Trips to the Nenets of the Yamal Peninsula

Reindeer of the Yamal Nenets, Nadym Region, Arctic Siberia

Reindeer of the Yamal Nenets, Nadym Region, Arctic Siberia

Of all Nenets, the ones on the Yamal Peninsula have the longest nomadic migration routes (up to 1200km every year), the biggest reindeer herders (up to 10,000 head) and are the most isolated. Their migration routes take them into such remote areas that they are completely inaccessible for over half the year. We can organise trips to visit them from November 20th to May 1st, when their migration route brings them far enough south to be accessible by snowmobile from Yar Sale village. Yar Sale village itself has no road leading to it, but is accessible by boat in summer or by driving on the ice for seven hours in winter.

From July 1st to September 30th we also organise trips to visit Nenets, Khanty and Komi reindeer herders in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug just to the south of the Yamal Peninsula.

All trips to the Yamal Peninsula Nenets will begin in Salekhard, a town with daily flights to and from Moscow, or Labytnangi, a town with daily trains to and from Moscow.

Below is a standard itinerary for a visit to Yamal Peninsula Nenets in winter (November 20th – May 1st). Dates, modes of transport and duration of stay with nomads are all flexible.

Flying instead of taking the train will reduce trip length from 16 to 11 days.

DATE ACTIVITY
28 November Arrival in Moscow
29 November Take train to Labytnangi
30 November Travel by train
1 December Arrival in Labytnangi. Taxi to Salekhard. All-terrain vehicle to Yar Sale village
2 December Transfer by sledge to nomad encampment
3 – 7 December Living / moving camp with nomads
8 December Sledge to Yar Sale and all-terrain vehicle to Salekhard.
9 December Free day in Salekhard
10 December Taxi to Labytnangi. Train to Moscow
11 December Travel by train
12 December Arrive in Moscow. Guests fly home

The price of these trips:

WITH ENGLISH / FRENCH / CHINESE / SPANISH-SPEAKING INTERPRETER

Number of guests Cost
1 375,000 Russian roubles
2 600,000 Russian roubles
3 825,000 Russian roubles
4 975,000 Russian roubles
5 1,125,000 Russian roubles
6 1,325,000 Russian roubles
7 1,475,000 Russian roubles
8 1,625,000 Russian roubles
9 1,825,000 Russian roubles
10 1,975,000 Russian roubles

Prices include: all accommodation and transport from Moscow to the reindeer herders and back to Moscow, all food while with the reindeer herders, the special permit required to visit the Yamal Peninsula (see below), rental of a full set of Nenets reindeer fur clothing, the services of an interpreter who will accompany you all the way from Moscow and who knows the Nenets families to be visited very well, use of his satellite phone for emergencies only, letter of invitation for Russian visa.

Prices do not include: flights to and from Russia, accommodation or transport in Moscow, food in Moscow, on the train, in Salekhard or in Yar Sale, medical supplies or insurance.

The price quotes are for the modes of transport and duration of stay with nomads in the above itinerary (unless otherwise mentioned). They are for the cheapest possible trips with train travel in the common carriage with a bed and sleeping in ensuite twin or triple rooms in Salekhard.

If you would like to book a bed in a private 4-bed compartment on the train this usually costs an extra 5000 roubles per person one way, depending on the date. If you would like to fly by plane instead of taking the train, this costs a total extra of 15,000 roubles per person one way and reduces the total trip length to 11 days. However, bear in mind that bad weather can occasionally cancel flights, whereas Russian trains never even arrive a minute late!

If you would like accommodation in Salekhard in a private room it will cost an extra 15,000 roubles per person total for the trip.

If you would like to add extra days to your stay at the nomad camp, this will cost 20,500 rubles per extra day for one person, 27,000 for two people, 33,500 for three people, etc.

Trips will involve a stay with a family of nomadic Nenets reindeer herders in the Yamal tundra with an English-speaking interpreter. As mentioned on the Ethics page of this website, while we are staying with them the nomads will go about their daily lives as usual, doing just what they usually would if we were not there with them but inviting us to come and watch or help out if we want to. Before, after and during the working day they will be more than happy to answer any questions, tell you stories and talk about their lives, thoughts and spiritual beliefs.

The Yamal Nenets move camp with varying regularity. From late January to early March they move camp only two or three times if at all. During the rest of the year, however, they move camp every two or three days on average. First dogs drive the 10,000-head herd so that they stream around the edge of the camp in an arch for an hour or two. When herders see the animals they need (they can recognise them all) they lasso them and draw them in. When all the sledges have reindeer attached to them they set off, 10,000 reindeer and hundreds of sledges turning a white landscape brown. If seeing this spectacular migration is your main goal, you should avoid coming from late January to early March.

As for accommodation while with the Nenets – the recommended option is to sleep in the chum (conical reindeer-hide tent) with the nomads. This way they you will get to know each other better and have more chance to talk to them and find out about their lives, as everyone sits up talking together after dinner. If you do not want to sleep in the chum then you can bring your own tent and pitch it near the chum. You need something like the Arctic Oven by Alaska Tent and Tarp, the tent used on North and Sout Pole expeditions.

As for clothing – you will be fitted out in a complete set of Nenets reindeer fur clothing so that you will feel absolutely toasty even in the coldest of temperatures.

As for food – if you are happy to live on a Nenets diet then they will feed you throughout the duration of your stay with them. Their diet is mostly raw reindeer meat and fish but they also have some bread, onions and cans of condensed milk they buy on occasional trips to villages. They will be happy to cook reindeer meat for guests so you will not be obliged to eat it raw like they do. Bringing your own food is fine if you are staying in your own tent or, if staying in the chum, if you are happy to share it around equally with everyone, although it is more recommended to eat the food the Nenets prepare for you. I can just imagine if some guests came to my mum’s house and all wanted to cook their own food instead of what she was offering them, she might get a bit offended! Likewise staying in your own tent is not recommended either as it will also create a certain distance between you and the nomads.

Trip planning

The Yamal Peninsula is an area closed to all outsiders, foreign or Russian. You need a normal Russian visa and a special Yamal permit to come here. For this reason you must book your tour at least 4 months before your departure date so that we have time to get your temporary permit. Dates for a trip will be considered booked when a 30% deposit has been paid. It is recommended that you book your dates well in advance of 4 months before you plan to travel as there is a VERY limited number of people who can go each year and places get booked up quickly.

Google “Russian visa” and choose one of the online agencies to arrange your visa support and Russian visa for you. It can all be done online so that all you have to do is send your passport off in the post or drop it in to your nearest Russian Embassy yourself. These agencies are reliable, efficient, inexpensive and the standard way to obtain tourist visas to Russia.

You need to send a scanned copy of your passport to ed at arcticrussiatravel.com at least 2.5 months before your trip, along with the following information: full name, date and place of birth, the full name of the company you work for and your position, your work telephone, home telephone and mobile telephone, your address, passport number, date of issue and who it was issued by. This information and your visa and passport copies are necessary to apply for the special permit you require to visit the Yamal Peninsula.

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