Dagestan historical-ethnographic tour

Tags: dagestan
welcome to Dagestan
8 nights/ 9 days.

This tour program includes all the most interesting places of Dagestan – regions with rich history, magnificent nature and hospitable people.

Day 1

The arrival and introduction. Check-in at the “TOURIST” hotel (3*). An evening tour around the city of Makhachkala.

Juma-Mosque –a copy of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The embankment and the city center and the avenues (bus-pedestrian). And, of course, tea in chaikhana. We definitely won’t dispense with tea. Then an excursion to the Ethnographic Museum. And after that – the view from the Tarki-Tau mountain.

19:20 – dinner at the “Bastion” restaurant

Day 2

08:00 – Breakfast at the restaurant – smorgasbord  

08:40 – Excursion along one of the most popular Dagestan tour routes – Sulak Canyon

But besides the deepest canyon in the world, we will show you the tremendous Chirkey Reservoir, on the bottom of which after the flood remained Chirkey aoul and Eugene Redout, the place of military service of Lermontov, and the place where Alexandre Dumas, Leo  Tolstoy and many other famous people from the 19th century have visited. We will also arrange a boat trip for you across the turquoise lake/sea in the mountains, where you will be able to admire from a distance one of the biggest arched dams in Russia, and indeed in the whole world – the dam of  Chirkey hydroelectric power station. You will also be able to visit Miatlinskaya hydroelectric power station. Our excursion will end on the world’s second highest sand dune, Sarykum. This is the only sand dune in Russia, with an area of 42 square kilometers. 

17:00 – Return to the hotel from the excursion.

18:00 – Dinner at the restaurant. After that you have free time to buy souvenirs.

Day 3

08:00 - Breakfast. Then check out of the hotel, excursion and transportation to Gunib–one of the most beautiful and stunning places in the Caucasus. 

Gunib is full of historical and natural monuments. Our first stop on the way to Gunib will be after leaving a tunnel with a length of 4,360 meters through the Gimri Range. The place we are going to stop by is an old (restored) combat tower where the first imam of Dagestan, Ghazi Muhammad, was killed. There we will tell you about the Caucasian War. From there you will be able to see Gimry aul (an aul is a small settlement), which is located just 2 kilometers away, and is the homeland of two imams of Dagestan. Moreover, this aul is the oldest in the entire Caucausus (more than 300 years old) and is the holder of an ambitious fate.

Now we are in the heart of Dagestan, it’s highlands, where its climate is subtropical. Therefore, this region is full of apricot orchards, almond trees, persimmon trees, etc.  We keep on going and get to the Irganai hydroelectric power station, and in 20 minutes we get to the Untsukul aul. Unsukul is a homeland of the masters of wood incrustation with metal (fine wood). Untsukul masterpieces are in museums in every country around the world, and have been for a very long time, and quite deservedly so. We are going to take a look at Untsukul, visit the “Traditional Arts Center” and watch incrustation masters at work. Furthermore, you will have a chance to buy some wares of your choosing, which are much cheaper than in Makhachkala and other capital cities.

Then we leave Untsukul and make a stop near the Irganai reservoir, which after it was filled flooded luxurious subtropical gardens. Here you will have some time to take photos. After 20 minutes we will have lunch at a café which is located at the point where two mountain rivers meet. Just imagine: you are sitting on the front porch, surrounded by the mountains with two rivers below you at their meeting point: Avar Koisu and  Kazikumukh Koisu.  And what about the menu? It consists of traditional regional dishes, just as in Makhachkala. All these delicious dishes can be washed down with juice made without preservatives. There are no preservatives in the Dagestani juice, which is made with their own old technology.

We continue our journey and in 40 minutes we will pull up to a bridge, the name of which is Red Bridge. This is also the location of the next hydroelectric power station – Gunib hydroelectric station. Here we can see one more reservoir, the spillway and the dam are the embodiment of the strength of humans and nature, and all of this will absolutely blow your mind. On the other side of the bridge there is a tower complex, Andalal.

After the arrival to Gunib and driving through the great number of serpentine roads, we are going up to the regional center of Gunib. We have so far described only the traveling part of your trip, and from here on we will be more concise.

In Gunib we are going to visit the museum of local lore, the museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander II, the royal meadow, the rotunda - the place where Imam Shamil gave himself up, to breathe astonishingly fragrant air, coming from the pine and birch forests, to go for a walk around the meadows and groves at a height of 2200 meters. We are also planning to stop by the Russian Botanical Garden of Academy of Sciences, to listen to the guide’s story about the last days of the defense of fort Gunib in 1959, Imam Shamil’s capture on the 25th of August, and about heroism and treason. Before and after lunch we will have excursions around Gunib.

