UGRO-FINNIC TRIBES AND TATAR KhaNATES
Mordovia – Tataria – Chuvashia – Mari-El – Udmurtia – Bashkiria
This tour is offered on a regular monthly basis from March through June. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the learn-more button below: we will match your preferences with the next relevant scheduled group departure. If you are still unsure about your desired departure date, 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 more than 4 friends, you can set your own departure date: we will arrange a bespoke tour just for you for the same price per person advertised below. If you are travelling solo or with less than four companions, we will then organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.
Cruise option: the following program refers to an overland itinerary across the Volga Basin. It is designed to be travelled solely by road (private minibus), as this will allow us to be flexible and relatively quick. The Volga is, however, one of those great Russian rivers that can also be journeyed by boat. Volga cruises are a perfect and romantic way to enjoy the region in a slow-travel mood. We can offer you a wide spectrum of river trips, ranging from a minimum of one week to a maximum of a month. Contact us to learn more about these options.
DAY 1 - Mordovia
Our guide will meet you at Saransk 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 Idel-Ural.
The term Idel-Ural defines a historical region of the Russian Empire and the former USSR. The name literally means Volga-Urals in the Tatar language and is often used to designate the six autonomous republics of the region: Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, Mari El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, and Udmurtia. Before being conquered by the Tsardom in the 16th century, the region was dominated by native Uralic tribes and a succession of Islamic Turkic empires, such as Volga Bulgaria, the Khazars, the Golden Horde, and the Khanate of Kazan.
The first Idel-Ural state we are going to visit will be the Republic of Mordovia, an obscure nation inhabited by the Ugro-Finnic Mordovins.
Dinner and overnight in Saransk.
DAY 2 - Chuvashia
Leaving Saransk we'll head to the last republic of our journey: Chuvashia, a curious geopolitical post-Soviet construct inhabited by the Chuvash people, the only Christian turks along with the Gagauzians in Southern Moldova.
On our way to Cheboksary, aka Šupaškar in Chuvash, we'll drive across the forested banks of the Volga and stop at the nostalgic Soviet sanatorium aptly named Chuvashia - like the republic itself - for a late picnic breakfast on the beach.
Cheboksary walking tour: early Soviet architecture, pastel coloured churches, Chuvash cultural institutions, melancholic river beaches, Communist monuments and WWII memorials.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Cheboksary.
DAY 3 - Mari El
Today we'll enter the Autonomous Republic of Mari-El, yet another Ugro-finnic protostate lost in the Russian backyard.
Mari-El is especially peculiar for being the last place in Europe still inhabited by follower of ancient pagan religions, once common in most of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Mari people practice, indeed, a weirdly fascinating cult that mixes ancestral traditions with Orthodox Christianity, and - with a bit of luck - we will be able to witness their mystic rituals held in the traditional settlements around the city of Volzhsk.
After a traditional Mari lunch we'll then continue to Yoshkar-Ola, the heavily Russified capital of the republic, where we'll visit the eclectic "new-old" downtown, completely rebuilt in Piazza San Marco style; the urban legend goes: the local head of the republic - one of those many Putin's provincial lackeys - visited Venice and was so impressed by its architecture that decided to create a copy of the Italian wondertown in the centre of Yoshkar-Ola: the rather kitschy and cheap result is not everyone's taste.
Dinner and overnight in Yoshkar-Ola.
DAY 4/5/6 - Tatarstan
After lunch we'll then move further east and enter Tatarstan, an autonomous republic mainly inhabited - as the name suggests - by Muslim Tatars, the very same descendants of the powerful Golden Horde.
DAY 7 - Udmurtia
Today we'll head to Udmurtia, yet another obscure autonomous backwater of the Idel-Ural region.
The Udmurts are a finno-ugric Christian people who recently gained celebrity thanks to a babushka choir from the remote backcountry of the republic performing at Eurovision and other national and international song contests.
Izhevsk, the capital of the republic and today's destination, is, instead, notorious for being the birthplace of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the namesake automatic rifle that cause more deaths across the globe that any other weapon combined.
We'll spend the rest of the day touring the city centre and paying a visit to Kalashnikov Museum, which also features its own backyard range, where you'll be to disassemble, reassemble, aim and shoot with the deadliest weapon ever.
Dinner and overnight in Izhevsk.
DAY 8/9/10 - Bashkortostan
Early morning start and straight drive to Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, aka Bashkiria, the largest autonomous republic in the region and home to the once nomadic Bashkirs, a Muslim turkic people ethnically, culturally and linguistically closely related to but not to be mixed with the neighbouring Tatars.
We'll devote the entire day to the exploration of Ufa, the capital of the republic: eclectic new mosque, Soviet memorials, communist statues, socialist architecture, sky blue cathedrals and exotic bazaars.
Lunch, dinner and overnight in Ufa.
DAY 11 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Bashkir-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.
For those flying out: transfer to Ufa International Airport for your flight back home.
For those wishing to take the train/bus to reach further destinations: transfer to the local train/bus station.
4 to 9 participants: 2580 € per person
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euros/night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), entrance fees for 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 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 Ufa and finishing in Saransk.