“From Baikal to Kamchatka & GULAG via Diamond Quarries”
This one-of-a-kind tour is the one of Indiana Jones proportions: an epic journey through Siberia’s and Russia’s Far East both historic and natural legendary sights of interests. Just counting the tour’s highlights included into itinerary pays to promote it:
Wooly Mammoth Museum, Evenk Reindeer people, Ittyk Khaya and Russian Ethnography Tourist centers in Yakutsk, “MIR” Kimberlite pipe and Diamond Quarries in Mirny, Paris of Siberia- Irkutsk and yurt-camp on Olkhon Island, hydrofoil ride on Lake Baikal, visit to the Altar of Shaman Rock and “The Golden Buckle of Steel Belt of Russia”, Cruising Avacha Bay to view sea birds and mammals, visiting Thermal springs & Volcanoes in Kamchatka , full-day trip along the world famed sobering Kolyma Trakt to the GULAG camp in Magadan, great fishing trip by boat and relaxing on beach in the Silent Bay, and finally the Old Joy village. Isn’t it there’re great choices, all of them combined in one trip of a lifetime experience!
Upon arrival in Yakutsk - the capital of Sakha/Yakut Republic, located on the bank of the Lena -mighty and legendary Siberian river. Transfer to “Lena” hotel located in the city historical center. Check in. After short time at leisure we will go for a sightseeing tour of Yakutsk including visits to the city’s most atmospheric sights. Guided tour of the Local Studies Museum, then a tour to Russia’s only Instutute of Permafrost during which you’ll have a chance to go down by lift to the Institute’s underground premises to see the true permafrost which never melts away, remains in the same form even when the temperature outside is + 40 centigrade. After lunch in the downtown restaurant, a guided visit to the Wooly Mamooth Museum – the world’s only museum specialized only in display of a variety of unique paleontology exhibits. The museum’s exhibition includes items and paleontology finds that are assessed as the part of Russia’s national treasure. During the tour you will see unique fossils of mammoth, including one of the most recent intact mamooth carcass - a six-month-old calf, found by gold miners in the perma frost and named as “Dima”, other valuable prehistoric relicts.
Then we depart to the Ittyk Khaya Ethnographic Tourist Center, located near Yakutsk. The center, run by the Yakut family of Atlasov, is famous for its traditions, and hospitality. The founders of the center, the Atlasov's family, have made a name for themselves thanks to hard work and soul. It is a place where unique national festivals (Ysyah, Kuyur), national sport competitions, ice carving festivals are held. The Center is an introduction to a world of Yakut ancient rites such as fire taming, sun welcoming, purification, and shaman fortune telling. Here you will also see traditional Yakut wooden architecture and wax works, enjoy panoramic views of Yakutsk and its environs from the 200 meter height of the Ytyk-Khaya sacred hill. Diner will be served here in the Atlasov family and feature tasty entrees of Yakut national cuisine.
Return back to and overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast we depart by coach to the “Bakaldyn” Ethnographic Complex which displays in the Open-Air a restored settlement of the Evenk reindeer people. The Bakaldyn settlement meaning “a meeting place” in the Evenk language, is located in a picturesque setting on the taiga-river bank of Kenkime and once was on the cross-roads of trade between Southern and Northern Evenk tribes. Here upon arrival you’ll be met by the native Evenks dressed in their original national clothes, tour the Complex that introduces customs and traditions of the natives, their sacred shamanistic totems and beliefs. Lunch of national cuisine will be served here. After lunch you’re welcome to shop for souvenirs in the “Kudai-Bakhsy” evenk store.
Dinner back at the hotel. Check out. Then transfer to the airport to board flight # 519 to Mirnyi.
Departure by plane to Mirnyi - Russia’s center of diamond mining & processing which until very recent time was the place prohibited to visit both to Russian and foreign nationals.
Upon arrival in the airport of Mirnyi, meeting and assistance. Accommodation in host families. Overnight.
