23 best sights of Karachay-Cherkessia – description and photos

50+ Best Sights of Karachay-Cherkessia

In Karachay-Cherkessia, tourists admire the splendor of nature: snowy peaks, glaciers, valleys and waterfalls. This is an amazing place with mountain lakes and ancient temples. In Teberda Nature Reserve there are multi-day hikes through the most beautiful gorges through impenetrable forests. Tour groups travel by jeep and horseback through ancient villages and wading through rivers. They come here to relax body and soul, to breathe in meadow flowers, to get acquainted with Caucasian culture and cuisine.

1. the face of Christ

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On Mount Mitseshta in the village of Lower Arkhyz is hidden from sight the most mysterious attraction of Karachaevo-Circassia. In a cave of sandstone, which leads to the staircase of 526 steps in the rock, under the stone ledge depicts the face of Christ, reminiscent of the Sinai icon. It is a popular pilgrimage site and one of the highest-ranking icons in the world. Believers consider the face to be an unwrought miracle. Scientists have been studying it since 1999 and claim that the image is an ancient fresco painted by the egg tempera method. Its author is still unknown. The image itself is not very big – 140 by 80 centimeters.

2. astrophysical observatory RAS

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The observatory in Zelenchuksky district is considered the largest center of ground-based observations of the universe in Russia. Here is used the most outstanding in Eurasia optical telescope – Big Azimuthal, with a diameter of the main mirror 6 meters! There are day and night excursions for tourists. After sunset with the telescope “CELESTRON” you can look at the planets, galaxies and star clusters. Night tour takes place under the open sky at an altitude of 2070 meters, where even in the summer it is cold (you should wear warm clothes).

3. Gumbashi Pass.

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Gumbashi Pass (Marinsky) and the peak of the same name are located within the Rocky Range. Through a narrow mountain gorge, there is a serpentine asphalt road winding its way. It is very beautiful in summer when the green hills look like velvet, mottled against the background of limestone rocks. From the top of Gumbashi offers a stunning view of the Caucasus Range, Elbrus and the ancient plateau Biichesyn.

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Arkhyz

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4. Sour springs

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The therapeutic properties of the springs of the Urup region in the 50s were proved by the Germans who came to the Caucasus with a mobile laboratory. Some of them turned out to be similar to the springs of the Caucasian Mineral Waters, others – to the waters of Georgia and Armenia. The composition of some of the Sour springs turned out to be so peculiar that there was nothing to compare them to. The main thing that held them together was their healing power. Above each of the springs the Germans wrote its curative properties. This is how the inscriptions, later translated into Russian, appeared on the rocks at 18 Sour springs: ‘Kidney’, ‘Liver’, ‘Heart’, ‘Gout’.

5. Sofia lakes

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The group of three lakes at Mount Sophia looks so beautiful that it takes your breath away, but the route to them is very tedious. Someone is ready to spend two days on a hike from Arkhyz. Others book a one-day jeep tour with an off-road vehicle to the valley, and then walk 4.5 hours up to the altitude of 2800 meters. In winter and spring the lakes are under ice, “waking up” only by July. Routes to them are open until October: the most popular (and quite steep) goes by Ak-Ayra waterfalls to Irkiz pass. All the lakes are different colors – turquoise, clear-blue and black.

6. Plateau Bermamyt.

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This is part of the Rocky Range of the Greater Caucasus, at 2,592 meters above sea level, offering an unforgettable panorama of the Caucasus Range and Elbrus. People come here on quad bikes or horses to watch the sunrise and sunset. “Bermamyt” translates from Karachai as “twisted shins” or “crooked knee”. The relief of the place is really amazing: with stone columns and asymmetrical slopes. Sometimes you can see an unusual phenomenon here – “brocken ghosts”. The shadows of people standing on the plateau loom on the clouds, sometimes in an iridescent glow. Miracles have nothing to do with it, it is caused by the diffraction of light on the moisture particles in the atmosphere.

