Ethnographic tour to Russia – visit Yamal natives Nenets people and The Reindeer Herder’s Festival in Salekhard and Aksarka
Yamal is one of the harshest, challenging and interesting regions of Russia. It is very North of our country, vast expanses of tundra and plenty of natural treasures. People here appreciate real friendship and are loyal to the traditions of their ancestors. We will have very close meeting with life and culture that will make you feel as if you came to another world, or are teleported to several hundred years ago. This is absolutely another reality, another Russia. Once you visit Yamal, you will not return back home as the same person, but with a new perspective that will linger for a long time!
Reindeer Herder Festival is a major and most important event to the Nenets and Khanty people who are the native nomads of Yamal. Every year, the herders from all over the tundra move to Salekhard for their professional holiday to meet with friends, to compete in contests of physical skill and a variety of other competitions, as well as to share their unique culture with the world, which has remained unchanged through the centuries until the present day. Typically, the herders come here with the whole family, with their “chums” (traditional tents), reindeer and small kids, who are wrapped so tight to be protected from the strong frost that they start to look like funny fur balls 🙂 Walking around the area during the festival, you can visit any chum and taste such Northern delicacies like “stroganina” or cloudberry jam. The Nenets and Khanty people make much effort in their preparations for this festival – women wear their most beautiful clothes to show off to friends, whom were last seen the previous year, men decorate their reindeer and narty (traditional sleigh), to boast to their friends. And of course during the festival there will be many interesting things: reindeer sleigh racing, traditional clothing contest, traditional wrestling competition and much more.
Day 1. Welcome to Salekhard – severe capital of Yamal!
- Today we will meet in Salekhard – the only city in the world located right at the Polar Circle.
- After arrival we go to check in the hotel, take some rest and go to restaurant for dinner to get to know each other better.
- We will spend this night in the hotel in Salekhard.
Day 2. Moving to the camp of reindeer herders
- In the morning we are going by car to the last possible point where we will be picked up and transferred to “stoybische” (herder’s camp) by snowmobile or reindeer sleight.
- On arrival to the stoybische, we will meet our hosts, their friendly dogs and “avkas” – tame reindeer that are hand-raised as pets and have a dinner. Our dinner will be a traditional nomad’s meal of fish, reindeer meat, and berries collected in the tundra. After dinner, you will have the choice of chatting with hosts, going to bed to have rest, or going for a walk to find the best place to wait for the Northern Lights.
- This night we will spend in reindeer herder’s family in traditional nomad’s tent “chum”.
Day 3, 4, 5. Stay with nomads family to experience the life of the Nenets and Khanty
- These days we will stay in herders’ camp. Just be informed, that it is not a living history park created just for tourists, this is a real “stoybische” of real nomads, Nenets or Khanty people. That is why you should be prepared for a lack of comfort here. This is not a hotel. It is another reality, like another planet or another time dimension. The difference that you will see will blow your mind when you realize that while it is the 21st century, and you are still in the modern country of Russia, yet here you are, truly experiencing the primitive lifestyle happening right here! There is no shower and restroom here, no beds (we will sleep in sleeping bags right on the reindeer skins), no shops or internet, sometimes people here need to eat raw meat and drink warm reindeer blood to get vitamins, and they get water from snow. But there is breathtaking sky here with billions of bright stars, Northern Lights, unity with nature, and the culture of real nomads who continue old traditions of ancestors.
- During our stay with nomad’s family we will have the opportunity to experience how these people who invited us to their home live their everyday life. We’ll go out to the pasture of the main herd of reindeer and will watch how herders work with the reindeer, we will pet and feed these funny animals, ride a reindeer-pulled sleigh, and even try to catch them with the “tynzyan” (lasso). Our group has the option to request the butchering of a reindeer and watch how the Nenets eat traditional food “Nyar Nekh” – raw fresh meat with blood, as fresh blood is the only source of vitamins for tundra people during the long and cold winter time. If you wish, you are also welcome to participate in this process 😉
- Also we’ll be learning about the life and culture of the reindeer herders, we will talk and ask questions, will be watching and taking part in their everyday life – chopping the wood for the fire, collecting snow for water, cooking, visiting big herd of reindeers and many other things 🙂
- In the afternoon of Day 5 we will leave back to Salekhard, check in the hotel and have a dinner.
