SIBERIAN TIGERS, YIDDISH HERITAGE AND SOVIET ALLURE IN russia's far EAST
Blagoveshchensk – Birobidzhan – Khabarovsk – Durminskoe – Vladivostok
Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will give you a wide range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours!
Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
DAY 1/2 - Blagoveshchensk
Our guide will meet you at Blagoveshchensk International Airport and drive you to our hotel of choice (exact hotel name and address will be communicated well in advance per email).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in the Russian Far East.
We'll spend one-and-half days touring Blagoveshchensk, a quintessentially Russian frontier town built at the confluence of the Amur and Zeya Rivers, right in front of the Chinese city of Heihe, boasting a pleasant mixture of Tsarist, Soviet and even Chinese architectures and a lively bazaar full of imported goods from China.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Blagoveshchensk.
DAY 3/4 - Birobidzhan
Today we'll move east driving by car along the Trans-Siberian line and head to Jewish Autonomous Oblast, also known as the Soviet Zion or Israel of the Far East, the one and only Autonomous Oblast of the Russian Federation and one of the two official Jewish territories in the world, the other being Israel itself.
Although Judaism as a religion ran counter to the Bolshevik party policy of atheism, Lenin wanted to appease minority groups to gain their support and provide examples of tolerance; Joseph Stalin, who took over from Lenin in 1924, initially continued this policy: with the goal of getting Jews to work to be more productive members of society, the government established Komzet, the committee for the agricultural settlement of Jews.
The Soviet government dreamed then about the idea of resettling all world Jews in the USSR in a designated territory where they would be able to pursue a lifestyle socialist in content and national in form: the location that was initially considered in the early 1920s was Crimea, which already had a significant Jewish population, however, an alternative scheme, perceived as more advantageous, was put into practice and, eventually, the settlement of Birobidzhan and the surrounding region were chosen by the Soviet leadership as the site for the new Jewish state: at its height in the late 1940s, the Jewish inhabitants in the region peaked at around 46,000-50,000, around 25% of the entire population.
We'll spend two full days in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, codenamed JAO, exploring both the capital Birobidzhan and little traditional settlements scattered around the Taiga.
Main attractions of your stay in the JAO will be the city of Birobidzhan itself, with its curious fair share of synagogues, churches and Soviet monuments, and the Kibbutz-style hamlets of Birofeld, Nayfeld, Valdgeym and Obluchye.
During your time in the region you'll also have the unique chance to meet with local rabbis and other representatives of the Jewish population, who will share with you their food, their stories and the secrets of their endangered culture.
Dinner and overnight in Birobidzhan.
DAY 5 - Khabarovsk
Today we'll head to Khabarovsk, a major Soviet industrial metropolis on the Amur River.
Khabarovsk sightseeing: piscatorial museum, Lenin square, Lenin stadium, Amur cliffs, Holy Transfiguration Cathedral, Komsomol Square, state drama theatre and plenty of socialist monuments and brutalist concrete shapes.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Khabarovsk.
DAY 6 to DAY 10 - Durminskoye Reserve
We'll leave Khabarovsk in the morning and drive to the Durminskoye State Reserve, home to the biggest population of the mighty Siberian Tiger, the largest feline on Earth.
We'll spend five days in the reserve tracking this elusive and elegant predator and enjoying the pristine nature of the area.
Highlights of your stay will also include: birdwatching and fauna spotting, botanic walks, bear tracking, honey harvesting, fishing for graylings and lenoks, overnighting in the woods like a professional trapper, night picnics by bonfire, berry and mushroom picking, photo-traps installation, hiking through the taiga and - of course - tigers, tigers and again tigers!
In addition, while in the reserve, you'll have the chance to meet the secretive and sadly small-numbered Udege people: an indigenous Tungusic people, whose culture, language and tradition are at serious risk of extinction under the pressure of advancing modernity and passive-aggressive Russification.
Adjacent to Durminskoye, the village of Gvasyugi is a small bastion of the Udege: a tiny hamlet of broken dreams, Soviet nostalgia and strong resilience.
Please note: if are a lot into tigers and Taiga and less so into culture and history, we can also arrange tailored tours to the Durminskoye Reserve only (thus skipping all the other segments of this itinerary). Contact us for more info on this option.
Dinner and overnight in Durminskoye.
DAY 11 - Soviet Train
We'll leave the reserve and head back to Khabarovsk to catch our Soviet night train to Vladivostok.
A ride on a Soviet-era train in Siberia is an adventure of its own: we'll travel in the company of local merchants, commuters, farmers and holiday-goers and at the end of the trip you'll feel like you've known each other for ages.
Each carriage is like a big family moving on rusty tracks: we'll share food, stories, vodka and laughs, while the fairy-tale landscapes of the Soviet Far East will roll past out of the window.
Dinner and overnight on the train.
DAY 12 - Vladivostok
Morning arrival in Vladivostok, the legendary Soviet port on the Pacific and the very end of the trans-Siberian railway.
Vladivostok sightseeing: mighty bridges, lonely lighthouses, lively markets, sandy beaches and Soviet glory.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Vladivostok.
DAY 13 - Soviet Pacific
We'll devote the last day of our trip in the Far East to the Soviet Pacific Coast.
Travelling east from Vladivostok to Nakhodka and further onto Kozmino along a scenic coastal road and across temperate rainforests, we'll visit crumbling fishing towns, rusty shipwrecks and photogenic bays of crystal-clear waters and thriving benthos.
In the afternoon we'll eventually get back to Vladivostok for some rest and souvenir shopping.
Dinner and overnight in Vladivostok.
DAY 14 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Soviet-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Vladivostok International Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the local train/bus station.
End of the tour.
4 to 9 participants: 3600 euros
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 20 euros/night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), first-class train ticket, entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.
The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility. It is also possible to make the tour the other way around, starting from Vladivostok and finishing in Blagoveshchensk.
where the heck am i travelling to?
BELOW you can see the different tour stages marked on a map of the region you are going to explore with us
POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE