Sulak Canyon in Dagestan: description, photos, excursions, how to get there

The most beautiful Sulak Canyon

Sulak Canyon – one of the unknown to the general public natural sights of Russia, located in the Republic of Dagestan.

The Sulak Canyon is one of the main natural attractions of Dagestan, a deep and extended canyon in the course of the Sulak River. Strictly speaking, the Sulak Canyon consists of three separate canyons separated by terraces: the Sulak Canyon itself, the Chirkey Canyon and the Miatly Canyon. But since they are consecutive and practically form a single whole, the canyons are usually united under one name.

In addition to breathtaking mountain scenery in Sulak Canyon, the turquoise color of the river water is striking, more reminiscent of the color of water in tropical seaside resorts. The eastern edge of the canyon is a mountain plateau, steeply precipitating into an abyss, at the bottom of which the Sulak River flows.

Where in Dagestan is the canyon

The Sulak Canyon is the deepest canyon in Russia and the eastern hemisphere, located in the valley of the Sulak River in Dagestan, Russia. The Sulak is the main river in Dagestan, and the upper part of the river flows in a deep canyon that separates the Gimry Ridge and the Salatau Ridge.

The canyon is located in the eastern part of Dagestan and stretches for 53 kilometers from the Gimrinsky range in Untsukulsky district through Buynaksky and Kazbekovsky districts. The canyon ends with the Chiryurt reservoir. The depth of the canyon reaches 1,920 meters near the Chiruurt Reservoir, which exceeds the depth of the Grand Canyon in Colorado, USA. By its depth the Sulak Canyon in the world is second only to the Cotausi Canyon located in the Andes Mountains, Peru.

Almost at the foot of the Sulak Canyon is a hydropower village Dubki, most of whose residents are employees of the Chirkei hydroelectric power plant.

How to get to the canyon in Sulak valley

To visit the Sulak Canyon is most convenient in the village of Dubki in the Kazbekovsky district of Dagestan. You can reach Dubky from Makhachkala by two roads

  • R-217 highway through Kizilyurt and Chiryurt water reservoir (flat road);
  • by freeway R-275 through Buynaksk bypass and Chirkey (mountain serpentine).

You can reach Dubki by private car, cab or by intercity bus, which departs from the Northern bus station of Makhachkala once a day around noon. There is no exact timetable, as cars leave when they are full. So it’s not the most reliable way, and besides, if you get to Dubki after noon, you won’t be able to get back the same day – the shuttle bus will go back to Makhachkala. So it is better to take a cab – it may not be so cheap, but it will be calm and safe, and besides, you will have time to return to the republican capital on the afternoon minibus. A cab from Makhachkala will cost about RUR 1000.

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Alternatively, you can take a minibus from Makhachkala to Kizilyurt, which will be easier, since they depart much more often than the minibus to Dubki. From Kizilyurt to Dubky you can again take a minibus, a cab or a local vehicle.

From the center of Dubky you can walk to the viewpoint, located in the western part of the village. The distance from the village to the edge of the abyss does not exceed 1 kilometer. You can also get to the Chirkei water reservoir and the dam of the Chirkei hydroelectric power station, located within the canyon. Distance from the center of Dubky – about 5 kilometers, so you can walk here or take a car.

Safety rules

Sulak Canyon is one of the most dangerous tourist sites in Dagestan. The danger here is not at all people who are quite loyal and friendly, but nature itself. There is no tourist infrastructure, including an organized viewing platform with fencing, on the Sulak Canyon. There is only a viewing platform located on the cliff face without any fences or parapets. Because of the high altitude there are often strong winds, so the accidents of falling into the abyss here occurred. When visiting the Sulak Canyon is not recommended to bring small children, and visitors themselves should buy suitable shoes and in general, behave with caution.

Where to stay safely

As already mentioned, despite the majesty and beauty of the Sulak Canyon, there is almost no tourist infrastructure. The choice of places to stay too – at the service of tourists is only a tourist base “Chaika”, located in the village of Dubky. A room in this simple but cozy hotel will cost about 1000 RUR per day. Another alternative is a small hotel “Salavatiya” which is also situated in the Dubky village.

Given the shortage of places to stay, tourists can count on traditional Caucasian hospitality. Visitors can stay with locals in Dubki or Zubutli aul, located right in the canyon. For those who are not ready to live in someone else’s dwelling, there is an option of tent accommodation on the shore of the canyon or in its depths, close to the source of drinking water.

