12 Day Polar Urals Cross Country Skiing Expedition

2 men on cross country skis pull their pulks through the Russian Arctic

The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug in Russia’s far north is a land of extremes. Temperatures can drop as low as -64°C, turning the landscape into a frozen fairytale, perfect for winter adventures like this cross country skiing trip. On this expedition, we head out into the Siberian wilderness in search of the Northern Lights. We’ll also visit the indigenous Nenets people and their reindeer herds.

We start by heading into the mountains on cross country skis, spending several nights camping in heated tents under the glittering polar night sky. We then meet up with the Nenets, staying with them for a few nights and learning about their unique way of life.

Join us on this incredible expedition, where you’ll get the incredible sense of achievement that comes from travelling under your own power across the tundra. We guarantee a Russian Arctic Travel adventure you’ll never forget.

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

The Nenets campsite in winter

Cross Country Skiing 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 Polar Urals

Following an early breakfast in Salekhard, we’ll go via ice road across the frozen River Ob to the village of Kharp, 90 minutes away. Here, we will organise and pack our gear before we begin our crossing of the Polar Urals, skiing with our pulks up into the valley.

winter at the Nenets homestay on Russian Arctic Travel's cross country skiing trip

Today we will cover up to 20km before setting up camp for the night. We’ll cook dinner and sleep in our heated tents.

Distance covered: 12-20km

Accommodation: heated tents

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 3 – 6 – Cross Country Skiing through the Polar Urals

We’ll be cross country skiing with our pulks through the fantastic landscapes of the Polar Urals. We’ll travel along the snowy valleys, on frozen rivers, over the icy tundra and spectacular mountain passes. As we explore, immersing ourselves in the vast landscapes of the Arctic, you’ll begin to understand why in the indigenous Nenets language this place is called Yamal – “the end of the world”.

Each night we set up our camp, warm up with a hot meal, and hope for the spectacle of the Northern Lights in the starry sky above us.

Distance covered: 12-20km/day

Accommodation: camping in a heated tent

Meals: B/L/D included

reindeer in the snow at nenets homestay in siberia

Day 7 – Nenets Camp

Note: meeting the Nenets may occur earlier depending on the site of their camp.

After several days alone in the wilderness, today we’ll meet up with the Nenets. 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 be traditional Nenets cuisine – simple meals consisting of fish and reindeer meat. Blocks of ice will need to be melted on the stove for our morning cup of tea! Accommodation will be in the chums (traditional tent made of reindeer skins and felt) of the Nenets and is basic.

Distance covered: 12-20km

Accommodation: Nenets chum

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 8-9 – Nenets Camp

Life with the Nenets. We will have plenty of time to observe the traditional way of life of the Nenets and how they have adapted to cope with this harsh environment. 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 get us to join in with their games.

a nenets boy plays in the snow

You’ll get to meet the Nenets’ Laikas (herding dogs) and maybe some of the reindeer if they’re near the camp. If the weather allows, then we can also set out on cross country skiing or snowshoe excursions into the beautiful surrounding mountains for a few hours.

Accommodation: Nenets chum

Meals: B/L/D included

Day 10 – Nenets Camp to Salekhard

After a shared breakfast with the family, we’ll go to the nearest train station which will take us back to Kharp. Here, our vehicle will pick us up for the 90 minute trip to Salekhard, where we will check into our hotel for the night. 

Accommodation: Salekhard hotel (twin share)

Meals: B/L/D included

Russian Arctic Travel's founder at the Nenets winter campsite on one of our trips

Day 11 – Salekhard

Free day in Salekhard. You may wish to visit the Shimanovsky museum, with its exhibitions of ethnology, archaeology and natural history, or the reconstructed wooden Obdorsky jail, or just wander the streets of this charming city. 

In the afternoon you’ll have an option to enjoy a traditional Russian banya or sauna. In the evening, we will have our farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Salekhard hotel (twin-share)

Meals: B/D included, L at own expense

Day 12 – Depart Salekhard

After breakfast, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your flight.

Meals: B included

A wooden building in Salekhard

Costs & Services

Included

  • Accommodation: 3 nights in Salekhard hotel (twin-share), 3 nights homestay with the Nenets, 5 nights camping (the exact split of accommodation on expedition may vary depending on weather and location of Nenets camp)
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary
  • Russian Arctic Travel English-speaking guide
  • All transfers in Salekhard
  • Snowmobiles and fuel
  • Arctic safety/security equipment
  • Permits and visa invitation documents
  • 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 – rental is available)
  • Use of banya/sauna in Salekhard
The Nenets homestay in winter on a Russian Arctic Travel 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 moderate level of fitness will be required for this trip as we may be cross-country skiing for several days. We can cater the trip to your individual needs if you are concerned about your fitness levels – please contact us to discuss this
  • 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.