Vaygach Island – the “Nenets Mecca”


Polar bear-infested Vaygach Island – “The Nenets Mecca” or “The Easter Island of the Arctic” as it has been referred to – is located to the west of the Yamal Peninsula and is one of the hardest-to-reach places in the whole of Russia. Up until the 20th Century, every Nenets had to make a pilgrimage to Vaygach once in his life, and people came from all over the vast Nenets territory that stretches from the Kanin Peninsula in the West to the Taimyr Peninsula in the East. Although the Communist government put an end to that tradition, the Nenets have still preserved their traditional religious beliefs remarkably well. The island is covered in idols and sacrificial sites which the local Nenets reindeer herders still consider to be sacred.

Nenets man next to idol on Vaygach Island, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Arctic Russia

Nenets man next to idol on Vaygach Island, Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Arctic Russia

Trips to Vaygach will begin from the semi-abandoned Arctic town of Amderma, already hundreds of kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle. At it’s peak it had a population of over 5000, but now just over 500 remain and polar bears can be spotted wandering its streets past rows of tumbledown buildings.

There are flights to Amderma only twice a month from the bigger Arctic town of Archangel. Guests on trips to Vaygach will thus fly into Amderma from Archangel on a Saturday and fly out two weeks later, also on a Saturday.

We can organise trips to Vaygach Island in July and August, when the weather is good and the straits separating it from the mainland are not frozen.

Sample itinerary: (days of the week are not flexible):

Thursday Arrive in Moscow
Friday Take morning train to Archangel at 10:05
Saturday Arrive in Archangel in the morning and fly to Amderma, arriving at 13:15. Take a motorboat along the coast, stopping at an abandoned gulag concentration camp along the way. Cross the straits and sail north up Vaygach’s west coast to the point where we will disembark.
Sunday – Saturday 7-day circular trek through Vaygach’s interior, visiting Nenets sacred sites and spotting polar bears
Sunday Visit Nenets sacred sites on some of Vaygach’s small offshore islands.
Monday Return to Amderma by boat then travel to a nomad camp by soviet passenger tank.
Tuesday – Thursday Live at the nomad camp.
Friday Return to Amderma.
Saturday Fly to Archangel. Take the evening train to Moscow.
Sunday Arrive in Moscow at 16:43.

Prices, including all costs from Moscow – Vaygach – Moscow, are as follows:


1 550,000 Russian rubles
2 750,000 Russian roubles
3 950,000 Russian roubles
4 1,150,000 Russian roubles
5 1,350,000 Russian roubles – £3170 per person


1 475,000 Russian rubles
2 675,000 Russian roubles
3 875,000 Russian roubles
4 1,075,000 Russian roubles
5 1,275,000 Russian roubles
6 1,475,000 Russian roubles – £2885 per person

Prices include: all transport, all accommodation apart from in Moscow, all food in Amderma and on Vaygach, local guides (2 guides for 4 visitors or 3 for 6 visitors), special permits for entry into the region.

Prices do not include: transport to or from Russia, accommodation in Moscow, food in Moscow, Archangel or on the train, Russian visa or visa support, insurance or medical kits.

Prices are based on transport Moscow – Archangel – Moscow in the common carriage of the train with beds. Beds in a private 4-bed compartment usually cost around 1000 rubles extra per person one way. If you want to fly from Moscow – Archangel instead of taking the train we can book the tickets for you. They usually cost around 2500 rubles more per person one way than taking the train. You will, however, have to spend a night in Archangel before flying on to Amderma.

The prices are also exclusive of accommodation in Moscow as it is usually possible to fly in and out without having to overnight in the capital. If you would like to stay an extra day or two in Moscow, however, we will be happy to book accommodation for you.

Due to the fact that Vaygach is within an area closed to all outsiders, foreign or Russian, I need to apply for a special permit for you which takes 45 days to obtain. You must therefore have your Russian visa and book your tour at least 45 days before your planned departure date by paying a deposit of 30% of the total cost of the tour.

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