The High Road

Eastern Europe and the Caucasus

Feb 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Siberian Railroad

Back to Go: Start your trip along the Siberian rail at Moscow

Trekking the Caucasus
Price: $3,390—$3,690
Difficulty: Strenuous
Rob Smurr, a seasoned expert on the former Soviet Union, is your guide on this 15-day trip, the heart of which is a nine-day trek through the south-central Caucasus, a largely untouristed area of high glaciers, waterfalls, and massive granite peaks. From your first campsite, at the base of 12,600-foot Mount Chauki, you'll hike eight to 15 miles daily—along the Chanchakhi River and up some of the range's highest passes, skirting 16,558-foot Mount Kazbek. Camp out or stay with locals in villages where medieval towers mirror the peaks.
High Point: Joining families for lamb and baklava, in their ninth-century villages.
Low Point: Occasional rerouting due to security issues.
Travel Advisory: Corruption can be common, so keep up your anti-scam guard.
Outfitter: Mountain Travel Sobek, 888-687-6235,
When to Go: August

Mountain-Biking Istria
Price: $1,325
Difficulty: Challenging
Istria, the sunny Adriatic peninsula in Croatia's northwestern corner, bordered by Slovenia, is an undiscovered mountain-biking destination. Locally harvested olives, figs, and almonds provide fuel as you pedal 30 to 50 miles a day, through Pazin, the region's elegant old capital, to the vineyards outside of Motovun and the historic west coast, staying at four-star inns and family farmhouses.
Outfitter: Saddle Skedaddle, 011-44-191-265-1110,
When to Go: June to September

Walking Romania's Countryside
Price: $2,895
Difficulty: Moderate
This 14-day romp through Transylvania and the Caliman Mountains is a low-key way to explore Romania's still intact natural beauty. After gathering in Bucharest, with its belle époque architecture, hit the countryside for majestic views of giant white cliffs in Piatra Craiului National Park, Bran Castle, of Dracula legend, and the verdant Bucovina region, where valleys are dotted with painted monasteries. Bed down in small hotels, B&Bs, homestays, and, for one night—after a nip of plum brandy by the campfire—a kober, or shepherd's hillside shelter. Trail tip: "Sa traiesti" ("Cheers") is the common hiker's greeting.
Outfitter: MIR Corporation, 800-424-7289,
When to Go: June to September

Siberian Rails
Price: $8,495—$12,865
Difficulty: Easy
The ultimate classic in Russian travel is the Trans-Siberian Express, a legendary 17-day luxe train journey from Moscow to Vladivostok that rumbles for nearly 6,000 miles. The onboard experts are a font of knowledge, especially during stops at the charming village of Irkutsk and mile-deep Lake Baikal.
Outfitter: American Museum of Natural History Discovery Tours, 800-462-8687,
When to Go: August