7. Alibek waterfall

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The largest waterfall in Dombai and one of the most famous in the whole Karachay-Cherkessia. It is located in the Teberda Nature Reserve. It is formed by the fall of the river Dzhalovchatka from the Alibek glacier from a height of more than 25 meters! In winter, the waterfall freezes and looks fantastic. The best time to visit is from May to September. There is a picturesque path along the Alibek Gorge that leads to the waterfall. Meadows blossom there in warm weather.

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8. Devil’s Mill waterfall

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The four-meter waterfall is surrounded on all sides by pine and spruce-fir forest.

It is only one hour walk from Dombai. The way goes through the forest along the path with the ridge of giant stones and big roots of trees, the steep turns are equipped with railings, and on the rises – with ropes. It is better not to go to the waterfall in winter or in rainy weather. Very beautiful gorge “Devil’s Mill”, where there is a waterfall of the same name. The canyon of tectonic origin in the shape of the letter “S” stretches for three kilometers along the Amanauz River.

9. Sufrudjin waterfalls

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The waterfall has three cascades. The most spectacular is the second, with a fall height of 100 (!) meters. Behind it in a narrow gorge flows “the third brother Sufrudjou”, which can be accessed in September and October, when the water level of the first stream subsides. The noise and iridescent splashes of Sufruja waterfalls can be heard and seen from afar. In winter, the main cascade turns into an ice block of amazing shape. In summer, if desired, you can take a refreshing dip under the waterfalls. This is the most impressive cascade in the vicinity of Dombaj.

10. Sentinsky temple

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The cathedral stands on the spur of the Burun-Syrt ridge in a very beautiful place. The temple was built during the heyday of the Alanian kingdom. Not so long ago, archaeologists found an inscription in Greek under a layer of frescoes. It suggested that this Christian temple was opened to the faithful in April 967 (!). Today the cathedral is part of a popular historical and architectural complex. In addition to it on the territory of the complex is the Convent of the Transfiguration, which was built in the XIX-XX centuries.

11. Bely Falls

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Belorechensk waterfall is beautiful and turbulent. It runs along a tributary of the Psysh, the Belaya River, for which it was named. There are wild places with rocky obstacles, deep gullets and deep forests. In wintertime bears winter in the thicket. The route to the falls is easy and accessible without a guide. Although more convenient to unite with other tourists and rent an off-road vehicle. And even better to make a horse walk, which will take 5-6 hours.

12. Sofia Falls.

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The most popular place in Arkhyz after the end of the ski season. When the legendary Sofia glacier melts, powerful waterfalls up to 70 meters high are formed. A panoramic view of the Sofia River valley opens from the platform at the waterfalls in the Sofia Gorge of the same name. The Sofia waterfalls season opens on June 1 and lasts until the end of October. From the Sofia Saddle Pass nearby you can look into the protected Kizgych Gorge. It is more comfortable to travel by horse or by jeep.

13. Ullu-Kel Lake

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It is said that after the mountains themselves, the most amazing thing in the mountains are the lakes. Ullu-Kel is located above Mahar glade at an altitude of 2817 meters. The lake resembles a large mirror. It is considered the largest lake in the entire Northwest Caucasus. It is most beautiful here in summer, when the lake is freed from ice and the ground is covered with grass and flowers. It snows from October to May. Guides offer multi-day hiking and horseback riding tours with visits to other beauties – the Mahar Valley, the Dlinnaya Osopka Pass, the southern lake of the Trekhozernaya River.

14. Lake Turye

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A small (40×40 meters) lake in the Alibek River valley on the spur of Mt. Ertzog. It is a favorite place for Caucasian tours. But you rarely get to see them – goats are very cautious. The lake is located between the glaciers Dvulyazychny and Alibeksky and is fed by the stream flowing down from the first giant. From Dombai to it is 8 hours of walking round trip. Usually, Lake Turye is visited simultaneously with Alibek waterfall and glacier.

15. Baduk Lake

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The most popular place in the vicinity of Dombai. The lakes are filled with clear water, the color of which depends on the time of day and weather. Sometimes it is gently turquoise, at times dark purple. In the third, the largest lake, there are trout, and it is forbidden to catch them. In Baduksky lakes beautifully reflected pines and bushes growing along the shores. The lower lake is the smallest, located at an altitude of 1980 meters. Usually tired hikers do not rise above it.

