8-day Gastronomy and Culture of North Ossetia, Kalmykia and Astrakhan Tour8 Days | Vladikavkaz, Pyatigorsk, Elista, Astrakhan

8-day Gastronomy and Culture of North Ossetia, Kalmykia and Astrakhan Tour

Experience the culture of south-western Russia through its food! In addition to showcasing the historical, architectural, and scenic highlights of this fascinating, yet less-visited, region, this tour gives you the chance to try traditional delicacies from Ossetian pies and Kalmykia village food to Caspian caviar. Immerse yourself in the Soviet atmosphere of Moscow’s Glavpivtorg Restaurant, dine at an Ossetian brewery, enjoy delicious fresh fish dishes at a sturgeon farm, and participate in several culinary master classes. Other highlights include visiting one of the largest Buddhist temples in Europe, exploring the evocative Dargavs Necropolis in the mountains of Ossetia, experiencing traditional Kalmyk village culture. Discover the unique republics of North Ossetia-Alania and Kalmykia, the “Caspian Capital”, Astrakhan, and the Caucasian Mineral Waters ecological region on this 8-day Gastronomy and Culture of North Ossetia, Kalmykia and Astrakhan tour.

Tour itinerary:

Day 1: Vladikavkaz
 
Arrival in Vladikavkaz, the capital of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, meet your driver and transfer to a country restaurant for a lunch of traditional cuisine. After lunch, drive to the hotel, check in, and take a short break. Then take a sightseeing tour of Vladikavkaz to discover the peculiarities of local architecture, learn about the famous people who lived in the city, and experience the culture of the Caucasian peoples. While strolling along the beautiful streets, you’ll feel the city’s history and see impressive buildings including the former tobacco factory, the former Serdalo printing house, and the mansion of the merchant Oganov. Continue to the Folk Crafts Centre, where you’ll hear stories about wedding customs in the republic and watch a demonstration of national costumes. The tour ends with dinner at an Ossetian brewery, which includes snacks, up to five types of beer, and a talk on the history of the brewery and on beer culture in the region. Return to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 3-4 hours
Day 2: Kadargavan Gorge – Kurtat Gorge – Karmadon Gorge – Dargavs Necropolis – Pyatigorsk
 
Breakfast followed by a day trip deep into the mountains of Ossetia (40 km one-way) to discover three stunning gorges—Kadargavan, Kurtat, and Karmadon. Visit a local café, take a master class on cooking Ossetian pies, and then taste your pies for lunch. Continue to the Holy Dormition Monastery, the highest mountain monastery in Russia. Then discover the Dargavs Necropolis, the largest architectural complex in the North Caucasus, which consists of about 100 burial buildings. The 16th-18th century crypts still contain skeletons and many mummified bodies. The final highlight of the sightseeing tour is visiting the Kurt and Tag Towers. Afterwards, transfer to Pyatigorsk (200 km, 4 hours) and check in to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 3: Pyatigorsk – Elista
 
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and take a tour of Pyatigorsk, a spa resort that belongs to the Caucasian Mineral Waters ecological region. Stroll through the magnificent Flower Garden, enjoy the view from the Eolova Arfa gazebo, and see the famous Proval underground lake. Then take the cable car to Mount Mashuk to enjoy a magnificent view of the city, the mountains, and, if you’re lucky, Mount Elbrus (the highest mountain in Russia and Europe). After lunch at a restaurant in Pyatigorsk, drive to Elista, the capital of the Republic of Kalmykia (350km, 5 hours) and check in to the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 4-5 hours
Day 4: Elista
 
Breakfast, followed by a sightseeing tour of Elista, the centre of Russian Buddhism. This is a fascinating opportunity to experience Asian culture, people, and cuisine in Europe. Starting at the Golden Horseman monument to the hero of the Kalmyk epic “Dzhangar”, you’ll continue to the Chess Palace City, where the 33rd World Chess Olympiad was held, and the “Exodus and Return” Memorial Complex dedicated to the victims of Stalinist repressions. Nevertheless, the highlight of your visit to Elista will undoubtedly be visiting The Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni, one of the largest Buddhist temples in Europe. After this, take a master class on making beriks (Kalmyk dumplings) and have lunch at a restaurant serving national cuisine. Following lunch, visit the National Museum named after Palmova, which boasts about 70,000 artifacts. View exhibitions about the history, ethnography, and culture of the Kalmyk people, objects of Buddhist cult and old Kalmyk art, and modern Kalymyk fine art. Return to the hotel. Free time to explore the city independently. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 5: Elista – Adyk village – Elista
 