Where to eat tasty and inexpensive

The situation with eating places around the canyon is not much better than with hotels. Near the viewpoint of the canyon is a coffee shop “Zakkofe”, where you can try coffee cooked on coals. At the exit from Dubky in the direction of Kizilyurt there is a cafe “Oak Grove”. In the area of the Chirkey Reservoir or in the village of Dubky itself you can dine on shashlyk cooked in the fresh air. All prices in local catering establishments are extremely moderate, because the main visitors are not wealthy locals.

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Tips and useful information

Chirkey reservoir is a real inland sea, except that the water here is not salty, but fresh. Therefore, in normal summer days, and especially at weekends, the coast of the reservoir is full of vacationers. Here you can sunbathe, swim or even go for a ride on a boat. A water trip costs 500 RUR per person, rent of a boat for the whole day – 20000 RUR.

If you are going to take a several days trip to the canyon, you should take food, drinking water, a tent and sleeping bags with you, because the area outside the Dubky village is rather wild and uninhabited. It will not be superfluous to have a local guide, familiar with the dangerous places of the canyon.

The waters of the Sulak River are rich in various fish species, so fishing in the Chirkei Reservoir is especially popular. If necessary, you can rent a fishing rod from local residents, and they can also provide a boat for full-fledged fishing. Of course, everything is for a fee. Experienced fishermen can easily add crucian carp, carp or even trout to their trophy collection.

Chirkei reservoir provides Chirkei HPP – the most powerful hydroelectric power plant in the North Caucasus and the second highest located after the Sayano-Shushenskaya HPP. However, you cannot simply visit the hydroelectric power plant – it is a restricted facility, where entry is allowed only by passes. The exception is excursions organized by the Dagestan branch of RusHydro twice a week. To get on a tour, you need to contact the Dagestan branch of the company in advance.

The Sulak Canyon is one of those undeservedly little-known sights that are so often found in Russia. Amazing in its beauty and majesty, the canyon is still little known not only in the world, but also within Russia.

Sulak Canyon in Dagestan


The nature of Dagestan is amazing and unique, and its highlight is the Sulak Canyon. It amazes by its scale and magnificence of the opening pictures, which remain in the memory for a lifetime. Every year there are dozens of tourist routes, although until recently about these places was little known not only in the world, but also in the former Soviet Union.

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Contents of the material:

Sulak Canyon: description, photos and video

Sulak Canyon is cut in the mountains by the river Sulak. Over many centuries, it has washed in the strata of sandstone and limestone canyon length of 53 kilometers. In some places it widens to 3.5 kilometers, in others it narrows to such an extent that one can just barely see a narrow strip of the river below, which is one of the most full-flowing in the region.

Panoramas of the Sulak Canyon in Dagestan

The Sulak Canyon is strikingly pompous, for which it is often compared to the famous Grand Canyon in Colorado (North America) and the Charyn Canyon. The average depth of the Sulak Canyon is 1,300 meters, and the maximum is 1,920 meters. By this parameter, it is second only to Cotausi, located on the territory of Peru. The length of the canyon is 53 kilometers, making it one of the longest in the world.

Sulak Canyon in Dagestan

Sulak Canyon is conventionally divided into three distinct canyons, with alternating expansions between them:

  • The main canyon is 18 kilometers long;
  • Chirkei and Myatli canyons, located one after the other, are slightly less long and wide.

In the area of the Gimry and Salatava ridges, the canyon walls are very steep. With the distance to the north-east, they become more gentle and low. At the outlet of the Miatlin canyon, the waters of the Sulak River flow into the Chiryurtovskoye reservoir. Practically at the foot of the canal is the village of Dubki, which is mostly inhabited by hydropower engineers working at the Chirkei hydroelectric power plant.

Where is Sulak Canyon in Dagestan?

The Sulak Canyon is the jewel of the mountainous Dagestan. It is located in the eastern part of the republic and is part of the Untsukul, Buynaksky and Kazbekovsky districts. In the upper part of the canyon divides the Gimrinsky and Salatavsky ridges.

The nearest settlements:

  • Dubki – a village in the vicinity of which is Chirkei HPP;
  • Kizilyurt is a city in the south of Dagestan;
  • Buynaksk, an administrative city and transportation hub;
  • Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

Coordinates of the Sulak Canyon:

  1. Latitude: 43° 2′ 14.924″ N (43.0374789)
  2. Longitude: 46° 48′ 21.055″ E (46.8058487)

Sulak Canyon on the map:

How to get to the canyon in the Sulak River Valley?

