Russia Expedition: Footsteps of the Reindeer Herders

Russia Expedition: Footsteps of the Reindeer Herders

From $ 6,100 AUD


There are expeditions and then there are expeditions; this trip, to the far reaches of Russia, definitely falls into the latter category. After a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stop in St Petersburg, travel by train, bus and Trekol to the Yamal Peninsula; quite literally ‘the end of the world’. Extending far above the Arctic Circle, this isolated region has been home to the Nenets, a tribe of nomadic reindeer herders, for centuries. Now, the Nenets are inviting Intrepid travellers into their community for a first-hand glimpse at their daily existence. Learn about life on the frozen tundra, how they stay warm when the temperature hits -50°C, and how much the nomads rely on their reindeer herds. This is definitely one of our most eye-opening, off-the-beaten-track adventures yet.

Trip Name
Russia Expedition: Footsteps of the Reindeer Herders
Last Updated
  • Rub shoulders with the locals as you experience overnight train travel in Russia
  • Meet the local Nenets people, the Siberian Arctic's indigenous reindeer herders
  • Visit a traditional Nenets campsite and see the reindeers up close
  • Try your hand at fishing and then enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the Horomdo Lake
  • Explore Russia's glittering capital Moscow


ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any such changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested in the Group Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk. BOOKING THEATRE TICKETS IN ADVANCE To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. Please consider carefully which performances you are going to want attend and make sure that the dates correspond to your trip. If you are unsure about when to book your tickets please get in touch with your booking agent and find out what times and dates are free for you to see a show. As we don't want you to double book yourself! In particular we recommend you see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there especially during White Nights in St Petersburg. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg: www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.mikhailovsky.ru

