Alaniya National Park, North Ossetia-Alania, Russia: Complete Guide

The Alaniya National Park, located on the northern slopes of the Central Caucasus mountains, is a deeply glaciated mountainous region. It spans the southern third of the Irafsky district in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, forming part of the national parks of Russia. This park, also known in Russian as Национальный парк Ала́ния, was established with a dual purpose: to serve as an ecological sanctuary, given its high level of biodiversity and the presence of vulnerable species such as the nearly endangered West Caucasian tur, and also as an area with rich cultural heritage and great potential for recreational tourism.

Within the park, there are extensive archaeological ruins dating from notable civilizations of the past, such as the Koban people of the Bronze Age (1200-300 BC) and the Alans (100 BC – 1234 AD), from which the name "Alaniya" and, indirectly, the term "Aryan" derive.

Due to the altitudes in the park reaching nearly 4,000 meters over very short distances, a marked "altitudinal zonation" is observed. This climatic zonation ranges from glaciers and alpine peaks in the high and southern sections to steppe grasslands in the northern areas.

History of Alaniya National Park

Since the late 1950s, there has been growing interest in scientific circles in North Ossetia in establishing a national park in the republic. One of the first efforts towards this goal was the creation of the Tseysky Nature Reserve in 1958, located at the foot of the mountains and covering approximately 30 hectares. This was followed by the organization of several conservation areas and game reserves. In 1967, the North Ossetian State Reserve was inaugurated. Then, over time and with some modifications in its extent, it officially became Alaniya National Park.

Alaniya National Park, Russia

Prominent figures like T. Basiev and Kh. Gobeev played a crucial role in supporting this initiative, as did publications in the newspaper "Socialist Ossetia" which addressed the need and benefits of a national park. The North Ossetian State University also contributed significantly, especially through geography students’ diploma projects that examined this topic.

Proposals for the park’s location varied, from the area between the Ardón and Urukh rivers to the Mountain Digoria region. Finally, in 1998, an official decree was signed for the creation of Alaniya National Park, establishing an area encompassing significant natural, historical, and cultural monuments.

The Ministry of Forestry of the Republic led the initial organization efforts and cooperation with other Russian regions. Research projects and awareness campaigns were implemented, highlighting the park’s importance for both natural conservation and public education and recreation, increasing protected natural areas with Alaniya, since the establishment of the Losiny Ostrov National Park in 1983, another highly protected area in Russia. The national park not only promotes environmental understanding but also becomes a site for sports tourism and mountaineering, enriching the local community and preserving its rich natural and cultural heritage.

Recommended Excursions and Activities

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What to See and Do in Alaniya National Park, Russia

Alaniya National Park offers a diversity of natural and cultural attractions that capture the essence of the region. Among the available activities are excursions to the Tana Glacier, where visitors can learn about the geographical and biological features of the Central Caucasus, including its varied flora and fauna. There is also a hike to the Chifandzar Swamp, the largest of its kind in the Central Caucasus, which passes through pine forests and broadleaf trees. Along this route, it is possible to observe an ancient livestock path marked by stone walls, enormous rocks left by glaciers, and signs of past mudflows and avalanches.

In addition, the Galdoridon Waterfalls and several ancient stone architectural monuments, such as sanctuaries, burial crypts, and medieval towers, complement the park’s cultural and natural offerings. For wildlife enthusiasts, the best time to visit is from April to June, a period during which it is very likely to spot Dagestan turs, a species endemic to the Eastern and Central Caucasus, in their natural habitat.

Karaugom Glacier (Караугомский ледник)

The Karaugom Glacier extends over an area of 35 square kilometers, standing out as one of the most accessible valley glaciers in the Caucasus, with its lowest edge situated at 2100 meters above sea level.

Karaugom Glacier (Караугомский ледник)

This glacier offers an impressive view and is a key point for visitors interested in glacial geography.

Fasnal Pine Forest (Фаснальский сосновый бор)

Fasnal Pine Forest (Фаснальский сосновый бор)

Situated on a steep mountain slope, the Fasnal Pine Forest reaches its highest growth point at 1668 meters. This forest provides a green and serene setting, ideal for nature lovers and those seeking tranquility in their hikes.

