You will visit Siberian Old Believers and the tuvan shamans.
The first thing you will do in the Republic of Tuva is meet our local guide at hotel. Next, you will try Tuvan national cuisine in one of the capital’s cafés, where you will learn what Tuvan dishes are like. Then, you will have an exciting excursion around the capital of the republic and its environs. The capital is quite small and easy to walk around. The excursion includes both sightseeing by car and a walking tour. During the excursion (about 3 – 3,5 hours) around Kyzyl you will visit main tourist attractions and important historical spots, as well as healing springs (arzhaans) and holy places.
If weather is good enough, we can reach the town centre on foot. The heart of the town is the Arat Square. It is the main and the most beautiful square in Kyzyl, where the most important public rallies and demonstrations take place. Earlier this square used to be called the Bazaar Square. On 12 August 1993 it was renamed from the Lenin Square to the Arat Square (“People’s Square”). The town center is adorned with lush greenery of mini-parks with nice fountains that will save you during summer heat waves.
There’s also the Kok-ool Tuvan State Musical and Drama Theatre on the Arat Square.
The theatre opened in 1977. Its architecturally superb building dominates the square. The theatre is absolutely white from the outside. However, the most important part of the building is its top decorated with three rows of applied woodwork from dark wood which gives the building its local color. Thanks to the woodwork the theatre immediately “acquires ethnicity.”
In the middle of the square you will also see the Buddist “Wish wheel” built by monks of the Gyudmed Monastery on donations from Tuvan Buddhists. In Buddhist philosophy, turning just once the prayer wheel with pure thoughts is equal to reading aloud millions of mantras inside the wheel. This action helps you to save up positive energy, which in turn ensures spiritual development and well-being in the material world.
In the southern part of the town you will see the Kadarchy (“shepherd”) monument. The shepherd in national costume with a knife and a steel on his belt is looking into the distance, into endless steppes. The monument embodies the traditional Tuvan way of life. You can get to the monument following a convenient asphalt road. Locals often come to this hill to take photos with the proud shepherd, one of the landmarks of Tuva.
In the evening you will get to the arzhaan – the Kundustug (“Beavers”) healing spring – a few kilometers out of the town.
Breakfast. On this day we will go to the Erzhey tourist camp. After breakfast we will set out east for the Kaa-Khem region. During the tour we cross the bridge over the Yenisey river, drive past small villages.
Lunch on our way to the camp. After driving for about 100 km past small villages we will see the settlement of Saryg-Sep, then after 50 km more on rut-road we get to the ferry. In the evening we reach the Erzhey tourist camp.
Dinner at the Erzhey camp. Accommodation in Erzhey’s houses. Banya (Russian sauna).
The Erzhey tourist camp is located on the picturesque bank of the Yenisey River, in the mountain taiga, in the depths of which Old Believers settle compactly. You will never forget the camp.
Seniors explain the word “Erzhey” as “something young, new, unexplored.” This place on the bank of the Little Yenisey River at Sayan piedmont is almost completely not affected by civilization. You will be won over by Old Believers’ sincere hospitality. You will eat only organic food here, everything is gathered from forests and locals’ vegetable patches, fish is caught in the pure river.
Erzhey is located on the piedmont of the mountain, which is considered holy. On the top of this mountain you can find a wooden cross. The mountain was blessed by the church and is considered a holy place used for believers’ purification. In the morning you can go up the mountain and enjoy the panoramic view of the Yenisey River and endless taiga.
After lunch we will visit Siberian Old Believers. The legendary village of Sizim is 2 km from the tourist camp. This is a Russian village where time seems to have stopped, you find yourself in a typical Russian village 100 years ago. There are a lot of healers and herb doctors here, people prefer self-treatment. If you wish, they can give you an advice. In the evening you can enjoy phyto barrels and massage.
We will spend this day enjoying outdoor activities. We can go down the river on twin-hulled vessels, but this kind of activity is not for adrenaline addicts. There’s a special tour created for supporters of extreme sports and thrill seekers. The tour includes dangerous riffles. Those who prefer easier tours can go horse-riding or motor boating.
You can go fishing or go for a walk with a local guide into the depths of taiga.
In the evening you can enjoy phyto barrels or massage.
After breakfast we go back to Kyzyl. We will stay at the Aldyn-Bulak ethnic and cultural complex. The complex is situated in the wonderful place named Balyktyg-Kharaar 45 km to the west of Kyzyl next to the Ulug-Khem (Yenisey) River. The concept of the project is of great importance – the complex symbolizes the Universe and planets in the Galaxy. Yurts represent the Sun and planets. Yurts are situated according to the ancient Eastern philosophy of Fen Shui in order to attract success and profit. The focal point of the design of yurts is their interior which features the unique history and culture of our republic. The interior includes elements of the traditional Tuvan way of life and the wealth of the Scythian period – decorations from Arzhaan-1 and Arzhaan-2 burial mounds. The walk around the complex will help you learn a lot of interesting facts about local history and way of life.
In the evening you will have dinner in the Aldyn-Bulak restaurant, where you can try a unique menu containing specialties of Tuvan cuisine.
After dinner you will watch throat singing.
We will set up a tent camp. Salt Lake, aka Dus-Khol, is situated 45 km to the south of Kyzyl. According to its properties the lake is similar to the Crimean resorts of Saki and Chokrak. The healing properties of the lake water were long known to locals and they’ve enjoyed them since then. Many people noticed that skin diseases and arthropathy are cured easily here. Waste, malignant bacteria, harmful substances are excreted through skin. Later, after penetrating deeper these processes also affect microskeletal system.
We will relax on the lake shore, swim the whole day.
At sunset you will see a shamanistic ritual by the lake.
Shamanism is the oldest form of doctoring and type of religion in Tuva. Philosophy and practice of Tuvan shamanism is aimed at getting healthier and achieving self-actualization. A shaman, according to Tuvans, is an intermediary between the people’s world and the “world of spirits”, which try to help people.
In the past, Tuvans asked shamans for help at various occasions, but mostly when somebody had fallen ill. Shamanistic rituals are also used to calm the Soul, get rid of excess emotions, thoughts, delusions, stresses, negativity, anger, rage and fear. This ritual is called recovering the “lost” Soul. Strengthening the space of the Soul in consciousness results in mental alertness. There are also rituals which release from sufferings due to death of someone close, accidents, which help to get rid of negative legacy of ancestors (so called family hoodoo or family curse).
Shamanistic rituals differ according to their aim. There are rituals for purification of a man or a house, rain rituals, fire rituals, rituals of thanking spirits, asking for permission or entreaty, etc. Besides, the set of attributes the shaman uses depends on the shaman’s status.
After breakfast we will enjoy for the last time Lake Dus-Khol, go past Lake Khadyn, which is 3 km to the east of Dus-Khol. We will stop here for a picnic and, if you wish, you can swim in the lake. Khadyn, as compared to Dus-Khol, is lightly salted. Its water contains sulphate-chloride and sodium-magnesium. There are no fish in the lake, but a lot of ducks, geese, tattlers in spring and autumn.
Dinner at the Buyan-Badyrgy hotel in Kyzyl.
The last day in this republic of contrasts.