Northern exotics of Yamal: a hotel in a tent, deer, northern lights and stroganina
The Arctic is wonderful! Until recently, travel to the Russian North seemed fantastically inaccessible. It could be afforded either by business travelers of oil and gas corporations, or by selected vacationers. But over the past few years, tourism in the North has made an incredible leap forward. To see and feel its exoticism, in which for centuries indigenous small peoples have lived almost without changing anything, is akin to a feat. But no casualties.
Do not be afraid of permafrost and cold. The ride to the ends of the earth has become comfortable. You are still longing for the polar frost! The Arctic voyage will surely change everyone who comes to this harsh but hospitable region.
Not only gas and oil
Yamal is not only gas and oil. There are a lot of such people in Yamal that have remained forever. And not only for the sake of salaries, which is 1.6 times (coefficient) higher than the national average.
Salekhard in translation from Nenets means “a city on a cape”. It is small (50 thousand people), like all northern cities in principle. But it looks very impressive. It was once completely wooden and low-rise. Even 20-30 years ago, residents did not even think that permafrost would allow nine-story buildings to be erected on piles. Now they are all over the city. Russians, Canadians and even Turks are building here.
To combat the so-called “white depression” (due to the abundance of snow and white around the vast majority of the year), the authorities paint buildings in bright colors and order huge thematic drawings on the houses. Local street art is called murals.
Due to its special location, Yamal has a polar day (from June to July), a polar night (from December to January) and the northern lights. Nobody can guarantee the latter how lucky you are. A mysterious natural phenomenon can be seen from September to March in frosty clear weather. It is best to arrange a hunt for him in the tundra, so that the artificial light of the city does not interfere.
How to get to the tundra
Salekhard serves as a gateway to the wonderful world of indigenous peoples the tundra. The nearest reindeer herders ‘camps are located about three hours’ drive from the capital of Yamal.
The dwelling of the Nenets reindeer herders practically did not undergo any changes. As they lived centuries ago, they still live now. A reindeer team is “parked” nearby, there are spare sledges next to the chum, guard dogs are around the perimeter. The reindeer herders themselves continue to move around the tundra on reindeer, although almost everyone has a snowmobile. Never ask a reindeer breeder how many reindeer he has This is the same as asking for a salary. The reindeer herders will never answer you. But roughly one can be guided by the following figure: 300 deer is a sign of a wealthy family.
The family chum is made from 160 deer skins. If we assume that one live deer costs 25 thousand rubles, the house of reindeer herders would cost 4 million rubles. These animals are everything for the family: food, warmth, and prosperity. All clothes for husband, children and for themselves are sewn by themselves. You cannot live in other clothes in the tundra.
What to see in Salekhard
Stele “66 parallel”
Salekhard is the only city in the world That is located exactly on the Arctic Circle. Nowhere on the planet is there such a settlement anymore. This feature is a reason for the pride of the townspeople. This geographical fact is perpetuated by a special stele “66 parallel”, on which, in fact, the Arctic Circle is located. Here you will have a chance to become a real polar explorer.
The regional authorities decided to make the mammoth Yamal’s brand. The remains of mammals that died out 5000 years ago are periodically found here.
Usually on some statues dedicated to the city, the date of the city’s foundation is written. And this sculpture shows the exact age of the city. Salekhard is 425 years old in 2020. The numbers change every year. As well as what the mammoth is wearing. During the 2018 World Cup, the mammoth was dressed in a fan’s hat and held a soccer ball on its tusks.
Local authorities hold competitions every year for the best thematic street art, and then commission works from eminent artists in the country. Drawings are called murals.
Memorial to the memory of “501 construction site GULAG”
There is a monument to the railway going nowhere in Salekhard. Under Stalin, there was a powerful building No. 501 here. There were two goals: the development of resource-rich northern territories and the protection of the Arctic coast from enemies. In seven years, they managed to lay 850 km of tracks with a total length of 1480 km and build 160 workers’ settlements. The track was built, including by the hands of prisoners.
