Yamal Peninsula summer migration
Yamal Peninsula summer migration
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.
Your guide will meet you at your Moscow hotel. Transfer to the train station. Take train from Moscow – Labytnangi, past historical Russian towns such as Sergiev Posad, Yaroslavl and Vologda. Head north on the Moscow –Archangel line, built in the late 19th Century under the Tsars. You will have a private compartment on the train for you and your guide.
At around midday switch onto a different train line, heading northeast on the Kotlas – Vorkuta line. This stretch was entirely built by gulag concentration camp victims and terminates in Vorkuta, home to one of the Soviet Union’s harshest and most feared gulags.
At midday we arrive in Vorkuta District in Arctic European Russia. We branch off onto another different line, heading due east towards Siberia. We cross the Polar Ural Mountains, the border between Arctic Europe and Arctic Asia. We are now in Siberia. Arrive in Labytnangi, population 25,000, in the evening.
Labytnangi is one of the main towns in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region. It is not on the Yamal Peninsula though. The Yamal Peninsula, which we will travel to tomorrow, begins 200km further north.
Take a Trekol all-terrain vehicle 250km north, driving parallel to the Polar Ural mountains for 10 hours. On the way it is possible that we will see muskox.
On the Yamal Peninsula there are many small trading posts – places where nomads can come to exchange meat and antlers for bread and other foodstuffs. We will spend the night at one of these trading posts, Yorkuta. The owners of Yorkuta are of the indigenous Nenets people. They were previously nomads but they stopped migrating and built Yorkuta in order to help the other nomads in the area, as the nearest town with a shop is 250km away.
This is the last place where we will have beds and electricity.
Breakfast at Yorkuta. After breakfast we will have a look at some remains of woolly mammoth that the owners of Yorkuta found in the area, including a vertebra and a tooth. Then, if it is not too windy, we can take a trip 18km by motorboat to visit the Kara Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean. Here at this time of year there are almost always seals basking on the beaches, and occasionally even whales. If there is good weather and if you want, the owner of Yorkuta can demonstrate how he hunts seals with a harpoon from a boat.
In the afternoon we will continue by Trekol all-terrain vehicle for 30 minutes or 1 hour to reach an encampment of nomadic Nenets reindeer herders. They live in conical tepees called chums. We will spend the next 5 nights living with them, observing and partaking in their daily life.
August 6th – 9th:
Live with the nomads, eating and sleeping in their chums (tepees). They migrate up to 1000km 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.
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 (from several hundred to several thousand in one herd), lassoing reindeer with reindeer rawhide lassoes, killing the reindeer then eating the raw meat and drinking the blood (their favourite meal), migrating to a new campsite, cutting trees for firewood, collecting water, making new sledges, sewing fur clothing, and so on.
Return to Labytnangi in a Trekol all-terrain vehicle. Overnight in hotel.
Spare day in case bad weather or anything else delayed our return. Our options for today are:
- Take a ferry across the River Ob to Salekhard, the capital of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region. Visit the excellent museum, visit the 16th century fortress of Obdursk, the first Russian settlement built on this site, visit the city’s many monuments including the mammoth monument and the Arctic Circle monument.
- Alternatively we do a day trip to the Polar Ural mountains. We can do some short hikes up small mountains with beautiful views of the surrounding valleys and rivers, visit the remains of a gulag concentration camp and visit the abandoned village of Polyarniy. In Polyarniy we can enter the old village disco, hospital, residential homes, warehouses and so on. There are also lots of abandoned tanks, machinery, and the rocket launching pads from which the Soviet Union fired its first ever nuclear missiles for testing on the Arctic Ocean island of Novaya Zemlya.
Take the train.
Arrive in Moscow.
- Ensuite twin or double rooms in Labytnangi hotel
- 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.
- English-speaking guide
- All transfers and activities while on Yamal
- Rental of Trekol all-terrain vehicle
- All meals while with the nomads, in the Trekol and at Yorkuta. This will be standard nomad food with lots of meat, fish, bread and jam, etc. If you need extra stuff such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, noodles, you can bring this from Labytnangi at your own expense.
- Fees to the nomads for hosting you
- Fees to Yorkuta owners for hosting you
- All permits required for the region
- Letter of invitation for 30-day tourist visa
- Satellite phone for emergency use only
Price does not include:
- Food on the train, in Salekhard or in Labytnangi. This can be added for £140 per person, to make the trip full board.
- Guiding or accommodation in Moscow. Accommodation can be added for £40 per person per night, guiding for £185 per day and a driver for £14 per hour.
- Clothing or equipment
- Satellite phone for personal calls. However, you can purchase 75 minutes for £125.
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.
Extending the trip:
The trip can be extended at a cost of £300 per day for a private individual trip, £385 per day in a group of two people, £470 per day in a group of three people, £555 per day in a group of 4 people, etc. Likewise the trip length can be reduced and the price will decrease by the same amount.
Flights and Visa services are not included in the tour, though you can choose and book your flight using our smart and easy tool at: https://www.visitrussia.org.uk/flights/