The distance from Makhachkala to the Sulak Canyon is 80 kilometers. You can get here from the capital in about an hour by sightseeing bus or car. You can do it by two roads:

  1. Route R-217. On the way you pass through Cheryurtskoye water reservoir and Kizilyurt city.
  2. Route R-275. The road passes by Chirkeiskoye water reservoir and Buynaksk city.
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Experienced tourists advise to come and go back to Makhachkala by different roads. This way you can get acquainted with the locals and enjoy the scenery.

Sulak Canyon

Sulak Canyon

Sulak Canyon

Sulak Canyon

Sulak Canyon

The highway R-217 runs almost its whole length on a plain, only at the very end it serpentines up into the mountains. There are many orchards and traders of various fruits and berries along the road, and the Sarykum barkhan is also located nearby. The R-275 highway is serpentine and has more picturesque views.

Public transport to the canyon runs from Makhachkala North Station. Usually, transport leaves after it’s full, around lunchtime. Shuttle buses to Kizilyurt go more frequently. From the village of Dubki to the capital the bus leaves in the first half of the day.

Public transport in Dagestan has its own characteristics, so it is more convenient to get to the canyon by cab or hitchhiking. You can find a cab driver at the train station, or order through the city service.

Weather in Sulak Canyon in Dagestan

The climate in the area of the Sulak Canyon has some difference from the foothills. Weather in Sulak Canyon in the summer is very hot. In the period from mid-June until almost the end of summer, the average daily temperature does not fall below 20 degrees Celsius. In winter, it stays around zero degrees Celsius. On the coldest days the temperature can drop to minus 24 degrees.

Weather in Sulak Canyon in Dagestan

It can be foggy!

Thunderstorm activity in this region also differs significantly from the mountains, naturally downward. In the summertime, the greatest amount of rain falls. Snow cover, as on Mount Elbrus, in the region appears with the onset of December and does not disappear until almost the end of March. Usually, the thickness of snow cover does not exceed 15 centimeters.

The best time to visit Sulak Canyon is spring and autumn. It is during these periods that the weather is comfortable and the vegetation, although relatively sparse, acquires pleasing shades to the eye.

What to see around the canyon?

Sulak Canyon in Dagestan was once one of the central places in the Caucasian War. Such prominent people as Leo Tolstoy and Yuri Lermontov came here. Today, this gorge, as well as Tsey gorge, will be interesting not only from a historical point of view, and as a natural landmark with picturesque views, crystal clear turquoise water and fresh air, not polluted by plants and exhaust gases.

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Chirkey reservoir is rich in flora and fauna. Fans of fishing can try to catch here carp, perch, crucian carp or, if you are lucky, trout. In the depths of the gorge is still an ancient village Zubutli. You can reach it from the village of Dubki by unpaved road. There are not many local residents left here, but they are very hospitable and friendly. Their life has not changed for many decades.

Boat trips are available along the Sulak River – it is a great opportunity to look at the steep walls of the canyon from a new angle. Chirkei hydroelectric power station is of great interest. Every tourist should at least take a peek at the mighty dam. Excursions to the hydroelectric power plant are held on Tuesday and Thursday of each week. To participate you should submit a request to a branch of RusHydro.

All who come to the canyon, be sure to get to the village of Dubki. It was built primarily for hydroelectric power engineers, but today anyone can find a place to spend the night and have a tasty snack here.

Dangers and guides

Despite its beauty and amazing panorama, the Sulak Canyon is one of the most dangerous tourist sites in Dagestan. Contributes to this yet underdeveloped infrastructure: no rails, barriers and organized viewing platforms. There is only an overhang in the rock, created by nature. Sharp rocks, steep precipices and strong gusts of wind make the walk quite extreme, so you should have comfortable shoes.

Tourists with small children should be extremely careful or not take them with you at all. In the canyon are not uncommon cases of fatal falls into the abyss. On the conditional observation deck is also quite a lot of garbage, which is cleaned up only by rain and wind. There is no parking, of course, either.

Most people come here for outdoor activities – to see the canyon, nature and the dam of the local hydropower plant from the inside. Go on a trip is better with a guide – it can be an employee of a travel agency or a local resident. Guide not only allows the safest way, but will show the most interesting places that not everyone knows about.

Sulak Canyon, as well as Martvil Canyon is still little-known attractions, but every year more and more people learn about it. The majesty, amazing beauty and tranquility of these places allow you to touch the true nature and feel its power. A trip to the Sulak Canyon is an ideal option for outdoor activities for both experienced and unprepared tourists. Everyone can find their own trail.

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