Day 1 - St Petersburg
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. Truly one of Europe's finest and most dazzling cities, where Baroque architecture stands alongside the opulent palaces of Russian royalty, St Petersburg’s history, emerging art and music scene, and riotous nightlife won’t fail to get under your skin. The legacy of Russian tsar Peter the Great, who founded the imperial city in 1703, will clearly be felt as you explore its enigmatic streets, cathedrals and museums. If you arrive in town early, spend some time exploring. Perhaps climb to the colonnade of St Isaac’s Cathedral for magnificent views over the city, or stroll along Nevsky Prospekt – St Petersburg's main thoroughfare – popping into one of the many bakeries or pancake shops along the way. Non-squeamish travellers may like to check out Peter the Great’s ghoulish collection of oddities at the Kunstkamera, while art-lovers should head to the Hermitage Museum, one of the world's premier art collections, housed in the former imperial Winter Palace. Your expedition begins with a Welcome Meeting at the hotel at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We’ll be collecting insurance and next of kin information at the meeting – please ensure you have all these details ready to provide to your leader. You’ll also need two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. One will be collected by your leader, the other is for you to keep on you at all times while on this trip. If you are on a winter departure - make sure you talk to your leader about clothing and footwear to ensure that you have suitable attire for the extreme temperatures you will experience in the Yamal Peninsula. If you are travelling in summer, adequate protection against mosquitoes is a must! Your leader will be able to recommend the best places to purchase anything you need in St Petersburg before you leave
Day 2 - Overnight train
Today is a long travel day, as we board the overnight train to Velikiy Ustyug (approximately 22 hours). Be sure to pack a good book or deck of cards for the journey! Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car although with a limited menu. We recommend stocking up on snacks prior to travel. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four. A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers (in moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members, and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work. It's most appreciated if foreign travellers are respectful of this, particularly in the mornings and evenings or when other passengers are sleeping. Alcoholism is also a serious social problem in Russia so travellers should take care not to encourage or take part in drinking to excess. Fake alcohol is common and the motives for being invited to drink with locals may not always be honest. The locals' tolerance for alcohol is likely to be much higher than your own. You may be putting yourself and other members of your group at risk by getting involved in heavy drinking while on the train. While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. Train security guards keep a very close eye on drunken behaviour and have the legal right to fine or have any passengers who are intoxicated removed from the train without warning.
Day 3 - Velikiy Ustyug
Upon arrival in Yadrikha, transfer to Veliky Ustyug by private bus (around 50 kilometres). This small town was once well of the map, until authorities declared it the official home of Ded Moroz, the Russian Santa Claus. Also known as Father Frost, Ded Moroz is said to be 2,000 years old and once kidnapped small children, only returning them when their parents provided him with gifts. Over the years, he’s shed his negative image and is now the white-bearded, jolly gift-giving gent associated with Christmas. Home to some 30,000 people, the settlement boasts gorgeous wooden architecture and centuries-old Orthodox churches. We’ll take a walking tour around the town, then the evening is free to spend as you please.
Day 4 - Trans-Polar Railway
Spend the morning enjoying some free time, perhaps visiting Father Frost’s Residence, before the drive to Kotlas (70 kilometres), where we’ll board our next overnight train (approximately 25 hours) all the way to the Yamal Peninsular on the Trans-Polar Railway.
Day 5 - Salekhard
Arrive in Labytnangi, where we’ll transfer to Salekhard via private bus and ferry (approx 2 hours). Founded in 1595 by Russian Cossacks, Salekhard was once used as a place of exile, with prisoners in Soviet camps forced to mine metal ores, construct a new railway, or polish diamonds. Check into our hotel for the night. Your evening here is free, in preparation for the journey ahead.
Day 6 - Langot Yugan Nenets Camp
We’ve got a long day of travel ahead of us today. After breakfast, take a Trekol (a from Salekhard to Factoria Laborovaya (approximately 6-8 hours). These locally built all-terrain vehicles have tubeless tyres and are essential for the landscape here - either frozen rivers or swampy land for most of the year. The vast tundra will give you a true sense of the isolation of this region. Located above the Article Circle, our camp is located in the valley of Langot Yugan river. There are 2 chums (huts in the local Nenets language) on the territory of camping located 20-30 meters from each other, one chum is designated for family and one for the group. Accommodation here is in basic, multishare huts or yurts known as "chum" in the local language. There are pit toilets, and a Russian banya (bathhouse). All our meals are included during our stay here and will be simple, Russian meals as well as the chance to try raw or salted fish, and reindeer meat. Depending on the season, stoves may be used for heating and in colder months blocks of ice might need to be melted for our morning cup of tea!
Day 7 - Langot Yugan Nenets Camp
It’s easy to see how the Yamal (sometimes translating to ‘the end of the world’ in the indigenous Nenets language) gets its name; the remote tundra, featuring low-lying shrubs, mossy pastures, snaking rivers and vast lakes, is pummelled by icy winds for most of the year, with temperatures dropping regularly to almost -50°C. Despite the freezing conditions for much of the year, the area is home to some 10,000 nomads and more than 300,000 domestic reindeer. Start you day with getting to know the family of nomads and their children. You will see how small baby reindeers are living and how laikas (dogs) are protecting the herds. The family will demonstrate traditional national clothing (dresses, winter boots, belts). In the afternoon learn how the Nenets curry reindeer skin and maybe try your hands at it! Later on get to know how lasso of nomads is made and witness how masterful Nenets are at catching their animals by it. Take a chance to try it yourself! Spend the rest of the day learning more about the Nenets, such as how the nomads stay warm during the freezing winter nights or about how they construct their chums - the conical-shaped tents made from reindeer hide stretched over a skeleton of wooden poles. There will be plenty of time to get involved in camp life by helping in the kitchen, learning some traditional sewing or learning Russian or Nenets words. Keep your eye out for Sihirtia, the mystical, magical trolls that are said to inhabit the tundra and were here long before the Nenets arrived on this land.
Day 8 - Langot Yugan Nenets Camp
Depending on the weather conditions –take a leisure radial walk of the valley to see surroundings and witness reindeer pastures. There are over 1000 reindeer in the area of the valley. The Nenets rely on reindeer for almost everything; this creature provides food, warmth, transport and clothing. Later on locals will be happy to teach you how to make threads from deer ligaments for sewing traditional outer garments. Learn about the differences between woman’s and men’s sledges as well as how to set them up and prepare for the ride. After trying to team your sledding, join the Nenets for a ride! In the evening there is a chance to go for traditional net fishing in the river. You'll have some locals with you to show their special methods and no doubt share a few tales. Then enjoy your catch of the day with your new Nenets friends.
Day 9 - Langot Yugan Nenets Camp
Free day for you to learn more about Nenets culture. As it’s the last day of your stay at the camp – join local family for spiritual ceremony of worshipping for a good road back home and tye colourful ribbons around sleighs. For dinner you may try traditional reindeer meat (main vitamin source of nomads) or even try your hands at making stroganina (long sliced frozen fish or meat), traditional delicacy of indigenous people of the North.
Day 10 - Salekhard
Drive back to the "big city" of Salekhard in the Trekol vehicles (approx 6-8 hours) and check back into the hotel for the night.
Day 11 - Salekhard
This morning, take a tour of Salekhard, the only city in the world located on the Arctic Circle. See the legendary baby mammoth, known as Lyuba, in the Shemanovsky Ethnographic Museum. Other places of interest in the city include the market, Victory Park with its display of tanks from the Great Patriotic War, the wooden theatre building andthe Peter and Paul Chapel.  Outside the city there's the Gornoknyazevsk Ethnographic Complex, which after your authentic experience at the Nenets camp. might now seem a little contrived! Some travellers do find it a good place to buy local souvenirs.  Enjoy the day exploring the city and stock up on supplies before we begin our long journey to Russia's capital tomorrow. 
Day 12-13 - Trans-Polar Railway
Travel by private bus and ferry back to Labytnangi (approximately 2 hours) before our long journey to Moscow (approximately 45 hours) on the Trans-Polar Railway.
Day 14 - Moscow
The Russian capital has survived centuries of revolution and has seen the country through some of its most turbulent years, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of post USSR Russia. Beneath its modern veneer Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. Depending on the train schedule, we may arrive into Moscow very early at 4:45am. Head to the hotel, where we’ll have some day rooms available for luggage storage and to freshen up before heading out to explore dazzling Moscow at your leisure. Perhaps wander through the cobbled Red Square, admire the colourful domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, visit the opulent GUM Department store, head to the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum, or marvel at the imposing walls of the Kremlin. From the days of Ivan the Terrible to the military parades of the Cold War, the square has long been at the heart of Russian history. Visit Lenin’s Mausoleum and then enter the Kremlin grounds, filled with some of the oldest and most important churches in the country. The Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels, is an easy spot to while away some time. Afterwards, perhaps take the metro to see elaborately decorated stations; from sculptures depicting the glory of the Soviet days to ornate chandeliers and stained glass windows, these are the 'Palaces for the People'. Enjoy your last night with the group tonight with an optional dinner together.
Day 15 - Moscow
Your Russia expedition ends today. There are no activities planned and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
29-07-202112-08-2021AUD $ 6,100-


Overnight Train (4 nights),Hotel (6 nights),Chum (4 nights)


Overnight Train,Metro,Private vehicle,Ferry,Trekol (Russian all-terrain vehicle)