Reindeer Migration with the Nenets in Yamal

Travel alongside the indigenous nomads of Arctic Russia
Be a part of the ancient nomadic culture of the Siberian Arctic on this immersive experience, participating in massive reindeer migration and staying in the winter camps of Nenets – nomad people of Yamal.
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.

Yamal Reindeer Migration TRIP HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Salekhard is the only city in the world located right at the Polar Circle. Among the highlights on our tour of the city is the Shemanovskiy Yamal-Nenets District Museum, which includes an exhibition on mammoth remains found in the region
  • Travel to the Polar Ural Mountains to an encampment of nomadic Nenets reindeer herders
  • For the next six days, you’ll live with the Nenets, sleeping in the chums, taking part in day-to-day activities such as sledding into the forest to cut firewood and assisting in the erecting of new chums as well as relaxing and socialising with your hosts in the camp
  • Learn what it takes to be a master reindeer herder. You’ll be shown techniques for lassoing and harnessing the reindeer, maneuvering the sledges and travelling with the reindeer from the pasture to the forest

The Yamal Peninsula was considered so inhospitable that Stalin built his prison camps here. Yet a strikingly colourful, rich and resilient culture has been preserved and left relatively unchanged here for some 2,000 years.

The Nenets of Yamal are the last remaining peoples to practice large-scale nomadic reindeer herding. Living in conical teepees known as ‘chums’, the reindeer herders of Yamal practice their own animistic religion with elements of shamanism. The Nenets spring reindeer migration is the only migration of its kind on earth, an annual journey of some 1,000km from the Russian mainland to the Arctic Circle.

On arrival at the Nenets camp, you’ll experience Yamal and everything it has to offer, including a rare glimpse into the ancient traditions of the Yamal's extraordinary people. Immersing yourself in their daily lives, you will live with a family of nomads, sleeping and eating in the camp, working with the reindeer and travelling from the pasture to the forest via reindeer-pulled wooden sleds.

This is an utterly unique 11-day tour in the Yamal Peninsula, offering you the immense privilege of living among the guardians of this remote land at the edge of the world. It is a journey of humanity, opening eyes, minds and hearts to the plight of one of the last surviving true nomadic cultures on the planet.

Arrival

Departure

Accomodation

Trip style

Salekhard

Salekhard

Homestay with local families

Cultural adventure

Duration

Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

11 days / 10 nights

     

2-6 people

Private

Itinerary

Day 1:Welome to Salekhard

Arrival to Salekhard airport from Moscow 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.

Day 2:On the way to the Polar Ural Mountains

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 board an all-terrain vehicle 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.

Day 3-8:Migrating with nomads

For the next 6 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.

* Duration of the camp stay can be extended or shortened upon request.

Day 9:Back to Salekhard

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.

Day 10:Free day in Salekhard

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.

We can also arrange a day trip to the abandoned village of Polyarniy in the Polar Ural Mountains.

*this is a free day, which we save in case of bad weather and delayed with a transfer from Nenets camp.

Day 11:Departure to Moscow

It's time to say goodbye to the Russian Arctic. After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for a flight back to Moscow (which should land at about 11 am).

Inclusions

Accommodation

  • 3* Hotel accommodation in Salekhard
  • Homestay accommodation in chums (teepees) with local Nenets families

Meals

  • All meals during staying with nomads, prepared together with the hosts

Transportation

  • Airport transfers
  • All transportation on tour (car/bus, 6wd truck, snowmobiles)

Guides

  • Experienced local English-speaking tour leader
  • Experienced drivers, local hosts

Activities and sights

Activities and experiences according to the tour program

Other

  • Arctic safety equipment and first aid kit
  • Telephone SAT (in case of emergency)
  • All permits required for the region
  • Russian visa support document (invitation letter)

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, Russian tourist visa, travel insurance, individual clothing and equipment, alcohol

Dates & Prices

DatesAvailabilityPriceSingle sup. 
Apr 15 - Apr 26, 2019
Guaranteed Departures
Available US $3,058 N/A Reserve
Apr 29 - May 10, 2019
Private Tour
Available US $3,550 N/A Reserve
Nov 18 - Nov 30, 2019
Private Tour
Available US $3,550 N/A Reserve
Apr 29 - May, 10, 2020
Private Tour
Available US $3,550 N/A Reserve

If you have any urgent questions or enquiries, please give us a call +61 2 9388 9816