Peculiarities of national tourism: what weekends are offered in Tatarstan for 2,200 rubles

Cons — five billion, pros — optimism

The Tatarstan tourism industry has already lost almost five billion rubles in the last two months of the strict COVID quarantine, but it seems that it has maintained a fighting spirit and hopes for the rest of the summer season.

Hoteliers, restaurateurs and museums hope to start making money from Russian tourists from the middle of July, Chairman of the Tatarstan State Committee for Tourism Sergey Ivanov announced on 1 June. For this purpose, there have already been developed two loyalty programme with huge discounts designed for both tourists from other Russian regions too who will want to see Kazan and Tatarstan residents who are ready to spend a weekend in the “Volga cradle of Islam” — Bolgar, the amazing nature reserve in Kamskoye Ustye or see Yelabuga — the homeland of female cavalier Durova and Marina Tsvetayeva’s grave.

Bolgar or Chistopol for 2,200 excluding transport

A new special offer for residents of the republic has been available in Tatarstan since 1 June — 1001 Delights in Weekend tour package. Tatarstan residents can spend a weekend for a fixed price of 2,200 rubles per person in Bolgar, Yelabuga, Kamskoye Ustye or Chistopol (the tour takes 2 days and a night). The authorities are going to launch analogous tours to Almetyevsk, Rybnaya Sloboda, Kukmor and Tetyushi. The price includes a night in a local hotel, two excursions, breakfast and two lunches.

The State Committee for Tourism in cooperation with authorities of related districts of the republic created the tour package. The main goal is to stimulate domestic tourism and change the paradigm about tourism centres of the republic as “one-day trip sites”. The tours were designed, first of all, for Tatarstan residents, but nobody will check the place of registration in the passport, the preferential tours will be sold to guests from other republics too, Chairman of the Committee Sergey Ivanov stressed. But the place of residence of tourists and specific excursions are strictly regulated, it will be impossible to change something in the tour.

But the package has a disadvantage: one will have to go to the chosen site on one’s own, at one’s expense. In this light, same Yelabuga with several sightseeing tours looks more attractive than, for instance, Kamskoye Ustye where a visit to the famous Yuryev Cave is offered for a fee. However, here are the details.

Yelabuga: pryanik, Bekhterev and Tsvetayeva

Tourists in Yelabuga will be offered to stay in the city’s modest hotel Shishkin for this money. Guests will meet their guide in the lobby of the hotel at midday on Saturday and check in. Then they will have lunch in Traktir museum theatre and go on an excursion to the V. Bekhterev Museum of Rural Medicine.

The programme also includes the Museum of History, souvenir shops where one can buy famous Yelabuga honey pryanik baked to 19th-century recipes and the Yelabuga Fly. On Sunday, after breakfast in the hotel, the tourists will go on an excursion to the Museum Historical Quarter. The tour will end with checking out at 13 o’clock, but one can prolong the holiday for an additional fee and participate in the tea party in the tea bar of the Bekhterev Museum or have a look to the poetic arbour of the M. Tsvetayeva Literature Museum.

Bolgar: e-cars, comforts on the floor and Bread History Museum

The tour package in Bolgar envisages stops in two hotels at choice: Regina and Voyage mini-hotel with comforts on the floor. The programme begins with a meeting with the guide and check-in. After lunch, the tourists will be shown the territory of Bolgar Museum-Reserve by e-car, stops are planned in all landmarks and cult sites, including near the Cathedral Mosque, Khan’s Palace, Eastern, While and Black Chambers, Bolgar Civilisation Museum.

On Sundays, the wake-up call is at 9 o’clock. A visit to the White Mosque is already planned at 10.30. Then the tourists will go on an excursion to Tatarstan’s only Museum of Agriculture and Bread History since the ancient times till today with all bread production cycles — from sowing and harvest to grinding and baking. Here one can see a wind and water mill, a smith’s workshop and Miller’s House. After the tour ends with lunch, the guests of Bolgar will be offered quests, free walks by e-scooter and visit to numerous museums as additional services.

