About the tour

The Urals region is where Europe meets Asia in Russia.

It is a place of contrasts, of great geological and mineral deposits, and stunning nature. The Urals are also home to a large metallurgical industry, which has been active for more than 300 years.

Our tour combines the nature and the industrialism, history and the present, the people and the environment. This is a unique opportunity to experience this rough diamond in comfort and safety.

Our team’s aim to provide first hand experiences, and get a better understanding of life here in the Urals.

We start in Chelyabinsk, the second city of the Ural region, and a metallurgical giant. It was here that in 2013 the meteor landed. Despite the industrial hardness of the city, the center is quite European and friendly.

Arkaim is our next experience. Arkaim was recently discovered accidently during a military survey on the northern parts of the steppes near the border with Kazakhstan. The steppe is a magical place to be – great expanses of grassy land with almost no trees. One gets a real sense of distance and isolation here on the steppe. We will have a guided tour of Arkaim and its various mysterious formations, and later have a picnic on the steppe.

Magnitogorsk, like Chelyabinsk, is also home to large scale metallurgy. During WWII, 50% of the USSR tanks made were from Magnitogorsk steel. We will see the factory from across the river while checking out a massive and impressive Soviet monument to return to peace after victory in the war.

After Magnitogorsk we will meander north along the border of Europe and Asia via Russian and Bashkir villages. We will have several opportunities to admire the scenery, villages, and also see some of the local agriculture. There are many horse herds along the road.

In the Zlatoust region we will visit a local knife factory, and have a chance to make some steel items like knives and art. The local guide will explain the steel making process, and they get from ore to knife. We will go on a light trek on one of the local mountains and witness unique local geological formation, weather permitting. In neighboring Miass we will visit a mineral museum to see the vast array of stones and minerals in the mountains, and have an opportunity to make and eat some pelmeni.

During these first few days of the trip, we will see many traditional wooden houses, in varying states of repair. These houses can last well more than 100 years. The weak points are the roof and the foundation. Often you will see houses on a lean or even looking like they are sinking. With many young people moving to the cities, houses are left with pensioners who wish to live in the house till they pass, and therefore they do no spend time and money on capital improvements like re-building the foundations. Even as they lean and sink, Russian wooden houses have a charm which fits in with their environment.

From Zlatoust and Miass we will head further north towards Ekaterinburg. Along the way we will experience some extreme contrasts. Leaving the Zlatoust area and its beauty, we will drive through a small town with a copper smelter. The area around the smelter has been ravaged to the extent that it is almost like a moon scape. We will trek up a nearby hill to take in the view from both sides, affected and less affected greenery. It will leave an impression, and we will tell you the story behind why the smelter continues to operate and the choices faced by one factory towns which were developed during Soviet times. Later we will drive to a recently disused Nickel and granite mine, to survey the scale of the mine itself and witness another one factory town story.

Towards the end of this day, we will arrive in Ekaterinburg, the main center of the Urals. This town is booming, despite the recession persisting in the rest of the country. In Ekaterinburg the last Czar and his family were executed during the civil war following the 1917 Revolution. We will quickly see the place where this occurred and drive to the edge of the city to the place where their bodies were dumped and destroyed. That was a small mine at the time, and is now the site of a monastery with numerous wooden churches to explore. Nearby we will visit a museum of military hardware, with one of the largest ranges and numbers of items in the world, from swords to tanks and trains to jets and submarines.

Also in Ekaterinburg is the Yeltsin Center, which has very interesting artifacts from Yeltsin’s term as president as well as the unpredictable events which occurred during that time. There are also interesting displays of shops from that time which you might remember from TV as a young person.

Along the way we will provide chances to try local food, and explore neighborhoods and trails.

In this tour of contrasts, there will always be something different and sometimes unexpected.

Over the trip we will travel 1,600 km in our well equipped van. Our vans always have a crew of two, a driver and an English speaking guide.

Tour price is EUR 1400 for the Ural Contrasts Tour

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Tour price is EUR 1800 for the Ural Autumn Photo Tour