lost stupas, yellow monks, lotus fields, butter tea and chess cities
Krasnodar – Elista – Lagan – Komsomol – Astrakhan
This tour is offered on a regular basis from April to June and again from August through October. 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 provide you a 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.
The following itinerary refers to our most popular route in Kalmykia. This diverse and fascinating land, a very Soviet version of Mongolia, greets its curious guests with a cornucopia of natural, historical and cultural wonders. In case you are interested in a particularly remote area, secretive ethnicity, unusual activity and/or off-the-beaten-path attraction within the Autonomous Republic of Kalmykia or if you are just looking for an hit-and-run visit to Elista and its surroundings, we can easily meet your needs with a unique tour individually designed according to your preferences. Thanks to our deep knowledge of the territory and longstanding collaboration with independent local guides we are able to offer you a wide range of tailored routes and bespoke itineraries across and beyond the rolling steppes of mystic Kalmykia. We also regularly cater for biologists, conservationists, ethnologists, historians and documentarists alike interested in conducting field research in the region. Get in touch for more info on our private tours to Kalmykia!
DAY 1 - Krasnodar (or Volgograd)
In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in Kalmykia.
Krasnodar walking tour: Monument to Catherine the Great, Cossacks Memorial, Red Street, St. George's Church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and plenty of Soviet concrete architecture.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Krasnodar.
Volgograd (Stalingrad) may also be chosen as an ideal starting point for the present itinerary; in such case, the first day of the tour will include a Soviet walking tour around downtown and a unmissable visit to the imposing WWII memorial complex just outside of town.
DAY 2/3 - Elista
We will leave Krasnodar early in the morning for the 8-hour-long journey to the Republic of Kalmykia, a oddly fascinating and melancholically beautiful autonomous region in Southern Russia inhabited by friendly Buddhist mongolic people.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the long haul in some pretty traditional Southern Russian villages such as Dmitrievskaya and Takhta.
A quick lunch on the road and finally we will reach Elista, the surreal and surprisingly lively capital of Kalmykia.
Elista evening stroll through its communist monuments incongruously placed among Buddhist stupas and sacred wheels.
On our second day in the capital (third day of the tour) we'll spend some time with the monks of the Old Horul and Buddha Shakyamuni temples to learn more about Tibetan buddhism and its Kalmyk offshoot.
We'll then enjoy a full tour around the city and its Socialist-Buddhist bizarre sights, as well as paying a visit to the National Theatre and the National Museum.
While learning about the serene beauty of Nirvana we won't forget the profane pleasures of Samsara indulging in local gastronomic delicacies such as butter tea and mutton stew.
Dinner and overnight in Elista.
DAY 4 - Black Lands National Park
In the morning we will continue our tour of Elista's main sights, do some shopping around the exotic central bazaar and pay a visit to the surreal Chess City in the outskirts of town.
We'll then drive towards the gates of the Black Lands National Park, a unique grassland reserve where you'll be able to admire the saiga antelope.
We'll also visit the tiny Kalmyk villages surrounding the park, where we'll be able to learn more about Kalmyk culture and nomadic traditions.
Lunch, dinner and overnight with a local Kalmyk family.
DAY 5 - Off the beaten path
In the morning we'll drive to Lagan, a large Kalmyk town located in the colorful wetlands near the shores of the Caspian Sea dubbed by the local as the Venice of the Steppes for the many navigable canals crisscrossing the surrounding area.
On our way down to Lagan we'll have the chance to undertake surreal and melancholic detours into the wide steppes and scorching sands of the Kalmyk badlands.
Once in Lagan we'll tour this sleepy Soviet backwater of semi-abandoned concrete blocks and lonely white stupas.
Dinner and overnight in Lagan.
DAY 6 - Volga Delta
We'll leave Lagan early in the morning and travel further north to Astrakhan, the biggest city of the Caspian Depression and the last stop along the mighty Volga.
We'll have a quick Soviet tour of Astrakhan and refresh ourselves with beer and fish in one of the many restaurants and cafès along the riverside promenade.
In the afternoon we'll head to the Volga Delta National Park to enjoy a romantic boat trip surrounded by a wild landscape of lotus flowers, water lilies and flocks of migratory birds.
Dinner and overnight in Astrakhan.
DAY 7 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last lavish Kalmyk-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 Astrakhan 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: 710 €
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euros/night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.
The price does not include: international flights, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure (35 euros/ride), 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. It is also possible to run the tour the other way round, starting from Astrakhan and ending in Krasnodar (or Volgograd). Our motto is flexibility.
Krasnodar has been chosen as the starting point of this route because the local airport is one of the busiest in the region and definitely the easiest and cheapest one to reach from Europe / North America. Alternatively you can also choose to land in Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd or Mineralnye Vody and we'll then take care of your transfer to Elista for an additional fee of 50 euros. Please contact us to learn more.
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