Day 6. Reindeer Herders Festival – the main event of the year for Yamal nomads
- The festival begins! This day, the herders from all over the tundra move to Salekhard for their professional holiday to meet with friends, to compete in contests of physical skill and a variety of other competitions, as well as to share their unique culture with the world. The Khanty and Nenets people make much efforts in their preparations for this festival – women wear their most beautiful clothes to show off to friends, men decorate their reindeer and narty (traditional Khanty and Nenets sleigh), to boast to their friends. And of course during the festival there will be many interesting things: reindeer sleigh racing, national clothes contest, traditional wrestling, jumping through “narty” (sleigh), throwing of “tynzyan” (lasso) to “khorey” (wooden stick), tug of stick and many others! Competition will be very strong as the main award is highly coveted – a new snowmobile! This day will become one of the most vivid impressions for you during this trip!
Day 7. Excursion around Salekhard and farewell hugs!
- This will be the last day of our trip. We will visit Obdorskiy Ostrog – a recreated copy of the fortress that was built here in 1595 and was the foundation of today’s Salekhard, and now it is built right at its historical location. Then we will visit a monument dedicated to “Romantics of 70th”, that was established to honor the beginning of the oil and gas industry development in Yamal, we will cross the Polar Circle and visit the Museum of Ivan Shemanovskiy and will see a ledendary baby mammoth Lyuba and the skeleton of mogochinskiy mammoth. If we still have free time, we can visit a market “Treasures of Yamal” and see or buy northern delicacies and traditional handicrafts.
- After that we are leaving to go back home to our modern civilization – soft beds, hot showers, and regular life. However, the small part of Russian North will stay in our hearts forever after this adventure.
- Just be prepared for long goodbyes, laughing, tears and promises that all of us will meet each other again in Russia, in your country or somewhere far at the other side of the world!
Date of tour:
Salekhard: March, 22-28 and March, 26 - April, 01 Available
Aksarka: March, 29 - April, 04 and April, 02-08 Available
Prices for this tour for individual groups:
Number of participants
Price per person
More than 10
- Where: Yamal region, Russia
- Kid friendly: Yes
- Start & Finish: Salekhard
- Reccomendations on airfare: The only direct flight to Salekhard goes from Moscow, but you can also get to Salekhard by train (Moscow-Labytnangi) which takes 2 days one way, but you can save a lot on tickets price.
- Fitness level: Simple
- Average temperature: in March it will be around -15 / -20°C (+5 / -4°F)
- Provided Transportation: car, snowmobile and reindeer sleight
- Age: from 6 to 70+. 6-17 y.o. — only accompanied by adults. From 18 y.o. – independently
- Language: English / Russian
- Required supplies: a lot of warm clothes and sleeping bag to sleep in "chum"
- Entertainments: sightseeing tour around Salekhard, visiting the Reindeer Herders Festival, driving to the reindeer herders camp, tasting traditional Nenets food like "stroganina" (raw frozen fish), reindeer meat and tundra berries, riding reindeer-pulled sleigh, workshops: reindeer skin processing, needlework using sinew, throwing a lasso. Optional: Reindeer butchering with the traditional eating of raw meat and drinking the warm blood by special group request (RUR 15000 per group).
- Always with you: Value of the Moment team
WHAT IS INCLUDED:
- Group airport / railway station transfers on arrival and departure
- Transport on tour
- Accommodation in Salekhard (3 nights)
- Accommodation in "chum" in camp of reindeer herders (3 nights)
- All food during stay in the camp of reindeer herders
- Entry fees to attractions and sightseeings
- Professional photos of your adventures in Yamal
- Entertainments: sightseeing tour around Salekhard, visiting of Reindeer Herders Festival, driving to the reindeer herders camp, tasting traditional food like "stroganina" - raw frozen fish or reindeer meat and berries, riding reindeer sleigh, workshops: reindeer skin procession, needlework with reindeer tendons, throwing of lasso.
- Russian / English speaking guide
- Always with you — Value of the Moment team
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED:
- Tickets: Your city – Salekhard – Your city
- Travel medical insurance (if necessary)
- Visa fees (if necessary)
- Food that is not mentioned above and alcohol (around RUR 1000 per day, RUR 1500 with alcohol)
- Souvenirs, tips and other personal expenses
- Reindeer slaughter with traditional eating of raw meat and drinking blood as a source of vitamins by request (RUR 15000 per group)
- Individual transfers during free time
- To book a place in the group, you need: 1) To fill the Booking form for us to contact you. 2) After that, to pay a deposit of 30% of tour cost. Please, check our cancelation and refund policy and payment methods here - Guarantee, documents and payment methods. The rest of your fees must be transferred to us no later than 7 days before your arrival.
- Depending upon weather conditions and unforeseen circumstances, we reserve the right to make changes in our program, keeping the itinerary action-packed and interesting.
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