After breakfast - full day trip to Russia’s largest diamond quarry - “MIR” – kimberlitic pipe. Introduction tour of the “MIR” kimberlitic pipe (h- 525 m, d-1200 m). Viewing this pipe and kimberlite operations from special observation platform. Then visit to the he “MIR’s” diamonds’ enriching and sorting-out workshops. Lunch. Then a tour of the Diamond processing Museum Kimberlite Museum with a chance to see a variety of precious diamonds as well as buy a unique souivenir - diamond sand clock that strikes “diamond” time every minute. Also here you’ll see how raw diamond turns into real jewel. And certainly, you can purchase here some good quality jewelry. Upon return back to your host family – dinner with the family – a good chance to learn about the way of life of local Russians. Overnight in the family.
Early morning wake-up, tea/coffe with rolls. Then we say “farewell” to our host family-and get ready for transfer to the airport to board the aircraft to Yakutsk.
Upon arrival in Yakutsk transfer to the “Lena” hotel. Check in. Before lunch enjoy your time at leisure.
After lunch we depart for the trip to the “Druzhba” Architecture & History Museum Sanctuary in the Open-Air located on the right bank of the Lena river. This Open-Air Museum Complex is located on the site of former Lensky Wooden Outpost built by early Russia Cossack explorers of Siberia in 1632. Here we’ll see the original and restored wooden structures including the highlight of the Museum – replica of the original Savior Church of the former Lensky wooden fortress.
On the way back from the Museum Complex to the hotel – visit to International Museum of Khomus Music (Humus or Vargan is one of the most ancient and popular music instruments. Its sound is hypnotizing and mysterious). Rich and unique exhibition of the museum shows more than 400 different kinds of vargans of many different nations of the world. Dinner . Check out from the hotel. Transfer to the local airport to board the aircraft to Irkutsk (2 hour 40 min. flying time).
Upon arrival in Irkutsk – transfer to hotel, located in the very center of the city. Check in. Overnight.
After breakfast check out from the hotel. Sightseeing tour of Ikutsk including visits to Znamenskaya Central Russian Orthodox Cathedral, famous for a rich collection of icons, graves of the Decembrists’ revolutionaries who were exiled by the tsar to Siberia for the ill-fated attempt to overthrow the tsar in December,1825, and grave of so-called Russian Columbus –Gregory Shelekhov – an early Russian explorer of Alaska.
Departure from Irkutsk to the Island of Olkhon (5 hour ride) with 2 stops en route – one at the holy “obo” of shamanists’ believers where you’ll be offered to worship the local deities while sparkling some vodka and tying ribbons on the bushes in order be nice to the local spirits and then be under their patronage.
|Olkhon Island. Mid-way on the northern shore of Baikal is an area considered to be the most sacred. It is here, about eight miles from the north shore that we find Olkhon, named by the Buryats for the forests which cover the island. Olkhon is the biggest island on Baikal extending more than 70 km. (60 miles) in length and up to 20 km. (15 miles) in width. Its terrain is varied with sweeping prairies, steep rocks, dry valleys overgrown with berry bushes and small, shallow bays with sandy beaches and warm water. The island's steep sides cut into the aquamarine sea-lake and its capes are like characters out of ancient Siberian folk-tales guarding the island's peace. The most beautiful of these capes, Burchan, bears the name of the Buryats' primary god. The bank closest to Burchan has a cave which cuts through the rock. The entrance is on the eastern side and the exit on the western side. Native people considered the cave a sacred place, a dwelling of shamans. The cave is, however, now inscribed with Buddhist prayers, remnants of seventeenth century arrival of Tibetan Lamaist Buddhism. The new religion partly absorbed the native shamanistic traditions and partially replaced them. The first words of one prayer read, "Ou, Burchan, Tingiri!", invoking the Buryat-Lamaist's god and heaven.
