Migration with the Dolgans, Earth's northernmost nomads

10 days
From $4538
November - May

Tour Overview

This High Arctic trip takes guests to the border area between Yakutia’s Anabar District and the Taymyr Peninsula to visit the nomadic Dolgan reindeer herders. At 800 – 1000km north of the Arctic Circle, these are the northernmost reindeer herders in the world. Anabar is the northernmost part of Yakutia, the coldest inhabited region in the world. The Dolgan nomads inhabit this frozen wasteland, completely devoid of sunlight for two whole months during the mind-bogglingly harsh winter. They build wooden cabins on sledge runners and insulate them with reindeer furs. During migrations (once every ten days in winter or every 2 – 3 days in summer) the reindeer pull the whole home 10km or so to a new location. These are cultural immersion trips to live with the Dolgans in their cabins and experience their way of life. We take guests to camps with at least 1500 reindeer. On every trip in the past, we have managed to find a camp that has done at least one migration during our stay. Being so far north, the Dolgan area is also one of the best places on Earth to view the Northern Lights. On previous trips in February at the time of the new moon, we have seen the Northen Lights every night for ten nights in a row. They are also much brighter and more multi-coloured here than in more southern parts of the Arctic.

Highlights

  • Living in a balok (wooden cabin on sledge runners) with the Dolgans
  • Getting involved in the daily life of the encampment, including nomadic migrations
  • Observing a herd of at least 1500 reindeer
  • Trying traditional Dolgan cuisine of reindeer meat and fish such as chir and Arctic char
  • Seeing the Northern Lights
  • Driving on the beautifully blue ice road from Saskylakh to Yuryung-Khaya
  • Enjoying the spectacularly barren Arctic tundra scenery of Anabar District
  • Visiting the northernmost district of Yakutia, the coldest inhabited part of the world

Itinerary

Day 1: From Yakutsk to Yuryung-Khaya

Your guide meets you at Yakutsk airport or in your hotel lobby. Together, you fly 3.5 hours north from Yakutsk to the village of Saskylakh in Anabar District of Arctic Yakutia. You then drive 150km along an ice road on the frozen surface of a river to Yuryung-Khaya, the third most northern settlement in Russia and the most northern one in Yakutia. Overnight in a local Dolgan home.

Day 2: Travel by snowmobile to an encampment of Dolgan nomads

All-terrain vehicle or snowmobiles (depending on snow conditions and exact location of camp) 50 – 100km to an encampment of nomadic Dolgan reindeer herders. Each camp is usually made up of three or four baloks – wooden cabins built on sledge runners which are pulled by reindeer during migrations. Have tea and dinner with the Dolgan herders and start to learn about their way of life. Overnight in a balok.

Days 3 - 7: Immersion in the daily life of the Dolgans

Live with the nomads, observing and partaking in their daily lives. This could include migrating to new pastures, herding reindeer, lassoing reindeer, slaughtering reindeer, hunting wolves, Arctic fox or wild reindeer, digging coal out of the ground at certain sites to heat the baloks, using a spear to smash up ice on the nearest lake for drinking water, etc.

Day 8: Return to Yuryung-Khaya

Return to Yuryung-Khaya and overnight in local home.

Day 9: Fly to Yakutsk

Take the ice road to Saskylakh and fly back to Yakutsk. Overnight in 4* hotel.

Day 10: Service ends here

Service ends here. We recommend leaving another two nights in Yakutsk after your trip, as flights from Saskylakh are often delayed by bad weather. Having full two spare days in Yakutsk at the end of your trip gives us time to manoeuvre. We can either await good weather in Saskylakh or drive 16 hours south on the ice road to the village of Olenyok, which also has an airport and usually has much better weather. The extra two days in Yakutsk give us a lot of options to solve problems caused by flight delays and minimise the risk of missing our flights back to Moscow.

During these extra days in Yakutsk, we can arrange trips to indigenous Yakut horse herders or to the Lena Pillars UNESCO site, a 40km section of river bank lined by rock pillars up to 220 metres tall. These extra trips will of course be charged separately.

Tour price

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Price includes:

 

  • All transport and transfers
  • Flights Yakutsk – Saskylakh – Yakutsk
  • Accommodation in Yakutsk in 4* hotel and in Yuryung-Khaya in local home
  • Snowmobiles to reach the nomad camp with drivers, petrol, all drivers’ expenses and attached walled box sledges for clients to ride in. 
  • All meals
  • All permits required for the region
  • English- and Russian-speaking guide with long personal relationship with the Dolgans to be visited
  • Fees to the Dolgans for hosting us
  • Letter of invitation for 30-day Russian tourist visa
  • Satellite phone for emergency calls 

 

Price does not include:

 

  • Transfers, accommodation, food or guiding in Moscow. This can be added at extra cost if so desired.
  • Flights to or from Yakutia. These can be added at extra cost if required.
  • Personal travel insurance or medical insurance 
  • Personal expenses 
  • Clothing or equipment. This can be rented from us, if required.
  • Satellite phone for personal or work-related calls. You can purchase minutes for $2 per minute. 
  • Any extra expenses caused by delayed flights, adverse weather conditions or other force majeure situations

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