Looking for the unvarnished Russia? Head to Russia’s Arctic north

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Russia is a huge country with a rich and varied history. Unfortunately much of the country has been tainted by a variety of influences and there is little opportunity to experience the old-fashioned, more traditional side of Russia. The north of the country, around the Arctic is the place to head for those who seek adventure and the unvarnished Russia.

There is a gentle tranquility among the lakes and old villages, and yet you can also find lively northern cities and the amazing backdrop of arctic scenery and the famous northern lights. There are also forests to explore and snow tipped mountains to climb.


Solovetsky Islands

These islands were once a prison colony. There are far from any other sign of habitation and float in what appears to be a never ending mist, creating an eerie feel. The main island is Bolshoy Solovestsky and it is home to the Transfiguration Monastery – historically known as a rebel base and a near impregnable fortress. The island can be comfortably explored by bike or it is possible to take a boat trip to Bolshoy Zayatsky Island to see the thirteen stone labyrinths. These were believed to be constructed in the time of the Sami and used for various rituals.


This village is on the edge of the Barents Sea. It is a small fishing village which has been occupied since the 16th century and can be accessed via a gravel road across a snow covered Tundra. The ocean here is the coldest in the world and the adventurous should sample the water briefly whilst here. Teriberka is surrounded by the Tundra and it can be fascinating to trek around the coastline to see what wildlife exists in this picturesque place.


This old miner’s town is set beneath Khibiny Mountain and next to Lake Veliky Vudyvar. The best time to visit here is the winter when the lake is frozen solid and ice skaters are everywhere. There are also excellent skiing facilities which can be utilised until the middle of May. The winter also attracts ice chisellers who create sculptures and fairytale creatures to decorate the annual snow village. There is even an ice chapel built every year for those who want to commit in unusual surroundings.



The northernmost port in Russia is surprisingly contemporary and offers a wide range of culinary experiences – from traditional Russian dishes to simple salads and cocktails. Murmansk is an amazing place to experience a huge range of Russian memorabilia – from the Lenin (the world’s first nuclear icebreaker) to Zenit cameras and the museum of the northern fleet.

Kenozero National Park

There are only two buses per week going to this park so it may be advisable to book a tour to visit this picturesque destination. Lake Lekshmo is surrounded by forests, remote wooden houses and even a wooden church. Accommodation can be arranged here and ice fishing is possible in the winter.

The Sami

The Sami are still resident in a village just off the main highway. These people continue to live via the traditional ways and a museum in the village is testimonial to this. It is possible to find and even purchase examples of their intricate beadwork or bone-inlaid woodwork. Traditional food is available and just a few kilometers east of the village it is possible to try sledding with Huskies or reindeer.

Historic statues

There are many places in the north of Russia where statues of Lenin still stand tall. It is worth seeing at least one of these to experience the size and detail shown. There are also several built in honor of the people that died during World War Two.



Valaam is a popular destination for pilgrims heading to the Blue-domed Transfiguration Monastery which sits on the shore of Lake Ladoga. Smoked fish and gingerbread are always available from the monks to sample. There are also many other smaller churches, chapels and skits nearby to explore.

Northern Russia is a beautiful travel spot to explore. In spite of the freezing temperatures, the region is packed with a wealth of attractions worth seeing. From beautiful cities to surreal wildlife, Northern Russia awaits adventurers from around the world to test their limits and have the greatest time trekking under the aurora.

By William Taylor and BalticTravelCompany.com!

Posted in Destinations, Russia