The North Caucasus mountains are home to an incredibly diverse ecosystem, fauna, glaciers, lakes and so on. If you are a nature lover, you won’t be disappointed by a trip to probably the most underrated corner of the European continent. You might be surprised to learn that a couple of these nature reserves have the UNESCO biosphere status !
Here are from east to west 7 amazing National Parks and Nature Reserves you must visit while travelling in the Russian Caucasus.
Last updated : 06/02/2023
Erzi Nature Reserve
The little known republic of Ingushetia is hiding a big secret within the Erzi Nature Reserve. It’s named after the Erzi complex towers like hundreds of others scattered in the Ingush mountains. These medieval stones towers and necropolis are unique to the Caucasus. Created in the year 2000, the Nature Reserve covers 35 000 hectares in the Dzheyrakhsky district. 1/3 of Erzi is covered of forests and above 3000 metres it’s all mountain meadows, glaciers and high peaks.
The Erzi Nature Reserve is located within the border zone of Russia and requires a special permit. There are no entrance fees but without a border zone permit, you won’t go pass the military posts on the roads.
As well as being a nature and historical reserve, it’s also one of the most off the beaten path region in the North Caucasus and in Russia.
Alania National Park
The Alania National Park in North Ossetia, named after the ancient Kingdom of Alania aims to protect the natural as well as the cultural heritage of the Alans, ancestors of today’s Ossetians. The National Park was created in 1998 and covers almost 55 000 hectares of meadows, forests, glaciers, valleys and plenty of ruined stones villages and towers.
There are lots of marked hiking trails to explore but a border zone permit is necessary and you must request a pass to have the right to stay in the park. Apply online for the pass and pick it up the follow week in Vladikavkaz.
Check out the official Alania National Park website for full details.
Kabardino-Balkaria Nature Reserve
The Kabardino-Balkaria Nature Reserve in the Kabardino Balkaria republic is a true paradise for experienced mountain hikers and even novices depending on where you go. It is home to 5 of the Caucasus peaks above 5000 meters high (higher than the Mont Blanc !) and a great amount of glaciers !
The 82 000 hectares Nature Reserve was created in 1976 and almost 3/4 of its territory is above the tree line.
To go hiking in most parts of the Kabardino-Balkaria Nature Reserve, including the famous Bezengi wall, a border zone permit is a must-have and depending on where you go a small entrance fee must be paid.
Check out the official Kabardino-Baklaria Nature Reserve website for more informations and hiking routes.
Prielbrusye National Park
The Prielbrusye National Park in Kabardino – Balkaria is named after Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe. The National Park was created in 1986 to ensure the preservation of Russia’s highest twin peaks and its breathtaking surrounding. It offers plenty of hiking options for every kind of hikers.
Even if you don’t plan on climbing the Elbrus itself, you must have a border zone permit to explore the park,, there are loads of trails available, from short hikes to multi-day treks.
However, you can easily and without any permit have a breathtaking panoramique view of Mount Elbrus and the glaciers nearby by taking either the old Soviet or new cable car to Mir station.
Check out the Prielbrusye National Park’s website for more informations.
Teberda Nature Reserve
Teberda Nature Reserve is a UNESCO biosphere reserve located in the republic of Karachay – Cherkessia created in 1935 and covering 85 000 hectares. Forests, meadows, alpines lakes and glaciers make the Teberda Nature Reserve a must-go for mountain lovers and hiking enthusiasts.
The popular resort town of Dumbai is right in the middle of the Teberda Nature Reserve. You do not need a border zone permit to go and stay there but if you wish to go hiking beyond the resort’s limits you must have one. In my experience there is an entrance fee to pay at the beginning of every trail starting from Dumbai, but not all of them elsewhere like in Akhryz.
Check of Teberda Nature Reserve’s website for more informations.
Caucasus Nature Reserve
The huge Caucasus Nature Reserve covers 290 000 hectares right in the middle of historical Circassia. The Reserve was created in 1924 on the territories of Adygea & the Krasnodar Krai, then it was designated a UNESCO biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999 called Western Caucasus.
This is THE Nature Reserve not to miss while travelling the North Caucasus.
It’s very easily accessible from the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana. Because of its location, the Caucasus Nature Reserve has unique climates : from temperate to sub-tropical and most of the rest is high altitude mountains. It obviously has an incredibly various fauna and flaura.
There are plenty of hiking trails in the Reserve and only a daily fee to be paid by visitors. However if you plan on visiting areas close to the border with Abkhazia like Kardyvach lake, a border zone permit is required.
Check of Caucasus Nature Reserve for more informations on routes and opening times.
Sochi National Park
Do you think Russia is only snow and freezing temperatures ? Sochi National Park is here to prove you wrong ! It is Russia’s very first National Park, founded in 1983. Located within the Western Caucasus UNESCO site, covering 190 hectares east of the city of Sochi (which isn’t included in it), there are plenty of super easy hikes to do through thick forests to discover waterfalls and canyons !
The National Park is truly unique, nowhere else in Russia sub-tropical and high mountains meet like they do there !
Check out Sochi National Park’s website for more informations.
Which one of these National Parks or Nature Reserves would you like to explore most ?