Poliana Fatanta (Поляна Фатанта)

Poliana Fatanta (Поляна Фатанта)

This picturesque terrace is located on the right bank of the Karaugomidon-Urukh River. Characterized by enormous boulders deposited by the glacier thousands of years ago, Poliana Fatanta is an open space with an almost mystical atmosphere, perfect for exploring and enjoying unique views.

Donisar Lake (Донисарское озеро)

Donisar Lake (Донисарское озеро)

Donisar Lake, situated at an altitude of 3000 meters, is located in the gorge that bears its name. This lake offers spectacular reflections of the surrounding mountains and the adjacent glacier, creating landscapes that delight photographers and nature lovers.

Chefandzar Swamp (Болото Чифандзар)

Chefandzar Swamp (Болото Чифандзар)

Located at 2400 meters altitude, in the upper part of the Khares Gorge, Chefandzar Swamp encompasses a peat bog of 3 hectares. This site is crucial for ecological studies and offers a unique landscape within the park, marked by its specialized vegetation and specific environmental conditions.

Mountain Waterfalls (Горные водопады)

Among the most captivating attractions of Alaniya National Park are its waterfalls, including Galdoridon, which flows in five steps and reaches a height of 35 meters, along with the Taymazi and Soldat waterfalls. These waterfalls are accessible to those seeking adventure and pure natural beauty.

Three Sisters Waterfall (Водопад «Три сестры»)

Three Sisters Waterfall in Alaniya National Park, Russia

The Three Sisters Waterfall is also located in Alaniya National Park, offering a natural water spectacle in an enchanting setting, surrounded by dense vegetation and fresh mountain air. This site is ideal for visitors who wish to experience the tranquility and majesty of waterfalls in a pristine environment.


Alaniya National Park is located on the northern slope of the central Caucasus sector, surrounded by a chain of towering mountains. The only access route is a mountain road that crosses the Urukh River valley and the impressive Akhsinta Canyon, highlighting its remote nature and elevation, characteristic of a high mountain park. The altitudes in the park vary significantly, from a minimum of 1350 meters above sea level to a maximum peak of 4646 meters at Mount Wilpata.

Geographically, the northern boundary of the park starts at the village of Matsuta and extends along the Songutidon River to Dunta, continuing to the North Ossetian Nature Reserve and the state border with Georgia. The border then follows westward along the boundary with Georgia and the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic until it reaches the upper course of the Bilagidon River, which flows into the Urukh River near the village of Akhsau. From there, the border extends northward along the right bank of the Urukh River, closing the loop near its starting point in Matsuta. This park design ensures the protection of a varied range of mountain ecosystems and the preservation of its unique biodiversity.

Alaniya in Russia boasts a spectacular and challenging environment, ranging from moderate altitudes of 800 meters to the impressive Mount Wilpata at 4646 meters as mentioned earlier. The landscape is dominated by a mix of rocks, screes, and glaciers, the latter being especially significant with an extent of more than 80 km².

Fauna of Alaniya

The fauna of Alaniya National Park is remarkably rich and varied, directly reflecting the diversity of its natural landscapes. The park is home to 34 species of mammals, among which the inhabitants of the heights, such as the East Caucasian tur and the chamois, are considered a unique subspecies of the Caucasus. The mixed forests shelter roe deer, yaks, wild boars, and brown bears.

Fauna of Alaniya National Park in Russia

Among the small predators, the fox is the most common in the park, while martens are found both in the forests and rocky areas. An endemic subspecies of ermine inhabits the subalpine screes. The common Altai squirrel, introduced in the 1950s, has adapted well to the pine forests. Additionally, in the deciduous forests, wet meadows, and clearings, resides the shrew, one of the smallest insectivores in the park. Even in the villages located in the gorges, in the attics of houses, colonies of bats like the grey long-eared bat can be found.

The park is also a habitat for 116 species of birds, with 39 resident species and 27 migratory ones, among others. The avifauna includes species from various regions, such as the boreal owl and the Siberian crossbill, the common thrush from Europe, and the red-headed finch from the Mediterranean. Asian species like the bearded vulture, the white-tailed eagle, and the alpine accentor also make this park their home. This confluence of species from different biomes is possible due to the unique geographical location of the Caucasus, which acts as a biological bridge between Europe and Asia.

Flora of Alaniya

Alaniya National Park hosts an extraordinarily rich and diverse flora, with more than 1000 species of plants, many of them unique and endemic to the region. The variety in relief and soil types has led to the formation of multiple plant communities, from dense forests to subalpine meadows and xerophytic zones.

