Walking around Makhachkala: beaches, scenic views and Caucasian flavor
This southern region of Russia is attractive because it has both the sea and high mountains, and 14 indigenous nationalities, each with its own way of life and cuisine. Tourism in the region began to develop recently, but people come here not for service and comfort, but to immerse themselves in a different culture and take pictures, about which friends and acquaintances will surely ask: “What country is this in?”
I was born and live in Dagestan, but I still haven’t had time to visit everywhere: there are so many interesting places here. I’ll tell you about the most famous sights and how best to build an itinerary and plan a vacation.
What to see in Makhachkala: sights of the city
It is more convenient to start a trip around the region from the capital of Dagestan – Makhachkala. Here you can quickly find accommodation, plus it is the starting point of almost all tourist routes.
Makhachkala is one of the largest cities of North Caucasus Federal District. During the Caucasus War there was only a small military fortification here. Over time, a port was built, the neighboring villages were joined and the fortification turned into a full-fledged city of Petrovsk. The modern name was given to the capital in honor of the Dagestani revolutionary Makhach Dakhadaev.
The city consists of three districts: Kirovsky, Soviet and Leninsky. The main infrastructure and tourist attractions are concentrated in the Soviet district. This is why it is better to spend two days on a walk around Makhachkala – so you will have time to see everything in peace.
So the locals call the park area, which includes the boulevard of the same name, the city garden and the boulevard named after Suleiman Stalsky. The park is very beautiful, located in the old part of town, almost on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
The park has cafes and restaurants, several attractions for children. From here you can take a look at Buynaksky Street – it is one of the oldest and once the main street in Makhachkala, for which the guides single it out as a separate attraction.
Avar and Kumyk Theaters
The theaters are located near the Rhodope Park. Most of the performances here are in local languages, which may be of interest to tourists. Kumyk is closer to Turkic, and Avar is very peculiar. There is Russian simultaneous translation – free headphones are given to you at the entrance. A ticket usually costs ₽300 at the Avar theater, and 250 at the Kumyk theater.
The Kumyk theater (beige facade) is located closer to the city beach, the Avar theater is closer to the park. The distance between them is 600 meters
There is an exit to the beach on Rhodope Boulevard: look for the underground descent with a sign. In summer there are a lot of people here, so you’ll have to squeeze in. Children can splash in the shallow water, but be aware that at the bottom there are stones with sharp edges – it’s better to scout the area as an adult first.
At the beach you can swim and sunbathe, ride a “banana” and rent a kayak or jet-ski. Cafes and restaurants are located closer to the boulevard.
The beach season in Makhachkala usually begins in mid-July and lasts until the end of August.
In the vicinity of Makhachkala there are other beaches that are less crowded, such as “Beryozka” or “Black Rocks”. You can also go to Kaspiysk, a neighboring town 15 km away. By cab it will be 250-350 ₽, depending on demand. I like the sand here better, the beaches are located next door – if you can not find a place on one, you can walk to the next.
Because of water pollution Rospotrebnadzor increasingly bans swimming at the beaches of Makhachkala and Kaspiysk. It is better to check the news on the website of the agency or on Instagram page beforehand. If the ban does not stop you (and usually it does not stop many), take care of safety: in advance start taking probiotics, which your doctor will advise you, use antiseptic more often, and if you go with children – wash toys with clean water and warn them that swallowing water is dangerous.
Dagestan National Museum
The Taho-Godi Museum is located on Daniyalov Street, where you can learn about the history of Dagestan. Inside, there are several themed halls. You will learn how the locals lived and dressed and even how they fought. Admission is paid for adults and school-age children: 100 and 50 ₽ respectively.
It is located in the center of the city, on Korkmasov Street. It is worth coming here if you want to see the complete opposite of the supermarkets. There are endless spacious rows of goods – from fruit to jewelry, chatty salespeople and, most importantly, local products that are cheaper than in the stores. But there are almost no signs – in order not to get lost, navigate by department.
