The Altai Republic can be considered the spiritual heart of Siberia, as many native Altaians, and Russians, who practice Tengrism, Burkhanism and Pagan Slavic religions, believe the landscape holds a religious significance. Wherever you travel here, it’s easy to see people’s deference to the local surroundings in the form of kurgans (stone burial mounds), standing stones and prayer flags tied to sacred trees. Furthermore, it’s also home to Siberia’s highest peak, Mt. Belukha (4506m), which is at the junction point of Kazakhstan, Mongoli and Russia. It’s here that the taiga forest, steppe and deserts of these three nations collide together to form an environment that often feels magical when you travel across its landscape on foot, by horse or even car. Some of the mystique to the Altai could also be owed to the fact that Mt. Belukha is rumoured to be the location of the mythical Shambhala, Asia’s equivalent of El Dorado, inspiring countless explorers in search of its otherworldliness. Whatever you choose to do in the Altai, you’re guaranteed to return feeling enlightened and refreshed.
If you’re heading out east, Chukotka is your last stop in Russia before you fall off the edge of the Eurasian Continent and into the frigid waters of the Bering Strait. This is the least visited region in Russia, mainly because it is extraordinarily far from anywhere else in the inhabited world, and therefore not the easiest destination to reach. In fact, flying or swimming over from Alaska could be just as fast as flying from Moscow. Despite the isolation, Chukotka has a wealth of wilderness worth exploring, along with the Chukchi culture who still practice reindeer herding and walrus hunting in some areas.
Although we aren’t mind-readers at Untamed Borders, when it comes to your thoughts on Kamchatka, we’re certain that the first two things that come to your mind about this area are bears and volcanoes. That was an easy guess for us though as Kamchatka has both the highest concentration of active volcanoes and bears in the world. Pretty incredible, right? What’s even better about this place is that if you want to encounter these gnarly icons of the natural world, you can do so by choppering your way throughout the peninsula in a Soviet-era helicopter burly enough to withstand any volcanic eruption or bear attack.
Whilst there are plenty of regions to explore throughout Siberia, Tuva is one of the most stand-out locations within this great wilderness as it is a semi-autonomous republic that has maintained a strong appreciation for its history, traditions and nomadic culture. The capital city, Kyzyl, is home to the geographical centre of Asia, and is an ideal starting point for all trips throughout Tuva. There’s so much to see and do here, ranging from trips on horseback visiting small nomadic settlements, exploring the multitude of rivers which carve their way through the remote taiga forest, to immersing yourself in its rich music and artisanal crafts-making culture.
The 2500km Ural Mountain range is the boundary line between Europe and Asia. Despite being mostly wilderness, there is a complex human history that has evolved in the foothills of this mountain range; such as the indigenous Bashkir’s trading links with Middle Eastern merchants from the 10th Century onward and the Mongol Empire’s influence on its northern Arctic reaches, which resulted in the Khanate of Sibir, the northernmost Muslim state. History aside, this prominent geographical feature on the Eurasian Continent has numerous possibilities for trekking, climbing, skiing and cultural trips, that are little explored by non-Russians.
The world’s allure for this northern Russian realm, half of which is located above the Arctic Circle, has remained consistent since the 9th Century when merchants from Novogorod established the first trading links with the Nenets and Khanty indigenous groups living in the present day Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Although outside economic interest in the Yamalo-Nenets region has since shifted from the trading of mammoth bone, fur, and boats, to the production of oil and gas, the travelling world is enamoured by romantic notions of blistering Siberian cold, endless expanse of tundra, and the iconic Nenets reindeer herders who have skilfully inhabited this unforgiving environment for millennia.
Visa required for most nationalities. Must be applied for in advance at a Russian embassy or consulate.
Being the largest country in the world the weather varies although it is all in the Northern hemisphere meaning all areas experience warmer summers and colder winters. Worst time of year to visit is in November.
For up to date exchange rates please have a look at www.xe.com
Two prong European style systems (types C and F).
Most guesthouses and hotels have Wifi. In cities 4G works well.
Dill. Dill. And more dill. Lots of potatoes, beetroot and root vegetables. Meat and fish centre in most dishes. Other popular grain is Bulgur Wheat.
Alcohol is permitted and is widely available.
Russian Orthodox Christianity, Shamanism, Animism
No special dress code.
SAFTEY & SECURITY
The FCO considers Russia to be a low risk travel region. However it does advise against travel to the regions bordering Ukraine as well as parts of the North Caucasus. Primarily this is due political reasons rather than direct safety risks. We take precautions when travelling to these region of Russia. Contact us for information on how we work to minimise risk for our guests and staff.
The Shaman’s Coat: A Native History of Siberia by Anna Reid
Tuva or Bust!: Richard Feynman’s Last Journey by Richard Leighton
Siberia: A History of the People by Janet M. Hartley