Chechnya is one of the most fascinating region I have visited in Russia, it is such a unique place you won’t regret the journey there ! With its splendid nature and long history, the chechen republic has a lot more to offer than just a couple of days quickly spent in its now fully rebuilt capital city.
I’ve put together a list of the 7 must-see places in Chechnya that can be visited in a week. Most of the places mentionned are easy to reach, however some require to be resourceful or the budget to pay for a driver. Only the last one needs a border zone permit and is hard to get to.
1 – Grozny
Грозный – Grozny, the unfamous chechen capital is most likely the place you will arrive at first. Grozny is unlike any city in the North Caucasus, it’s been fully rebuilt since the early 2000’s wars and you will notice a striking difference especially if coming from the neighboring Dagestan or Ingushetia.
The city center is easily walkabe, from Kadyrova to Putina prospekt (no kidding, the only Putin avenue in the country), visit the Heart of Chechnya’s mosque next to the Sunja river, Grozny City the mini chechen Dubai, museums and the many trendy cafés and restaurants.
There are daily trains from Moscow and other cities, buses and marshrutkas from the neighboring capitals of Magas and Makhachkala and also marshrutkas to/from Baku in Azerbaijan.
If you travel from Georgia, there’s no direct mini bus from Tbilissi, you must go to Vladikavkaz first, then take a marshrutka to Magas and another one to Grozny.
2 – Kezenoy-Am lake
Озеро Казеной-Ам – Located at 1869 meters in the mountains between Dagestan and Chechnya, Kezenoy – Am is the largest lake in the North Caucasus. Its name means “blue lake” and is the #1 must-visit natural sight in the republic.
It’s a very popular spot among locals so many people drive up there. You can “easily” reach the lake by hitchhiking from Grozny (I did).
It is best to visit during the warm months as it is frozen and covered of snow in the winter.
Kezenoy-Am is 100 kilometers from Grozny but there’s no public transportation to get there. Many people drive, ask them for a ride.
There’s also a road from Botlikh in Dagestan, but definitely not as good as the one from Vedeno in Chechnya.
3 – Khoy
Хой – Khoy is an ancient village located about 2 kilometers from Kezenoy – Am. It has been abandoned after the deportation of the chechen population in 1944 but restaured recently and now serves as an open-air museum.
It’s a great example of traditional caucasian aul (fortified village) with it’s defensive and residential towers, mosque and houses. Its name in chechen means “home of the guards”. There’re also man made field terraces nearby.
A road leads to the village from Kezenoy-Am lake. You can easily hike the distance in 20 minutes.
There’s an entrance fee of 100₽
4 – Shali’s mosque
Шалинская мечеть – Shali’s mosque named after Prophet Muhammad and inaugurated in 2019, is Europe’s largest mosque. It’s made of white marble, has 63 meters high minarets and can host up to 30 000 worshippers inside and 70 000 on its ground officials say. The mosque is really breathtaking, don’t miss it out !
A version of Grozny city was built in Shali and is litteraly named Shali city. It’s located right next to the mosque and has a hotel I recommend you if you plan to stay in the city overnight. Ask for a room with a view on the mosque.
There are daily marshrutkas from Grozny to Shali.
5 – Ushkaloy twin towers
Ушкалойские башни – The Ushkaloy twin towers located in the Argun gorge were, back in the days, the entrance gate to historical Chechnya and is now probably the most accessible gorge in Chechnya, tourist-wise.
There’s one road along the gorge passing a few interesting sights including the Nikaloy waterfall, the Ushkaloy towers and heading all the way to Itum – Kale.
The Ushkaloy twin towers are located on the other side of the river from the road and were defensive towers guarding the entrance of the Argun gorge. They date back to the 11th century and are about 12 meters high. The inside cannot be visited, there’s no bridge crossing the river from the road.
There’s public transportation all the way to Itum – Kale, which is 7 kilometers after the towers, on the same road.
6 – Pkhakoch castle
Замок Пхакоч – Located at the beginning of the Tazbichi gorge in Itum – Kale, Pkhakoch castle is a medieval complex with defensive towers, a mosque, a windmill, various buildings and fortifications dating back to the 10th to 12th century. The whole complex has been restaured and turned into a museum with small exhibits inside some of the buildings.
There are daily marshrutkas from Grozny to Itum – Kale. The entrance fee to the castle is 50₽
7 – Tsoy – Pede
Цой Педе – Tsoy – Pede is one of the three largest necropolis in the North Caucasus with Dargavs in North Ossetia – Alania and Fardyk – Keshene in Kabardino – Balkaria.
There are about 40 cripts and a watch tower dating back to the 14th century, before the conversion of chechens to Islam (they did between the 16th and 19th century) so these cripts have pagan symbols carved on the stones.
Tsoy – Pede is located within the russian border zone. A permit is mandatory or you will not pass the military post. I’ve applied twice for it and got denied each time because I was a “foreigner” they said. Nonsense. Anyway, I wrote a detailed border zone permit guide so you can apply for it by yourself. You may be luckier than me and get granted access to visit this unique place !
To reach Tsoy – Pede you need your own car. You can go to Itum – Kale by public transport but after that, there’s none.
The necropolis is about 30 kilometers on a dirt road after the military post, which is located just outside the village of Itum- Kale.
Of course there are tones of other places, abandoned picturesque auls and their stone towers to explore Chechnya. You could spend a whole month or more travelling across the republic and not get bored.
Check out my Chechen travel itinerary suggestions for more inspirations.
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