Difficulty of the route:
Duration: 4 expedition days and 2 organizational days
Length of the route: 900 km
A beautiful, meditative route through the blossoming spring prairies. While dirty reagent snow has not yet melted in Moscow, here you’ll find yourself in the realm of wild tulips and irises!
A perfect journey for fans of landscape photography, yearning for rich colors after a long winter! The route is designed so that the drives are short and not exhausting, so this tour will be very comfortable for families with children.
We start from the Caspian capital - Astrakhan, then we climb the largest sand dune in the region, walk along the snow-white crust of salt lakes, take a ride on prairie roads, visit the center for studying wild animals and finally see endless flowering fields of tulips and irises. All this in an excellent company, living in convenient and comfortable motorhomes and with excellent food from our chef, who is especially good at cooking steamed mutton from the shores of Lake Manych-Gudilo
This unique salt-water lake is located in the centre of the Kuma–Manych Depression and is considered to be a remainder of an ancient ocean called Tethys that used to connect Azov, Caspian and Black seas. In the middle of the lake, there is Vodny Island where you can watch a herd of wild mustang horses that have lived here for more than half a century. Islets on the lake are covered with different herbs and there is a lot of reeds, canes and sedges by the shore. Here, in the hollow at the Manych-Gudilo shore, travelers spend the night. It is a perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the nature and a paradise for photo enthusiasts, with tulip and iris growing in the meadows and swans and herons visiting the shore.
Roads and people of the prairie
The journey continues along the dusty prairie dirt roads, 70 kilometers of curious and picturesque landscapes, alkali soils and tulip fields. Tall trees give way to smaller elms, gravel under the wheels turn into sand and clay. Ravines, plains, lakes, rivers and hills with flocks of sheep and saigas fly by the window and you can truly understand the allure of prairie roads and embrace the incredible beauty of Kalmykia. You can stop and talk with locals, try their food and certainly taste Kalmyk salt tea.
Abandoned Kalmyk wind power plant
The Kalmyk wind power plant is located on the way from Elista to Stavropol. Its construction stopped in 1997 and since then tourists have been visiting the site to see impressive urbanistic landscapes with abandoned facilities and towering chimneys. We then proceed to an old cottonwood near the town Khar-Buluk. It is one of the most revered places in the republic. People of faith come here to meditate and perform rites. The cottonwood is surrounded by mortars and praying flags hang on its branches. The tree is thought to be more than 100 years old. It is over 15 meters high and its girth at its base is 4,5 meters. Travelers rest and spend the night by the cottonwood.
Khurul “The Golden Abode of the Buddha Shakyamuni”
The largest Buddhist temple in Kalmykia houses the biggest in Russia and Europe 9-meter statue of Buddha. It is covered in gold and diamonds and holds inside sacred for Buddhists items. Khurul is surrounded by a fence, every 5 meters of which is marked be a snow-white mortar, 108 mortars in total. The building itself stands 63 meters tall and consists of 7 levels. You can enter from every side as the temple has gates at every cardinal direction. After the excursion you can taste national food, rest and head to alkali soils to spend the night.
Here, supervised by an experienced instructor, you can test yourself at extreme driving on a salt surface. Having dried up, the salt here turns into “takyr”, a peculiar terrain with distinctive cracks on its surface. Only a true master can handle a car here: white crust of salt conceals black viscous mud, unforgiving to careless drivers. Only the bravest can conquer this particular track but everyone would surely like to set their own record there!
Bolshoy Brat (Big Brother) barchan dune
Big Brother is the biggest natural barchans in Astrakhan Oblast, it can be from 11 to 20 meters high, depending on the wind and the season. It’s a delight to take photos here – intense yellow sand, blue sky, endless open space, toad agamas (small lizards resembling dragons) often get in the shot. Stages of rallies “Silk Way” and “Khagan’s Gold” take place here. Right on this barchan you can have lunch before heading forward.
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