Of the local products look for Urbech – paste made from ground nuts or seeds. I also suggest spices and dried meat or sausage. Meat and sausage is not to everyone’s liking, so it is better to take a small piece to try. It can be fried or boiled and then added to the dish or eaten alone.
Central Juma Mosque
Built along the lines of the famous Blue Mosque in Turkey. If you want to enter, go to the security guard. He will give you a hooded robe and explain how to behave so as not to disturb anyone.
On Friday from about 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, the locals gather here to perform collective prayers – it’s better to choose any other day for a visit.
Viewpoint on Mount Tarki-Tau
Here you can look at the city from the height and watch the sunrise. Any navigator can show you the route to the place, and the road is paved with asphalt.
Above the observation deck is a place from which you can see the city even better. The navigator will not help you to remember the route: when you come to the observation deck you will see a complex with horizontal bars and horizontal bars on your left and a staircase behind it. Follow it up to the dirt road, then turn left. Walk for 10-15 minutes until you find a comfortable place for climbing up the hill.
Ethnic Cultural Center
In this handicraft museum you can see the work of jewelers, painters, potters and weavers, and most of the pieces you can buy. The center is located in the southern part of the city, at the beginning of the Reductorny neighborhood – you definitely won’t miss this colorful facade. Admission is free.
If the national museum has only one hall devoted to handicrafts, here they are all over the Center.
Another great place for walks and photos. The park is located on the shore of the lake with the same name, which, unfortunately, quickly dries up. It is better to walk around “Ak-Gel” while it is still light. In the park you will find a monument to the Russian teacher and a museum of Makhachkala history.
A little further away from Ak-Gol, also on the lakeshore, is the Dragon amusement park. There are merry-go-rounds, kiosks with street food, and, of course, intrusive callers offering to throw darts and win prizes. All in the best traditions of such places.
What to see in the vicinity: the sights of Dagestan
In fact, a walk around Makhachkala and the surrounding area is a warm-up before the main trip around Dagestan. The most interesting locations and places, about which few people know, are outside the capital. It is more convenient to get to them by car, and ideally with a guide as part of the tour. Type “tour of Dagestan” into an Instagram search and you’ll see dozens of suggestions.
Where to eat in Makhachkala
I advise to look closely at the institutions with national cuisine. The minimum program for a tourist is meat kurze, khinkal and chudu of different kinds.
Restaurant “Gambit” is not a cheap place, but it’s cozy, tasty and the service is excellent. Besides Dagestani cuisine there are also Japanese and European ones. The average bill is 1500 ₽.
Hinkal Brothers Café has a wide choice of dishes and a hipster-style interior. Average bill – 650 ₽.
Number 1 Restaurant – If you want a delicious meal and don’t want to overpay for a fancy interior and pathos, look here. Mixed cuisine, average check – 500 ₽.
Restaurant “Na Lermontova” is a cozy place with museum exhibits from different parts of Dagestan. It offers European and Caucasian cuisine. Average bill is 1000 ₽.
Towers in the Mountains” is a small picturesque place with national cuisine. Average bill: 800 ₽.
Na Khinkal Restaurant is an inexpensive restaurant with delicious Dagestani cuisine. Average bill is 600 ₽.
Restaurant “Kazan-Mangal” – the facade and interior are decorated in oriental style, you can eat outdoors. However, not many local dishes are prepared. The average bill is ₽700.
If you don’t want to experiment, there are Dodo Pizza and KFC restaurants in Makhachkala. You can come across outlets with shawarma or other takeaway food on almost every corner. Good places almost always have lines.
When to go to Dagestan and what about the weather
The tourist season begins in late spring and ends in early fall.
For walks and sightseeing, it is better to come in the period from late May to June or in September. The average temperature at this time in Makhachkala is 20-25 ° C. The second half of July and August are suitable for a beach holiday: the air temperature rises to 30 ° C and the water temperature is 23-26 ° C. During the day at this time it is hot outside, it is dangerous to stay out in the sun for a long time.
