Attractions of Dagestan

30 main sights of Dagestan

The main riches of Dagestan are nature and auls that have preserved the traditions of their ancestors. The mountainous terrain is rich in amazing objects, whether it is a natural bridge, or an underground waterfall. There are spectacular views everywhere in the republic, as there are quite a few islands of untouched nature. As for the settlements, here they honor the history and continue to engage in folk crafts.

Some villages have a specialty, such as making and painting ceramic dishes. You can buy it in stores, and especially valuable items can be seen in museums of large cities. Although most of the population are Muslims, representatives of other religions also have a place to pray and at the same time to appreciate the beauty and preservation of old churches and temples.

The most interesting and beautiful places in Dagestan

What to see and where to go? List of the best places for tourism and recreation!

Naryn-Kala Fortress

A citadel built in Derbent in the 8th-16th centuries. It was built on a hill as close as possible to the Caspian Sea. Its direct purpose – to block the narrow coastal passage to the land of the Persians. The area is about 4.5 hectares. It has an irregular shape. Each new ruler added something to the appearance of the fortress. Inside the perimeter many buildings were preserved including baths. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Kubachi .

The village in Dakhadaevsky district. First mentioned in the chronicles in the V century. Since ancient times it has been known for its craftsmen, including the manufacturers of chainmail. Nowadays they carve wooden and stone, but metalware draws tourists’ attention. Weapons, military armor in the ancient manner, household items – all this can be found in Kubachi. Works an art factory, and with it a museum.

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Kezenoi-Am .

The lake, which arose due to the damming of a part of the river. Refers not only to the territory of Dagestan, but also to Chechnya. The water level fluctuates depending on the season, so the surface area is unstable: from 170 to 230 hectares. In 2015, opened a multi-purpose tourist cluster: cottages, sports complex, bath house, boat station, etc. Since 2017 there is a sailing regatta. Regional Natural Monument.

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Hotels by the sea and guest houses in the mountains of Dagestan.

Below is a list of places to stay with high ratings and positive reviews from guests. By following the links you can book a hotel, find out the current prices and details.

Glamping “Old Sivukh”, Gumbetovsky district.

Hotel complex “Jami”, Makhachkala.

Guest house “Salta”, Gunibsky district, Salta village.

Hotel “Caravan Saray”, Makhachkala city.

Guest house “Kubachi Uyut”, Dakhadaevsky district, Kubachi village.

Golden Beach” resort hotel, Derbent city.

Holiday house “Santa-Barbara”, Gunib district, Gunib village.

Hotel “Chindirchero”, Akusha district, Ginta village.

Chirkey hydropower plant.

Put into operation in the mid-70s. It was built on the Sulak River and is the most powerful hydroelectric power plant in the North Caucasus. It forms a water reservoir in the Chirkei Gorge. A road runs along it to the dam. At the station created a fish farm, which specializes in the cultivation of trout.

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Derbent Juma Mosque

It is considered the oldest not only in Russia, but also in the CIS. It was built in the VIII century. It has been repeatedly rebuilt and changed externally, including in the 14th century it was restored after an earthquake. For several years there was a prison in the mosque, but in 1943 it has been returned to believers. In the courtyard there are four multi-year plane-trees that are recognized as a monument of nature. They are visible from many points of the city.

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Dürk Cave

The entrance of the cave is on the precipice of Darkdag Mountain. There is another name – Khrustilskaya (because of the proximity to the village of the same name). In total, the cave has seven rooms, but access to five of them is blocked by rubble. The remaining two have electricity, they are located above each other and are connected by wooden stairs. It is believed that the sword of Maslama, a warlord from the Arab world who preached Islam, was kept in Dürk.

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Dagestan Reserve

It occupies 19,000 hectares in two regions of the republic: Tarumovsky and Buynaksky. It was founded in 1987 to protect the migration routes of birds from human influence. This is especially true of the Kizlyar Gulf. The most protected and rare species are flamingos and pelicans (pink and curly). Air and water temperature here is traditionally above zero, which is favorable for vegetation.

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Barkhan Sary-kum.

One of the highest on the planet. Location – the outskirts of Makhachkala. The height is about 250 m. Its shape and size are considered to be changing due to winds blowing and bringing layering. Its exact age is unknown, but it is counted in hundreds of thousands of years. Many legends and myths are associated with the barkhan, a piece of the desert. One of them says that so much sand was shaken out of his shoes by a legendary giant.

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Sulak Canyon

Refers to the valley of the river Sulak. The length is about 53 km. The depth is approaching 2 thousand meters, which makes the canyon the second deepest in the world. Here come for fishing, especially a lot of fans to sit with a fishing rod in the vicinity of Chirkei reservoir. To see the canyon you can take a boat trip. And climbers with appropriate equipment go down to the very bottom of the canyon.

