The Caucasus - From the Black Sea to the Caspian
The Caucasus lie at the southern edge of Russia and are a wild land of fiercely independent people, who were not incorporated into the Tsar’s Empire until the mid-19th century. It is the land of legends, an untamed landscape of imposing peaks and hidden medieval villages. Here customs stretch back to the dawn of human settlement and for us one of the most exciting parts of Europe.
This trip takes you on an unusual journey through the collection of semi-autonomous republics that mark Moscow’s limit of control. These are places that few outside of Russia have even heard of. We start in the breakaway state of Abkhazia, a subtropical country nestled between the Black Sea and the mountains still claimed by Georgia. Here we explore abandoned villages, an impressive fortress and the stunning monastery of New Athos.
We then head inland to the Circassian republics – Adygea, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria. We explore beautiful scenery, see the world’s largest radio telescope and discover the history and traditions of the Circassian people. Moving on we travel across the mountains to North Ossetia, home to traditional stone built villages. We’ll see some of the best views in the Caucasus and visit the bizarre ‘city of the dead’, an entire village of tombs built during the medieval plague epidemics.
Our next republic is Ingushetia where we visit the dramatic watchtowers of Vovnushki. These look for all the world like something from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films and are perched on steep mountains to guard for the invaders of old.
Our journey then takes us into Chechnya and the capital Grozny, rebuilt from the ashes after the devastating wars that took place here in the 1990s. We have time to explore before moving on to its highlands, home to old towers, castles and necropolis. Finally, in Dagestan, we discover the famed hospitality of the region in isolated mountain villages and explore the ancient city of Derbent, crossroads of cultures on the Caspian Sea.
This is a Europe that you have never seen before, where ancient customs are still very much alive in hidden valleys and isolated settlements, where the modern world arrived a little over a hundred years ago. Its vistas of snow-capped peaks, deep gorges and gushing waterfalls are breath-taking. The Caucasus have always been Russia’s wild frontier, a source of inspiration to writers such as Pushkin and Tolstoy, a land of romance, imagination and mystique. Discover Russia’s best kept secret.