Joining a Nenets migration on the Yamal Peninsula
5 Apr 2019
Joining a Nenets migration on the Yamal Peninsula
Book one of our amazing tour packages and save £55 on your visa! Hurry – offer ends 29 March!*
This trip takes guests to the Yamal Peninsula in Arctic Siberia. Yamal’s name means “Edge of the World” in the language of the Nenets, nomadic reindeer herders who have preserved the most traditional and colourful culture of any nomadic group on the planet. Living in reindeer-fur teepees, dressed in reindeer fur clothes, eating raw reindeer meat and sacrificing reindeer to the gods of their ancient animistic religion, these people migrate hundreds of kilometres each year on hand-made, wooden, reindeer-drawn sledges in search of grazing. No tougher way of live has ever existed or will ever exist. On this trip guests will live with a family of Nenets in their teepee and fully immerse themselves in the daily life of the camp.
Pick up from your hotel or airport and transfer to train station. Depart on train from Moscow to Labytnangi. Head north on the Moscow-Archangelsk line built under the Tsars and pass historic towns such as Alexandrov, Sergiev Posad, Yaroslavl, Rostov Veliky and Vologda.
Branch off at Kotlas onto the Kotlas-Vorkuta line heading northwest. From here on the rest of the railway was built by victims of gulag concentration camps. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, “beneath each tie two heads were left behind”.
Towns get grimmer and more industrial today, villages become just huddles of wooden cottages in clearings in the taiga forest that hems the railway in on both sides.
Today we come out of the taiga forest and into the Arctic tundra. On reaching Vorkuta District, home to some of the USSR’s most feared gulags, we branch off to the east on the Vorkuta – Labytnangi line, heading directly towards Siberia. We cross the Polar Ural mountains, the border between Arctic Europe and Arctic Asia. Now we will see abandoned villages amid spectacular scenery and possibly nomad camps through the train windows.
In the evening we arrive in Labytnangi and overnight in a hotel.
We drive 6 hours up the frozen surface of the River Ob to Yar Sale village on the Yamal Peninsula. This is the only way to access the village – by boat in summer or by driving on the ice in winter. Yar Sale was the first trading post built on the Yamal Peninsula by Russians in 1927. Before that there were only nomadic Nenets, and no settlements at all. These days on the Yamal Peninsula over 50% of Nenets are nomadic, and most have relatives in small villages like Yar Sale who live sedentary lives and provide accommodation to nomadic relatives during rare village visits. Overnight in Nenets home or small private hotel.
Travel through the vast, empty tundra in wooden box sledges attached to the back of a snowmobile to an encampment of nomadic Nenets reindeer herders. These nomads are among the most traditional tribal people in the world, and have 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 teepees made of reindeer fur and known as chums. They migrate up to 2000km every year, transporting their chums and all their possessions on home-made, wooden, reindeer-drawn sledges. They speak a language completely unrelated to Russian and sacrifice reindeer to the gods of an ancient shamanistic religion.
April 11th – 15th:
Live with the nomads, eating and sleeping in their chums (reindeer fur teepees). There will be no fixed itinerary for these days. Guests will merely observe and take part in the daily lives of the nomads and immerse themselves in this ancient culture. Daily life could include herding reindeer (up to 10,000 in one herd), lassoing reindeer with reindeer rawhide lassoes, strangling reindeer with ropes then eating the raw meat and drinking the blood (the Nenets favourite meal), migrating to a new campsite, cutting trees for firewood, collecting ice or snow for water, making new sledges, sewing fur clothing, and so on.
Return to Yar Sale in sledge attached to a snowmobile. Overnight in Nenets home or small private hotel.
Return to Salekhard in a Trekol all-terrain vehicle. Overnight in hotel.
Free day in Salekhard in case of bad weather delaying our return. On this day we can visit the excellent museum, visit the 16th century fortress of Obdursk, the first Russian settlement built on this site, visit the market square where nomads sell meat, fish and furs. We can also do a day trip to the abandoned village of Polyarniy in the Polar Ural mountains, visit the remains of a small gulag camp nearby, enter the abandoned buildings in the village such as club, hospital, houses, warehouses, view the abandoned tanks and other machinery.
Take train back to Moscow.
Arrive in Moscow.
Please note if choosing the upgrade option below to fly both ways from Moscow, this trip can be reduced to 11 days. If seriously short of time, you can visit nomads in a different part of Yamal that is quicker to access than Yar Sale. In this case the itinerary can be reduced to 9 days, still with 5 full days / 6 nights at the nomad camp.
- All transport and transfers. This includes two transfers in Moscow. It also includes beds in the 54-bed common carriage on the train. You can upgrade to beds in a 4-bed compartment for £80 per person one way. You can buy up spare beds so you don’t have to share with strangers in the compartment for £170 per bed one way. You can upgrade to flying for £170 per person one way.
- All accommodation throughout the trip in twin or double rooms. In Salekhard these rooms will be ensuite. In Yar Sale they will not be ensuite. With the nomads you will be staying with a family in their chum (tepee made of reindeer fur) and sleeping on warm, soft reindeer furs.
- All meals while with the nomads
- All permits required for the region
- English speaking guide
- Local guides, drivers and hosts on Yamal
- Letter of invitation for 30-day Russian tourist visa
- Satellite phone for emergency calls
Price does not include:
- Food in Moscow, Salekhard or Yar Sale. Meals can be added for £230 per person, making the trip full board.
- International flights
- Personal expenses
- Western clothing or equipment. You will need a sleeping bag, western boots, very warm western clothing and so on. Boots, trousers and jacket can be rented for £100 per person.
Extending the trip:
Extending your stay at the nomad camp costs £300 per extra day for one person, £385 per day for two people, £470 per day for 3 people, £555 per day for 4 people, £640 per day for 5 people, etc.
35% deposit is required to reserve the dates of your trip. Dates get booked up a long way in advance, so to get the ones you need it is recommended to reserve them as early as possible. The balance payment is required 2 months before the start date.
The Yamal Peninsula is closed to outsiders. To get a temporary access permit we need scanned copies of your passports and the following personal information 2.5 months before your start date:
- Full name
- Date and place of birth
- Name and address of place of work, your position there and your work phone number
- Your home address and home phone number
- Your passport number, its issue date and who it was issued by
- The planned dates of your trip to Yamal
- How you plan to arrive and, if by car, the exact model and its license plate number
- The full names and ages of any children coming with you who are included on your passport
*Book one of our Tour Packages to Russia and save £55 on your Russian visa!
This great deal applies to all our amazing tour packages for travel on any date during 2019, provided you book before 29 March. Please note that discount for Visa service is applicable only if you apply for your Russian Visa through our Visa Department.
Whether you’re swanning around St Petersburg or exploring the historic cities of Russia’s Golden Ring, we offer peace of mind and great savings. But remember – offer ends 29 March.
Make 2019 the year you discover some of Russia’s countless wonders. Book with RNTO for great deals and carefree travel … because we’ll be with you every step of the way!