Lunch of tasty Buryat national cuisine will be served in the local family living in Yelnatsy settlement. Then you proceed to the boat station for a 25-minutes transfer by ferry across the strait of Small Olkhon Gates to the Island of Olkhon - the heart of the lake, its energetic center, the largest one out of 22 Baikal islands, 70 km long & 30 km wide, and the only inhabited island on the lake. Then 1-hour transfer by 4-WD or mini-van on the Olkhon Island to the yurt-camp. Upon arrival – check in in twin Buryat-style round-shaped yurts (like Mongolian “gers”). The yurt-camp is located in a picturesque setting on fine sand beach of Saraisky Gulf. (sanitary facilities and shower cabins are located in separate structures and for common use of all guests of the camp, hot and cold water provided, meals are served in a separate dining-yurt). Before dinner – enjoy Russian Banya (Steam-bath). Overnight in yurts.
After breakfast in the yurt-camp - a full-day trip via the island’s unique Sand Dunes to the Khoboy Cape – the northernmost point of the Island, famed for a number of legends associated with it (”khoboy” meaning “fang” ‘cause the shape of the Cape Cliffs reminds of a female’s head and breast). Here you can be able at a distance to observe the lake’s only mammals – uniques fresh water seals that sometimes show up from the water surface. Lunch will be served as picnic here. You will return to the yurt-camp in late afternoon. Farewell Dinner followed by Shamanistic rite of Purification that will be specially performed this night by a local Shaman; enjoy camp-fire community, singing party and else…- just enjoy yourself. Overnight in yurts.
After breakfast check out from the yurt-camp. Transfer to Khuzhir where you’ll visit the famous Shamanka Rock – which is regarded with its cave and the “Altar of Rock “ as holy of hollies by budhists and shamanists alike, it is the local nature sacral center once even visited by the previous Dalai-Lama. Then after crossing the Strait on a ferry we continue our return to Irkutsk. Lunch on the way.
When approaching the city of Irkutsk we turn left to take the highway straight to Listvyanka settlement, located in the outflow of the Angara river from Lake Baikal (the lake’s only outlet). Check in at the hotel. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast enjoy a guided visit to the Baikal Ecology Museum which has an excellent collection of exhibits of Lake Baikal flora and fauna. Lunch at “Proshly Vek” Water front restaurant. Then a hydrofoil ride to the Old Circum Baikal Railway - a monument of railway engineering built under the last Russian tsar and called “the Golden Buckle of Steel Belt of Russian Empire” due to enormous costs of this section of the Trans-Siberian though the tsar used cheap convict labour. Upon arrival in 30 minutes to the Tolsty Cape – a short an easy walk to the first tunnel. Then return back to Listvyanka around 5 p.m. Then before dinner one can enjoy Russian Steam-bath (on request and as optional). Overnight at the hotel.
After check out from and breakfast at the hotel we depart to Irkutsk airport to board the aircraft for flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. (8 hours 45 min. flying time). Lunch & dinner on board of the aircraft.
Upon arrival in Petropavlovsk -Kamchatsky (Kamchatka’s only city and home to 200,000 people) meeting and assistance. Then 30 minutes transfer across the farmland of the Avacha River to the Avacha Hotel located in the PK’s downtown. Check in and overnight at the hotel.
Breakfast. Depart for a full-day trip by boat around scenic Avacha Bay, fishing, having lunch that will feature the Ukha (fish soup). After lunch continue to the Starichkov Island to view sea birds and mammals. This trip offers unique opportunity to see fascinating surroundings of Petropavlovsk from sea, to explore the shores of the Avachinskaya bay while watching colonies of seabirds and mammals in their natural habitats. Return back to the hotel for dinner. After dinner you’re welcome to take a walk around the city to explore it on your own. Overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast you proceed by 4-WD-vehicle on another full-day trip to the Mutnovsky Volcano plateau located 150 km from PK. Your first destination shall be Verkhne-Paratunskye thermal springs where we’ll stop to take pictures as well as bathe. Then continue further to the Viluchinsky Volcano (nearly 1-hour ride). Here we will have lunch and some time at leisure near Viluchinsky waterfall. Further 1-hour drive to se Mutnovsky volcano plateau to visit this plateau of alive volcanoes. Return back to the hotel in PK late in the evening. Dinner. Overnight .
