federal subject of Russia, republic of Russia

Kabardino-Balkaria is a region in the Russian Caucasus bordering Karachay-Cherkessia to the west, Stavropol Krai to the north, North Ossetia to the east, and Georgia.


Map of Kabardino-Balkaria

  • 1 Nalchik — the capital and largest city, home to a large Soviet era health spa/sanatorium full of orchards, parks, and hot spring baths
  • 2 Baksan  
  • 3 Prokhladny — second largest city
  • 4 Terek  
  • 5 Tyrnyauz   — this town is on the route to Mount Elbrus.
  • 6 Chegem  

Other destinations

mighty Mount Elbrus from the north



Kabardino-Balkaria, a republic named after its native Kabardin and Balkar people, is one of Russia's poorest regions. Two ethnic territories form Kabardino-Balkaria: one predominantly of Kabardin (who speak a Caucasian language) and the other predominantly Balkar (who speak a Turkic language). There is also a significant Russian population. The Kabardians and the Balkars are Sunni Muslims. In 1944, Stalin accused the Balkars of collaborating with Nazi Germany and deported the entire population, removing their name from the republic's title. They were allowed to return only in 1957.

In 1992, the region was born. The republic felt pray to the instability afflicting other parts of the region and to the contagion of conflict in nearby Chechnya. In 2005, militants attacked security forces in the capital; many people were killed in the incident.

Almost all of the population live on agriculture, the main industrial backbone for the Kabardian economy. The tourism sector is rapidly growing, due to proper capital investment, but has attracted few tourists so far.



The Kabardin speak Kabardian, a northwest Caucasian language of which "Cherkess" is a dialect; the Balkar speak Balkar, a Turkic language virtually identical to "Karachay." Fortunately for the visitor, all are fluent in Russian. No English is understood, and this is not likely to change for a good while.

Get in


By plane


Virtually all enter via Nalchik NAL IATA, which is easily reached from the airport at Mineralnye Vody in Stavropol Krai.

By train


Trains from Moscow leave every day.

Get around

  • Skiing

Mountain climbing


Mountain climbing is the biggest attraction of Kabardino-Balkaria, and here it's a serious sport. The most popular climb is undoubtedly Mount Elbrus, as it is one of the Seven Summits, and is a fairly easy climb in technical terms (Russian Grade: 2B). But bear in mind it's one of the world's deadliest climbs in terms of fatalities per climber—it's a long climb to the top and the mountain often has dangerous and unpredictable weather. Dykhtau and Koshtan-Tau are considerably more technically challenging climbs. Two of Georgia's highest peaks, Shkhara and Ushba, are also climbable from the Russian side. Although these climbs are illegal, since you cross the Russian-Georgian border, border enforcement is lax at 17,000 ft (5,200 m). The Shkhara climb is a lot easier and safer on the southern face.

Because dealing with Russian officialdom is hellish bordering on impossible, it's best to embark on a mountaineering expedition via guided tour (the tour agencies pick you up from Mineralnye Vody or Nalchik right at the airport and act as your intermediary with all Russian officials. Russia-based tour agencies are much cheaper than Western ones:





Kabardino-Balkarian State University

Stay safe


While not as involved in the general conflict across the North Caucasus, Kabardino-Balkaria, especially Nalchik, has been attacked repeatedly by rebel and terrorist forces. Expect very tight security, realize that this is an unstable and dangerous part of the world, and make your travel plans accordingly.

The North Caucasus is an unstable and potentially dangerous region. Short-term travel restrictions are sometimes applied in relation to ongoing security operations with little or no notice. The border crossings to Georgia and Azerbaijan are subject to frequent, sometimes lengthy closures.





In Kabardino-Balkaria there are three federal GSM operators (MTS, Beeline, Megafon) and they often have offers that give you a SIM card for free or at least very cheap. If you are planning to stay a while and to keep in touch with Kabardino-Balkarian or other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. If you buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than $10.

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This region travel guide to Kabardino-Balkaria is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!