Winter in plain Dagestan is mild, with mostly only plus temperatures. Rare frosts may be in January-February, usually not below 4-6 °C.
Before traveling to mountainous areas be sure to check the weather forecast. If heavy rains are expected, you may want to postpone your trip.
How to get to Makhachkala
You can get here from any big city: there are trains and buses, airplanes go to Makhachkala. In tourist season tickets are much more expensive, it’s better to buy them in advance. You can also come by private car.
By plane . The airport is 25 km from Makhachkala. You can get to the city by cab. Yandex.Taxi”, “Maxim” and local “Anzhi” work here. The trip will cost about 500 ₽. In 2021, there was news that shuttles started running from the airport to the city. The airport itself said they didn’t know about it.
Train . The station is not far from the center: you can get there in 20 minutes by shuttle no. 12. A cab will take 15 min, the trip will cost 100-150 ₽.
Bus . Most buses stop at the “Northern” bus station. You can get to the center on buses number 4, 45, 62 or the bus number 44a. The trip will take about half an hour. A little faster will take a cab, the trip costs 200 ₽.
How to get around Makhachkala
Cab in Makhachkala costs 100-250 ₽ if you move around not in peak hours.
In Makhachkala there are many marshrutkas which can take you almost anywhere. The fare is 27 ₽. As elsewhere, during rush hours the buses can be overcrowded. Trolleybuses are less popular: you pay 15 ₽ in cash and 13 ₽ by card. You can also take buses, which also have quite long routes. The 100th, for example, will take you to Kaspiysk. The bus fare is 15 ₽.
There are buses and marshrutkas, which go to Dagestan cities and villages, but usually not according to a strict schedule. The place of departure is the bus station “North” or “South”. Check the schedule of electric trains in the information station.
You can rent a car: for example, in the offices, located near the exit of the airport, or on the ad sites. If you rent a car with a manual transmission you usually pay about 1,500 ₽, if you have an automatic car it costs about 2,000-2,500 ₽.
Where to stay in Makhachkala
Ideally, it is better to live in the city center. If this is not possible, stay closer to Imam Shamil Avenue – it stretches through half of the city and intersects with all the main streets. If you plan to travel with the help of travel companies, it makes sense to focus on their points of departure.
Hotel in Makhachkala will cost from 1500 to 5000 ₽ per night. Hotels Central (from 2,000 ₽ per night), Central City Hotel (from 5,000 ₽), Jami (coast, from 3,000 ₽) have high ratings. There are also hostels, for example, you can spend the night for ₽600 in “Cherdak”.
Many locals rent out their apartments and houses for varying lengths of time. Look for offers on classifieds websites, there you can find comfortable options cheaper than hotels. And in the mountains is almost always the only way to find accommodation. Be careful: ask for additional photos, if the price is suspiciously low, if possible come to see in person, do not agree to prepay.
What to bring from Dagestan
Consider the products of local artisans – pottery and figurines, silver jewelry. On average, one such product will cost ₽1000-1500.
- Souvenir weapons: you can buy a knife for 1500-3000 ₽ and a dagger for 6000-8000 ₽.
- Papahs for 1200-1500 ₽ and burkas for 4000-5000 ₽.
- Local spices and herbs. So, a small bag of walnut herb will cost about 100 ₽.
There are quite a few souvenir stores in Makhachkala, such as ethnoboutique Highlander. But in general, you can get by with the same Ethnic Culture Center or the “Second” market.
Tips for tourists and first-time visitors
1. Do not be shy to once again remind them that you are a tourist. Hospitable seller or landlord will certainly make a discount. If the person does not mind haggling, then “I am a guest here” is your argument.
2. There are a lot of daredevils on the roads, so always be on your guard while driving.
3. Pay special attention to clothing: do not wear short skirts and shorts, tight clothes. No one will check what you are wearing, but it will help to avoid unnecessary attention.
4. It is better for the guy to check the way with the guys, and the girl with the girls. Talking to strangers of the opposite sex is not welcome among young people.