Breakfast. Then check out from the hotel and transfer to the airport to board the aircraft for flight to Magadan (1 hour 20 min. flight), the center of Russia’s largest gold mining area and former transit center of the GULAG northern labor camps.
Upon arrival in Magadan meeting and assistance at the airport. Transfer to the hotel. Check in.
Lunch. Then sightseeing tour of Magadan which will include visits to most interesting sites of this legendary city: its fishing and commercial ports, functioning Russian Orthodox church and the Mask of Sorrow Memorial to the victims of Stalin's purges which standing on a hill top offers panoramic views of the city and its two bays - Nagaev and Gertner.
Dinner at the hotel. Overnight.
After breakfast depart on full-day trip to the Lower Butuguchag (222 km) along the world famed sobering Kolyma Trakt (Highway), specially built under Stalin to develop and maintain the Magadan network of GULAG labor camps and gold mining areas. Lunch will be on the way in Ust Omchug. Upon reaching the Butuguchag visit and see old mining sites, remains of barracks, machine gun towers, mines, hand-made canyons, old graves of those who perished here.
|Mining at Butuguchag under Stalin was accomplished mainly by hand. Most excavation occurred on the surface in a series of pits and trenches. However, a large excavation existed that contained several open stoops in its headwall. Ore was loaded into ore cars on rail and then pushed from the mountain summit by an inclined road to a cable tram. From there, again by hand (wheelbarrow) or truck, ore was taken to the mill about 8 km (5 miles) down valley towards the Kolyma Highway. Here one can really imagine the hardship and suffering that occurred for so many people not only at Butuguchag, but in all gulags and remote parts of Russia during the Stalin era.
After seeing the Butuguchag we drive to the Ust Omchug to our host family where we will have dinner, enjoy Russian steam bath called “banya” and plenty of opportunities to communicate with our friendly local hosts. Overnight in the host family.
After breakfast saying “farewell” to your host family depart back to Magadan. Lunch will be upon arrival in Magadan. Then proceed to the sea boat station to board the boat vessel for 2-hour ride along the beautiful Nagaev sea gulf shore while observing nestling birds and passing by small islands. During the tour you will have time to fish and catch fish from the boat near the cape’s light house. Lunch will be near the cape. Then from the Chirikov Cape you’ll proceed further to the Silent Bay of the small Staritsky peninsula where you will have an excellent opportunity besides just fishing to catch crabs that are abundant here. After your sea catch trip this day you’ll proceed by car to the village of Staraya Veselaya ( meaning “Old Joy “ ) to the local host family where you’ll have dinner, plenty of opportunities to chat with these local people and overnight..
After breakfast we proceed on full-day trip to the Tikhaya Bay located behind the Chirikov Cape. We disembark at a small pebble beach and enjoy this day relaxing on the sea coast and besides fishing here also catching crabs. Dinner and overnight will be in the village at the host family.
After breakfast saying farwell to your “Old Joy” host family you start out on a full-day trip to the Ola Village, located at the distance of 40 km from Magadan. On the way to the Ola while driving across a breathtaking mountain pass enjoy spectacular views from the top of the mountain - Gertner Bay, the Ola River valley . The tour will introduce the history of the area from 17th century to present days, you will visit the Monument to Gold Prospectors of Kolyma, perhaps, also watch from a bridge the shoals of salmon coming into the Ola river, visit the Local Museum, enjoy delicious dinner of fish soup, crab and seafood shashlik (barbecue) at the camp fire on Nuklinskaya Spit.
On return back at Magadan check in at the Hotel. “Farewell to Your Great Siberian Adventure” Gala-Dinner followed by award of special Certificates. Overnight.
After breakfast and check out from the hotel transfer to the airport.
Board aircraft for the flight to Moscow (8 h. 20 min. flight).