Bordering Europe and Asia, North Caucasus is one of the eight federal districts of Russia. Bordered by the Caspian Sea in the east and Georgia in the south, this region has been a place of myths and legends since the very dawn of time. It's here where Zeus is said to have chained Prometheus to a rock on Mount Elbrus, and where Noah's ark is said to have ended its voyage. Due to the turbulent history of its people and religions, this region is often referred to as a 'political chessboard' and an 'unstable zone'. Despite this though, North Caucasus remains a popular tourist destination, especially among fans of well-being who flock here every year to unwind in the beneficial waters of its numerous spa towns and cities. The region's landscapes are magnificent, from the legendary mountains perfect for climbing, to the beaches of the Caspian Coast and the areas still untouched by tourism where visitors can discover an abundance of fruit and vegetable crops, wine production and local traditions.
Surface area : 172360.0 km2
Population : 9254940 inhabitants
Time difference : UTC +4h. North Caucasus is 3 hours ahead of the UK in the summer and 4 hours ahead of the UK in the winter.
There aren't an abundance of shops outside of Moscow and St Petersburg. The only ones you'll find are at the spas, where you'll be able to buy souvenirs in the small shops. Travellers planning to make a stop in Moscow will be able to buy plenty of typical Russian souvenirs in the city centre or the airport.
Visitors to North Caucasus will have the chance to taste some of Russia's wines and brandies. Winegrowing is particularly important in the Republic of Dagestan and in Stavropol Krai.
What's more, there are a number of different types of fruits, vegetables and fish to be savoured along the Caspian Sea Coast.
Just like the different peoples of North Caucasus, Russia's traditional dishes have diverse origins. Among the most typical dishes are the chebureki, similar to pasties with a lamb filling, and shashliks, a type of lamb kebab.
North Caucasus is particularly pleasant in the summer, when the weather is perfect for admiring the luxurious vegetation covering the region's mountains, enjoying a spot of relaxation in one of the various hot springs, and visiting the Caspian Sea Coast. Pack light clothing but bring a sweater too, as the summer in North Caucasus isn't stiflingly hot and it can get rather cool in the evening. Winter is of course the best time of year for skiing in the region and making the most of what the Caucasus Mountains have to offer.
Those who plan on travelling to the region require a valid passport and a visa only obtainable "by invitation?, which can be requested from travel agencies or directly from hotels in Russia. The type of visa you will require depends on the length of your stay. If you plan on staying in the region for less than 30 days, you should request a tourist visa. Note that identity checks are common in Russia, so it's best to have your passport handy at all times.
Although it is possible to find a bureau de change once you arrive, consider taking some US dollars with you to be safe, as many places accept this currency.