14:00 – Arrival at the “Eagle Nest” tourist camp. Rooms are with all necessary facilities. New building.

19:00 – Dinner at the tourist camp. Ethnic foods.

From 20:30 – Time for furious lezdhinka and dancing on the dance floor,  music and performances of songs.

Day 4

08-00 – Breakfast and then a visit to the aul-stronghold Gamsutl, which is located at an altitude of 1700 meters.

This aul was left by people about 45-50 years ago. They suffered too many hardships in the aul, which is situated on the peak of a forbidding mountain with no roads. “Gamsutl” means – “Invisible Stronghold”. The whole year round this Dagestani Machu Picchu is a favorite place for  tens of thousands of travelers, and is all outdoors. Part of the way we will go through the apricot orchards and then along the forest path. Over time we will halt by a spring with unusually delicious water. Here in Gamsutl people can feel an astonishing aura, and something is happening to everyone who visits this place. Everyone longs to visit this place again and again. In Gamsutl we are planning to check out the ancient buildings, mountaineers’ saklyas and town architecture. Ascent along the path takes 1.5 hours, and 1 hour for descent.

After the Gomsutl we will leave for the Choh aul, and the first thing we are going to do is taste the delicious avar hinkal, made with dried and fresh meat. After a hearty lunch, we will go on an excursion though the one of the most ancient Caucasian auls, which is more than 2,500 years old. In the area, at an altitude of more than 2000 meters in the caves of  plateau Turchi Dag and nearby a human settlement from 200 B.C. was discovered and explored as well.  

By the way, on Turchi Dag Dagestan the people smashed “The Treat of the Universe”: Nadir-Shah, an Iranian conqueror who had an army of 100 thousand at his command 100. Choh is an aul of scammers and construction workers. However, this is in the past. More than 70 officers/natives of Choh served in the tsar’s army in 19th-20th centuries. Including the bodyguards of Alexander II – of which there were only 4 officers. 

Talking about the buildings’ unique architecture, you have a chance to assess its true value yourself. The Dagestan people are very hospitable, as are our people. It’s difficult to find unique 3-4 floor constructions which were built in the 18th-19th centuries. And if you drop into the club (we promise you will) – you will find yourself in “Soviet Union and its cultural institution” ;).

19-00 – Impressed by the excursions, we are coming back to Gunib and the hotel.  Then we have a dinner - Dagestan foods.

20-30 – You can either spend an evening with music and performances of songs, or you can spend the evening with a cup of coffee or with a glass of Dagestan wine in the café. Sitting in the café you can see from the   bright sky in the mountains from so seemingly close, it seems your hand can easily touch the stars.

It is said in Dagestan that, when someone, who has lived his life in a fitting manner leaves this world and goes to heaven, on the 4th day a new star comes out. And the more frequently people, especially children, remember him and visit his grave, the closer and brighter this new star becomes. 

Day 5

08:00 - Breakfast.

08:30 -  Sightseeing tour to the capital of Gazikumukh khans, the administrative center of the Laksky district  - Kumukh or  Kazi (holy) Kumukh, whose name was given by Arabs in the 7th century, impressed by the flourishing of the science and culture of this town on the  Silk Road.

Gazikumukh history goes back more than 3,000 years. In the 4th-7th centuries it used to be a capital of Serir. In this town there were Huns-barbarians with swords, Khazars, Arab conquerors, the Iranian conqueror Nadir-Shah, and in the 14th century Central Asian conqueror Tamerlane was defeated 3 times, and tatar-mongols in 10th-12th centuries.

Nowadays in Kumukh there is a block called “Hunna-ar” (i.e. Huns’ place, some of them had settled). There are also Huns, Khazars, Arabs and a Christian cemetery. Before Arabs the Laki were Christians. Plenty of nations lived in Gazikumukh – Persians, Italians, Arabs, Georgians, Russians and different Dagestan and Caucasian nations.  Some ancestral clan information has remained in the last names of clans. For example, Hunashevs (Hunas’ ancestors), Qalandarovs (Qalandar is Arabian conqueror-missionary, so the ancestors are Arabs), etc.

In the 4th century Persian shah Khosrow I  Anushiruwān, the shah who built the Derbent Fortress and founded one of two Serir capitals  in the modern Laksky district. The main task of the state and its army was defending Derbent  from the raids of Scythians, Sarmatians, Cumans, Huns and Khazars. He resettled armorers, jewelers, scribes, scientists, and landowners here, and accommodated them in the auls. Serir began to prosper and the Laki started to travel around the East and Europe, looking for a market.

