon in Europe and one of the top 10 canyons by depth in the world. It is deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. It is worthwhile to visit Sulak Canyon and get a closer look at the beauty of local nature. it is very photogenic, especially on a sunny day.
Auls and villages of mountain Dagestan
Dagestan is famous for the abundance of colorful mountain auls. They all convey the local culture and color and take you to a completely different, unlike anything else, atmosphere.
Before you go on vacation in Dagestan in 2022 or 2023, don’t forget to book your hotel. Excursions to local attractions, different types of outdoor activities and simple walks through the streets of cities – all this will make it possible to have a great vacation. Lodging prices in 2022 are very affordable. You will be able to find a suitable accommodation by choosing one of the local lodging options for your holiday – from guest houses to 5-star hotels.
Vacationing in Dagestan 2022 is the most successful option for a busy vacation. The locals are very hospitable, walking around the villages and auls of the Republic of Dagestan, you will be convinced of this. Be sure to visit the local cafes and try the national cuisine.