Best of Siberia and Mongolia
16 days, 15 nights: Yakutsk (2 nights) - Neryungri (2 night) - BAM train to Novy Uoyan (1 night) - Evenki camp (1 night) - Severobaikalsk (2 nights) - Ust Barguzin (1 night) - Night train to Ulaanbaatar (1 night) - Ulaanbaatar (2 nights) - Ulgii (2 nights) - Khovd (1 night) - Gorki Terelj park (1 night)
Day 1, Sunday
Land in Yakutsk early morning - flight S7 or Aeroflot from Moscow. Transfer to hotel Azimut Polar Star, and some free time to rest and take breakfast. At 11 am we will meet to walk to the nearby central square and Lenin statue, and then see the Yakutsk fish market. We will take our welcome lunch in a good local restaurant, and then head to see the oldest surviving part of Yakutsk, and how they dig ships from the frozen Lena river to repair them. Back to the hotel for some free time, and then we will go out for dinner, on the way stopping for a good city panorama, and the Permafrost kingdom - the chief tourist attraction of Yakutsk, a park with ice sculptures built inside an old permafrost food storage tunnel. Dinner at Chuchur Muran, the most famous Yakutian restaurant.
Overnight in Yakutsk, Azimut Polar Star, two nights. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 2, Monday
After breakfast we are heading west, along the Lena River. We will pass the industrial town of Pokrovsk, before heading on an ice road on top of the frozen Lena. We will see the Lena Pillars, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the way back we will have a homemade lunch in a very interesting Yakutian village, on an island in the Lena river. We will drive back to Yakutsk in time for dinner, in a Georgian restaurant.
Overnight at Yakutsk, Azimut Polar Star. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 3, Tuesday
After breakfast we will drive to Yakutsk airport for a short, 45 minute flight to Neryungri, a modern town in southern Yakutia. If a flight is not scheduled for next year (the timetable may shift), we will take a train from the newly built Nizhny Bestyah railway station - on the opposite side of the Lena River from Yakutsk. In Neryungri we will have a tour of the local coal mine, one of the largest coal mines in the world. We will have lunch and dinner in the lovely Chocolate cafe. A walk in Neryungri, a very typical Siberian mining town. Overnight in a comfortable and very typical Siberian hotel, housed inside a large Soviet residential building.
Overnight in Neryungri, one night. Breakfast.
Day 4, Wednesday
A light breakfast, and we are off riding the “Small BAM”, the new railway that connects Yakutia to the main Baikal-Amur and Transsiberian rail corridor - and which may, one day, connect Eurasia with North America. We will have a proper breakfast and tea, as well as lunch and dinner, onboard the train. At lunch we will be in Tynda, where the train spends two hours. Let’s go out for a walk. Then we continue along the BAM - with some of the prettiest Siberian landscapes, and very interesting railway stations and towns along the line.
Overnight onboard Baikal-Amur Mainline train, in two bed private compartments. Breakfast and lunch.
Day 5, Thursday
At the time when you wake up, notice how much the scenery has changed! We are now surrounded by mountains. We will enjoy breakfast, and then prepare to get off at Novy Uoyan station. We will have a quick look around the station, which is really interesting for its Baltic architecture, and then jump on a vakhtovka, or a large 6x6 truck that workers use to reach remote gas, oil and coal fields in Siberia. This monster can drive on any terrain! We will drive on a zimnik, or ice road that only exists in winter - in summer these are swamps. It will take us around 4 hours, or 50 miles, to reach the start of our trail, which will lead us to one of the last Evenki reindeer herder camps north of Baikal. Before the BAM line was built, there were no Russians anywhere. All villages were Evenki. After BAM in the 1970s, the Evenki became minority, and their lifestyles changed dramatically. There is much alcoholism in the Evenki camps, save for this one - here they keep old traditions alive. Let’s have a look. We will ride for about ten miles on snow scooters and sleds to the camp. One third of the road will on top of a frozen lake, where the Evenki fish. Coming there is an adventure. There are glorious mountains all around. We will arrive around sunset, at the time when the Evenki prepare to release the reindeer for the night. We will sleep altogether in one log cabin, on military-style beds, but with brand new bedding and pillows (which we will donate afterwards to the Evenki). There will be a Russian-style bath, with plenty of hot and cold water for you to wash. Dinner at the camp - local fish and reindeer stews, which is what the Evenki eat mostly. No vodka or any other alcohol allowed at the camp.