Kumukh is the homeland of brilliant, famous scientists from the Soviet period and today’s world.  In Kumukh we are going to look over the mosques from the  8th and 9th centuries, the ruins of two fortresses, ancient buildings and neighborhoods, the monuments to Murtazali-khan and Dagestan d’Arc – Partu Patima, the cemetery of Yemenites, Huns, Arabs and Khazars. We will also stop by the grave and the mosque of Surkhay-khan, look at the underground sewers of the 14th century, a water supply from the same century at a depth of 30 meters, visit an underground mosque, a 19th century Russian fortress and much more.

For dinner you can taste Laksky Hinka,l and the most delicious mountain sausage – “metluhsa”, boiled or fried – as you choose. After the visit of the 19th century Russian fortress we leave for Gunib.

19:00 - Dinner.

20:00 – Gathering at the campfire with a glass of dry wine, chatting and the recap of the day. 

Day 6

08:00 - Breakfast.

Check-out from the tourist camp and move to Derbent. Check-in to the hotel “Hazry” or the tourist camp “Golden Sands”.  There are double, triple and quad rooms with all facilities needed. Split-system and you will get three meals a day.

Today we will have an excursion to Kubachi – aul of goldsmiths. 

Aul Kubachi became famous a very long time ago for its jewelers, armorers and coining. In ancient times this district of Dagestan was called “Zerihgaran” country, and Kubachi people were called “urbugi”, which means killers, because they made swords, knifes, daggers, helmets and chain mail. At all the world’s most famous museums, the best places are allotted to Kubachi masterpieces, and their skills are transmitted across the generations. 

In Kubachi we are going to visit the Museum of Art Combine Masterpieces, private museums-collections, look around the old Kubachi aul, a 13th century combat tower and a cemetery from the 14th-15th centuries. 

18:00 – Return to Derbent and the “Hazry” hotel, or the “Golden Sands” tourist camp. 

19:00 – Leisure time with a cup of tea, glass of dry wine and discussion of the next day’s program.

Day 7

08:00 - Breakfast.

09:00 – Excursion to the Derbent Fortress, old Derbent blocks, 8th century Juma Mosque, the cemetery of Kyrhlyars, Carpet Museum and the monument to Peter the Great.

Lunch during the excursion is at 13:30. 

14:00 – The excursion “Mysteries of Saint George Death” (Grigoris, George) and the visit of lost Bastille in the mountain forest.

Maybe this excursion will be something like a new discovery for all of you. Derbent, Dagestan, Saint George? Exactly. In 348 in the Molla-Halil village (the modern village Belidgy), within 20-25 kilometers the Masqat leaders killed George (Grigoris). Though it was in Caucasian Albania where Christianity was adopted in the 2nd century A.D., there were nations who didn’t adopt it. 

On the second day after his death Albanian emperors moved and buried George’s body, who was proclaimed as Saint George on the top of a mountain at a height of 1000 meters. To present day there is a chapel – the place where pilgrims from all over Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ossetia used to come for pilgrimage. Even in the thirties, local citizens-Muslims, the ancestors of who were Christians, at the cost of their lives defended the sacred place from the Bolsheviks. But the Saint George temple of the 18th century in Derbent ,and the water supply with holy water leading to the temple from 14-15 kilometers away was destroyed by the Bolsheviks.

The spring with holy water became a well only on the second day after his death, on the day Saint George was buried. We are going to look around the stalactite cave near the spring in a holy grove, and then will move along the Great Caucasian (Derbent) Wall – Dagh-bari. It stretched for 42 kilometers into the forest and it made impossible to go around the Derbent Fortress from the mountains. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see all of the wall because only some parts of the wall (30% or so) have remained. 

After a 1.5 hour walk around the beautiful hornbeam oak and beech forest we will come out to the glade where a big fortress is located. There is also a foundation of dismantled walls, which stretched into the heart of the forest. There is one more village within 5 kilometers. The citizens are immigrants of Western Persia and they kept up their language. However, in Iran the western-persian language has been dead for a very long time. Only in Dagestan are there three villages where the citizen speak their native language, and have since the 4th century.

19:00 – Dinner at the hotel. Relax on the beach in front of the hotel.

Day 8

08:00 – Breakfast and an excursion to the Huchni waterfalls and to the “Fortress of Seven Brothers and One Sister”.

14:00 – Lunch. Tabasaran foods.

A visit to an ancient Jewish cemetery. The masterclass of handmade carpet weaving in one of the Tabasaran auls.

16:00 – Return to Derbent. 

Next in our program: buying brandy at the company shop of the Derbent brandy factory; souvenirs and Dagestan delicacies at the market (urbech, mountain dried sausage and pemmican, sheep cheese and fruits). 

19:00 – Dinner at the hotel. Farewell evening.

Day 9

08:00 - Breakfast.

Airport or railway station transfer – 1000 rub one way. Ordering group tour – 1000 rub both ways.