It is so far north that most of it is located beyond the Arctic Circle. It is so inhospitable that Stalin built his prison camps here. No one doubts Yamal’s great natural beauty or its unusual fauna. As the world gets smaller, you want to go further – and there are few places as far away as Yamal.
Our tours will give you a chance to go where few others have been before. Struggling to make a living from the traditional nomadic, reindeer-herding lifestyle, the locals welcome you to experience their way of living.
Yamal is also famous for mammoths that have been found here. For example, the world’s celebrity baby mammoth Lyuba has been found by a local reindeer herder in permafrost of the Arctic tundra. There were also other mammoths that have been found in different parts of the Russian North, but none of them is so well preserved as Lyuba.
Our tours are focused on eco and ethno-tourism, historical sites, skiing, rafting and snowmobile trips.
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area is an entire country in the center of Russia’s Far North. It is located on the West Siberian Plain, the largest plain in the world. A small part of its territory is situated on the eastern slopes of the Polar Urals (the city of Payer). It has an area of more than 750,000 km2, or 1.5 times the size of France. More than 50% of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area lies north of the Arctic Circle. The area borders the Komi Republic in the west, the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area in the south, and the Taimyr Autonomous Area in the east. Its northern boundary is on the Arctic Ocean and is part of the national boundary of the Russian Federation. Permafrost, closeness to the cold Kara Sea, coastal inlets penetrating far inland, and an abundance of bogs, lakes, and rivers influence the climate.
Despite looking much like an ahistorical barren land of interest only for its natural gas and oil reserves, Yamal was the site of some of the most interesting conflicts of Russia’s Siberian expansion. Prior to conquest by Yermak Timofeyich (who was killed in the process), Yamal was known as the Khanate of Sibir, led by the energetic Tatar Khan Kumuch, who mounted fierce resistance to Russian expansion and attempted to convert (and thereby unify against the Cossacks) his diverse people of Siberian Tatars, Khanti, Mansi, Nenets, Yamals, and Selkups to Islam. In the wake of the region’s conquest, colonists established the first Russian settlement of the region, Salekhard, in 1595.
Nomadic life: the Nenets
Yamal is a territory which has been traditionally inhabited by the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North: the Nenets, the Khanty, the Selkup and the Komi (Zyryane). They number around 34 thousand people or 7 percent of the total district population. 14 thousand of indigenous people follow here their traditional nomadic way of life. Inhabiting the high latitudes for thousands years, the indigenous peoples of Yamal created a striking and original culture adapted to the severe Arctic nature conditions.
Following the traditions of their ancestors, reindeer herders migrate their herds seasonally in order to find the best food sources for the reindeer during a particular season. Nenet herders can migrate hundreds of kilometres per year between their summer and winter pastures. In the overwintering pastures, the reindeers usually sustain themselves by digging beneath the snow to find lichens to eat. In spring, when the snow starts to melt, the herders move their reindeer towards the coastal areas, which usually lose snow cover more quickly and makes for good summer pastures. In these coastal regions, the reindeer can feast freely on the grasses, the bushes and the mushrooms of the Arctic tundra.
The autonomous area is situated for the most part in three climatic zones: the Arctic and subarctic zones and the northern taiga belt of the West Siberian Plain. The climate is severely continental, with average January temperatures from -22 °С to -26 °С and average July temperatures from +4°С to +14°С. There are frequent magnetic storms, which are often accompanied by the Northern Lights in winter. Polar days and nights are typical of the region.
The territory of the district is located basically in three climatic zones: Arctic, Sub-Arctic and the zone of the northern (taiga) belt of the Western-Siberia Lowland. The local climate is characterized by particularly abrupt changes in the course of the year, and long, cold and severe winters with heavy storms and frequent snowstorms; the lowest temperature is -56 0С.
The district relief is represented by two parts: mountainous and plain. Approximately 90 percent of the plain is situated within altitudes which go up to 100 meters above the sea level; hence so many lakes and swamps. The left bank of the river Ob has a higher and rugged relief. The right, continental part is represented by a slightly hilly plateau with a small inclination to the north. The most elevated parts of the lowland are in the south of the district, within the Siberian ridges.
The mountain part of the district covers a not so wide belt along the Polar Ural, and it is represented by mountainous masses with a total length of more than 200 kilometers. The average height of the southern ridges ranges around 600-800 meters and the width goes from 20 to 30 meters. The highest peaks are the mountains Kolokol’nya (Bell Tower), of 1305 meters high, and the Pai-Er, with 1499 meters. Further north the mountains reach a 1000-1300 meters height. The main watershed ridge of the Polar Ural is twisty and its absolute heights reach 1200-1300 meters.