federal subject of Russia, republic of Russia

Caution Note: The UK Foreign Office and other western governments advise against all but essential travel to North Ossetia. Because of border tensions between Russia and Georgia, military operations with accompanying travel restrictions can be carried out with little or no notice in North Ossetia. The border crossings to Georgia are subject to frequent, sometimes lengthy closures. Terrorism and kidnappings also present a significant risk to security. Stay away from military installations, checkpoints, police stations and large gatherings.
Travel advisories
(Information last updated 30 Aug 2020)

North Ossetia-Alania is a republic within the Russian Caucasus bordering Kabardino-Balkaria to the west, Stavropol Krai to the north, Chechnya and Ingushetia to the east. Georgia and South Ossetia lie to the south.

Regions edit

Map of North Ossetia

North Ossetia and the surrounding regions

North Ossetia can be considered as three regions.

  • The Central Lowlands — a fairly flat area (alt. 300 - 600 m ) penned in by mountains
  • Mozdok — a small corridor of territory connects the second largest city and its environs to the Central Lowlands
  • The Mountains — are largely inaccessible without permits, except for the great Georgian Military Highway and the Trans-Caucasian Highway, which head south out of Russia and cross the mountains to Georgia and South Ossetia, respectively

Cities edit

Central Lowlands


  • 7 Mozdok   — second largest town and site of many terrorist attacks against Russian facilities


Other destinations edit

Mount Monakh at Zei
  • 1 Alaniya National Park   – home to many eye-wateringly beautiful mountains and the 13-km-long Karaugom Glacier
  • 2 Zei   (Цей) — this once premiere Soviet high alpine resort offers skiing, relaxation, and excursions to some of Europe's highest peaks; if you're willing to put up with a lot of red tape, it may be possible (once the Georgia-Russian border opens up) to trek across the spine of the Greater Caucasus from here to the Soviet resort of Shovi in Georgia's Racha region. Since 2014 the border between Russia and Georgia via Verkniy Lars/Kazbegi has been open for foreign citizens.
  • 3 Dzinaga — a smaller, but similarly gorgeous tour-base in southwestern North Ossetia

Understand edit

The Ossetes are an Iranian ethnic group who speak Ossete, a language related to Farsi. As a small, Orthodox Christian group in the predominantly Sunni Muslim North Caucasus, the Ossetes were quick to ally with the Russian Imperial government in its conquest and annexation of the region. This alliance has endured to the present, where Russia tacitly supports its allies the Ossetes in their goal to reunify North Ossetia with South Ossetia (internationally recognized as part of Georgia but de facto independent) and in their ethnic conflict with the neighboring Ingush. This particular ethnic conflict has made North Ossetia a magnet for terrorist attacks, especially in its southeast, and has led to a tight security situation policed by often corrupt officials that is discouraging for travel.

Just to make sure you sound sophisticated, Ossetia is pronounced ah-SEH-tee-yah, Ossete is ah-SEET, and Ossetian is ah-SEH-tee-uhn (not ah-SEE-shuhn)

Talk edit

While Ossetian is the mother tongue of most locals, all Ossetians speak and understand Russian as well. Even though English is becoming a necessity in Russia, Ossetia hasn't followed the trend yet, and English remains almost nonexistent, which is why you will almost certainly be spoken to in Russian as a tourist. This does however go without saying that learning a few Ossetian words and phrases will be extremely highly appreciated.

Get in edit

Vladikavkaz is a major regional transit hub and is served by domestic flights from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and other major Russian cities. It is also easily reached by rail via Stavropol.

By train edit

Daily trains leaves from Moscow. Trains from Saint Petersburg, Adler and Novorossiysk leaves one time for 2 days.

By plane edit

Beslan Airport (OGZ IATA)

Get around edit

Travelers will find pre-arranged travel with reputable agents to be far more convenient than independent travel on unreliable public transportation.

See edit

The Dargavs City of the Dead necropolis
  • Dargavs (a.k.a. Мёртвый городок, Mertviy Gorodok, City of the Dead) - A village of little houses built specifically to entomb the dead.
  • Beslan - School Number One made the news in 2004 when over 1,000 people were taken hostage by terrorists, and at least 333 were killed, 186 of them children. This event remains very much an open wound in the Russian consciousness, and is to Russia the equivalent of what 9/11 is to the United States. The school has been preserved in-situ as a memorial to the victims.

Do edit

  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Mountain climbing/biking
  • Adventuring

Eat edit

Ossetia is famous for its delicious meat pies, very similar to Georgian khachapuri, but it is stuffed with lamb, beef, and mushrooms instead of cheese.

The most common food of the region are Ossetian pies with different fillings such as cheese, potatoes, meat, pumpkin. However Fizonag which is similar to kebab is also wide spread like in the rest of Caucasus. Vladikavkaz offers a large variety of traditional and international restaurants. Dzykka, one of the region's most ancient dishes is popular among the Ossetes, and is most probably the easiest dish for a visitor to taste.

Drink edit

North Ossetia is famous for its alcoholic drinks, very similar to Russian drinks. Locals prefer to drink an alcoholic drink called Arak, an alcoholic drink produced from corn grain, barley or other grain crops.

Sleep edit

Learn edit

North Ossetian State University-located in Vladikavkaz.

Stay safe edit

Because of the ongoing Ossete-Ingush ethnic conflict, regional instability, and proximity to Chechnya, travelers should tread very cautiously, even though it is safer than its eastern neighbours. Avoid going near the border to South Ossetia, as the border is guarded by extremely corrupt army officers on both sides.

Respect edit

Ossetes are very hospitable people and are generally well open to foreigners. You do need to remember that this is a traditional and conservative society, even by Russian standards, and that you need to look out for yourself when you feel you are in trouble.

Speaking out against a person's relatives, either alive or deceased, may make a local person act very hostile against you. This doesn't mean that Ossetes are temperamental, rather they are strong believers in honour and dignity.

Never touch a person's hat: according to Ossetic customs, hats are considered to be a sacred and untouchable thing. Ossetes have zero tolerance towards touching people's hats, and this can lead to some unwanted quarrels. When greeting people, you need to greet the elders before you greet any others, just as a form of respect.

Ossetes are very proud of their own culture and language, and may act generally very defensive if you speak out against their customs.

Avoid discussing the conflict between the Georgian government and South Ossetia. Most North Ossetians feel a deep sense of kinship with their counterparts in South Ossetia, and many took up arms and went across the border to join militias and fight against the Georgian military when they attempted to reclaim South Ossetia by force in 2008.

Mobile edit

In North Ossetia there are three GSM operators (MTS, Beeline, Megafon), one 3G-UMTS operator (Beeline) and one CDMA 2000 operator on 450 MHz frequency (SkyLink) 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 North Ossetian and other North-Caucasus people, then you should consider buying a local SIM card instead of going on roaming. To 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.

Go next edit

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