North Caucasus holiday in Russia
Description of North Caucasus holiday in Russia
The Caucasus is one of our favourite places in the world, and this small group holiday takes you to the least visited part of this region – the North Caucasus. While we have been taking visitors to the South Caucasus (Georgia and Azerbaijan) since 2004, the North Caucasus is a new departure and presents the opportunity to explore the isolated villages and soaring mountains of once off limits republics of the Russian Federation.
Some of these republics, such as Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, have gained an unenviable reputation due to recent conflict, but the region is now slowly opening up to visitors, and curious and intrepid travellers will find an authenticity and charm that can be hard to find in the age of mass tourism.
This is an adventure rather than a simple holiday, where you’ll make your way from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, passing by the tallest mountain in Europe (5642m Mount Elbrus), medieval fortifications in Ingushetia and UNESCO World Heritage site laden Dagestan. You’ll be blown away by the hospitality of the local people and their efforts to maintain their heritage in the ever changing modern world.
PlanetWe have a strict environmental policy to make sure that the environments we visit are not damaged or spoilt in any way. Our “Leave No Trace” ethic is applied to this trip and as tour operators, it is something we are careful to promote. Your guide on this trip will have been trained to uphold this policy and all clients are fully briefed on appropriate/responsible behaviour whilst in wilderness areas.
We are very aware of the economic, ecological and ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures and fragile environments. We realise that taking clients through this region can have a negative impact on the environment if not handled responsibly and as such, on all of our trips we go to great lengths to minimise the negative and accentuate the positive - after all, there are also many good things that the traveller can bring.
By keeping the group size to a maximum of 12, we can also minimise the human impact on the fragile sites we visit – particularly important as this trip visits some delicate ecosystems. An example of this can be seen on day 8 when we will head into Ingushetia, one of the best places for walking and for seeing some of the regions medieval towers, some of which date back to the 17th century. On this day our guides will ensure that clients uphold our “Leave No Trace” ethic environmentally as well as on the sites we are viewing.
We also consider it equally important to respect the significance attached to sites and support the preservation of local architecture and historical sites as well as the natural environment. On day 6 we will visit The Rekom Shrine – one of the most famous and revered sacred places in Ossetia, being the sanctuary of the patron saint of warriors and travellers – which provides a great opportunity to learn more about the history of the region.
PeopleIn the North Caucasus we use local ground handlers - this means that all the operational costs go directly into the local economy and helps to improve employment opportunities in remote regions. By incorporating homestays, locally owned hotels, family run restaurants and the services of guides and drivers into our itineraries, we ensure that money you spend on your trip goes directly into the local economy and local communities benefit from tourism.
It is particularly important to ensure that the local economy is benefitting from our tours in the North Caucasus because these are rarely visited territories with very limited exposure to the benefits that tourism can bring to a region.
Our engagement with the local communities can be seen throughout this trip not only in our use of family run guesthouses, but also through activities such as doing an Ossetian cookery class at a local restaurant on day 7 and visiting a potter’s workshop on day 12.
We believe it is important to show respect for local traditions, cultures and history. For this reason our journey from the Black to the Caspian Sea includes UNESCO world heritage sites such as the citadel in Derbent which we visit on day 13. This itinerary includes a number of activities that provide opportunity to engage with local cultural traditions. On day 3 we will visit the household museum of Zumudin Guchev and familiarise ourselves with the culture of the Circassians, as well as meeting a master Circassian swordsman in Nalchik on day 5. Another example of encountering local tradition can be seen when we will meet the leader of the folk-music band Kona on day 6, who is reviving the Ossetian musical tradition.
In order to facilitate an enduring support structure for the communities we visit, and to show a commitment to these values, in January 2009 we set up a charitable foundation through which we can directly channel funds to both existing NGOs and our own development projects. In addition to organising ethically sensitive tours, having our own charitable foundation allows us to raise money – through the cost of our tours, charity trips and fund raising events – which can then be used to fund various projects in education, sanitation, reforestations and a number of other important issues facing developing communities.