16. Murudzha lakes

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Another natural treasure of Dombajskaya glade. The source of the lakes is in the valley of the river Ullu-Murudzhu, hence the unusual name. The biggest Murudzha lakes, Black and Blue, are situated at the altitude of 2,800 meters and offer a stunning view of the nearby ranges and peaks. Even Dombay-Ulgen and Murudzha Needle Peak are visible from there. But it is difficult to get to the lakes. The ascent from Muruju Gorge is about 800 meters. The way takes two or three days. In addition to physical fitness you will need a tent and climbing equipment.

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17. Mussa Achitara .

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This is the most visited mountain above Dombai. There is a chairlift and a gondola elevator to the top to the station at an altitude of 3,168 meters. In winter, the slope is equipped with skiing slopes. And in summer, from the observation deck, you can admire the Alibek Gorge, Mount Belalakaya, the top of the Sufrujou Zub and flowering valleys far below. Even in July there is plenty of snow on the summit (but not for skiing).

Karachay-Cherkessia: The Valley of the Narzans, a plateau overlooking Elbrus and multicolored lakes

Karachay-Cherkessia is a region in the Elbrus region. The nature here is amazing – mountains, violent mountain rivers, alpine meadows, powerful waterfalls and colorful lakes. You can go skiing or snowboarding in Dombai or Arkhyz, swim in Badukskie lakes, watch the sunrise on Bermamyt plateau with the view of Elbrus peak, stroll along meadows with a herd of horses and taste real narzan straight from the source in the Valley of Narzans.

You need a car to travel, but you can get to the beautiful places without it – there are many cabs and ready-made tours. Right in the mountains there are various hotels and tourist complexes, and the local cuisine will not leave anyone indifferent. I tell you what to see in Karachay-Cherkessia.

Some of the routes described are mountainous. This is more of an active hike than a leisurely stroll. Take into account the possible load, if with you traveling with young children, the elderly or just unprepared tourists. All the most interesting, beautiful and untouched requires a certain effort, so be prepared to walk a lot and take pictures.

For convenience, I have marked all the described places on the map.

Shoanin Temple

The Shoanin Temple is an ancient architectural monument of the second half of the 10th century, built on the Shoana Mountain. It is located within Karachaevsk, it is an intermediate point on the road to Dombai. A couple of hours is enough to walk around and take a good look at everything.

The temple was built by builders from the Byzantine Empire for Alania, an ancient state that once existed on the territory of modern Karachaevo-Cherkessia. The temple is active, but it is completely deserted. Every day a caretaker comes from the neighboring village to keep the interior clean and orderly. The doors of the temple are open to all – here you can walk or pray, if you are a believer.

At the entrance to the temple there is a coat rack with clothes and shawls in case you are inappropriately dressed. Of course, no one monitors it, but the temple is a temple, and it is worth to follow the rules.

Getting there: It’s easy to find the way to the temple – Yandex Navigator will take you to the Kosta Khetagurov village, and then follow the road up to the parking lot. You can walk or drop in by car. Public transport does not go here. The road ends at the parking lot where you have to go through the gate in the fence (or climb over it if the gate is closed, as we did) and then it will take you about ten minutes to get up the path.

Where to stay: five kilometers from the temple there is a hotel with a pool Astoria, you can rent a double room for three or four thousand rubles per day.

Bermamyt Plateau

The Bermamyt Plateau is a beautiful natural attraction of Karachay-Cherkessia. The bizarre relief of the plateau, the cliffs of carved canyons, green meadows, herds of horses and, of course, the majestic Elbrus. People come here to watch the sunrise and sunset and enjoy the clear starry sky at night.

You can get to the plateau from different directions, but the easiest and most accessible way for cars is through the valley. Only four-wheel drive SUVs will pass, because the road leads through a field of rutted tracks.

At the top of the plateau you will be greeted with beautiful alpine meadows. On one side is the sea of clouds, on the other – the view of Elbrus.

