North Ossetia – an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

When you first arrive in North Ossetia, you will be amazed by many things. How beautiful and high the snowy mountain ranges are, piercing the sky literally half an hour’s drive from Vladikavkaz. You will be surprised by the friendliness of the local residents and the number of noteworthy objects on the territory of this seemingly small republic. Glaciers, ancient towers in the mountains, herds of horses, walks above the clouds – spending a weekend in the region can bring you a huge amount of exciting emotions.

North Ossetia is ideal for both those who simply admire the mountains and fans of trekking and multi-day hikes and climbs. It is also convenient for families with children, since the distances are short, and the hotels and camp sites are quite comfortable (there are even hot springs).

When to go to North Ossetia

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

The ideal season to visit North Ossetia is from April to November. Waterfalls are fullest in June, rhododendrons bloom in June and September, golden autumn begins in October, and summer in the mountains is not as hot as in the lowland regions.

Well, in winter, the Tsey ski complex operates for guests of the region, and the Mamison resort is also being built.

How to get to North Ossetia

The easiest way is by plane. An air ticket from Moscow to Vladikavkaz will cost 4,700 rubles* round-trip. 

Exploring Ossetia using public transport is not very convenient. Mainly due to the fact that the most interesting points are located outside populated areas. Therefore, we recommend renting a car.

Where to stay in North Ossetia

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

Most accommodation facilities are located in Vladikavkaz, but we recommend staying at least once in one of the gorges – in each you will find interesting hotels or cottages, for example:  

Wellness center “Wind Rose” – from 5300 rubles* per night for two;
Art Hotel Fiagdon – from 4900 rubles* per night for two.

Features of the region

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

North Ossetia is a non-Muslim republic. And yet, it is also customary here to follow certain rules in clothing: women should not wear miniskirts, see-through items or short tops. For men – shorts and sleeveless T-shirts.

In addition, women are not allowed to enter sanctuaries (zuars). In appearance, they resemble gazebos with tables and benches; most often, they are found along roads and are always fenced. In fact it is –  religious objects.

Communication in the mountains does not work. First download one of the offline maps to your smartphone to make it easier to navigate the area.

What to see: sights of North Ossetia


North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

The city of the dead, the ancient necropolis, is the most popular attraction of the republic. Crypt houses are scattered on the hillside against the backdrop of high mountains. Inside, through small windows, skulls, bones, and coffins in the shape of boats are visible. The spectacle is at once picturesque, impressive and thought-provoking. Dargavs is located 43 km from Vladikavkaz; by car you can cover this distance in about an hour, driving through the picturesque Karmadon Gorge.

Entrance —100 rubles*.

Valley of Midagrabin waterfalls

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

C of the stone wall of the mountains surrounding the valley, the jets of eight waterfalls with a height of 120 to 750 meters fall down. In winter they freeze completely, and in November they dry out almost completely. By the way, the highest waterfall in Europe and the fifth highest waterfall in the world is located here – Big Zeygalan. We recommend visiting Dargavs and the Midagrabin Valley in one day – they are located not far from each other. The distance from Vladikavkaz is 55 km, you can overcome it in an hour and a half. True, you won’t be able to get to the waterfalls themselves by car; you’ll have to walk the last 3 km.

Excursion to Dargavs and the Midagrabin Valley can be complemented by a stop at the swing over the abyss (42.837878, 44.330508) and the Kurt Tower (42.850484, 44.316506) on the descent into the nearby Fiagdon Gorge.

Tsey (ski resort and glacier)

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

The Tseysky glacier is incredibly picturesque. And most importantly, you can go up to its tongue itself, touch it, take a photo, see the thickness of the ice above your head… And all this – during a long, but accessible walk for almost everyone.

The duration of the trek is about 10 km. It takes about five hours, including rest at the glacier and return.

An alternative for those who are not confident in their abilities is to take the cable car of the Tsey ski center. It offers a view of the neighboring glacier – Skazsky (you won’t be able to get close to it, just look from the side).

The distance from Vladikavkaz to the Tsey resort is 89 km, by car you will cover it in about two hours. On the way, be sure to visit the monument to Uastirdzhi (the patron saint of men and the most revered saint in Ossetia) in the Alagir Gorge. His huge figure seems to be carried out on horseback from a cliff towering above the route (42.958899, 44.211817).

Ancient Ossetian villages (Lisri, Tib, Galiat, Kamunta, Tsimiti)

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

Mountain villages and watchtowers are a classic image of the Caucasus. The largest and most picturesque of the Ossetian villages:

Tsimiti (Alagir Gorge, 54 km from Vladikavkaz); 
Lisri and Tib (Mamison Gorge; 100 km from Vladikavkaz, on the road you will see the Zaramagskoe reservoir);
Galiat and Kamunta (Digorskoe gorge, 120 km from Vladikavkaz).

Karaugom Glacier

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

Another very beautiful trek, but this time it requires a certain level of endurance: you will go on a hike for the whole day, you will have to walk 8 km in one direction only. It is necessary to obtain a pass to the border zone in advance on the State Services website or at the unit of the Border Directorate of the FSB of Russia in the village. Dzinaga (you will have to wait at least an hour for registration), where the track begins.

The trail along the edge of the gorge goes through picturesque bridges, thickets of rhododendrons and leads to the tongue of the glacier. From the main vantage point (42.837078, 43.707899), watch the ice giant slide down the mountains into the valley.

On the route you need to take water, a snack and a passport for registration of the pass.

The distance from Vladikavkaz to Dzinaga is 120 km and three hours by car.

Ossetian art objects

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

Photo: Sergei Afanasev/

For several years now, the guys from the Mah Kond creative workshop have been installing thematic art objects in the most significant and picturesque places in North Ossetia. They will perfectly complement any tourist route, become a backdrop for selfies, and at the same time introduce you to the culture of the region.

Currently, 10 objects are ready, the most famous of them are the letter of the Ossetian alphabet Æ, installed between Fiagdon and Dargavs, the “Scythian akinak” at the entrance to the Midagrabin Valley, the “Cornucopia” near the village of Buron and “Khysyn” fandyr” near the Galiata waterfall.

More details on the studio’s Instagram.

Ossetian cuisine

North Ossetia - an underrated pearl of the Caucasus

The most popular dish in Ossetia is the pie of the same name. According to tradition, this dish must be served and placed on the table in a certain way. 

For tourists this is tasty, inexpensive and accessible food. The fillings are very different: meat, cheese, potatoes, pumpkin, beet tops and even wild garlic. Prices range from 200-250 rubles* for a huge pie with any filling except meat (it will cost about 400 rubles*), and there will be more meat in it than dough.

Note: outside of Vladikavkaz, small cafes and points selling pies and kebabs close early, around 18:00.

*Prices valid at time of publication

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