Tuva is located in the very heart of Asia, far away from populated areas. Until recently, only archeologists studying ancient rock drawings and burial sites of the Scythian civilization visited Tuva on regular basis. That changed after the unique Tuvan throat singing was revealed to the world...
If you are in Kyzyl city around 15 August (start/end dates vary), make sure to visit the annual national celebration called “Nadym”. This festival is very similar to the Mongolian one called Naadam. The celebration begins in the morning with the parade on the city’s central square. All participants are dressed in national costumes. At the end of the day, you can enjoy a concert of folk dancers and local singers or watch a competition for the best yurt (Nomadic house). The next day is mostly filled with horse racing. Finally, the last day is dedicated to the most popular stage of the festival - “huresh”. It features wrestling accompanied by a throat singing and archery. Participants wear special costumes “sodak-shudak” and after each round, the winner performs a dance of “an eagle”. In the late evening, fireworks and Shaman ritual dancing close the festival.
Witness Tuva’s famous throat singing, or Khoomei. According to the words of champion singer Kongar-ool Ondar, one must "be in an very uplifted mood; your soul, your inner spiritual voice, must be strong." Sometimes, three voices are heard in one person's singing. Nothing else you've heard is like this. Even hearing this on CD is nothing like witnessing it in person.
Visit Old Believers community, that managed to preserve customs and religion rituals since 1443. Try their great food.
Learn about Tuvan Shamanism and if interested, for a fee, feel free to try the power of Shaman "healing";
Enjoy breathtaking views of Sayan Mountains during the drive between Abakan and Kyzyl cities;
Day 1: Abakan – Kyzyl via Sayan Mts (Egarki route) Meeting at the airport/train station by guide & driver. Transfer to Kyzyl city thru Egarki route with a stop at the museum-village Shushenskoe (~ 400km/250mi). Last stop today will be Biy-Khem Yurt camp located outside of Kyzyl city. Overnight/supper at the Yurt Camp.
Day 2: Kyzyl and surroundings Breakfast. Kyzyl sightseeing with the guide: monument symbolizing the “center of Asia”; Buddhist Temple; short stop at the Shaman “healing” center; National museum and Artists Society Center. Lunch; Drive to the mineral spring “Tos-Bulak” (~9 km) known for healing properties. On the way to the spring, we will stop at the monument "Herdsman" for few pictures. Ask the guide to tell you the story about the monument. Drive to the site with ancient rock drawings located on the right bank of Yenisei river; Drive to the family of cattle breeders. Late evening, return to Kyzyl. Overnight/supper in the Yurt Camp.
Day 3: Kyzyl - camp Erzhei - Sisim village Breakfast; Early AM drive to the tourist camp near Erzhei village located on the banks of Yenisei River (~ 180km/112mi). Lunch/picnic is served during the transfer. The driving route lies along the Kaa-Khem river (Minor Yenisey) with great views of local mountains, evergreen forests and hilly pastures. Upon arrival to the camp, tourist are offered to take a break, unpack, and settle into cottages. In the evening, tourists are invited for a trip to Sisim village (~ 30km/19mi). The village is located on the banks of Yenisei River, isolated from the rest of the world. One can get there only by a ferryboat. Sisim village is known for its unique residence. It was settled by a religious group of people called “old believers” who fled central Russia in early 18th century to preserve their religion and culture. Meeting local people and learning about their lifestyle is a rare experience. Your mind will travel back into the times with a whole different set of values, traditions, culture, and interests long forgotten by modern civilization. After exploring the village, tourists are taken back to the camp for a dinner and evening bonfire. Overnight in wooden cabins/cottages.
Day 4: Kyzyl - camp Erzhei - Yurt camp (or Kyzyl) Breakfast. Today we will have a mellow day. Tourists will have a chance to relax and rest at the camp, enjoy surroundings. After lunch tourists are invited for a short to Kaa-Khem river for water activities (boating, swimming and fishing). In afternoon, drive back to the Yurt Camp “Biy-Khem” (or Kyzyl). Upon arrival, dinner, evening bonfire accompanied by a concert of throat singing (1 hour). Overnight/supper in the Yurt camp.
Day 5: Kyzyl - Sayan Mts (Snow Leopard route) Breakfast. Today we will start driving back to Abakan city. Be prepared for a long drive (~536km/335mi) via Sayan Mountain's high altitude route called Snezhny Bars (Snow Leopard). During the drive we will make stops for short hikes, sightseeing and picnic. Upon arrival to the camp, evening bonfire. Tourists are offered Russian Banya. Overnight/supper in Wooden Cabin.
Day 6: Sayan Mountains - Abakan Breakfast. Continue driving to Abakan city (~ 302km/189mi). Arriving to Abakan. Departing Abakan by train or plane to your next destination or overnight.
Meals as described;
All transfers as described;
Museum fees as described;
Private concert of throat singing (1 hour);
Accommodations as described;
First Air Kit (make sure to bring your own);
Mosquito repellent, sun blocks (bring your own)
Personal hygiene items (including toilet paper);
Shaman "healing" rituals;
Fishing gear/instructor (book in advance)
Bottled water, snacks, juices, fresh fruit
Visa related fees;
International/domestic air or train fares;
Special tour-related note:
Tick-borne encephalitis and lime disease have been reported in Siberia. Consult your doctor/specialist about preventive medicine, immunization, and general precautions.
Camp Toilets/Washing Rooms in most cases are located outside in separate buildings (wooden box, bio toilet, etc);
Carry toilet paper & basic hygiene items with you all the time;
Depending on the season, bring: rain/sun/frost protection, swim suit, hat/cap, hardy shoes, gloves, cotton socks, flashlight. Plan well, especially in the winter. There is always a chance of car break downs, sunburns, food/water poisoning, diarrhea, etc.
Carry bilingual dictionary with you all the time. Be aware that the driver or B&B hosts do not speak your language.
Be prepared for "offroading" experience when driving. Most roads in Tuva are gravel or dirt;
There is not much of a choice for eateries or restaurants in Kyzyl. Most people cook at home. The kitchen mainly is represented by a mix of Russian and Asian styles with basic ingredients: meat, potato, grains and vegetables from the garden. A typical meal will consist: tea or instant coffee, bread, butter, eggs, spaghetti/macaroni, soup and oatmeal. During camping, canned food is often used to prepare meals.