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Kala Koreysh .

At the same time a village and a fortress. It is believed that it was built by the tribe where the prophet Muhammad was born. The location on a mountain top in the Dakhadaev region was very convenient strategically and remains so nowadays. There are several mountain rivers in the area, and their channels are an additional barrier for uninvited guests. There is an ancient cemetery and ruins of a caravanserai nearby.

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Karadakh Gorge

Has many names, including the “Gate of Wonders. The width of the canyon varies from 2 to 5 m, the length – 400 m, and the height of the walls – about 170 m. The canyon was created by the Kvartakh River, which undermined erosion-resistant rock and created such a unique natural monument. On the way to the canyon there are observation platforms, and at the exit – small bridges built the century before last.

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Shalbuzdag

The peak in the mountain system of the Caucasus. The height above sea level is more than 4 thousand meters. Small rivers flow on its slopes. Snow cover is partial, as there is not much eternal snow in Dagestan. That is why glaciers are found only less than a kilometer before the peak. Refers to the number of sacred mountains and is actively visited by pilgrims. There are especially many people here from mid to late summer.

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Tobot waterfall

It is located near the village of Arani. The canyon, from the top of which a low stream of water falls with a roar, forms the Latin letter “V”. There is no consensus on the height of the waterfall: researchers name numbers from 50 to 100 m. At the bottom the water quickly goes away, not forming natural baths. But on sunny days, the rocks shimmer from the splash and refraction of light in different colors. Sightseeings nearby: Khunzakh fortress.

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Samursky forest

Grows in Magaramkent district. Partially owned by Azerbaijan. The Russian part is a part of Samurski State Nature Reserve. Its area is more than 11 thousand hectares. It borders with the Caspian Sea. The area consists of relict temperate-subtropical trees. Rare species: nut-bearing lotus, orris, Mediterranean turtle, white-tailed eagle and others.

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Gamsutl

Abandoned village in Gunib district. There used to be school, hospital and other municipal buildings. Electric poles stand inactive, the road ends a kilometer away from the houses. Most of the buildings are uninhabitable. The color of the brickwork almost matches the color of the cliffs, so the buildings appear to be built into the mountain. The last permanent resident died in 2015.

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Church of St. Grigoris

Built in Nyugdi in 1916 to commemorate the martyrdom of the Christian educator. It belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church. During the Soviet time the building was declared a historical monument, but nobody took care of its values, and they were stolen. In the XXI century the restoration of the interior decoration which was lost during the years of desolation started. Since 2011, services have been held regularly.

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Salta Waterfall

Location – the village of Salta. The only underground waterfall in the republic. The Saltinka River goes underground not far from the village and falls from a height of 20 meters even lower into a rift. Due to the smooth walls of the canyon and the constant moisture, the light here is reflected many times and colors the water in different shades. In rainy weather, the flow is particularly strong. At the bottom you can find the bones – the remains of animals that have fallen into the gap.

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Balhar

A sparsely populated village in the Akushinsky district. Gained fame because of the local crafts. For the most part, craftsmen are engaged in the production of works of art and household items made of ceramics. The residents specialize in jewelry, vases, and dishes. There are also special ways of painting them. Besides, one can buy hand-woven carpets and children’s toys made in various techniques.

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Aul in Gunib district. The place has been inhabited since ancient times. A Neolithic site and remains of a settlement dated 6,000 years B.C. were found in this area. It is believed that the area is one of the first in the region began farming. Despite its modest size, the village is home to many prominent thinkers, scientists and athletes. Every year the village day is celebrated on a grand scale, as well as religious festivals.

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The Central Juma Mosque in Makhachkala

The main mosque of the capital of Dagestan. When building it was guided by the plan of the Blue mosque, located in Istanbul, and the project was sponsored by Turkish Muslims. It was opened for believers in 1997, and in 2007 the premises were expanded to accommodate more worshippers at a time. On the green carpet there is a special pattern – markings for the convenience of the prayers. Quranic verses are written on the walls.

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Agrakhan Sanctuary

It was formed in 1983 on the territory of Kizlyarsky, Babayurtovsky and Kirovsky districts and occupies an area of 39 thousand hectares. Since the area belongs to the Terek delta, the local ecosystem is unique: increased humidity has affected the growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants. The protection of the territory should help the populations to recover: for decades, animals, fish and birds have been exterminated by poachers.

