Thousands of reindeer being driven down from mountain peaks to their summer pastures in the tundra; the timeless log cabin villages of the Pomor people on the White Sea coast; rock paintings, seyd holy sites and stone labyrinths left by an ancient Neolithic culture; excellent trekking, rafting and fishing amid mountains, lakes, tundra and taiga forest. All these and much more await visitors to Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
As well as the indigenous Saami people, there are people called Pomors whose ancestors fled serfdom in Russia in the Middle Ages and settled here in the Arctic, and who have preserved much of their culture to this day.
The Kola Peninsula (Murmansk Province) is the easiest part of the Russian Arctic to reach from Moscow, St Petersburg or even Scandinavia. What’s more, the vast majority of areas of interest to tourists there do not require any special permits, unlike the other Arctic regions covered by this website.
We offer bespoke trips to reindeer herders on the Kola Peninsula as well as to Pomor Villages on the White Sea coast with some beautifully preserved wooden churches and cottages.
We also offer the following itinerary which takes guests from the Russian Arctic to the far south in three weeks. If this trip is begun at the end of April, it allows visitors to travel during three seasons – winter in the north, spring in the centre and summer in the south.
Three Seasons Russia Trip
April 20th: Meet guests at Murmansk airport. Located 250km north of the Arctic Circle, Murmansk is the world’s largest Arctic city.
Transfer 2.5 hours to the village of Lovozero, centre of Kola’s indigenous Saami people. Tea, snacks, then 1-hour transfer in sledges to a guest house in the forest tundra. Overnight in the guest house.
April 21st: 30-minute sledge trip to the beautiful Seydozero Lake, sacred lake of the Saami people. Visit sacred seyda sites nearby. Then a further 45 minutes to a reindeer herders’ brigade. Visit the herd, observe the daily life of the herders. In the evening return to the guest house.
April 22nd: In the morning we have a sledge excursion to various beauty sites in the mountains and forest tundra, before returning to the guest house for lunch. After lunch, we return to Lovozero to visit the local museum and Saami National Cultural Centre. After dinner, we have a 1-hour transfer to the grim Soviet town of Olenegorsk (Reindeer Hills) from where we catch an overnight train south to Medvezhegorsk (Bear Hills) in the Republic of Karelia.
April 23rd: We arrive in Medvezhegorsk late in the morning. We immediately take a 1-hour transfer to the small log cabin village of Pyalma, huddled on the shores of Onega, Europe’s second largest lake. We tour the village with a local guide who will show us the log church, some cottages with beautiful wooden architecture dating back 150 years, and take us on a walk through the woods to the shores of Lake Onega.
April 24th: 1-hour transfer north back to Medvezhegorsk after breakfast. Day train through taiga forests to St Petersburg, arriving around 22:00.
April 25th: St Petersburg city tour and a visit to Hermitage Art Museum.
April 26th: Trip to Peterhof, the former summer retreat of the Tsars, one hour by boat from the city. Evening train at 17:10 to Moscow, arriving at 21:00.
April 27th: 4-hour walking tour of Moscow central sites in the morning. 5-hour driving tour of more spread out sites in the afternoon.
April 28th: Metro tour and Kremlin tour before lunch. Kolomenskoye Museum Estate after lunch, followed by a trip to Ismailovskiy Kremlin, vodka museum and flea market. This is probably Moscow’s most atmospheric market.
Evening train to Volgograd.
April 29th: Arrive in Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, around 4 pm. This was the site of one of the most important battles in WW2, winning the Russians a decisive victory over Germany. Stalingrad is often regarded as the largest and bloodiest battle in human history, and the city is full of monuments built on a suitable scale to commemorate this dark chapter of human history.
We will take a direct transfer from the train station to visit the Mamaev Kurgan monument outside town, an 85-metre tall statue wielding a sword and overlooking the city. We will then head back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.
April 30th: After breakfast, we have a 3.5-hour transfer to Elista, the capital of the Kalmykia, Europe’s only Buddhist Republic. The Kalmyk people were originally Oirats from Mongolia, but they migrated to their current homeland around the beginning of the 17th Century, bringing their religion with them.
Today we will visit Buddhist stupas, Europe’s largest Buddhist temple, a smaller Buddhist temple in a nearby village, get blessed by Kalmyk monks, visit a Buddhist library with a collection of literature from Tibet, India and Mongolia, and much more. Overnight in Elista.
May 1st: Transfer 7.5-hours from Elista to Vladikavkaz, the capital of the Republic of North Ossetia in foothills of the Caucasus mountains. This is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse parts of Russia, with dozens of colourful tribal minorities inhabiting the mountains.
May 2nd: Day trip from Vladikavkaz to the village of Dargavs in the mountains and the nearby plague huts. In the 19th-century, people would go to these shelters to die and prevent the spread of the plague to their village.
Overnight in Vladikavkaz,
May 3rd: We head into the Republic of Ingushetia, stopping in Nazran to see the towering monument to the victims of Stalin’s repression. We will then enter Chechnya and spend the afternoon exploring the newly rebuilt Grozny.
Overnight in Grozny.
May 4th: Day trip to the Chechen countryside, stopping in stunning Itum Kale to see its beautiful watchtowers, which were used to provide warning of attack by neighbouring tribes. We will also have stops in several villages, to give us a feel of rural Chechen life, before returning to Grozny.
May 5th: Following an early start we will cross the border into our final republic, Dagestan, where we will take a drive into the mountains. We will stop for lunch at the village of Gunib. This village is set on a high plateau, and the natural fortress saw the final stand of the legendary Imam Shamil after his 30-year fight against Tsarist troops in the 19thcentury. We will then drive back to Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
May 6th: We head down to the oldest settlement in Russia, the UNESCO world heritage city of Derbent. Derbent means “shut gate” in Persian and for 2,500 years it was a fortified town with the sole purpose of defending the Persian Empire from the barbarian hoards north of the Caucasus Mountains. The world’s only surviving Sassanid era fort was the end point of a 40-kilometre wall that stretched from the Caspian Sea to the mountains. We will have plenty of time to explore the fort, the walls, the old city and the atmospheric Islamic mausoleums and tombstones that litter the hills around the city.
May 7th: Morning flight to Moscow.
|NUMBER IN GROUP||Cost per person|
|6||380,000 Russian rubles|
|7||372,500 Russian rubles|
|8||365,000 Russian rubles|
|9||357,500 Russian rubles|
|10||350,000 Russian rubles|
|11||342,500 Russian rubles|
|12||335,000 Russian rubles|
|13||327,500 Russian rubles|
|14||320,000 Russian rubles|
|15||312,500 Russian rubles|
|16||305,000 Russian rubles|
• 2nd class train tickets (4 people per compartment)
• 4* hotels where possible, or the best hotel in town. Only in the Caucasus region will we not be staying in the best hotels. Instead, as a security measure, we will be staying in decent local hotels.
• Breakfast at hotels
• Food in Lovozero region, in Pyalma, and one traditional Kalmyk lunch in Elista
• English-speaking guide throughout
• All transfers throughout the itinerary
• All entrance fees
• Letter of invitation for tourist visa
• One tour leader travelling for free in all groups of 6+ pax
• One tour leader travelling for free and a second TL half price in groups of 12+ pax
Price does not include:
• Any international or domestic flights
• Equipment or clothing
• Food on trains, in Moscow, St Petersburg, Volgograd, or the Caucasus