After the death of the leader of the peoples, the construction was frozen. In 1955, it was decided to dismantle the road. Now the preserved embankment and the erected memorial remind of the “dead road”. This is a specially brought locomotive, which meets a horizontal red semaphore and broken rails. On the monument there is a line of one of the builders: “The iron path to the ends of the earth was mercilessly laid by the fate of people.” To this day, there is no railway in Salekhard. They promise everything. There is also no big highway. All routes go through the satellite town of Labytnangi, which you have to get to via a ferry crossing.
But the matter got off the ground. A little more, and the road to Nadym will open. This will greatly simplify the life of the capital of Yamal.
Historically, the city of Salekhard was founded by the Cossacks. In the early 2000s, the Obdorsky prison was recreated according to the drawings a fine example of Russian wooden architecture of the 17-18 centuries. There is a church, a bell tower, Nikolskaya tower and several other buildings.
Museum named after Shemanovsky and baby mammoth Lyuba
You can learn everything about antiquities and indigenous peoples of the Urals in the Shemanovsky Museum. Be sure to take a guided tour. The main exhibit is the baby mammoth Lyuba. He was found by a reindeer herder in the upper reaches of the Yuribey River in the Yamal Peninsula. He named the find in honor of his wife. It is one of the best preserved mammoth remains in the world.
The “Fakel” antler bridge across the Shaitanka River is one of the most interesting sights of the city. Not only because the most powerful structure symbolizes the gas torch of this fuel region. You can climb into this torch, admire the view of the city and have a great time.
Here, at a height of 71 meters, the Panorama restaurant operates. Get here on a high-speed transparent elevator. Those who are afraid of heights are better off closing their eyes.
The restaurant itself serves traditional Yamal cuisine. Of course, sliced and venison will be served in a variety of options.
How to dress
In November, the average temperature is -15, in December -20, in January and February -23 degrees. The warmest are June (+16) and July (+20). In August it is +11, in September +9. The rest of the time is freezing temperatures. Therefore, on a trip to the north, you must definitely take:
- thermal underwear;
fleece or woolen jacket;
hat, scarf, balaclava, insulated gloves mittens;
a warm jacket designed for -30 -40 degrees;
winter pants with padding polyester;
warm winter shoes.
What to bring from Salekhard
Souvenirs. There are many handicrafts with national ornament, deer. It is not possible to buy souvenirs at every step. In order not to miscalculate, go after them to the city estate, the Arktika and Yuribey hotels, the art center of the District House of Crafts, the Souvenirs of the North shop, the Yamal Deer shop or the Shemanovsky Museum.
There are some very valuable but very expensive souvenirs. This is an exclusive piece work. For 23,000 rubles, you are guaranteed that no one in the world will have this. Including because the bones or teeth of a mammoth are used in the creation.
A fish. Take as much as you can take away. Such delicious fish is found only in the north. The two main representatives of the whitefish genus living in the waters of Yamal are shchekur (also called chir) and muksun.
Muksun has been banned for fishing for the last few years. But this is the first thing that you will see in the windows of the Dary Yamal market.
Venison. Deer meat for local residents is no different from ordinary meat. The cost is comparable to other types, if not cheaper. But only in Yamal.
Venison is sold in different packages. There are very small, ready-to-eat pieces, there are weighty ones. You can buy both sausages and sausages. But it is better to take pure venison. Also on sale there is a dietary supplement based on deer antlers, which is famous throughout the world for its ability to increase immunity.
Where to stay in Salekhard and what you need to know about the Reindeer Herder’s Day
You can live comfortably in the city of permafrost. The hotels are excellent. Yuribey and Arktika compete for the title of the best hotel.
Yuribey is named after a river in Yamal. The hotel was built by the Turks, which is very noticeable for those who have ever been to Turkey. Category 4 stars.
Salekhard also has hotels “Yamal”, “Russian North”, “Parallel”, guest house “NORD”, mini-hotel “Teremki”.
Most of the time, checking in is not a problem. But not during the celebration of the Reindeer Herder’s Day. The whole world comes here from late March to early April. Either early booking or an agreement with local residents who rent out accommodation for visitors will help.