Makhachkala - the capital city, which is most likely to be the first destination of this journey. It can be reached by plane, train, or car driving down the federal highway. If seeing the see is a priority before climbing the mountains, it is best to stop in Caspisk (19 km away from Makhachkala). We recommend ‘Djami’ hotel where we found accommodations for friends and family during our wedding.
The Tastiest Places in Makhachkala
Restaurant ‘House 15’
The owners of our favourite Dagestani shop in Moscow opened it. ‘House 15’ is the first home Rasul Gamzatov purchased after receiving Lenin’s award. This establishment does not have an exact address or signs. In order to reach it, one must pass through the arch near the house number 18 on Gamzatov street, turn right and look for a garage gate.
As a rule, Dagestanis prefer to eat at home; however, even the local enjoy this place. Various meal are served here: from breakfast hot cereals made with sun-dried apricots to all kinds of hinkal. The staff refers to its selection as ‘authentic Dagestani cuisine with a little twist and a lot of love’.
In Int restaurant we recommend to try Buza, a local light alcoholic drink based on the original recipe of the highlanders using barley and spring water. This place has a very flamboyant with decorative rugs, pitchers, papakhas, and daggers.
There is only one dish cooked here: meat kyachi, a flat bread with meat, dairy whey, caraway, onion, and pepper). The dish is so popular that there is always a long line to get it.
Gorkogo Street, 58, Buynaksk, Dagestan
The legendary ‘Grilled Chicken’ has been attracting customers for the better part of 15 years selling its chickens soaked in secret marinade. Everyone is very excited about this place and its famous product.
V60 and Ground Coffee Roastery
The boom of fashionable coffee shops and specialty cafes has reached Makhachkala as well, which has triggered the opening of such places as V60 and Ground Coffee Roastery. They offer the perfect roast in a very pleasant ambiance.
The main wealth of Dagestan is certainly hidden in its mountains.
Local dwellers offer accommodations right at their traditional homes where one get get a tasty meal and hear a lot of interesting stories. This is always a fun local experience in its excellence.
The local guest house registry can be found on the website of the Ministry of Tourism RD. Advanced arrangements need to be made with the hosts.
Head out from Makhachkala to Dubki village to see from the observation deck not only the canyon itself but also a part of hydro power plant. Trust us, it is a truly breathtaking view. It is best to choose the route via Buynaksk as you will also catch the Chirkeysk reservoir.
Having enjoyed the canyon view in Dubki, get ready for even more impressive views on the way to Zubutli village. It is a must see place where one may feel like James Bond taking boat rides in the Sulak Canyon. This beauty is emulous of similar Italian and Swiss landscapes.
The route to Zubutli is not an easy one. It is not paved, pretty extreme and narrow, has no road guards and can take up to 1.5 hours. You will definitely remember this road!
Then we recommend going to Tsada village in Hunzakh region, the birthplace of a famous Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov. Here it is necessary to visit the museum house of Gamzat Tsadas (the poet’s father and a founding father of Avar literature). Another sightseeing of this place is the ‘White Crane’ memorial built to commemorate the fallen heros.
Just a few kilometers away from Tsada there is Hunzakh Village, the center of mountainous Dagestan. This village is situated 2000 meters above the sea level. The views and the waterfalls of the Xolotl Canyon which literally split the Hunzakh palto are just mind-boggling.
The Ghost Town of Gamsutl
The next destination is Avar region. One the most mysterious places here is the abandoned town of Gamsutl which was built right on the mountain. It is often referred to as the Machu Picchu of Dagestan. ‘Gamsutl’ means a village that did not get conquered by the khan. Two years ago the last resident of this pace passed away. He came to this abandoned town and resided in it for 20 years.
Pyramid-shaped Mountain of Babaku (Laksk region)
This place is very hard to reach. However, we highly recommend it to the lovers of nature and adventure. The mountain is incredibly beautiful, and its peak is pyramid-shaped. The way up here is not easy, about 20 kilometres uphill. We ended up there at night, and never have we seen so many stars, the Milky Way seemed an arm’s length away.
This village is famous for its craftsmen who create the most admirable daggers and jewelry using an inimitable technique that is passed down the generations.
Having visited Kubachi, there is a way down the shore leading to the most ancient city of Dagestan, Derbent. It is considered one of the the oldest still dwelling cities on Earth. The main sightseeing of this city is its five-thousand-year-old tower Narin-kala, a UNESCO world heritage sight.
Illustration by @b.daria