Monday, April 3, 2017

Dombay, Russia: a 3 days Itinerary

Location:  Dombay, Karachay-Cherkessia Republic. 
Dombay is one of the most popular ski-destination in Russia (although most foreign tourists are unaware of it). It is located near to Elbrus, so if time allows, I recommend combining both trips.
Dombay, Russia


How to get there: 
1) From Moscow, you can take a plane to Mineralnye Vody airport and then take a bus or taxi to Dombay. There are no direct train to Dombay.
2) There are direct buses from the main cities in the South of Russia, including Volgograd.

Best Time to Visit: 
Autumn or Spring, when you can experience 2 seasons at once (Winter on the mountain). Plus, there will be more things to do when everything is not frozen.



      Our journey started in Volgograd, the city of Heros. Apparently, there are only 2 scheduled departures per week, Thursday and Saturday, and the journey takes about 13 hours.
Ticket price: 2000 Rubles one way, 2500 Rubles to and fro. 
We bought a one-way ticket since we are continuing our journey to Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk.

      In the overnight bus, we were lucky to get the seats with a table. There were only 8 such seats in the bus and we managed to grab 4. The journey was smooth, although not having much leg room, we managed to catch some rest. The bus will stop once at a station at the border of the Volgograd region, where passengers can buy some food for the overnight journey. 5 hours later, the bus reached Elista, followed by a quick bathroom stop. Expect the worst bathroom condition, don't say I didn't warn you.
Happy CNY from a cold cold place. Guess where is this.
Posted by Eat Love Travel Breathe with Miss HappyFeet on Sunday, 29 January 2017

     The bus finally pulled into Dombay at 8.30am. I strongly advise everyone to set their alarm to 6.30am. That is when the bus starts passing by the Caucasus mountains. You'll have the chance to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over snowcapped mountains.

     We booked a newly remodeled hostel called "Day and Night"(Click to view on Booking.com). Although they have only 2 reviews on  Booking.com, I trusted my instinct due to their strategic location and low price.
Dombay, Russia
Dombay hostel
Cozy looking wooden hostel

Why do I highly recommend this hostel? 

1. It's one of the cheapest in town. 
We paid only 2000 Rubles per person for our 3 days 2 nights stay in a 2 person private room with a great view of the skiing slopes.

2. Friendly owners
The owners of the hostel are very friendly, not only they made sure that we had an enjoyable stay, they treated us with free mountain tea, a variety of chocolates and champagne at night. We weren't supposed to get free breakfast on the first day but they welcomed us with freshly cooked breakfast and told us it was on the house. Yeah, free breakfast!

3. Strategic location
The Dombay market is directly across the road, the ski lift is only a stone throw away and the beginner slope is directly behind the hostel, literally! Just push the door open and its directly in front of you. An ATM Machine is located in the next 2 building (a shopping center).

4. In-house cafe
The cafe serves delicious local and European cuisine and my mouth watered at the sight of their house pancakes being served at the next table. Too bad we'd already ordered our food! I highly recommend their "Lakman", "Plof", "Sausages and eggs" and "Blini". Price starts from 200 Ruble.

DAY 1

     We started our day as soon as we checked into the hostel and settled our documents (Registration! DO NOT FORGET THIS). We went walking around the city just to have a feel of what's its like and hows the weather. Smart move, coz turned out our clothing were not warm enough to withstand -20 that day and our electronic devices shut down after being exposed to the cold. We went back to the hostel for a quick rest, fully charge our devices and throw on more layers of clothes.

     During the introduction walk, we also successfully get a good deal for a full day tour on the next day. Our driver agreed to bring up around in an 8-sitters Jeep for 4000 Rubles per car. You pay less if you have more people in the group.

     We decided to go up to the mountain on Day 1. First, we went to the open chair lift 250 meters away from the hostel. The price was 250 Rubles for 1 leg and we would have to take twice to reach the first level. After some discussion, we finally agreed on taking the modern cable car directly opposite our hostel.
Dombay, Russia
Dombay, Russia
Cable car to go up to the 1st level: 500 Ruble
Note: we decided to buy level by level because the weather in Russia is unpredictable and anyway, the price is the same no matter you choose to buy the combo tickets or buying on the spot at every level. The only downside is, you'll have to queue up every time. But don't worry, the line is not crazy and the cable car runs frequently.
Hello from the Caucasus Mountains !
Is Russia  included in your traveling wish list? ❓
Posted by Eat Love Travel Breathe with Miss HappyFeet on Tuesday, 31 January 2017
     We only managed to reach the first level. From the first level onwards, you'll be sitting on a 6 and then a 2 sitters-open-chair lifts to reach the peak. After taking the harsh weather into consideration, we decided that the first level is cool enough for us. Right decision, because not long after, they terminate the chairlift service due to heavy fog.

