Inside Russia’s Dargavs: The City of the Dead

Dargavs City of the Dead

Just outside the Russian town of Dargavs in North Ossetia lies a mysterious necropolis fittingly named The City of the Dead. This ancient grave yard consists of 99 ancient crypts ranging in size from just big enough house a body, to 4 story mega crypts. The exact date of their construction has been lost to time. Sources vary in their estimates ranging from 1100AD to 1500AD. Most have settled somewhere in the middle with a rough estimate of around 1300AD.

Overlooking the River from the City of the dead

Dargavs City of the Dead has 99 Crypts which span 17km along the Gizeldon River. The Ancient Ossetians to buried their dead in these crypts, along with their possessions. Despite there being no traversable rivers near Dargavs City of the Dead, Wooden boat shaped coffins encased the bodies. Historians think the Ancient Ossetians believe that the afterlife was at the end of the un-navigable rivers that ran by Dargavs. In keeping with other Necropolis’ in the area there is a high stone watch tower overlooking the City of the Dead.

City of the Dead in remote Russua

Each tomb has a well outside the front. Family members could tell if a loved one had made it to the afterlife by dropping a coin in the well. Their journey to the afterlife was considered successful if the coin hit a stone at the bottom of the well.

Lookout tower at DargavsThere are many rumours and myths surrounding Dargavs City of the Dead. Until relatively recently the local people believed that anyone entering the city of the dead would not come home alive. There is evidence to suggest that during a plague that swept through the area in the 18th Century, infected residents would quarantine themselves in the Crypts to await their gruesome death.

Getting to Dargavs City of the Dead

Getting to Dargavs City of the Dead is no easy feat. It is due to it’s remoteness however, that the crypts are so well preserved. It is advisable to learn a little Russian as English is not prevalent in the area. The main gateway into the area is the Russian City of Vladikavkaz. Vladikavkaz has an airport with direct flights from Moscow, a train station and a bus terminal. Dargravs City of the Dead is an hours windy car journey from Vladikavkaz. Most hotels will be able to arrange a guide and transport. Regulations change often, depending on the political situation at the time you may need a permit to make the journey. On arrival in Vladikavkaz it’s worth double checking.

Crypt at Dargavs city of the dead

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