Overnight in the Evenki camp north of Novy Uoyan, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 6, Friday
We will get up early, brush our teeth, and help our hosts prepare breakfast for us: porridge and tea (there will be no coffee, unless one of us brings). The reindeer will return to camp, and we are welcome to greet them. Then we head back to where the vakhtovka left us. We will then drive to Severobaikalsk (150 miles, of which one third on an ice road). We will ride along the Baikal-Amur mainline, stopping to see a couple of the interesting train stations, and not least, the northernmost point of Lake Baikal. This will be at sunset, and the light should be utterly gorgeous. Baikal lake is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It holds approximately one fifth of all freshwater reserves on the planet, and is home to an incredibly diverse and unique flora and fauna. Mountain peaks on all sides, and stunning silence. In Severobaikalsk we are staying at a small resort/guesthouse close to the lake. We will check in, have some time to rest, and then go to the town for dinner in a surprisingly good bar and dinner place.
Overnight in Severobaikalsk, Golden Fish hotel, two nights. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 7, Saturday
After breakfast at our resort we are off to the nearby village of Baikalskoe. This is one of the prettiest old villages in Russia, and the prettiest one on the shores of lake Baikal. We will have a little walk along the lake shore, with some beautiful cliffs and ice formations. Then have a stroll in the village, and have a home-cooked dinner in the village. In the afternoon we will head back to Severobaikalsk. Some free time. Before dinner, around sunset, we will have a stroll in the interesting dacha district of Severobailaksk, learning more about the Siberian dacha culture. Dinner at our bar and dinner in Severobaikalsk. For those who are interesting in locally made pottery and gifts - Severobaikalsk has a surprising number of artists and craftsmen who produce a lot of interesting and unusual souvenirs. There will be a chance to visit a studio or two and buy unique souvenirs you won’t find elsewhere in Russia.
Overnight in Severobaikalsk, Golden Fish hotel, second night. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 8, Sunday
After an early breakfast we hop on a hovercraft which will take us across frozen Lake Baikal. This is an amazing ride, slow but scenic. We will stop to explore some beautiful ice formations on the way. There will be mountains on all sides as we travel to the south-east shore of the lake, the Barguzin National Park. We will have a picnic lunch on the lake. In the afternoon the hovercraft will leave us near Ust Barguzin. Vehicles will pick us up, and drive us across the National Park to the main road. We will drive to the village of Gremyachinsk, where we will stay the night at the comfortable Baikal Riviera resort. Dinner at the lodge.
Overnight in Gremyachinsk, Baikal Riviera, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 9, Monday
Those who want to wake up at sunrise, and have a walk to Baikal lake - please do! After breakfast we are off, south, and will wave goodbye to the lake. In about two hours drive we are in Ulan Ude, the capital of Buryatia. We will drive a little bit longer to see the interesting Buddhist Ivolgin Datsan monastery, before heading to Ulan Ude’s centre. We will have a little walk to see some interesting constructivist architecture, and the giant head of Lenin. We will have lunch in a good local cafe, before hopping on the Trans-Mongolian night train to Mongolia. As we ride south, please notice how much the landscape has changed! The taiga is gone, the grasslands of Mongolia have arrived. We will have dinner onboard the train. In the late evening we will cross the border. Get some sleep afterwards.
Overnight onboard the Trans-Mongolian train, one night. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 10, Tuesday
We will arrive early in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s modern capital. We will first go to the interesting Zaisan monument, with a gorgeous view of town. Then we will head to check in at our comfortable, plush Shangri-La hotel in central Ulaanbaatar. Some time to rest and grab breakfast in the hotel. We will go out for an orientation walk of Ulaanbaatar: and point out things you can do in your free time in the afternoon, including the Choijin Lama temple, the National Museum of Mongolia, and the Fine Arts Zanabazar museum, and restaurants where you can grab lunch. For those who want, we will meet for dinner in the evening.
Overnight in Ulaanbaatar, Shangri-La, two nights. Breakfast.
