Travel into one of the remotest corners of Southern Siberia to the Republic of Tuva along the border of Mongolia.
Discover wild Siberia on this cultural immersion into the Western Tuva region. Start out from Kyzyl, the geographical centre of Asia, where you’ll visit Russia’s earliest and most sacred piece of Tibetan architecture. Being the epicentre of traditional Tuvan culture you’ll have a chance to meet with nomadic pastoralists, master craftsmen, throat singers and musicians. The area is also replete with archaeological remains which you can explore, ranging from Scythian era burial mounds to standing stones and petroglyphs.
Trek and horse ride
The second half of the trip will see you venture into the backcountry on horseback for three days near to the border of the Altai Republic. During this time you’ll also have the chance to trek in the rugged range and subalpine lakes which feed into Western Tuva’s most fabled river, the Alash.
- Trek and horseback ride in the mountains of Western Tuva on the border of the Altai Republic.
- Visit nationally renowned local artisans specialising in ancient soapstone carving, blacksmithing and leatherworking in the impressive Bai-Taiga region.
- Meet master throat-singers and byzaanchy musicians.
- Visit the Ustuu-Khuree Temple – Russia’s earliest piece of Tibetan architecture.
- Seek out the Scythian-era Genghis Khan stone idol and the standing stones and petroglyphs near Bizhiktig Khaya village.
- Travel through the southern mountains and plains of the Republic of Khakassia.
- Experience the nomadic culture of Tuva.
Why We Love This Adventure
- Experience a true cultural immersion in a remote and rural region of southern Siberia
- Discover the backcountry on horseback for three days near to the border of the Altai Republic
- Camp for 2 beside the Khoolaash waterfall area from where you can freely hike, swim and fish
The Republic of Tuva in southern Siberia sits along the border of Mongolia.
Trek and horseback ride in the mountains of Western Tuva on the border of the Altai Republic, visit nationally renowned local artisans specialising in ancient soapstone carving, blacksmithing and leatherworking in the impressive Bai-Taiga region, seek out the Scythian-era Genghis Khan stone idol, ancient Turkic burial sites and the standing stones and petroglyphs near Bizhiktig Khaya village and then return from Western Tuva through the southern mountains and plains of the Republic of Khakassia.
Day 1 - Kyzyl
You’ll begin the day visiting the Geographical Centre of Asia Monument in the morning, the Tsechenlig Buddhist temple and a tour around the comprehensive National Museum, which has well-preserved artefacts from Scythian-era burial sites. Afterwards, you’ll visit the Tuvan Cultural Centre for demonstrations in local music and khoomei – the throat singing art form which the republic is most internationally famous for. The Cultural Centre is also home to countless other artisans and masters of music and creativity which you may be able to meet. Depending on availability there may also be a chance for you to partake in a music workshop and purchase handmade local instruments.
In the afternoon you’ll head out to explore Kyzyl, the capital of Tuva, visiting the downtown black market and even the centre for the Republic’s shamans. Time permitting you can then head on foot or by vehicle to the north side of Kyzyl and watch the sun setting over the steppe from the summit of Doo-Ghey or another nearby peak where you’ll have miles long views of the Yenisei out to the west.
Overnight in Aldyn-Bulak ger.
Day 2 - Kyzyl to Sai-Khonash
The following morning you’ll drive out west to Ustuu Khuree Temple outside of Chadan – which is Russia’s earliest piece of Tibetan architecture and one of the most sacred places for Tuva’s Buddhists.
Afterwards, you’ll stop for lunch in Kyzyl-Mazhalyk and drive towards Bizhiktig Khaya Mountain which is home to more than three hundred Bronze Age petroglyphs which depict ancient scenes of local life and even an image of Buddha which is estimated to date back to the 14th Century.
In the early evening, you’ll arrive into Sai-Khonash which is home to a number of nomad’s camps. We can spend the evening with a Russian banya, drinking tea, sampling Tuvan milk vodka (araga) and hang out with the numerous sheep, cows, horses, goats and yaks tended to by the nomads.
Overnight in Sai-Khonash ger.