Flora of Alaniya National Park, Russia

Among the most distinctive species are the dolomite bellflower, Akinfieva’s charesia, Digor rye, and Caucasian gentian, all highlighting the uniqueness of the local flora. The forests, which cover approximately 60% of the park, are dominated by Koch’s pine, grey alder, and Litvinov’s birch, extending from 1900 to 2200 meters in height. Above this elevation, subalpine meadows take over, with species like the alpine aster, mountain poppy, saxifrage, and gentian.

Fifty percent of the park’s forest cover is composed of pine and birch forests, often mixed with trembling aspen, willows, and Trautvetter’s maple. Subalpine birch forests and small patches of Caucasian rhododendron predominate on the northern slope, while along the rivers, thickets of sea buckthorn and tamarisk thrive.

The Donifars-Zadale basin, on the other hand, presents a xerophytic plant ecosystem, such as wormwood, thyme, fescue, and burnt milkvetch, in addition to some occasionally present species like juniper, wild rose, and barberry.

Additionally, the park is known for its richness in medicinal plants, which include species like burnet, cinquefoil, oregano, and caraway, demonstrating the importance of the park not only in terms of biodiversity but also in natural resources with applications in health and medicine.


Climatically, "Alaniya" exhibits a temperate continental climate, with the highest precipitation occurring during the spring and summer. However, the complex geography of the park, which includes mountain ranges, valleys, gorges, and mountain basins, contributes to a remarkable diversity of microclimates. This variation is so extreme that the park is divided into two main climatic zones: the Zadalesk basin, characterized by an arid climate, and the mountainous areas, where the climate is more severe.

For example, in the Khares Gorge, located at an altitude of 1700 meters, temperatures vary dramatically between seasons, with February being the coldest month with an average temperature of -9°C, while July is the warmest month with an average of +13°C. These conditions demonstrate the richness and complexity of the climate in "Alaniya," which in turn influences the flora, fauna, and living conditions in this unique national park.


Alaniya National Park is situated in the spectacular and challenging environment of the northern slope of the central Caucasus, ranging from moderate altitudes of 800 meters to the impressive Mount Wilpata at 4646 meters. The landscape is dominated by a mix of rocks, screes, and glaciers, the latter being especially significant with an extent of more than 80 km².

The Urukh River, which acts as the main waterway of the park, originates from the confluence of the Karaugomdon and Kharesidon rivers, being only a part of the park’s hydrographic network that includes more than 70 rivers and large streams. This abundant water network is crucial for sustaining the park’s diverse biological life and ecosystems.

Best Time to Visit Alania National Park

The best time to visit Alaniya National Park is during the summer months, from June to September. During this period, the temperatures are warmer and more pleasant, averaging around +13°C in higher areas like the Khares Gorge, making it easier to explore and enjoy the various outdoor activities the park offers. Additionally, it is during these months that precipitation is most abundant, ensuring that the landscapes are at their peak of greenery and beauty.

Visiting in summer also allows visitors to take advantage of longer days to explore the extensive hiking routes, observe the park’s rich biodiversity, and enjoy panoramic views without the severity of the winter weather. However, it is advisable to be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially in higher altitude areas.

How to Get to Alaniya National Park

The National Park is located in the southwest of the Republic of North Ossetia, approximately 120 km from Vladikavkaz, the capital of the republic. The main access for tourists begins at the settlement of Matsuta, where a narrow road starts winding along the Akhsinta Canyon.

To get here, visitors can take minibuses from the Vladikavkaz bus station to the village of Chikola. In Chikola, where the park’s tourist office is located, it is possible to continue the journey by bus or taxi to the park.

A convenient option for exploring the points of interest in Alaniya is to request a transfer service from the campsite where visitors are staying. Additionally, it is possible to coordinate a transfer directly with the park administration, either from the airport or from the bus station. Visitors can consult and book these services in advance, adjusting the size of the vehicle to their needs, through platforms like

The cost of a taxi from Vladikavkaz to the national park starts at 1800 rubles. To book a trip, applications such as Uber Russia, Yandex.Taxi, and Maxim can be used. The local service "Taxi 444–222″ is highly recommended for its reliability and good reviews.

We also recommend you to visit the Losiny Ostrov National Park.