Have you ever been where trees don't grow at all? Where does the wind blow day and night, spreading the aromas of herbs and the chirping of thousands of birds around? Where the endless fields of tulips are replaced by sand dunes, and the surrounding expanses is increadibly breathtaking? To see all this, you do not need to go to the world's ends - just go with us on a trip to southern Russia!
Brief information about the route:
Over 1,000 km by car, public transport and on foot
Walking in the steppes and deserts, rafting on boats in the largest river delta of Eurasia, sightseeing tours of Astrakhan and Elista, purple sunsets on salt lakes, acquaintance with local culture in museums, galleries and theaters, and many more!
Experienced English-speaking guide throughout the route. Comfortable accommodation, national cuisine, meeting with local residents
The best places, angles and time of day for your photos!
What you will see?
Where we go?
Kalmykia and Astrakhan are two bright and very special southern regions of Russia, which are rarely visited by tourists. Meanwhile, these places are filled with a unique atmosphere of freedom, folk traditions and unity with nature. For tens of kilometers you can not meet a single living soul (except sheeps), the air is filled with the aromas of thousands of field herbs, and wild animals and birds scurrying around creating an indescribable sense of harmony!
We personally examined all the attractions of these regions and chose the best to show you. Believe us, you have never had such an impression of Russia!
Why to go on a tour of Kalmykia and the Astrakhan region?
Kalmykia is an endless steppe, unity with nature and a centuries-old culture of nomad Buddhists who still remember and honor the traditions of their ancestors. The Astrakhan region is salt lakes, the largest river delta in Eurasia (Volga River), dense forests with transition to real deserts, the best fishing in European Russia, as well as soulful Astrakhan and appetizing oriental cuisine.
This tour is best for those who:
- loves a sense of harmony with nature and limitless spaciousness, wants to feel like a real traveler;
- wants to see several climatic zones in one trip: steppes, deserts, semi-deserts and forests, and also the flowering of wild tulips;
- wants to learn about Buddhism, Kalmyk culture and the history of the Golden Horde;
- not afraid to meet other traditions, a distinctive civilization, take a walk along the dunes and taste oriental cuisine;
- wants to get a great southern tan in early summer!
Organization and participation restrictions
An experienced guide will accompany you throughout the route. As Kalmykia and Astrakhan are just starts to gain popularity among Russian tourists, the infrastructure in most places leaves much to be desired. However, we found and selected the best hotels and weekend homes for your stay, cafes and restaurants for exploring national cuisine, as well as the most beautiful places and museums to visit.
This tour is suitable for people who love walking sightseeing tours, as well as those who are ready for small hikes in the steppes and deserts (2-3 hours). Hiking experience and excellent physical preparation are not required, however, it there are restrictions on physical activity, nutrition, etc., organizers must be warned in advance.
Meeting at Elista Airport
Check into a hotel
A tour of the city center from a local resident with a visit to the Chess City, the main Buddhist temple in the country - the Golden Abode of Shakyamuni Buddha, the central park and the "Seven Days" pagoda.
Dinner and free time.
Optional: visit to the National Theater or the Philharmonic
Meeting the White City
City tour of Astrakhan
Embankment of the Volga River, White City, market settlement. A visit to the Astrakhan Kremlin and the historical museum.
Lunch in a cafe with national cuisine. Continuation of the walk. Old quarters, fish market "Selensky Isady".
Dinner and free time.
Optional: visit to the Opera and Ballet Theater or sunset from the dune slopes
Departure to the relic Lake Manych-Gudilo
Meeting with the steppes, salt lakes and fields of tulips. Walking in nature, time for meditation and relaxation (swimming in warm weather is possible)
Secrets of the lake and the Kalmyk history
Visit to the Syakyusn-Sume khurul and stupas, acquaintance with the rituals of Buddhism
Return to Elista. Dinner and free time.
Legacy of the Golden Horde
A trip to the ancient capital of the Golden Horde "Sarai Batu"
On the way, we will see the memorial complex of Bukeevsky Horde Khan and the Khosheutovsky khurul in the Kalmyk village of Rechnoye
Excursion on the reconstruction of Sarai Batu. Walk on the steppes and a picnic on the banks of the Volga River.
Return to Astrakhan. Dinner and free time.
Road to Astrakhan
Departure from Elista towards Astrakhan
On the way to Astrakhan we will visit: a khurul in the settlement of Yashkul, dunes in the Utta desert, salt lakes of the Caspian estuary
Arrival in Astrakhan, checking into a hotel
Walk in the city center, promenade along the Volga River embankment.
Dinner in an oriental restaurant, then free time
Excursion to the Volga River delta
Departure from the hotel, transfer to the start of the tour
Walk on motor boats to the valley of lotuses and the seaside, bird watching in the Astrakhan Nature reserve. Lunch at the recreation center.
Return to Astrakhan. Transfer to the train station or airport.
Other treasures of the region
By agreement with you, we can expand the travel program by adding other bright places in the Astrakhan region, such as:
Barkhan "Big Brother" near Astrakhan
Fishing in the Volga Delta and other activities
Salt fields of Lake Baskunchak
Bogdino-Baskunchaksky Nature Reserve
Salt Lake Elton (Volgograd region)
Each object is negotiated separately, the price depends on the number of participants and the number of places to visit.
