10 Day Russian Arctic Summer Trip: Reindeer Herders and Rafting

A Nenets chum on a green field with the mountains of the Polar Urals in the background

Experience a different side of Siberia on this arctic summer trip. Every year, the nomadic Nenets people start their long migration from the remote lands of the Northern Yamal Peninsula to the southern forests. For several weeks, they drive their vast herds of reindeer across frozen rivers and landscapes until they reach the campsites they’ve used for generations. 

The Nenets’ trip, travelling along ancient migration routes, will cover hundreds of kilometres. In one of the most extreme environments on earth, our path runs through valleys and swamps, across streams, rivers and high mountain passes. Join Russian Arctic Travel for a trip of a lifetime in this place where the indigenous people still walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.

This trip runs from July to September.
Contact us via email or phone if your preferred dates are unavailable.

Nenets sleds sit on a green meadow against a backdrop of the Polar Ural mountains

Arctic Summer Trip Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Salekhard

Arrive at Salekhard airport and transfer to the hotel where you’ll check-in before having an arrival briefing about what to expect in the days ahead. Our local guides will check that your gear 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 you can explore by yourself. We suggest visiting the Shimanovsky museum, with its exhibitions of Nenets ethnology, archaeology and natural history, or the reconstructed wooden Obdorsky jail.

Accommodation: Salekhard hotel (twin-share)

Meals: D included

Day 2 – Salekhard to Nenets Camp

Following an early breakfast at the hotel, we load up our vehicle and start our journey north. We’ll take the ferry across the Ob River to Labytnangi and then on to the village of Kharp, where the asphalt road ends. As we hit the dirt tracks, our adventure really begins. Our route today takes us across the river Sob, past Jade Valley (which is named for the stones found there), and Dinosaur Mountain.

Winding roads through the polar ural mountains

We stop for a picnic lunch in the abandoned gold mining village of Polyarny, where there will also be time for a quick look around this fascinating area. From here, an old road leads us through a mountain pass and eventually to lake Estato, where the Nenets have their summer camp. 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.

Accommodation: Nenets chum

Meals: B/L/D included

Days 3-5 – Nenets Camp

Life with the Nenets family. During our time here we’ll get to know our hosts and learn about the traditional culture and lifestyle of the nomads. Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing our mealtimes with the family, seeing what it takes to survive in this challenging environment, and spending our nights sleeping in the chum. 

If the weather permits, there will be daily opportunities for trips into the surrounding areas, where we can visit the reindeer herd and go fishing for grayling. The Nenets also make a variety of traditional household items and crafts, such as reindeer boots and slippers, which you can purchase to help support the family.

Accommodation: Nenets chum

Meals: B/L/D included

a Nenets woman wearing a colourful headscarf stands outside her chum in Yamal

Day 6 – Nenets Camp to Polyarny

We have breakfast with the Nenets before saying our goodbyes and hitting the road once again. This morning we’ll backtrack to the village of Polyarny, having lunch on the way. Tonight we set up camp near Polyarny where we’ll prepare dinner and sleep in our tents.

Accommodation: 2-4 person tent

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 7 – Polyarny to Sob River 

After breakfast, we’ll break down our campsite and prepare the rafting equipment since our arctic summer trip continues on the river! After lunch, we’ll launch our rafts and venture downstream. At the end of this exciting leg of the voyage, we’ll set up camp again on the banks of the river. After dinner, we spend another night in our tents.

Accommodation: 3-4 person tent

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 8 – Sob River

Once again we break camp after breakfast and continue rafting down the river. We’ll stop for a side trip at Rai-Iz Mountain, hiking up to its beautiful waterfalls. After the hike, we’ll have lunch before embarking on another stretch of rafting. In the evening we pitch the tents again before cooking dinner and sleeping in the tents.

Accommodation: 2-4 person tent

Meals: B/L/D included

A man fishing beside the River Sob in the Polar Urals

Day 9 – Sob River to Salekhard

After breakfast, we’ll pack up the camp and start our drive back to Salekhard, where you’ll check-in at the hotel once again. Today you’ll have free time to spend relaxing after your adventures of the last week. We can also organise a visit to a local Russian banya or sauna. Tonight we’ll have a group farewell dinner.

Accommodation: hotel in Salekhard (twin-share)

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 10 – Depart Salekhard

Transfer to Salekhard airport after breakfast to catch your flight. 

Meals: B included

A local Nenets man dressed in camouflage gear looks into the distance

Costs & Services

Included

  • Accommodation: 2 nights in Salekhard hotel (twin-share), 4 nights homestay with the Nenets, 3 nights camping
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary
  • Russian Arctic Travel English-speaking guide
  • Tour of Salekhard if desired
  • All transfers in Salekhard
  • Vehicles and fuel on expedition
  • Arctic safety/security equipment
  • Rafting equipment including wetsuits and life vests
  • Tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment for camping
  • Permits and visa invitation letter
  • Return flights from Moscow or St Petersburg 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)
  • Use of banya/sauna in Salekhard (an additional €50pp)
A Nenets Herding Laika lying near a sled on Russian Arctic Travel's arctic summer trip

Note: The final route and activities may vary slightly, as the weather can be unpredictable here in Yamal. 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 sharing base. Depending on the group’s size there might be a chum available for the group only
  • Using drones above the reindeer herds is prohibited

Fitness and dietary requirements

  • A basic level of fitness will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip, in particular the rafting portion. The waterfall hike is approximately 2km each way, but there are steep sections which can be challenging 
  • 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 will apply if you are a single traveller and are not happy to share a twin room.