Kamskoye Ustye: cheese-making plant, swimming pool in hotel and Yuryev Caves

The third package is a trip to Kamskoye Ustye. Unlike the first two tours, here tourists are interested not in the settlement and its history itself but natural sightseeing points. The compulsory programme of the tour with the fixed price is more modest here, however, the guests will be offered a lot of additional services and accommodated in a more comfortable hotel.

At 11.30 on Saturday, the tourists will be accommodated in Kuray three-star hotel with free Wi-Fi, a swimming pool, a terrace for sunbathing and sports equipment rental. An excursion to cheese workshop Camembert is planned on the first day.

On the second day of the programme, after breakfast, the guests will be shown the main landmark of the area, one of the highest points of the Volga Hill — Lobach Mountain. Here the Volga River suddenly turns to the south and goes towards Astrakhan and the Caspian Sea, the mountain offers amazing views. Here the tourist programme ends.

What one should keep in mind is that Kamskoye Ustye District in Tatarstan has one of the natural miracles of the Volga Region — the Yuryev Cave in the Virgin Mary Mountains, a favourite place of extreme amateurs and speleologists, the longest natural cave near the Volga. The temperature inside is constant, +7, it changes neither in winter nor in summer. The guests will be offered to go there after the tour ends (for a fee, of course). There are also abandoned alabaster adits on this slope that one can see. The list of additional services includes barbecue rental, woodfired banya, fishing and excursion to a local vineyard.

Chistopol: architecture, Pasternak and master classes

Chistopol is the last option of the Tatarstan weekend. This town on the left riverbank of the Kama hasn’t yet a popular tourist brand, and it welcomes few history fans as guests. It seems that Sergey Ivanov also intends to correct this sad fact by launching the route. Chistopol doesn’t have modern cultural venues but it does have a spirit of ancient times, a lot of interesting monuments of architecture that are older than a hundred years, numerous history museums. One of the most well-maintained buildings of the 19th century in the European part of Russia is here, this is why student architects come here from time to time even from Moscow — to get acquainted with it in practice.

The package tour here includes a few compulsory events. On the first day, the tourists will be accommodated, served lunch and taken to a sightseeing excursion to the historical centre of the city with a visit to the Boris Pasternak Memorial Museum. The Nobel laureate lived here during almost two years in evacuation with his colleagues in the Writers’ Union. Central streets of Chistopol still have merchants’ mansions, landmark historical buildings, 19th-century churches. On Sunday, the guests will be offered an excursion to the city’s History Museum and master classes to learn how to make mementoes. Additional services of the tour are still under development, but it is already known that from 10 June the guests will be offered a group walk by motorboat in the Kama River and more than ten craft master classes from 1 July.

Discounts and offers for tourists from other regions

To go on a trip to Tatarstan now, a fan of sightseeing points should be very motivated: if he or she doesn’t have a certificate confirming the coronavirus test is negative or if there are/not COVID anti-bodies, they will have to be in two-week quarantine. Nevertheless, all hotels on the territory of the republic are operating, public catering is gradually reviving by offering takeaways. Summer verandas are expected to open soon, “of course, with social distancing and all safety measures”.

The State Committee for Tourism hopes that restrictions on Russians’ entrance to the region will weaken at least from the middle of July. As quarantine is lifted in Tatarstan, special loyalty programmes will be launched, which are to stimulate demand for tourism offers of the republic created together with the hotel and restaurant community, Sergey Ivanov said.

Firstly, all tourists who arrive in Tatarstan will be gifted a free 2-hour-long excursion by foot in the centre of Kazan. The tourists will be offered 25% discounts on food in more than 60 cafes and restaurants of Kazan, which are members of the republican Association of Restaurateurs.

Secondly, a separate programme called 2+1 will run in July. Having booked a room for two nights, the tourist will be gifted a third one. Children will live with their parents free from the beginning till the end of the trip.

The committee promised to clarify the list of restaurants and hotels where the guests of the republic can obtain bonuses and discounts soon. All information will be published on the website of Visit Tatarstan.

By Olga Golyzhbina

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