After breakfast, drive to Adyk village (140 km, 1h45min) to experience traditional Kalmyk culture. On the way, discover unique natural features including the only desert in Europe, a salty pink lake, and a burning water source.
After a lunch of traditional cuisine in the village, you’ll have the chance to walk around and see local life, have your photo taken in national costumes, take a master class in playing dombra, and try solving the Kalmyk puzzle, nurn shin. Afterwards, return to Elista. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 6-7 hours
Day 6: Elista – Astrakhan
 
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and transfer to Astrakhan (311 km, 4h). After checking in to your new hotel, take a break for lunch (not included). Then take a sightseeing tour to discover Astrakhan’s rich history, which was once part of the Golden Horde and a Tatar Khanate. Visit the Kremlin and one of the most beautiful cathedrals, Assumption Cathedral. Stroll along the beautiful streets of the city centre and the Volga Embankment. See the Arc de Triomphe, old mansions, Iranian and Armenian courtyards, the Annunciation Monastery, and the chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. Walk around the city’s main square, Lenin Square, and see Swan Lake, the Temple of St. Vladimir, and the Tatar Settlement. Enjoy a welcome dinner at a city restaurant (national cuisine). Return to the hotel. Overnight at the hotel.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 4-5 hours
Day 7: Astrakhan
 
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive to a sturgeon farm where species such as beluga, Russian and Siberian sturgeon, bester, and sterlet are kept. See how sturgeon are raised on the farm and learn how black caviar, one of the most expensive delicacies in the world, is obtained. Then enjoy a lunch of delicious fish dishes prepared by the chef (if you wish, you may also try the caviar (extra cost)). After lunch, take a master class on cooking fish dishes. Finally, transfer to the pier to take a boat tour of the Volga River Delta. Enjoy the unique and impressive landscapes, flora, birds, and fish and, between July and early September, see the beautiful flowers blooming at the famous lotus fields. The boat will take you to the tourist camp. Dinner. Overnight at the recreation centre at the tourist camp.
Duration of sightseeing tour: 5-6 hours
Day 8: Astrakhan – Departure
 
After breakfast, drive to the airport in Astrakhan. Departure. End of the tour.
  • All transfers (1-2 pax by sedan type car, 3-7 pax by van type car, 8-13 pax by 30 seat bus, 14+ pax by 40-50 seat bus);
  • Accommodation based on double room sharing, breakfasts included;
  • 6 lunches and 2 dinners;
  • Sightseeing tour programme in each city with local, English-speaking guides;
  • Entrance tickets to sights as per itinerary;
  • Visa support for Russia tourist visa;
  • In groups of 11 or more travellers, 1 person travels free of charge and is accommodated in a single room.
  • Tour leader to accompany the travellers for the whole tour;
  • Full board (lunches and dinners, unless otherwise stated);
  • Hotel charges for additional services;
  • Consular fees for Russia tourist visa;
  • International flight tickets before and after the tour
  • Personal travel insurance;
  • Tips/gratuities for guides and drivers (although these would be appreciated).

Accommodation:

Economy Option
Comfort Option
Vladikavkaz - 1 night
Vladikavkaz HotelVladikavkaz Hotel
Pyatigorsk - 1 night
Beshtau HotelBeshtau Hotel
Elista - 3 nights
Belyy Lotos HotelMarco Polo Hotel
Astrakhan - 1 night
Azimut Hotel, Lotus HotelPark Inn by Radisson, Astrakhanskaya Hotel, Victoria Palas Hotel
Astrakhan region - 1 night
Recreation CentreRecreation Centre

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