10 Day Arctic Photography Tour: Nenets, Reindeer and Northern Lights

a nenets man and his nenets herding laika stand beside a tree in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Welcome to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in northwest Siberia. Here, in Russia’s far north, is a land of extremes where you will experience your Nenets photography trip. Travel in the Russian Arctic is a challenge, with winter temperatures dropping as low as -64°C, but this turns the landscape into a true winter wonderland.

The Nenets people, Siberia’s indigenous reindeer herders, live in this inhospitable climate, preserving a way of life that’s been passed down through generations. This is your chance to head off on an arctic photography tour like no other.

On this trip, we’ll join the Nenets as they go about their daily lives, observing first-hand what it takes to not only survive, but thrive in Siberia. These generous people will welcome us into their chums (large tents) to learn more about the Nenets culture. You’ll have fantastic opportunities to photograph them, their reindeer, and their adorable Nenets Herding Laika – dogs bred specifically for this part of the world.

The vast and unpolluted night skies of the Yamal Peninsula also offer an excellent chance to photograph millions of stars. If we’re lucky, we’ll also get to see the beauty of the Northern Lights as they dance above the Nenets chums.

After visiting the Nenets, we’ll head to Gornokhadatinsky Reserve where we’ll find muskoxen, one of the few species to survive the last ice age. Photograph these impressive animals while keeping an eye out for arctic foxes and the beautiful white ptarmigan that camouflage themselves almost entirely in the snow.

Join us for an adventure that will leave you in awe of both the Nenets people and the animals that can survive in this wild Arctic environment. You’ll head home with a camera full of special moments and memories to last a lifetime.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Moscow to Salekhard 

Arrive at Salekhard airport and transfer to the hotel (approximately 30 minutes). Check-in and have an arrival briefing about what to expect in the days ahead. Our local guides will check that your equipment is suitable for the expedition. In the afternoon we can organise a tour of Salekhard (the only city in the world directly located on the Arctic Circle) or, if you prefer, you can explore by yourself.

A wooden building in Salekhard on the arctic circle

You may wish to visit the Shimanovsky museum, with its exhibitions of Nenets ethnology, archaeology and natural history, or the reconstructed wooden Obdorsky jail. You’ll also find street art and sculptures to photograph as you walk around. 

We will make sure that there is time for you to purchase good quality warm clothing here for the rest of the trip if you need to.

Accommodation: hotel in Salekhard

Meals: at own expense (we can make restaurant suggestions and reservations)

Day 2 – Salekhard to Nenets Camp 

After an early breakfast, we’ll start our trip. Using a combination of car transfer and snowmobiles we travel through the Arctic tundra to the remote Nenets’ camp. We’ll have lunch on the way and can stop at any time to photograph the beautiful winter landscapes. On arrival at camp, we will be welcomed by the Nenets family before joining them for dinner.

All meals are included during our stay here and will give you a taste of traditional Nenets cuisine – simple meals consisting of fish or reindeer meat. Accommodation will be in the chums (traditional tents made of reindeer skins and felt) of the Nenets. Before turning in for the night, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a display of the Northern Lights.

Accommodation: Nenets homestay

Meals: B/L/D included

A nenets man wearing traditional nenets costume stands outside in the snow

Days 3 – 6 – Nenets Camp 

Life with the Nenets. We will be able to experience the traditional culture and lifestyle of the Nenets and the remarkable ways that they cope with this harsh environment. You’ll have plenty of chances to take photos and can also participate in the daily running of the camp. 

Help chop firewood, learn about Nenets cooking and how to make reindeer-skin clothing, wooden sledges, and other essentials for polar life. Many of the families have children who are always keen to have us join in with their games. 

We’ll have the opportunity to take a snowmobile trip out to the reindeer herds, to meet and photograph these shy and gentle creatures up close. We’ll get to see how the Nenets’ Laikas manage and guard the reindeer, as well as watch reindeer lassoing and sledge driving.