Day 3 - Sai-Khonash
This day will be a chance to relax and learn more about rural life in Tuva. You’ll have the chance to make traditional fresh cheese known as byshtak, learn the art of Tuvan throat singing [khoomei] from locally renowned masters, as well as general demonstrations of local instruments such as the byzaanchy – a local variation of a four-stringed fiddle commonly found throughout numerous steppe cultures.
In the afternoon you’ll go on a short excursion on horseback down the Bayan-Khol River in preparation for our larger journey beginning the following morning. In the evening you’ll have a freshly slaughtered sheep and if you have a strong stomach you can learn how to skin, gut and prepare the meat ready for the pot.
Overnight in Sai-Khonash ger.
Days 4-5 - Sai-Khonash to Khoolaash
Day 4 will see us ride for 6-7 hours on horseback into the mountains to a yak summer camp. You’ll camp for nights 4 and 5 beside the Khoolaash waterfall area from where you can freely hike, swim, horseback ride and fish. On Day 5 we can embark on a hike through the forests and into the higher mountains near the Altai Republic.
Day 6 - Khoolaash to Sai-Khonash
After an early breakfast, we’ll depart on horseback again downwards through the mountains and back toward Sai-Khonash camp.
Day 7 - Sai-Khonash to Bai-Taiga
After breakfast in our ger, the group will drive towards Bai-Taiga, a region renowned by Tuvans for its natural beauty. Along the way you’ll stop at Shivilig, a natural spring considered to have healing properties. In Tuvan language, these are known as an arzhaan and for centuries they have been central to their culture.
Afterwards, we’ll drive 30km towards Kyzyl-Dag, a small village which is famous for the best craft makers in the whole of Tuva, many of whom are internationally recognised for their skills in crafts such as leather making, blacksmithing and soapstone carving. This is also a great chance to buy some of their one-of-a-kind work.
Overnight in a homestay.
Day 8 - Bai-Taiga to Abakan
Breakfast in Kyzyl-Dag and then departure back to Abakan.
PriceUS$ 1,500 per person. US$ 400 deposit required, balance payable 60 days prior to departure
- Local English speaking guide
- All accommodation
- All camping equipment
- All meals
- All Transport (including 4 x 4 vehicles)
- Entrance fees
- Workshop fees
- Horses and guides
- Traditional music concert in Tuvan Cultural Centre
- One workshop and shamanic ritual
What's Not included
- Visa Support
- Overnight accommodation in Abakan on Friday 20th July (if required)
Trip Duration8 days
Start LocationKyzyl, Russia
End LocationAbakan, Russia
Average Group SizeMaximum number of people: 10
This trip does not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard for the itinerary. The operator considers comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when making the choice of where to stay. Accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a room or a tent.
We include all meals during the trip.
When choosing vehicles and drivers the operator takes into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the driver behind the wheel. Whilst this journey is mostly by river and off-road vehicle where necessary, customer comfort and enjoyment of the journey is the first priority.
On this trip, you will be accompanied by a local guide assigned by the tour operator.
Security and Alcohol:
Russia is a very safe country on the whole. Nevertheless, client’s safety is our primary concern. The tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons.
Please note that at times when you are in Russia – and especially in Siberia – you will sometimes be given warning by the people you meet to be wary of drinking socially and sometimes even told that people can be threatening when drunk or generally a risk. Please don’t be too alarmed if you hear this. As long as you avoid getting heavily intoxicated with strangers you’re not comfortable with, don’t walk through Kyzyl’s streets at night and keep your eye out to avoid anyone drunk, you’ll likely have no problems.
Dates & Availability
- 13 Jul 2018 – 20 Jul 2018
Specialists in trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, former Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus, this operator aims to add positive benefit to the areas visited by ensuring that whenever possible, the money goose directly to the people of the region. In their words “”small scale tourism might not change the world but every path starts with a single step’.
The founders met as travel guides in the mountains of Afghanistan and bonded over a shared passion to enable other people to experience the beauty of Pakistan and Afghanistan, lands that are often described as dangerous and inhospitable.
Working with small groups of a maximum of 12 people and using specialist local guides throughout, their aim is to provide authentic and original experiences for all guests. This small number allows for greater security, flexibility and access to local people and places. Each set itinerary trip is individually designed to coincide with local events or to visit the area at the best time of year.
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