North Ossetia – Alania : the ultimate travel guide

North Ossetia – Alania : the ultimate travel guide

The medieval necropolis of Dargavs in North Ossetia - Alania in the North Caucasus

The Republic of North Ossetia – Alania (Северная Осетия-Алания in Russian) is sadly related to troubles, conflict and deadly attacks. Often described as proviliged and under the protection of Moscow compare to its Muslim neighbors, Ossetia is surely the most developped of all of North Caucasian republics.

An amazing off the beaten track destination for those interested about geopolitcs, mythology, history and mountains. North Ossetia has a lot to offer !

Last updated : 06/02/2024

The Necropolis of Dargavs, the city of the Dead in North Ossetia - Alania in the North Caucasus
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It’s mandatory to have an insurance to travel in Russia and apply for a russian visa (including the e-visa)

I recommend Attollo Assistance (24/7 assistance, medical expenses up to 35 000 €, repatriation)


General informations

  • Capital : Vladikavkaz (Владикавказ)
  • Population : About 700 000 inhabitants
  • Languages : Ossetian and Russian
  • Religions : Oxthodox Christianity and Islam Sunni
  • What is “Alania” ? The Kingdom of Alania was in the Middle Age today’s Ossetia. Ossetian people are descendants of Alans who came from Persia and Central Asia. The capital of Alania was called Maghas (Ingush people named their own new capitale “Magas” …) and was located in current Karachay – Cherkessia, but some researchers say it was in the actual Magas.
  • Visa : North Ossetia is part of the Russian Federation so you will need a russian visa if necessary depending your nationality.
  • Border : The only legal border crossing between Russia and Georgia is located in North Ossetia.
  • About 30 kilometers south of Vladikavkaz, the Verkhny Lars/Kazbegi border crossing can be quickly closed due to weather conditions or diplomatic tensions, so watch out.

How to go to South Ossetia ?

There is only one way : to enter from North Ossetia – Alania, in Russia.

The border with Georgia is closed. You will need to cross from North Ossetia and get a special laissez-passer from the South Ossetian authorities.

I haven’t managed to obtain one in 2019. Apprently one would need to get a local/travel agency’s invitation to then apply for this laissez-passer and the person who invites you needs to cross the border with you … Sounds rather complicated.

You can try to ask directly at the South Ossetian Consulat in Vladikavkaz, or contact them by email : [email protected] & [email protected]. You can also check out their official website. Let me know if you manage to get it !

Last option if really you can’t help your curiosity : Show up the the border with some Rubles in your passport … At your own risks !

Note : The South Ossetian authorities have been talking about joining the Russian Federation for a while … before the 2022 referundums and annexations of the DNR & LNR Donbass republics and other Ukrainian territories.

They since have halt the procedures but it might happen before we know it. That would make South Ossetia in the eyes of the local authorities a federal republic within Russia, hence no extra visa or permit required to enter the disputed region.

Where to sleep

North Ossetia is a popular destination among Russian tourists.

There are many different kind of accomodation available in Vladikavkaz itself, from hostels (they all sucks to be honest, if you’re not on a tight budget get a hotel room) to five stars hotels.

The best affordable place I have found in town is the Hotel Kameliya – V. The villages around Verkhny Fiagdon near Dargavs are very touristy so it’s easy to find somewhere to sleep. You can directly book on Zenhotels, the best alternative to Booking.com.

Transport

North Ossetia – Alania is about 1700 kilometers from Moscow. You can reach Vladikavkaz by plane on a daily 2 hours and a half flight or by a 36 hours train journey from Moscow (book on the official website if you own a russian bank card or on Russiantrain.com with a foreign Visa/Mastercard).

Marshrutkas are available a bit everywhere in the Republic. You can reach Ingushetia, Kabardino – Balkaria and Georgia via the Verkhny Lars border crossing.

There are also daily public transportation heading nearby Dargavs, the City of the Dead. Click here to learn more about it.

Safety

Like its neighbors, most of the Western countries advice against all travels to North Ossetia – Alania. The border zone with Georgia and South Ossetia are sensitives and under military surveillance.

The republic had in the past open conflicts with Ingushetia, waves of South Ossetian refugees and terrorist attacks. That’s why Russian and Ossetian security forces are visible on the main roads. The situation has been quite calm the last years so I don’t think you have to worry about it.

I have been many times to/through North Ossetia and nothing never felt off.

Must read & watch to learn more

Any movies or books to recommend, feel free to share in the comment section !

Verkhny Fiagdon monastery near Dargavs in the mountains of South Ossetia in the North Caucasus
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