Many people dream of seeing the Northern lights and indeed, the view is breath taking! As Muscovites we are only 2.5 hours from one of the greatest, natural wonders of the world.
The Northern lights (or aurora borealis, named from the Roman Goddess of the dawn) are a phenomenon, like a rainbow, that do not appear all the time. Thus, the viewing experience is best planned as a “hunt for the Northern Lights” to avoid disappointment if Mother Nature sends adverse weather our way – and Russia has a lot of weather 🙂 The Northern Lights are best viewed away from the city, so our “hunt” is out into the frozen tundra. We will explore the Kolsky peninsular, discovering its nature and the wonderful local cuisine (this is a “gastronomic delight” tour!).
In preparation, you need to understand this distant, far north of Russia. There are places here, where no man, no Innuit has ever trodden. Obviously, you do not expect to see a produkti or a super market but there are basics you could expect. But no. Between Murmansk and Teriberka, on route to the Arctic Ocean, there are no fuel stations. You bring your own fuel – for everything. Even the igloo hotel, seen on my pictures, is powered by wood burners and diesel generators. A visit to the Russian north is a once in a life time experience! It has a charm of its own, it is staggeringly beautiful but, at the same time, it is stark and austere.
Most flights to Murmansk arrive too late to drive out to the north on the same day. Our first night will be spent in the “Tundra” hotel, a small and cosy establishment close to the city centre. Dinner is in one of the most popular local venues. The food is delicious. Northern cuisine will surprise you with both quality and taste. If you are a seafood foodie, you are in paradise. If you prefer meat, most of the meat dishes here are reindeer, cooked in a myriad of ways.
Day 2 Driving to Teriberka
The settlement of Teriberka is located on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. It’s an amazing place with a wild beauty. Russian movie producers discovered this place fairly recently and shot a couple of successful films there, so soon the “wildness” will be gone as the number of tourists to this region of Russia is growing. But not yet, we still have a chance to see its unblemished natural beauty 🙂
We are going to stay in a very moody 🙂 place that has its own allure. The charismatic hotel owner studied navigation, went to Novaya Zemlya and says the icebergs in the Arctic ocean are not as white as in the pictures are there are too many birds! 😉 You might hear some real, first hand stories!
In summer the local brown Bears walk freely around the Hotel; and they never ever attack people. Why?! There is plenty of salmon in the local river. They are never hungry.
The Hotel restaurant is located inside a repurposed Soviet bomb shelter. It has an immediate post- Soviet Union collapse 1990’s ambiance (without the shooting!) is as if you have travelled back in time to 1990’s Russia (immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union). It has an appeal .The restaurant chef is very proud of his Reindeer burgers 🙂
The Hotel’s decor is an odd mixture of the nautical (I said the owner is a sailor) and all things Soviet Union: old newspapers and Soviet banners; Lenin portraits and Red Army flags & uniforms. Major conflicts with the Nazis took place locally, so there are a lot of wartime memorabilia displayed, discovered in their archaeological expeditions.
PS : if you don’t want such an experience, please do let me know and I can put you in a European chalet style hotel that was built here recently. But I thought as you could go ‘vanilla’ everywhere else in the world, this is more authentic and much more of an adventure! However, it is up to you to decide, we will do as much as we can to accommodate individual tastes 🙂
“Tour” of the Hotel, lunch, tour of the settlement (it’s quite small, only 640 people permanent residents live here). But, it used to be bigger! For example, there is an abandoned 4-storey school house building. It is a very ‘Marie-Celeste’ experience. Most things are still in place, so as you walk inside you see the school desks and books. Anybody who studies in a Soviet school feels nostalgic within these walls. The fact that the place wasn’t robbed might show you that the people here are nice; they live in very severe nature conditions so they have to have warm souls and help each other to survive.
And the nature is severe. A ship cemetery on the Arctic Ocean shore is there to prove this…
Dinner at “Teribersky Bereg” restaurant
A truly mouth-watering experience! Do try the roasted mussels and scallop in the white creamy sauce! (I know tastes differ, but this is my personal recommendation and I live in Moscow with many good restaurants :)!) All the seafood here is fresh, probably just caught this very morning.
After the dinner I would suggest walking down the Ocean shore, enjoying its cold, stern beauty. It may be quiet, it may be wild, but it is always overwhelming and inspiring.
Play on the gigantic 4-metre swing right on the Ocean shore. Isn’t it amazing?
A lot of the Northern Lights pictures are shot from this very place. If not, we could drive a bit out back down the road and away from the lights, seeing if our luck is better there 🙂
As on the eve we might have been waiting for the Northen Lights and thus went to bed late, the start will be after 10 am 🙂
Taking a sled, pulled by a snowmobile to some amazingly beautiful places 🙂 a Frozen Waterfall, seeing running water beneath the ice, “Small Baikal” (frozen ice with beautiful patterns) , a beach full of “Dragon eggs” (big stone pebbles moved by the waves and finally acquiring smooth surfaces and egg shape)
Optional. Swimming in the Arctic Ocean and meeting the seals. They are here 80% of the time. Once-in-a-lifetime experience! Where else but Russia!? J You will wear a warm suit. But still, bear in mind that the temperature of the air is -20°C and the average temperature of the Ocean is -1.5°C, so no one will push you in J
If you do want to try this, please let me know and I will book it in advance with the instructor.
Lunch at “Cedar Grass” restaurant
Good restaurant, the sea hedgehog was lovely 🙂
Time to have a rest and pack before we leave. Maybe have a little nap (are you planning to wait for the Northen Lights at night?! 🙂
Dinner at “Siyanie Severa” restaurant
Checking out of the Hotel, driving to Saami village
Saami are local inhabitants of Murmansk and the Kolsky peninsular. Their “relatives” also live in Sweden and Finland. They are trying to preserve their traditions as at the moment there are less than 2000 of them left. Their language is going but recently they received a grant from the European Union and this place was built with the EU support. It is well-built and well-run.
Here you will meet Huskies and feed the Reindeer, take a ride on an banana boat attached to a snowmobile (huge fun!), play with friendly bunnies that run everywhere, participate in some traditional Northern games and use snow saucers to slide down the hill.
Dinner at the local restaurant (it is not a fancy establishment and serves everyday Innuit food, mostly reindeer, as we are not close to the sea).
Drive back to Murmansk.
Visiting the most interetsing Murmansk monuments.
Murmansk Light House, a monument to sailors that perished in the peaceful times (not in wars but remember that this is the North and the Arctic Ocean isn’t always friendly.)
The second tallest War Monument in Russia “Alesha” is imposing… It inspires huge respect, veneration and you want to be silent by its side.
Another good restaurant in Murmansk 🙂
Flight home 🙂
I hope this trip stays in your memories as something truly special!