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Akhulgo

Refers to the Untsukulsky district. The translation of the name is “mountain of calling”. The memorial commemorates the events of the Caucasus War, especially the assault in 1839. It opened in 2017 on top of the mountain of the same name, on the site of the former fortress. There is a museum that tells the history of the battles, the exploits of the peoples and the biography of Imam Shamil. Among other things, the area is also visited by pilgrims, commemorating the fallen highlanders.

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Tlyaratinsk Zakaznik

It is part of the Dagestan Reserve. The current status was given to the territory of more than 83 thousand hectares in 1986. The staff of the reserve closely monitors the recovery of populations of both predators and herbivores. Tourists must have their passport with them, as there is a border nearby. Attraction nearby: the reservoirs, distinguished by the emerald hue of the water surface, called “Plateau of falling asleep lakes”.

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Kuzhniki Natural Bridge

The natural arch is located in Tabasaran district. The height is about 50 m, width – about 6 m, the length of the “overlap” – about 100 m. The location above the gorge makes the views from here very spectacular. This area is in the protected zone, and the bridge itself is a natural monument of local importance. In addition, for the residents of the nearby villages the arch is sacred, so one should behave appropriately nearby.

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Dagestan Museum of Fine Arts

It was founded in 1958 and now bears the name of P.S. Gamzatova, under whose administration it flourished and became famous in the Soviet Union. Originally detached from the museum of local lore. Part of the collection came from the capital, part – from private collections. In addition to paintings the funds consist of decorative and applied art. The museum has a lecture hall, a small cinema and a souvenir shop.

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Carpet and Applied Art Museum

Opened in Derbent in 1982. It occupies the building of an old Armenian church. In addition to carpets the collection includes other products of local craftsmen, such as ceramics, copper, silver, wood or iron. Accordingly, the expositions vary. But the tour is most often taken through the entire museum, as the funds are not too large. The exhibits are brought from different auls of the republic.

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The Fortress of Seven Brothers and One Sister

Built in the 7th-8th centuries near the village of Khuchni, on a hill above a gorge. From the outside, it looks higher. This is due to the fact that originally it was built as a two-storey building, but the first floor is now almost completely covered with earth. The thickness of the walls and their indestructibility are impressive. Not only the masonry, but also the loopholes have been preserved. The name is associated with the legend of the sister, who betrayed her brothers, who defended their native land.

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The Cathedral of the Assumption in Makhachkala

The only Orthodox Church in the city. It was built in the early years of the last century. After the revolution it was closed, but in the 40s services were resumed. In 2004 the cathedral was slightly expanded by adding a side chapel named after Alexander Nevsky. Although the number of parishioners decreased because of the outflow of Orthodox Christians from the republic, it was decided to repaint the walls, update the iconostasis and landscape the surrounding area.

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Monument to the Russian Teacher

The name is unofficial; the memorial is dedicated to the representatives of the Russian people who came to Dagestan and dedicated their lives to the development of the republic. It was erected in 2006 in Makhachkala. A wide low staircase leads to a platform with a 10-meter monument (a female figure with a book in one hand and leaning on a globe with the other). Above it the impressive beams close up as a pyramid.

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The Gunib Fortress

Located near the village of the same name. The exact time of its construction is unknown but the most important events in the history of the fortress fall on the period of the Caucasian War. Russian troops took it in 1859. It was the last stronghold of Shamil. Later artillerymen began to quarter here. Now only ruins and part of the wall remain, which looks colourful and imposing. The masonry breaks off near the abyss.

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 drive 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.

Barkhan Sarykum

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.

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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.

One 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.

Sulak Canyon

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.

Gunib village

Distance from Makhachkala : ~150 km.

Travel time : ~2 h 50 min.

High mountain village with a rich history: here ended the Caucasian War, which lasted dozens of years. The pavilion and the Imam Shamil gate remind us of this. Gunib can be divided into three tiers: in the lower tier there are dwelling houses, in the middle tier – stores and other establishments, and in the upper tier – the fortress and guest houses.

Karadakh Gorge

Distance from Makhachkala : ~130 km.

Travel time : ~2 hours 45 minutes.

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 when it is dry, because it is flooded during rain.

Tobot waterfall

Distance from Makhachkala : ~145 km.

Travel time : ~2 h 50 min.

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.

Gamsutl village

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 preserved structures and, if you are lucky, find some everyday items.

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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 surely 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

Samursky forest

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.

Shalbuzdag peak

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 in four-wheel-drive “loafers” to the nearest camp for 300-500 ₽ to the summit. 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: around it are bare and reddish ridges, an 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’s better to come here in the evening to gain strength and start climbing early in the morning. 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 have 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 who were not climbing the peak for the first time, so we managed to get back to the camp before the downpour.

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