On the Yamal Peninsula in the Western Siberian Arctic large scale nomadic reindeer herding, along with the indigenous language, religious beliefs, traditional clothing and culture of the nomads, has been better preserved than anywhere else in the world.
The Nenets people wander this isolated land, whose name means “The Edge of the World” in their language, with their 10,000-head herds of reindeer, drifting through the tundra year-round along centuries-old migration routes in search of grazing. They make their own reindeer fur clothing, live in reindeer-hide conical tents, migrate thousands of kilometres on hand-made, wooden, reindeer-drawn sledges and indeed many of the items they use in daily life are fashioned from different parts of the reindeer. Their favourite meal is raw reindeer meat and blood, which they eat and drink direct from the carcass of a recently strangled reindeer. Their language is completely unrelated to Russian, their features are more like a cross between Asian and native American and they follow an ancient animistic religion that governs every aspect of their daily lives.
Access has long been difficult – there are no roads and the area is still completely closed to outsiders, Russian or otherwise, unless you go through the complicated 3-month process of getting a temporary permit. As a result, very few foreigners have ever made it to the Yamal Peninsula. Many potential visitors are also put off by the extreme cold the area experiences during winter but actually, when dressed head to foot in reindeer fur clothing, you feel absolutely toasty even if you have to spend hours outside!
This site provides information about trips with an interpreter to visit nomadic Nenets reindeer herders, live with them in their tents and experience their daily lives and culture. Trips can be for as long or short as you want and at any time of year. There are a variety of transport options ranging from travel only overland from Moscow to the reindeer herders (the cheapest) to travel only by air (the most expensive). See this website’s Trip Types page for more information, or the Contact page to get in touch.