Accommodation: Nenets homestay

Meals: B/L/D included 

Day 7 – Nenets Camp to Gornokhadatinsky Reserve 

Today, after breakfast, we’ll say goodbye to our host Nenets family and load up the snowmobiles for our ride to Gornokhadatinsky Reserve in the Polar-Uralsky Natural Park. Along the way, we’ll have views of the spectacular northern landscape in the mountains of the Polar Urals, with many photo opportunities.

The Nenets homestay on the Yamal peninsula in winter

The Gornokhadatinsky Reserve is home to a multitude of rare and endangered species, although we’ll have to get very lucky to spot some of them! We will, however, definitely get to see the muskoxen herds and have a photo session with these huge, hairy beasts. 

Tonight we’ll set up heated tents to stay in and will cook for ourselves in camp.

Accommodation: heated tent

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 8 – Gornokhadatinsky Reserve to Salekhard 

After breakfast, we’ll break camp. The rest of the morning will either be spent with the muskoxen or out exploring the surroundings in the hope of photographing some other wildlife. After lunch, we’ll make our way back to Salekhard. On arrival, we check-in at the hotel, and there will be an option to enjoy a traditional Russian banya or sauna after our cold days in the field.

Accommodation: hotel in Salekhard

Meals: B/L included, D at own expense

One of the Nenets reindeer

Day 9 – Salekhard (optional excursion to Katravozh) 

Free day in Salekhard to spend as you wish. 

Optionally, at additional cost, we can arrange an excursion to the fishing village of Katravozh, 40km from Salekhard. Many Nenets live here, and we’ll hope to find them fishing at the river, as this is another excellent opportunity to take some unique photos.

Tonight we will have a farewell dinner together.

Accommodation: hotel in Salekhard

Meals: B/D included, L at own expense (included if on trip to Katravozh)

Day 10 – Salekhard to Moscow 

Transfer to Salekhard airport after breakfast to catch your flight back to Moscow.

Meals: B included

a Nenets boy plays outside in a snowstorm

Costs & Services

Included

  • Accommodation: 3 nights in Salekhard hotel (twin-share), 5 nights homestay with the Nenets, 1 night camping
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary
  • Russian Arctic Travel English-speaking guide and photography guide
  • All transfers in Salekhard
  • Snowmobiles and fuel
  • Arctic safety/security equipment
  • Tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment for camping
  • Permits and visa invitation letter
  • Return flights from Moscow to Salekhard

Not included

  • Personal expenses such as drinks, tickets, phone calls, etc.
  • Travel Insurance
  • Individual clothing, backpack, cold-weather clothing (contact us for advice – rental is available)
  • Use of banya/sauna in Salekhard
  • Excursion to Katravosz (an additional 200 Euro per person)
Russian Arctic Travel founder Aleksei in the snow outside the Nenets homestay

Note: The final travel route and activities may vary slightly, as the weather can be unpredictable here in the Russian Arctic. Your guide may need to adapt the program depending on the group, prevailing conditions and available options at the time. There is no cook on this trip, but you’re welcome to help the guides prepare meals and learn how to become a fantastic camp chef! During the expedition the cooperation of all participants will be crucial – you‘re always welcome to lend a hand.

Other important information

  • Please be aware that you are visiting this nomadic family in their home and this is a very personal space for them. The guides will inform you of any specific considerations or taboos that you need to be aware of.
  • Alcohol is strictly prohibited during the whole stay with the Nenets family
  • The Nenets might move their camp at any time, so we will only know the exact location of our homestay just before departure
  • Accommodation in the chums is on a shared basis. Depending on the group’s size there might be a chum available for the group only
  • Drones can only be operated as instructed by our local guide for this trip 

Fitness and dietary requirements

  • A basic level of fitness will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip, but no special training is required
  • Dietary requirements should be discussed prior but can usually be catered for

Recommendations for Clothing and Equipment

  • Will be sent at the time of booking

Visa Information

  • Russian Arctic Travel will provide visa invitation documents for you to apply for your Russian visa overseas

Price is based on double occupancy: a single supplement of 200 Euros will apply