The weather on the plateau is changeable, so you should be prepared for rain and wind, or better to see a forecast before you go. After the rain the road is washed out and it is difficult to go down on the mud and off-road even in an off-road car.

The height of the plateau is 2.5 kilometers above sea level, and sudden ascent to such a height is not an easy test for an unprepared person. So, take your time and walk at a comfortable pace, listen to your body and rest more often at a rest spot.

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Use comfortable clothes and shoes, be sure to take food and water. Also – a tent to look at the scenery at sunrise, sunset and at night. It really is very beautiful.

How to get there: by own transport if you have off-road, or come as part of the tour. There are plenty of them here. The cost of departure on the plateau – about three thousand rubles for five. The road consists of rutted tracks, so get out here only on a four-wheel drive off-road vehicle.

Where to stay: right on the edge of the cliff on the plateau Bermamyt there are two new guest houses. You can rent one of them for three people for 5 thousand roubles per day and 3 thousand roubles from sunset to sunrise. You can get the actual information about ordering the cottages by phone number (+7 928 222-44-82 Sergey, +7 938 302-52-10 Galina)

Kichi-Balyk, the Valley of Narzanov

If you want to take a walk among mountain gorges, see turbulent mountain rivers and listen to the forest silence, go to the ecopark “Valley of Narzanov”. It is located near the village of Kichi-Balyk, 30 km from Kislovodsk. On the territory there are cafes, guest houses, “the castle of the Valley of Narzans”, which is also an old dacha from the 30s of the last century, and the ecotrope, which deserves special attention.

There are 20 springs of mineral water and a silver spring along the eco-trail route, the water in which is saturated with silver ions.

The Ecotrope passes through narcissum baths, springs, springs, river and bridges. The way is easy, even children and old people can pass it. The path is flat and comfortable. On the way there are a lot of benches under the shade of trees, and from the river you can feel the pleasant cold. The route is 2.7 km, about an hour and a half, if you walk at a walking pace and stop for a drink of mineral water or to take pictures.

The Castle of the Valley of the Spa Baths looks older than it really is. It was built in 1936 as a hunting lodge for the first persons of the republic. If you don’t know that, it seems that some Circassian princess lived in the castle.

Here you can just look and take a picture against the background of a beautiful structure. Although you can go inside, walk up the stairs and admire the views from the terraces on the second and third floors

After a walk along the eco-trail and through the territory of the eco-park, you can stop for a meal at the local cafe Nartsano. By the way, all the food is prepared with narcotic water, although the taste of the dish does not change from this, I want to believe that the healthy water makes the dish healthier. You can take a seat in the building of cafe or in one of the pavilions with a view of the mountains.

How to get there: the road to the Valley of Narzans goes through Kislovodsk, from the city to it is only 32 kilometers (40 minutes). The road to the complex is not new, there are potholes, so you need to be careful driving. Public transport to the attractions does not go, but from Kislovodsk you can get to any cab for 400-500 rubles.

Where to stay: the eco-park Valley of Narzans offers several houses to choose from as an overnight stay. There is a museum house, a panoramic house with a view of the gorge, a large stone house and several wooden log cabins of different sizes. Prices for a cabin start at 4000 rubles per person.

Badukskie Lakes

Baduk Lakes are three mountain lakes in the upper reaches of the Baduk River, near the village of Teberda. The trail to them goes through coniferous forests, the Baduk River and its confluence with the Khadzhibey River, fir forests and granite blocks. Take trekking poles with you or pick up ordinary poles in the forest – the main thing is that they should be strong and fit your height. Choose shoes that are comfortable and non-slip. Preferably good shoes with a thick hard sole, which will hold your feet firmly.

Fishing in the lake is prohibited, but you can swim. You should take into account that the water in the high-mountain Baduksky lakes is not heated above 10 degrees.

It is 9 km long and it will take you 6-7 hours if you go at a quick pace and 7-9 hours if you go at a normal pace with stops. If you walk slowly and measured, with stops, it will be easier. To do this, you have to leave at eight or nine in the morning. Then you will be back in time to 7:00 pm. At this time, the reserve is closed and if tourists are still on the route, they are sent for them by the Ministry of Emergency Situations. This is not very pleasant, because then you will have to pay a fine.

