The Republic of Adygea, Russia
In Southern Russia lies a mountainous republic called Adygea. About a third of the population call themselves Adygeans, who are predominantly Muslim and have their own language. There are few online sources about Adygea in English. Local websites showed beautiful landscapes, though nothing showed me how to travel around Adygea. This all seemed mysterious, so I had to go there.
I made a trip through a number of Southern Russia’s republics, starting with Adygea as the most western one. After that I would cross the border to Georgia. It was December 2018, which means it was slightly cold. But it was not as cold as up north in Moscow, and I could even hike this time of year. Since there are no flights to Adygea, I flew into nearby Krasnodar. Krasnodar has the reputation of being one of the most liveable cities in Russia, partly because of the nice climate. Though undoubtedly liveable, I didn’t find much to see here. I took a bus from Krasnodar to the Adygean village of Kamennomostskiy, sometimes called Khadzhokh (Хаджох) after the canyon splitting the village in two.
My guesthouse was at the edge of the village. This was rural Russia, where chickens and dogs loiter around wooden houses. I smelled burning turf. The closer I got to the centre, the louder I could hear the noise of the river going through the impressive Khazhokh canyon. I found a well-marked hiking trail along the river, heading into the hills to some nice waterfalls. I didn’t encounter other foreigners anywhere in the Republic, but there were quite some Russian tourists here.
Not having an idea where to go next, I went to the bus station for information. I looked at the destinations on the timetables, and checked my phone to see whether they looked interesting. There seemed to be a bus south to Guzeripl, a village surrounded by mountains. I decided to spend one night there. The name Guzeripl sounded silly, like it was from a fairytale. But I invite you to look it up on a map and find out the place actually exists. It is next to a national park, but unfortunately a guard told me I couldn’t hike there because it was dangerous. My Russian was too limited to understand what dangers he was talking about. I then asked the owner of my hotel where I could hike. He told me about trails 20 kilometres away, and drove me there (for a price). I hiked through a sunny and stunning landscape of steep cliffs and snow-capped mountains. This part of Adygea is more spectacular than Kamennomostskiy. But it is also less accessible, at least for travelers without car.
I went back north to visit Adygea’s capital Maykop. My expectations of the capital were low, since the pictures I found online showed a grey dull city. Most of the city was indeed dull, but I enjoyed the area around the main mosque and the national museum. The national museum had some signs in English, a very rare phenomenon in Russia. This gave me some insight into the history of the local people. I think I was the major attraction though, since the staff were very curious what a Dutch guy was doing here.
Though internationally (and digitally) unknown in English, Adygea is an easy destination if you speak some Russian or don’t mind using Google translate. I can recommend Kamennomostskiy because of its countryside life, canyon, hiking trails and direct bus connection to Krasnodar. I would only recommend Guzeripl to people with a car and Maykop is only advised when in the area. To my opinion the other Caucasus republics Kabardino-Balkaria and North-Ossetia have more spectacular landscapes and more interesting sights. But Adygea has the best reputation when it comes to safety, even though safety is not an issue anymore in most of the south. Therefore I would refer to it as a good stepping stone into the Russian Caucasus.
Practical advice on traveling here
Transport in Adygea: I didn’t book transport in advance to and within Adygea. There is information online on buses connecting Kamennomostskiy and Maykop to destinations outside Adygea, like Krasnodar and Pyatigorsk. This can be found on the website t.rasp.yandex.ru. You can buy tickets at the bus stations or in the case of Guzeripl on the bus. I did not find information on buses within Adygea. While traveling around Adygea I discovered there are multiple buses a day between Guzeripl, Kamennomostskiy and Maykop. Kamennomostskiy has a train station, but there seemed to be no trains in December 2018.
Hiking around Kamennomostskiy and Guzeripl: From Kamennomostskiy you can follow a well-marked trail going south along the river. Cross right when you get to the bridge after just three kilometers. After that you go uphill towards the waterfalls. My hike 20 kilometers from Guzeripl was in the Lago-Naki National Park. I got a ride to the information centre and the peak Abadzehs. As mentioned above I was advised not to go on the hiking trails starting in Guzeripl. These trails, and many others in this area, are on the free app maps.me.