North Caucasus Tour:
Ancient & Epic Karachay-Cherkessia & Kabardino-Balkaria
I’m excited to announce that I will be co-leading a small group experience to the North Caucasus to explore the little-visited regions of Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria in June 2021 with the help of Soviet Tours.
This North Caucasus tour will take us to explore the mountainous areas of Adygea, Cherkessia, Karachay, Kabardia, and Balkaria, as well as the southern areas of Krasnodar Krai. Historically, this area of the North Caucasus was known as Circassia. The focus of this Circassia tour will be the culture, history, and nature of this region.
North Caucasus Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Krasnodar
We will meet in the morning and spend the day getting to know the group as we explore the beautiful city of Krasnodar.
Highlights of day one will include:
- A gastronomic tour of the buzzing Krasnodar Central Bazaar.
- A walk to visit Krasnodar’s Red Army Memorials.
- Meeting with Kuban Cossacks to learn more about their unique culture.
- An architecture focused tour of Krasnodar’s modernist wonders, including the Cinema Aurora and the UFO-shaped Krasnodar Circus building.
Lunch, dinner, and overnight in Krasnodar.
Special note: Hotel address and meeting time will be communicated in advance by email. Private airport pickup/shuttle are available for a small additional fee.
Day 2: Adygea
In the morning we’ll depart Krasnodar toward the autonomous republic of Adygea to visit the Adygean capital of Maykop and travel across the Adygea lowlands to learn more about Adyghe culture and the Soviet and post-Soviet history of the area.
Inhabited by the Adyghe people, an ethnic group of the Circassian Caucasian people, Adygea is their traditional homeland. Many Adyghe were displaced during the Russian conquest of the Caucasus in the 19th century, and after the Russo-Circassian War in 1864.
In the afternoon of day two, we’ll continue southward toward the Lago-Naki Plateau, an area known for its gorgeous alpine meadows and robust flora and fauna.
Highlights of day two for the North Caucasus tour include:
- A drive across the lowlands of Northern Adygea.
- Visits to Adyghe towns and villages, including a stop in Giaginskaya, renowned for its traditional cheese (yes, we’ll try it!).
- A Soviet and post-Soviet Maykop sightseeing tour to visit the Adyghe capital’s Grand Mosque, Republican Museum, Central Bazaar, Soviet Train Station, Old Brewery, Lenin Park, and WWII Memorial. We will also have lunch here in Maykop.
- A scenic drive taking us from Adygea to the village of Guzeripl in the Lago-Naki Plateau. We will break up this two-hour-long drive with visits to traditional Adyghe settlements of Abadzekhskaya, Mishoko, and Kamennomostsk, as well as visit the ancient Dolmens that dot the surroundings.
Dinner and overnight in Guzeripl.
Day 3: Lago-Naki Plateau
We’ll spend day three of the Circassia tour on a full-day trek around the Lago-Naki Plateau to take in the pristine nature and varied landscapes. The Lago-Naki Plateau is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in southwestern Russia.
Dinner and overnight in Guzeripl.
Day 4: Cherkessia
In the morning of day four, we’ll depart the Lago-Naki area bound for Labinsk and then continue on into Cherkessia, where we’ll explore the Arkhyz area for the next two days. En route to Arkhyz, we’ll stop to visit traditional Circassian villages including Khabez, Ali-Berdukovskiy, and Zelenchukskaya.
Highlights of day four of the Cherkessia tour include:
- Explore the Nizhnearkhyzskoe Gorodishche archeological complex near Arkhyz that was identified as the medieval capital of Alania. Alania was a Christian state destroyed in the 13th century by the Mongol Hordes.
- The impressive site of the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Science, a Soviet astrophysical observatory in Arkhyz that once boasted the world’s largest solid-mirror reflecting telescope.
Dinner and overnight in Arkhyz.
Day 5: Arkhyz
On day five of the North Caucasus tour, we will set out on a full-day hike in the nearby Circassian Mountains.
Dinner and overnight in Arkhyz.
Day 6: Karachay & Dombay
On day six we’ll make way toward the Karachay resort town of Dombay. We’ll take a mountain valley route to get there making scenic stops along the way.