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Be sure to take food and water, there is no infrastructure nearby.

How to get there: from Teberda to Badukskie Lakes – 10 km or 15 minutes, from Dombaj – 13 km or 20 minutes. Take the A155 highway, then turn to the narrow country road after the sign “Badukskie Ozero”. The road will take you to the beginning of the route on foot and there is a free parking lot next to it (it’s an empty meadow).

Where to stay: the nearest hotels are in Teberda, for example, Teberda Fairy Tale with barbeque pavilions, massage room and rooms from two and a half thousand rubles. In Dombai village you can choose Nastup hotel with a picturesque view of the mountains, a sauna and rooms from two thousand rubles

Azgek Lakes.

There is another group of mountain lakes in the Teberda reserve, which are located in the basin of the Azgek river, in the Azgek gorge. This is a group of Azgek lakes – multicolored pearls of the gorge. Their colors are really different, from steel and almost black to bright blue. When the weather is clear, under the sunlight the water in the lakes changes its color, which makes the picture even more beautiful.

The Azgec lakes are divided into western and eastern. The path to the western lakes is difficult to pass and may be taken only by well-prepared tourists, but it should be accompanied by an experienced guide. To the eastern lakes the way is easier, it is about 30 kilometers there and back. Tourists like this route – it begins from the village Teberda, there are UAZ or other off-road vehicles, the number of the driver can be easily found on the Internet.

The price of a car for five or seven people is no more than five thousand rubles. You will be met by gamekeepers at the checkpoint of the nature reserve and the driver usually makes an agreement with them.

The car takes you to the river Mukha and then you have to walk by foot to Azanka gorge and Eastern Azgek Lakes. There are no well-trodden paths here. You are to use a navigator, but it might lead you to some impassable places, to the swamps and to the road climb on huge boulders, for example. If you don’t trust to technology, go to the lakes as a part of excursion with good guide, who many times walked in these places.

It’s better to go for two or three days, to have time to see all the lakes and move at a comfortable pace, no rush. You will experience absolute silence, unity with nature and beautiful lakes, surrounded by mountain peaks.

This is a full-fledged hike, so take hiking gear, comfortable closed clothes and shoes, and food. The weather in the mountains changes very sharply, so be prepared for rain and cold at sunrise and sunset. Also, do not forget about the snow, it is a lot in the mountains and some parts of the route may be held in the snow. Wear suitable shoes – closed and with a stable sole. It would be better to take trekking poles with you, they will make the route easier.

How to get there: the route starts from Teberda village, there’s A155 highway, the road is good without potholes.

Where to stay: Azgekskie lakes are far away from civilization, so the nearest accommodation options are in Teberda, for example YetiHouse (from 4,000 rubles per room), with a heated swimming pool, a cinema and a lounge area on the mountain river bank, or Cheget (from 3,000 rubles per room), with a sauna, swimming pool and a river that flows through the whole 2 hectares of the hotel

Sufrudjinsky waterfall

Near the Dombai village there is Sufrudjin mountain (the highest point is 3871 m) in the Amanauz canyon. A river flows from this mountain, which falls from the mountain and forms Sufrudjinsky waterfalls. These are two large powerful waterfalls surrounded by greenery and mountains.

The road to the waterfalls goes through a picturesque area – around the mountains, meadows, coniferous forests and in front of the lush river.

The route to the waterfalls from Dombaj is 5,8 km. It seems to be a short distance, but if you walk slowly, it will take you 5-7 hours. The beginning of the route can be found by a tower of boulders, from it the path will go to the forest. On the way you can see the Devil’s Mill whirlpool. It’s hard to find without help from the locals, it’s surrounded by rocks.