Day 11, Wednesday
After breakfast we will visit the Gandantegchinlen monastery, the only Buddhist monastery that remained open during communist Mongolia. After this we will have a tour of the ger (yurt) district, Ulaanbaatar’s most interesting and rapidly expanding area. We will take lunch in a local Hazara-Indian restaurant, and then visit one of Mongolia’s three remaining bow and arrow makers in his large, communist-era prefabricated apartment building. He makes composite bows - made of wood, skin and bone. And he has hundreds of them in that small apartment. . Back at the hotel for some rest. Dinner on your own - the hotel has some good options, and there are nice restaurants around, too.
Overnight in Ulaanbaatar, Shangri-La, second night. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 12, Thursday
Breakfast at the hotel. Then we are off to Ulaanbaatar airport for a short flight to Ulgii, remote western Mongolia. Ulgii’s population comprises mostly of ethnic Kazakhs. We will transfer to our hotel, have some time for refreshments, and head out for lunch in a good local cafe. In the afternoon we will have a stroll in the bazaar, one of the liveliest and most interesting markets in Mongolia and Central Asia. We will have a walk around the city, and visit the local aimag history museum. We will go to the Kazakh cultural centre for a performance tonight. Dinner in the Pamukkale Turkish restaurant in town.
Overnight in Ulgii, local hotel, two nights. Breakfast.
Day 13, Friday
After breakfast, we will drive to Tsengel, the westernmost settlement in Mongolia, home to a diverse population of Muslim Kazakhs, shamanist Tuvans and Buddhist Mongols. We will visit the home of a Tuvan throat singer, and have a Tuvan home-cooked lunch. Then we will visit a family of eagle hunters, before heading back to Ulgii, on a different scenic road. This is the heart of the beautiful and dry Altai mountains of Central Asia - shared between Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan and Russia. In the evening we will arrive back in Ulgii. Dinner at our well-known cafe.
Overnight in Ulgii, local hotel, two nights. Breakfast, lunch.
Day 14, Saturday
After breakfast we will head south, on the newly built, smooth road to Khovd. This is Mongolia’s most amazing scenery - let’s enjoy the ride along lakes and rivers and mountains. We will arrive at lunch in Khovd. Check in at our hotel newly built and comfortable Steppe hotel, and lunch. In the afternoon we will go out to explore the interesting town of Khovd. Perhaps we can meet with a shaman today. Dinner in town.
Overnight in Khovd, Steppe hotel, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 15, Sunday
In the morning, transfer to Khovd airport for a short flight to Ulaanbaatar. This time, though, we will not drive to downtown UB City. We will drive east, to the large, recently built statue of Chinggis Khan - the largest equestrian statue in the world. We will have lunch at the statue complex, and then head to the nearby Gorkhi Terelj National Park. We will spend the night at the lovely Terelj Lodge. Farewell dinner at the lodge.
Overnight in Gorkhi Terelj, Terelj lodge, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 16, Monday
Breakfast, and then transfers to the airport for your flights out, or to downtown Ulaanbaatar if you choose to stay longer in the city. End of the tour.
Available tour dates:
February 21 - March7, 2021
- Accommodation in Mongolia and Siberia’s best lodgings: from a Shangri-La, to cosy country lodges.
- Transport with a new, comfortable minibus where the roads are paved, and 4WDs for the bumpy side roads. And not least, good drivers!
- Drivers and guides lodging and food.
- Baikal-Amur Mainline train from Neryungri to Novy Uoyan, and Trans-Mongolian from Ulan Ude to Ulaanbaatar in private twin compartments (single is not available).
- Flights Yakutsk-Neryungri; Ulaanbaatar-Ulgii; Khovd-Ulaanbaatar.
- All meals according to programme;.
- Border permit to the western Altai region.
- All taxes and fees.
- Bottled water, refreshments and sweet treats while on the bus and while exploring sights.
- A comprehensive information pack with maps, literature, useful knowledge and gifts.
- Tips for pretty much everyone but guide and driver.
- All activities according to the program: musicians, throat singers, eagle hunters, visits to homes, and more.
- Entry tickets to all sights that are ticketed.
- Visa invitation letter for Russia, if required.
- And much, much more.
- International air fares.
- Medical and travel insurance.
- Personal expenses such as phone calls, laundry, internet, drinks apart from those included.
- Visa fees for Russia.
€5735 per person, €860 single supplement.
The cost is per person sharing double or twin room. Maximum number of participants 10.