Highlights of day 6 of the Karachay tour include:
- Passing through isolated hamlets en route to Dombay, including Khasaut-Grecheskoye, Krasny-Karachay, and Teberda.
- Enjoy the cool mountain air in the resort town of Dombay as we explore the town and surrounding area.
Dinner and overnight in Dombay.
Day 7: Bermamyt Plateau
Day seven will start early to give us the entire day to explore the Russian spa towns that surround this mountainous area of Karachay, taking time to appreciate the beauty of the region. By early afternoon we’ll continue to the Bermamyt Plateau for a picnic and further exploration of the lush meadows.
Highlights of day seven of the North Caucasus tour include:
- Descending the high peaks of the Caucasus and onto Karachaevsk, the cultural capital of the Karachay people. We will make a stop to visit the nearby Monument to Defenders of the Mountain Passes, a Soviet-era memorial complex staged right on the edge of a cliff.
- A quick stop in Mara, a beautiful traditional Karachay village surrounded by verdant pastures.
- Stops for randomly located Soviet monuments, dazzling new mosques, small towns, and old country-style homes.
- Picnic lunch on the otherworldly Bermamyt Plateau, with time set aside for exploring the area and taking scenic photos.
- Visits to the Soviet-frontier towns of Kislovodsk, Essentuki, and Pyatigorsk over in Stavropol Krai, all settings found in works written by Russian poets and novelists such as Pushkin and Lermontov.
- We’ll also take some time to explore the Soviet-era modernist resorts that dot the cityscape of Pyatigorsk.
Dinner and overnight in Pyatigorsk.
Day 8: Kabardia
Today will start with a visit to Terskol, a Soviet-era resort town that lies in the shadows of Europes tallest peak, Mount Elbrus. From Terskol we’ll take a ride up the aerial tram to the Gara-Bashi viewpoint to hopefully take in clear views of Mount Elbrus. The remainder of the day will be spent trekking around the Elbrus area.
Highlights of day eight of the Kabardia tour include:
- An aerial tram ride to the Gara-Bashi viewpoint from Terskol and a walk around the resort town.
- A day hike around the Elbrus area to take in some of the best views of Europe’s tallest mountain.
Overnight in Terskol.
Day 9: Nalchik
On day nine we’ll head down to Nalchik, the capital of the autonomous republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.
Highlights on day nine of the North Caucasus Tour include:
- Touring the Kabardian lowland Soviet mining town of Tyrnyauz and nearby traditional village of Bylym, including a visit to the Grieving Highlander Monument, built to commemorate the Caucasian people who lost their lives in the 1941 German invasion (Operation Barbarossa).
- We’ll take off on a Nalchik city walk after our arrival into the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, paying visits to the Central Mosque, Friendship Square, Lenin Square, Park of Culture and Recreation, Parliament, Lenin Avenue, Deportation Memorial, and the Komsomol Sculpture.
Dinner and overnight in Nalchik.
Day 10 & 11: Balkaria
Days 10 and 11 of the Circassia tour will be one of the more exciting of the trip, allowing us to take two days of trekking in the Balkaria area, exploring Chegem Valley and the village of Eltyubyu. Our first night will be spent tent camping under the stars (hopefully under clear skies allowing us to go stargazing), the second will be in a guesthouse.
Overnight (night one) in tents, overnight (night two) in a guesthouse in a traditional Balkar hamlet. Meals are also included on these two trekking days.
Day 12: End of trip
We’ll enjoy a final Balkar-style breakfast together before heading back to Nalchik to wrap up the trip. We can help arrange transfers to Nalchik International Airport for those flying out, as well as to the train and bus stations for those continuing to further explore the region.
June 5-16, 2021
12 days, 11 nights
Maximum Group Size
Included In The Costs
- Professional guides and English speaking translator
- Twin room accommodation (single supplement for those wanting their own room is €20 per night)
- Tents (for the night spent camping)
- Private overland transportation within the region during the tour
- Entrance fees for all attractions listed in the itinerary
Sign Up For The Circassia Tour
The number of passengers on this North Caucasus trip is limited, so spots may fill quickly. Click the button below to send over an email and reserve a spot, make sure to include Adventures of Nicole-Circassia Tour in the subject line.
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Photos courtesy of Gianluca Pardelli of Soviet Tours