     Having lunch up on the first level is miraculously enjoyable and affordable. Since it is a tourist attraction, we were expecting touristy restaurants with high prices and crappy food. To our delight, we found that food served up on the mountain is even cheaper than those served in the cafes in the town, plus, they come in larger portions.

How cheap was it? 
Russian Fish Soup
Trout Fish Soup with Black Caviar
Hichin
Hichin with Meat, top with sour cream. 
Russian tea
I ordered: Traditional Trout Soup with Black Caviar and Meat Hichin ( similar to a stuffed Naan in India). A jug of Mountain tea was shared among us 4.  
Price: Only 420 Rubles.
Other recommended dishes: Plof, Fried Trout, Lagman
Plof
Forel Russia
Lagman

     Buying a pack of mountain tea is mandatory when you visit the Caucasus. The standard price would be 50 Rubles a big package (it should be only slightly smaller than the size of your two palms put together... well I have smaller palms. ) I bought mine from the restaurant where we had our lunch. But if you wander around the market, you'll find all kinds of mountain teas in various packaging. There are a lot of old ladies selling small packets at 100 Rubles, well If you want some nicely packaged tea to bring home, feel free to buy from them, but anyhow, try to haggle and bring the price down to 50%.
Note: They'll never put the price up. Act like a tourist and you'll get tourist price, it's just how it is, everywhere in this world. But if you feeling like a generous person, and you respect their willingness to work in harsh weather conditions, 100 Rubles may seem reasonable.    

     If you've been to snowy villages, you'll understand that walking through snow is energy consuming, and the bright lights reflected by pure white snow will sometimes hurt your eyes. So don't be too ambitious while planning your itinerary. Allow nap time if possible. At least that was what we did!

     After visiting almost all restaurants and cafe in the town, we walked into a cozy restaurant at the other end of the town (10 minutes walk from the hostel... this town is tiny). The food was again, incredible.
Russian traditional food
What I ordered: Lakman
Price: 230 Rubles
Other recommended dishes: Manti (Dumping)
Russian traditional food

     We went back to the hostel and sit at the in-house restaurant for an UNO game and late night chat. The owner was happy to see us he treated us free tea and sweets. He even brought us a bottle of Champagne, free of charge!

DAY 2: 

Our driver came pick us up right on time, and we were introduced to a Russian couple on the same tour. Doesn't matter coz there were still plenty of spaces in the Jeep. The tour last from 9 am to 5 pm.

Where we visited: 

1. the Mineral Water Spring in a National Forrest
There were 2 springs at the end of the walk. The spring water contains a large amount of ferum, so it tastes like blood. The spring at the left has lower content of ferum so the taste is milder. Russians like to bring a full bottle of spring water home with them, they even made a stop at a local grocery shop to buy empty bottles for this. Although we also brought a full 1.5-liter bottle back, we never had the guts to drink it.
Note: Russians are used to hard water in their country, so it is okay for them to drink the water. On the other hand, our foreign stomach may nor be able to tolerate that. Although I encourage everyone to try (maybe just a tiny sip), don't drink it or you might get Diarrhea for the rest of your trip. (don't risk it, it happened to my friends. )

2. Horse Riding (Top up: 500 Rubles per person)
This need no description at all, you simply HAVE to experience it yourself.
Note: Hold on tight because horses might slip while walking on ice. But you won't fall, don't worry.
A post shared by Vivian Dominique Lee (@littlemisshappyfeet) on

A post shared by Vivian Dominique Lee (@littlemisshappyfeet) on


3. the Zoo (Top up: 100 Rubles per person)
I LMAO when someone asked me if there were bears roaming in the cities of Russia. No, they are kept safely in places like this zoo.
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4. Trout Farm (Top up: 370 Rubles per person)
I finally got to try Ice fishing here. It wasn't hard at all (since it is a farm) and you'll be able to catch one under 10 minutes. Then you can either choose to leave after that awesome free experience or let them cook your catch (1000 Rubles per kilogram). We chose the later.