The trail goes past the whirlpool to the river, which you have to skip over the stones. They are large, but you need to be careful not to get your feet wet or fall into the water. Then the path leads to the gorge, and after ten minutes of walking along it you will see the first waterfall. It is 70 meters high, wide and powerful. The speed of flow in the river is so great that the water drags huge boulders with it. That is why it is dangerous to get close to the river bed, so be careful. After 250 meters the next waterfall appears. It is bigger and higher than the first one. Falling from a height of 100 meters, the water breaks into a splash, so the nearest stones are slippery, you should also be careful.

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There is also a third waterfall, but you have to wade across the river to get to it. It is safe only in early fall, when the river is shallow.

The route starts in Dombai village, from the bridge over the river Alibek, which is near “Orion” cafe. You should cross the bridge and walk up Teberda street, past mosque and along Amanauz river. When you finish the country road, there is only a path that leads directly to the waterfall.

Please note that the waterfalls are located in the border area on the territory of Teberda Nature Reserve. You should pay for entrance – 400 rubles each, and get the pass there too.

How to get there: the distance from Karachaevsk to Dombaj is 66 kms. You can drive one and a half hours by car, and it takes two hours by bus (the ticket costs from 300 rubles). From Teberda to Dombaj – just over 20 kilometers, you can get there for 300 rubles by cab. There is parking at your destination, and the road is good.

Where to stay: at the hotel Bostan . After the walk in the mountains you can take a steam bath and drink herbal tea with a view of the steep mountain peaks. The second option is Vershina Hotel, which is a hundred meters from the cable car. It is convenient to get up in the morning and go to one of the viewing platforms until there are too many tourists. In addition, the hotel has a swimming pool and SPA complex.

Chuchur Waterfalls

Another popular natural attraction of Karachay-Cherkessia is located near Dombai.

The route to the waterfall is very beautiful and very simple – even children can pass. All the way around you are surrounded by mountains, meadows with horses and cows on the pasture, small and large rivers. A little higher in the mountains there are glaciers and islands of snow, which does not melt even in summer at plus temperature.

The way to the waterfall begins from Dombai, goes through the Teberda Reserve and further through the gorge Dombai-Ulgen. You can drive most of the way by car (in the mountains – only off-road cars with all-wheel drive). In Dombai you can get to the waterfall on horseback or on quad bikes. The total length of the route is 6 km, you can get there in 2,5-3 hours.

The starting point of the route is a ropeway near the hotel “Crocus”. You should go up on it to the LII glade or walk along the same route on foot (about 1 km among firs and spruces). On the glade you need to go to the checkpoint “Dombai-Ulgen”, because the waterfalls are located on the frontier territory and entrance there is by pass only. You can get a pass just at the checkpoint – to do this you need to show your passport or birth certificate and pay 100 rubles per person.

Farther from the checkpoint you can see an unpaved road, which after 6 kilometers will lead you to the waterfalls. The main thing is to follow it and not to turn off. You can be guided by Yandex Maps where you can see both waterfalls and brown dotted line of the road.

Where to stay: you can find hotel Snezhinka with a bathhouse and a pool, and hotel Metelitsa with a sauna in 10 minutes walk from the elevators.

Tips for tourists

1. When traveling in Karachay-Cherkessia you need only comfortable clothes and shoes, preferably sports. Most of the routes – in the mountains or on the approaches to them, so instead of a beautiful bag is better to take a roomy backpack, and instead of sandals comfortable sneakers.

2. The mountains are always a few degrees colder, so take with you warm clothes – lightweight jacket or sweatshirt for the summer season will not be superfluous.

3. Resorts in this region are year-round, you can come here in both summer and winter.

4. If you do not have your own car, but have rights, you can take a car for carsharing. Prices start from 1500 rubles per day.

5. As souvenirs you can bring cheese with mountain herbs, mountain honey, jam from dogwood, quince or walnuts, mountain herbal teas, spices, products of goat down and sheep wool (felting and knitting from these materials is considered traditional in the region), ceramic products from local clay and, of course, souvenirs of Caucasian color – hats, wine horn, Caucasian dagger, etc.

6. Be sure to try the local dishes – khychin, shurpa, dried meat, lamb with pasta, gadlibje of chicken and lakuma, with sweet or salty fillings.

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