SHAMANISM and HORSE CULTURE
Kyzyl – Chadan – Erzin – TODZHA – ABAKAN
This tour is offered on a regular monthly basis from May through October. 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.
The following itinerary refers to our most popular culture-focussed route in Tuva. The best time to travel along this route is during Naadym, a national festivity during which Tuva’s traditional arts and customs are on full display. 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 Tuva (such as remote Todzha) or if you are just looking for an hit-and-run visit to Kyzyl and its surroundings, we will 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 perennial forests and windswept steppes of Tuva. 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 Tuva!
DAY 1/2 - Kyzyl
Our guide will meet you at Kyzyl Regional 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 Tuva, an extremely remote and irresistibly fascinating Autonomous Republic predominantly inhabited by an obscure Turkic-speaking Mongol ethnicity: the proud and gentle Tuvans.
We’ll spend our first two days in Kyzyl, a pleasant Soviet provincial capital with a unique Mongol flavour: Buddhist temples, socialist monuments, brutalist architectures, shaman houses, interesting museums and exotic bazaars.
The daily schedule will vary depending on whether you are going to travel to Tuva during Naadym (midsummer, exact dates vary from year to year) or outside the festivity period.
The festival program usually includes: throat singing concerts, handicraft workshops, horse races, archery competition, folkloristic parade, wrestling sessions and a best-yurt contest among representatives from the seventeen administrative provinces of Tuva.
Even if you do not travel to Tuva during Naadym you will still have the opportunity to pay a visit to the local shaman and witness khuresh (wrestling) and khoomei (throat-singing) performances: a truly mesmerising spectacle of ancient traditions and mystic rituals.
Meals and overnights in Kyzyl.
DAY 3/4 - Todzha
Early start from Kyzyl for the long overland journey to Todzha, an enchanted and secluded semi-autonomous area in the far north of the republic: a unique world of endless taiga, nomadic traditions and shamanic rituals.
Besides the routine stops for food, photography and physiological needs, we’ll break the long haul at the traditional village of Boyarovka.
In the afternoon we’ll eventually reach Toora-Khem, a picturesque wooden village functioning as the administrative capital of Todzha.
We’ll check-in at a local guesthouse and spend one-and-half day exploring the many natural and cultural wonders of mysterious Todzha.
Highlights of your stay in the area will include: otherworldly mountain lakes, boundless forests, traditional villages, reindeer herders and authentic shamans (and we do mean the real deal, not the dressed-up actors you may meet in those kitschy, touristic and irremediably fake ethno-complexes so popular among Russian tourists).
Dinners and overnights in Toora-Khem.
DAY 5 - Kyzyl
We’ll spend a lazy morning in Toora-Khem enjoying the stunning nature and slow-paced life shaping this almost magical village.
After lunch we’ll then head back for Kyzyl, driving once again along the scenic Todzha Road we took on our way in.
In the evening we’ll eventually reach Kyzyl and indulge in a last post-Soviet passeggiata through the city centre.
Dinner and overnight in Kyzyl.
DAY 6/7 - Southern Tuva
After breakfast we will drive to the Tuvan Deep South, a land of sand dunes, endless steppes and Soviet cowboys.
We'll make base ourselves in the Soviet end-of-the-world outpost of Erzin and devote two entire days to the region.
Highlights of our stay will include: Dus-Xol, a pinkish salty lake where the local like to plunge in virtue of its alleged medicinal properties, the taiga-surrounded Durgen Canyon, the camel-shaped Teve-Khaya mountain and the Tsugeer Els sand dunes.
During your time in the area you'll also have the unique chance to meet with nomadic camel herders and horse breeders, who will share with you their food, their home and the mystic secrets of their endangered culture; just to underline it: when we say camels we mean the real ones (huge hairy beasts with two-humps) and not the erroneously-camel-labelled dromedaries!
Overnight in Erzin on DAY 6 and back in Kyzyl on DAY 7 (late evening arrival).
DAY 8 - Western Tuva
We'll leave Kyzyl in the early morning and head to the Wild West of the republic.
First stop will be Chadan, a traditional Tuvan town renowned for its peculiar horse culture.
After lunch we'll continue our bumpy ride across Tuva's stunning landscapes to finally reach Ak-Dovurak, a surreal Soviet construct lost in the Tuvan plateau: concrete apartment blocks, socialist monumentalism, and buddhist stupas.
Dinner and overnight in Ak-Dovurak.
DAY 9 - Mountain Roads
We'll drive north on the scenic A161, a remote mountain road connecting Tuva to the neighbouring Khakassia, yet another Turkic-speaking Autonomous Republic within the Russian Federation.
Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the 6-hour drive stopping at the Sayansky Point, one of the highest mountain pass in the whole former Soviet Union, and in Abaza, a traditional Khakass town surrounded by beautiful taiga-covered valley.
We'll then proceed towards Askiz, a relatively small Khakass village built along the shores of the Abakan river.
Dinner and overnight in Askiz.
DAY 10 - Abakan
In the morning we'll drive across the Shushensky National Park, a remote reserve of extraordinary natural beauty, and tour the nearby city of Shushenskoye, where we'll enjoy a guided visit to the small wooden house where Lenin was exiled during the Tsarist persecutions.
After lunch we'll eventually reach Abakan, the leafy and tidy capital of Khakassia.
We will spend the last hours of our journey visiting the main Soviet and cultural sights of the city such
Dinner and overnight in Abakan.
DAY 11 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
After enjoying a last Khakass-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 Abakan 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.
3 to 8 participants: 2790 € per person
The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euro/night), private transport in the region, 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.