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Dagestan

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Travel Warning WARNING: Travel to Dagestan is extremely dangerous and strongly discouraged, due to high criminal activity, frequent bombing and general lawlessness and crimes. Due to its neighbouring of Chechnya, Chechen terrorists often target Russia for bombings or for terrorist threats. If you are planning to visit Dagestan, consult to your embassy before you are planning a trip to this region.

Dagestan (Russian: Респу́блика Дагеста́н rees-POOB-lee-kuh dah-gee-STAHN) is a region of Russia in the North Caucasus bordering Chechnya and Georgia to the west, Stavropol Krai and Kalmykia to the north, the Caspian Sea to the east, and Azerbaijan to the South. Due to its own instability and its proximity to Chechnya, Dagestan is an unsafe travel destination, but travel is possible for the intrepid.

Regions[edit]

Cities[edit]

  • Makhachkala — capital and largest city
  • Buynaksk — in central Dagestan in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus Mountains
  • Derbent — 5,000 year old walled city and UNESCO World Heritage site on the Caspian in southern Dagestan; a must visit for any traveller in Dagestan
  • Khasavyurt — a relatively large city (for the region) near the border with Chechnya
  • Tindi — a small picturesque aul with a historic minaret in the mountains of southwestern Dagestan, near the Georgian and Chechen borders; probably not a safe area for travel
  • Kizlyar — a city near the border with Chechnya and Stavropol krai (region)
  • Yuzhno-Sukhokumsk — a city located is northwest Dagestan
  • Izberbash - A city south of Makhachkala on midway to Derbent. Beside caspian beach, you can see Pushkin Tao, a mountain, which resembles the face of Pushkin.
  • Kaspisk - another resort city on caspian sea. Here you can see the only remaining Ekranoplan(a soviet huge boat designed for Caspian sea)
  • Kizilyurt - a good hub t visit Chirkey hydroelectric Dam, which is biggest in Dagestan. It forms a beautiful lake on Sulak river

Other destinations[edit]

  • Dagestansky Nature Reserve — comprised of the marshy Kizlyar Bay region (a bird watcher's paradise) and the desert Sarykum Sand Desert region
  • Sulak Canyon - an amazing landscape of Sulak river and Chirkey dam/lake. The nature is very intact and stunning. If you are lucky you can see many eagles flying around. The region can be reached by car and is not far from MAkhachkala.
  • Pushkin Tao - A mountain that is said to look like famous russian author; Pushkin Tao is close to city of Izber bash, south of Dagestan.

Understand[edit]

Dagestan shares with its Caucasian neighbours the towering mountains of the Greater Caucasus, rushing Caucasian rivers, and spectacularly situated stone auls (mountaintop villages). But in an already diverse region, Dagestan is a wonderland of ethnic and cultural diversity. About 35 separate ethnolinguistic groups live in this Scotland-sized republic and the region contains an amazing 12 language families! For all this cultural diversity, Dagestanis are fairly united in their Islamic religion — virtually all non-Russian ethnic groups are Muslim. This is probably true since almost 32,000 people have left in a mass exit from Dagestan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many of those people were the Mountain Jews--Juhuro--who spoke Persian or one of its dialects.

Get in[edit]

Makhachkala will almost certainly be your first destination, whether by plane from Moscow, or by train via Rostov-on-the-Don through Mineralnye Vody. Note that security is very tight at the Makhachkala airport.

Get around[edit]

Talk[edit]

Within the 7 language families of the Dagestanian language grouping alone there are about 30 languages, many of them considered among the most difficult in the world to master. Fortunately, everyone, regardless of nationality, understands the lingua franca, Russian. Azeri is also widely used in the southeast Caspian region around Derbent; those who speak Turkish may be able to make themselves understood in this area.

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Famed Dagestani rugs
  • Beluga Caviar
  • Traditional swords and daggers of the various ethnic groups
  • Traditional hats and costumes

Eat[edit][add listing]

Dagestan is famous for its local dishes of: hinkal (a tasty pasta/dough-like entity served with garlic sauce and some kind of meat, usually young, boiled lamb), chudu (a quesadilla-like thin dough with special meats, cheeses or vegetables inside), and shashlik (roast shishkabab, usually lamb meat). There are countless cafes serving Dagestani and Russian foods. A handful of newer Asian (Chinese/Japanese) restaurants have sprung up, but woefully lack in authenticity and flavor. Western foods are likewise a scarcity. There are NO Western food chains to be found anywhere in Dagestan. And don't be fooled by the many advertisements for 'pizza' - even by typical Russian standards, the pizzas here lack the most basic ingredients of pizza sauce, cheeses, pepperoni, etc. The closest you'll come to finding a 'real' steak will be at the new 'El Gusto' cafe close the centre of Makhachkala, a delightful new restaurant where you can find a few other Western dishes satisfactorily prepared (e.g., Chicken Schnitzel). On the whole, unless you like traditional Dagestani dishes, you will not be impressed. Like other former Soviet Union contexts, customer service is completely lacking, and Dagestani culture adds to the experience the guarantee of waiting a very, very long time for your order!

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Learn[edit]

  • Dagestan State University — located in Makhachkala
  • Dagestan State Technical University — located in Makhachkala
  • Dagestan State Medical Academy, Makhachkala (formerly known as Dagestan State Medical Institute). Caters local and international students,mainly from south east countries.

Work[edit]

Stay safe[edit]

Dagestan is not a safe tourist destination by any stretch of the imagination. The mountainous areas of the republic (which may be considered the most interesting areas) have seen major military operations between various groups and the Russian military in recent years. Criminal activity is widespread throughout the region, often targeting the few foreign tourists that do continue to visit for kidnapping, extortion, or worse. Dagestan shares with the rest of the North Caucasus an extravagantly corrupt official culture. Bribes and harassment are business as usual. However, it is generally the north of Dagestan that is actually safe to travel.

The situation is much better in 2014. Terrorism has reduced dramatically and is not palpable. Makhachkala is as safe as any russian city.

If you'd like to catch a glimpse of Dagestani culture and beauty, check online for a copy of the late Sergei Bodrov's haunting film, Prisoner of the Mountains (Кавказский пленник), which was shot in a Dagestani mountain aul, hiring the villagers as extras.

With that being said, visits to Makhachkala and the vibrant fortress city of Derbent (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) can be considered significantly safer. Mini buses come and go every half an hour. However, safety in the mountain regions cannot be guaranteed. Exercise extreme caution; solo trekking trips are not encouraged.

Stay healthy[edit]

Respect[edit]

Dagestan is a predominantly conservative Muslim region with very strong chivalric mountaineer traditions. Be careful not to insert yourself into local politics or to insult locals' sense of honor, or you might find yourself estranged (i.e. shot) in a strange land.

Contact[edit]

Mobile[edit]

In Dagestan there are four GSM/3G-UMTS operators (MTS,Beeline,Megafon) and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with Dagestanian and other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. If you buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than $US10.

Embassies and Consulates[edit]

Visitors should know that there is no real embassy or consulate in Dagestan. Your best bet would be Moscow in Russia, Tbilisi in Georgia, Baku in Azerbaijan, or Yerevan in Armenia. Good luck!

Get Out[edit]

Uytash Airport between Makhachkala and Kaspijsk.



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