The Arctic in the wintertime: where to go and what to see16 october 2020
Beyond the Polar Circle, you will see places untouched by mankind and feel like a true pioneer of uncharted lands. Ice diving and chasing the Northern lights, nights in tents under the vast tundra sky, rides on husky and reindeer sledges — doesn't Arctic tourism sound exciting already?
A flight from Moscow or Saint Petersburg to Murmansk takes only two hours. It offers a very accessible and populated 'lighter' version of the Arctic. Even the weather is similar to that of Saint Petersburg. Fans of skiing and snowboarding are always welcome at Bolshoy Vudyavr and Kukisvumchorr, the best resorts in the Russian North. Have you ever dreamed of skiing under the Aurora Lights? Well, now is your chance! After that, explore the ancient Khibiny Mountains, famous for their breathtaking landscapes.
Rent a snowmobile and journey to the coast of the ice-free Barents Sea. Zvyagintsev's renowned movie Leviathan was filmed in the world-famous Teriberka village. Here, you will fall in love with the waterfalls, ship graveyard, and beach full of round rocks that resemble dragon eggs. Extreme sports enthusiasts should try their hand at Arctic diving, while foodies can enjoy the region's fresh-caught seafood and giant king crabs. To admire the Aurora Lights from the warmth of your bed, skip the hotel and spend the night in an igloo with a transparent ceiling.
In the winter, Karelia looks like a Christmas postcard. Here, snow-covered fir trees speckle the landscape, lakes sit dormant under a layer of crispy ice, and the perfect silence is disturbed only by the sounds of crunching snow under your feet. Even the frost is mild and almost cosy, unlike the biting harsh chill of Siberia.
For centuries, the ancient city of Arkhangelsk used to serve as the main gateway to the Arctic. Now, the city offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the history of this magical region. You can take a trip to the famous Antonievo-Verkolsky and Sursky monasteries, visit the homeland of John of Kronstadt and Mikhail Lomonosov, or climb the walls of the Novodvinskaya fortress, the first coastal citadel in Russia.
Many believe that the Solovetsky Monastery, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, looks best in the summer. However, you might just change your mind once you see it in all its wintertime glory. During the cold season, the area is filled with calm and quiet, with nothing to distract you from the majestic beauty of the ancient buildings.
A trip to the Nenets Autonomous Okrug will introduce you to the endless tundra, where the darkness of the polar nights is only occasionally broken by the bright flash of the Northern lights. You could ride for hundreds of kilometres on a snowmobile or reindeer sled without coming across a single soul. Or pay a visit to the local reindeer herders, whose lifestyle hasn't changed much since the ancient times.
If you want to experience some real Arctic temperatures, pay a visit to the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), home of the cold pole of the northern hemisphere. The village of Oymyakon even provides a special certificate to those who are bold enough to experience the most extreme temperatures on Earth.
A winter trip to faraway Chukotka will give you the chance to feel like a pioneer of a landscape untouched by mankind. You can sleep in the yarangas (tents) of local reindeer herders and Arctic hunters, play hide-and-seek with polar bears, go ice fishing for your next meal and completely forget about outside civilisation for a few days. After a trip to this otherworldly peninsula, it's easy to fall in love with the Arctic. If anywhere in the world has gathered all of the treasures of Arctic nature in one breathtaking spot, it is Chukotka.