As the world gets smaller, there’s a desire to travel further – and there are few places as enchantingly far away as the Yamal Peninsula. This cultural tour transports you deep into Russia’s isolated Arctic region. ‘Yamal’ means ‘edge of the world’ in the language of the indigenous Nenets. The Nenets of Yamal carve out a unique way of life, seemingly at the limits of human tolerance. Each spring, the Nenets migrate from winter pastures on the Russian mainland to the summer pastures in the Arctic Circle, a one-way journey of up to 1,000km. This is your chance to experience a small part of this epic journey alongside these extraordinarily resilient people. This is a remarkable extraordinary opportunity to get to know one of the world’s last true nomadic reindeer herders through their eyes.
Homestay with local families
Type of tour
12 days / 11 nights
Arrival at Salekhard airport and transfer to your centrally located hotel. With a population of around 43,000, Salekhard is the administrative centre of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region, the only city in the world located right at the Polar Circle.
Today, we start our journey to the Polar Ural Mountains in order to reach the Nenets camp. We first drive to the small village, where we jump on snowmobiles for a drive further to the camp location.
These days, over 50 per cent of Yamal’s Nenets are still nomadic, and most have relatives in small villages, who live sedentary lives and provide accommodation to nomadic relatives during rare village visits. Unlike many nomadic tribes in Russia and the world-over, the Nenets are have largely retained their traditional way of life and are famed for having the longest nomadic migration routes in the world. They wear clothing made of reindeer fur, sewn using reindeer sinew as thread, and live in conical tents made of reindeer fur and known as chums. Across a single year, the Nenets may migrate up to 2,000km, transporting their chums and all their possessions on home-made, wooden sledges, accompanied by herds of reindeer up to 10,000 strong.
The Yamal Nenets speak a language completely unrelated to Russian and practice an animistic religion based on deep reverence for nature, paying tribute to the spirits that inhabit the natural world through reindeer sacrifices and shamanistic rituals.
For the next 7 days, you’ll be living with the nomads, eating and sleeping in their chums (teepees). There will be no fixed itinerary for these days. Instead, this is a uniquely immersive experience, where guests observe and take part in the daily lives of the nomads.
Assisted by the expert Nenets, your tasks could include herding reindeer and lassoing the animals using rawhide lassoes. As one of the few sources of available food, reindeer are butchered at the camp as needed. The meat is divided up and eaten (usually raw) and the Nenets are also partial to drinking reindeer blood (partaking in this practice is optional!)
You’ll also have the chance to involve yourself in the preparations for making a new campsite, sledding into the forest to cut trees for firewood, collecting ice or snow for water, helping to build new sledges, sewing fur clothing and other activities essential for survival. It’s not all work
though. There will be plenty of time for relaxation and be socialising with your hosts and other members of the community.
After saying farewell to our hosts in the Nenets campsite, we make the return journey to Salekhard. On our return, we’ll be put up in a comfortable hotel in town for the night.
Today we’ll enjoy a free day in Salekhard, a town founded by Russian settlers in 1595 after the conquest of Siberia. Highly recommended is the Shemanovskiy Yamal-Nenets District museum, which focuses on Yamal’s regional culture and natural history, including a fascinating exhibition on mammoth remains discovered in the region. Visit the 16th-century fortress of Obdursk, the first Russian settlement built in the area, and wander the market square where the nomads come to sell meat, fish and furs.
*this is a free day, which we save in case of bad weather and delayed with a transfer from Nenets camp.
It's time to say goodbye to the Russian Arctic. After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport.
Activities and experiences according to the tour program
*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.
Flights, Russian tourist visa, travel insurance, individual clothing and equipment, alcohol
|Apr 15 - Apr 26, 2019
|Sold out||US $2,960||N/A|
|Apr 29 - May 10, 2019
||Sold out||US $3,550||N/A|
|Oct 1 - Oct 12, 2019
||Limited spaces||US $3,550||N/A||Reserve|
|Nov 18 - Nov 29, 2019
||Limited spaces||US $3,550||N/A||Reserve|
|Apr 15 - Apr 26, 2020
|Apr 29 - May, 10, 2020
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