5. Bonus: Alibek, located on top of the mountain in Dombay (Top up: 350 Rubles per person for private entrance and Snowmobiling) 
Dombay Winter
This wasn't included in our itinerary but our driver decided to bring us up there since the sky was still bright (It gets completely dark at 5.45pm here during winter, sunset time varies every day). A 10 minutes snowmobiling session only cost 250 Rubles per person (3 people on the snowmobile including the driver) and you can ask the driver to go as fast as he can. On full speed, it felt like a roller coaster ride without a safety belt. The whole thing "flew"(literally, lifted from the ground) several times when it passed through a slightly uneven ground. We requested the driver to go slower after a short period of adrenaline spikes.

      Being too lazy to go hunt for food that night, we had our dinner in our hostel.
I ordered: Chicken noodle soup
Price: 190 Rubles
       To wrap things up, we ordered "Glintwien" (a Russian traditional hot wine enjoyed during winter, it has the same recipe as German "Glรผhwein") If you don't have a good reason (religion or health) to stay away from Alcohol, I strongly recommend everyone to try this. I am sure you'll crave for more after a glass (which is never enough.) Note that I am not a fan of alcoholic beverages.
Price: 150 Rubles (shared between 3)
Glintwien
Note: I wasn't happy with my order. I expected more noodle in the bowl but was let down. Meanwhile, Lakman, Plof, Hichniki or Shashlik (Russian Satay/ BBQ) are as always, good choices.

DAY 3 

      Ski day! Ski rental here is cheap, only 500 Rubles for the whole day. If you are a Muslim, they'll be happy to offer you an even better price, sometimes my friends get them for FREE. It's called "Brotherhood", that's their thing.

      I skied before in Elbrus, so I was going to ski independently. After 5 minutes struggling in the snow, I gave up and paid 1000 Rubles (for 45 minutes) to hire a personal trainer. Well, you'll lose a skill if you don't practice!    
Note: Skiing is not as easy as it may seem. Expect high energy expenditure and many many dramatic falls.

     We figured that we were better off playing kid's stuff so my friend and I rented a Kiddy Sleigh thingy after returning our ski rental. That was so much more fun, by the way.

     The boys went for Hang gliding that morning. Well, I don't think it is the correct word to call this activity. I'll say it is Flying fox with a triangular wing on top of your seat, just for decoration. It takes you across the river.
Price: 250 Rubles one way. (We didn't do it)
Dombay winter

      For our last Lunch here, we went into an expensive looking restaurant "Krepnost" by the main bridge. To our surprise, food aren't expensive. I ordered delicious "Plof" and wash it down with a cup of "Airan"(a yogurt-like sour drink).
Dombay Food

     We found a taxi driver who was willing to drive us to Pyatigorsk for 3000 Rubles. There were also buses going to Kislovodsk or Pyatigorsk, fare starting at 800 Rubles. But since taking a taxi was cheaper in our case, we took the offer, paying only 750 Rubles per person. Cheaper, more flexibility and the taxi drives us to our hostel in Pyatigorsk.


So there you have it! Our 3 days 2 nights Itinerary in Dombay. 
In a nutshell, 

Accommodation  2000 r
1st Day
Breakfast on the house
Cable car 500 r
Lunch  420 r
Souvenirs  300 r
Dinner 230 r
2nd Day
Breakfast included
Excursion  1000 r
Horse Riding  500 r
Trout Farm Lunch  370 r
Zoo  100 r
Alibek and Snowmobiling  350 r
Dinner and Drinks  240 r
3rd day
Breakfast included
Ski rental  500 r
Personal Trainer  1000 r
Sleigh  125 r
Lunch  300 r

Total: 7935 Rubles  ( $141 / RM624)

What is Best about Dombay? 

People in Dombay are friendlier than Russians in the Northern cities. Secondly, this is a FOOD PARADISE, especially for all my Muslim friends. Most residents in Dombay are Muslim, so naturally, Halal food can be found very easily. 

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Thank You for Reading! This post is based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. If you have a different opinion, feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Cant wait to visit Russia next month!

Mary said...

We were in Sochi this winter. It was amazing! I really loved skiing there