Dombay is the name of an area of mountains in the south of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, as well as the eponymous village situated at an altitude of about 1,600 meters. The “heart of the North Caucasus”, Dombay is regarded as a mecca for mountain climbers and enthusiasts of extreme sports and winter activities: it is surrounded by summits between 3,000 and 4,000 meters high on all sides. But, in the summer, it is also a popular tourist destination for trekking, hiking and stargazing enthusiasts, as well as admirers of unspoiled nature.
It is situated on Dombayskaya Polyana in an intermontane trough where three gorges meet: Dombay-Ulgen, Amanauz and Alibek. The settlement is bordered by high mountains and is a starting point for many one-day and multi-day hiking routes around Dombay.
Its highest point is at 2,250 meters, making it the highest mountain pass in Russia. An asphalted road runs along it, so the Gumbashi pass can be crossed on foot via alpine meadows or by vehicle on the hairpin road.
From there, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Elbrus, the highest mountain in Russia and Europe.
A picturesque hiking route goes alongside the mountain river Amanauz (which translates as “evil chasm”) and ends at the mighty Sufrudzhinsky Waterfall 5 km from Dombay village.
You can access the waterfall for a fee and you will need to have your passport on you, because it is a border zone with Abkhazia.
The village has as many as three different types of cable car. The highest point that the oldest one goes to (its first stage was built in 1969-1970) is 3,002 meters. It passes through pine trees and over the turbulent waters of the River Amanauz.
The pendulum cableway is a vintage option. Built in 1987, it has two operating cabins with a capacity for 40 passengers.
The most modern of the cable lifts is a gondola lift. It’s the most reliable and quickest way to get up to 3,168 meters.
It’s regarded as the easiest “three-thousander” to ascend, because the cable lift takes you right to the top. The mountain has a height of 3,200 meters and is the highest point in the eponymous mountain range.
Dombay’s unofficial trademark, which you’ll find on many advertising photographs, postcards and fridge magnets, is located on its slopes: the flying saucer-shaped ‘Tarelka’ hotel. It was a present to Dombay from Finnish President Urho Kekkonen back in 1979. The hotel can accommodate just eight guests in three cabin-type rooms.
One of the most beautiful spots in Dombay - the cascade of lakes on the River Baduk - becomes accessible for walking in the summer. You can get round the lakes, situated at an altitude of 2,000 meters, on foot: The hike will take you 5-6 hours at a very relaxed pace. The landscapes are truly alpine: meadows, a backdrop of mountains, the crystal-clear mirror-like surface of the water and a soft carpet of moss underfoot.
In the Mukhinskoye Gorge, you’ll find a forest of fir trees, red-colored rocks, a brilliant blue lake, Mount Lysaya and one of the most convenient places for a trek on horseback.
Lakes Goluboye and Chernoye in the Ullu-Murudzhu Valley are mountain lakes with icy water - just the thing to perk you up in the heat of summer. You can get here by road or on horseback.
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