Attention! They are watching you ...
This route is a winner of the National Geographic Traveler 2019 award in the nomination
"The best car route in Russia". During a trip along it, you will visit the most beautiful and interesting places in Kalmykia and the Astrakhan region
Travel Questions and Answers
Who will accompany me on a journey?
An experienced English-speaking guide and driver will be with you during the whole trip.
What is about the food?
The price of the tour includes breakfast in hotels and lunches on days 2, 3, 5, 6. Dinners on all days and meals on day 4 are carried out in restaurants and cafes.
Can children participate?
Yes, children from 10 years old can go accompanied by adults.
Do I need insurance?
During the trip, additional insurance is not required, except for the one issued for a Russian tourist visa.
What transport is used on the route?
All transfers are carried out in cars (up to 4 people) or comfortable minibuses (up to 10 people). City tours and on the nature goes on foot.
What will the weather be like?
At this time of year in Kalmykia and Astrakhan, the daytime temperature can be from 18 to 25°С, and at night it can drop to 13°С.
Meeting at Elista Airport:
The meeting of the tour participants at Elista Airport will be held at 13:00 at the exit from the arrival hall. The flight from Moscow to Elista is operated by Azimut airline (flight A4-435 at 10:55). If you come to Elista by bus or on your own, then a meeting with the guide is discussed separately.
What to bring with you?
documents (ID card / passport and VISA)
bag for personal items
photo and video equipment
personal first aid kit (the guide has a general first-aid kit)
a full list of necessary things will be sent after booking a trip
Total: tour booking
Romance of the southern steppes: Kalmykia and Astrakhan
Level of difficulty:
April - June
hotel (Elista, Astrakhan)
from €500 / pers
What is included in the price:
– 2-pers accommodation in the hotel "White Lotus" (Elista)
– 2-pers accommodation in the hotel "AZIMUT Hotel" or "Park Inn" (Astrakhan)
– breakfast at the hotel + lunch (dry rations) on days 2,3,5,6
– group transfer from the airport of Elista and to the railway station / airport of Astrakhan
– transport service according to the program
– guide and accompanying services
– fee for a trip to the Volga delta (+ lunch at the recreation center)
Read more about booking and paying the tour here.
What is NOT included in the price (additional costs):
– air tickets to Elista (from €45 one-way from Moscow)
– air / train tickets from Astrakhan (from €45 one-way to Moscow)
– single hotel accommodation (optional)
– food which is not included in the program
– accident insurance
– individual transfer (€25 one way)
– optional excursions and museum tickets
– OPTION: visiting a performance at Astrakhan Opera and Ballet Theater or at Kalmyk National Philharmonic
– OPTION: visiting other places in the region (discussed in advance because of the border zone with Kazakhstan!)
– other personal expenses
Feedback from participants of the trip
“Every day is like a little separate life”
I already tried to travel with Pavel, so I decided without a doubt that the May holidays are a great time to escape from work and home routine: to go somewhere. You usually start thinking about May holidays only in April “it would be nice ...” but, as a rule, there are no chances to plan it good, and you cannot find good hotels at affordable prices. The main advantage of trips with Pavel is that he always offers to think about vacation very early - started taking care of the trip at the end of February, which I consider to be excellent (and certainty that May will not pass without a trace and significant savings). Then you can not get distracted by the closing of the quarter and try to finish all the work before May, everything is already organized and planned for me.
Trips to the regions of Russia often seem boring and unattractive, but right up to the moment when there is a person with a thirst to show you local beauties that rarely can captivate at a distance. We visited the Rostov-on-Don, Astrakhan and Volgograd regions, and also got acquainted with Kalmykia. I would never have thought that wild tulips were blooming in Kalmykia, that there were so many wild hares in the steppes and birds singing so noisily, that in the Astrakhan region locals are fishing from almost every puddle, and Volgograd impresses with its power and atmosphere of eternal memory. Small details, such as a boat trip to the Volga Delta, views of flood fields, a wonderful view of the Don River from steep hills or an amazingly delicious place in Astrakhan with Caucasian cuisine, make every day of a trip so special! The combination of exploring cities and enjoying nature (sunrises and sunsets on the lakes, walks in the steppes and dunes) makes each day like a little separate life - it seems that the vacation does not last two weeks, but a month.
What I appreciate accompanied by Pavel is his desire to show beauty, enjoy the moment, share a feeling of delight from the diversity of our country. Thanks to his enthusiasm, sometimes there are forces to sometimes walk 20 km per day, to get up at 5 in the morning for the sake of dawn, and also in the evening after a busy day to take a walk and enjoy the evening scenery. After a trip to the south of Russia, it was possible to reboot, to feel freedom in the steppes, to feel lightness and to throw off everyday worries at least briefly from the shoulders. The opportunity to trust a professional and not delve into the details almost until the departure is priceless. I love when the trip includes many unexpected places and impressions, surprises.