DAY 1 – Krasnodar
- In the morning you will meet our tour guide in the lobby of the designated hotel (exact hotel address and meeting time will be communicated well in advance per email; private airport pickup and shuttle service available for a small additional fee).
- Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in Kalmykia.
- Krasnodar walking tour: Monument to Catherine the Great, Cossacks Memorial, Red Street, St. George’s Church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and plenty of Soviet concrete architecture.
- Lunch, dinner and overnight in Krasnodar.
DAY 2/3 – Elista
- We will leave Krasnodar early in the morning for the 8-hour-long journey to the Republic of Kalmykia, a oddly fascinating and melancholically beautiful autonomous region in Southern Russia inhabited by friendly Buddhist mongolic people.
- Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we’ll break the long haul in some pretty traditional Southern Russian villages such as Dmitrievskaya and Takhta.
- A quick lunch on the road and finally we will reach Elista, the surreal and surprisingly lively capital of Kalmykia.
- Elista evening stroll through its communist monuments incongruously placed among Buddhist stupas and sacred wheels.
- On our second day in the capital (third day of the tour) we’ll spend some time with the monks of the Old Horul and Buddha Shakyamuni temples to learn more about Tibetan buddhism and its Kalmyk offshoot.
- We’ll then enjoy a full tour around the city and its Socialist-Buddhist bizarre sights, as well as paying a visit to the National Theatre and the National Museum.
- While learning about the serene beauty of Nirvana we won’t forget the profane pleasures of Samsara indulging in local gastronomic delicacies such as butter tea and mutton stew.
- Dinner and overnight in Elista.
DAY 4 – Black Lands National Park
- In the morning we will continue our tour of Elista’s main sights, do some shopping around the exotic central bazaar and pay a visit to the surreal Chess City in the outskirts of town.
- We’ll then drive towards the gates of the Black Lands National Park, a unique grassland reserve where you’ll be able to admire the saiga antelope.
- We’ll also visit the tiny Kalmyk villages surrounding the park, where we’ll be able to learn more about Kalmyk culture and nomadic traditions.
- Lunch, dinner and overnight with a local Kalmyk family.
DAY 5 – Off the beaten path
- In the morning we’ll drive to Lagan, a large Kalmyk town located in the colorful wetlands near the shores of the Caspian Seadubbed by the local as the Venice of the Steppes for the many navigable canals crisscrossing the surrounding area.
- On our way down to Lagan we’ll have the chance to undertake surreal and melancholic detours into the wide steppes and scorching sands of the Kalmyk badlands.
- Once in Lagan we’ll tour this sleepy Soviet backwater of semi-abandoned concrete blocks and lonely white stupas.
- Dinner and overnight in Lagan.
DAY 6 – Volga Delta
- We’ll leave Lagan early in the morning and travel further north to Astrakhan, the biggest city of the Caspian Depression and the last stop along the mighty Volga.
- We’ll have a quick Soviet tour of Astrakhan and refresh ourselves with beer and fish in one of the many restaurants and cafès along the riverside promenade.
- In the afternoon we’ll head to the Volga Delta National Park to enjoy a romantic boat trip surrounded by a wild landscape of lotus flowers, water lilies and flocks of migratory birds.
- Dinner and overnight in Astrakhan.
DAY 7 – Flight back home or transfer to further destinations
- After enjoying a last lavish Kalmyk-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 Astrakhan 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.