Summer season begins in the Arctic
The summer tourist season begins in the Arctic. This year’s first cruise to the North Pole departed from Murmansk on June 14.
Arctic tours begin in the Far North’s other regions: in summer only, tourists can visit the Russian Arctic National Park, meet reindeer herders in Komi, or even take a flight to the Putorana Plateau. However, even in the warm season, tourism in the Arctic is extreme: travelers should have sufficient equipment, warm clothes, should be skilled and hardy.
What attracts tourists in summer
The main summer tourism directions in the Arctic zone are - rafting rivers, fishing, voyages by yachts or cruise vessels, diving; ecology, mineralogy tourism; walking or bike routes, ATV-safari, and alpinism, Sergei Akulenko of the Russian Union of Tourism Industry told TASS.
"In summer, tourists may also prefer, though not so often, educational, agricultural, pilgrimage or ethnography tourism directions," he added. According to the expert, tourists may choose to see the Pomors’ villages on the White Sea shore, or to join ethnography programs to learn local skills and crafts.
The Russian North attracts both Russia’s and foreign tourists. Foreigners, the expert continued, most often come to the Arctic regions on trans-border sea cruises - those could be trips to the Solovki Archipelago, to Arkhangelsk, Novaya Zemlya, the Russian Arctic National Park, and to Franz-Joseph land.
Sea cruises to the North Pole
In the afternoon on June 14, the 50 Let Pobedy nuclear icebreaker began this year’s first voyage to the North Pole. Within this season, the vessel will make five trips for tourists. The last one is due in August. The icebreaker takes to the North Pole about 120 tourists on one voyage. Mostly, those are visitors from the US and Europe, though recently operators have reported bigger interest from Asian and Russian tourists.
"Typical tourists are as follows: mostly foreign visitors, quite many come from China, from Germany; Russian tourists are about 5-6%," the Russian Arctic National Park’s Deputy Director Viktor Kuznetsov told TASS. "The average age is 40-50, though age difference is big; we have seen tourists of 80-90, for example, from Japan."
Getting to Russia’s northernmost area, the Russian Arctic Park, is possible by an icebreaker only. Slightly over 1,000 tourists visit the park every year. They go to Franz-Joseph Land’s islands with the well-known bird colonies and sea animals’ rookeries, and at the pole the bravest may try water of the Arctic Ocean.
The virgin northern nature and a chance to see wild animals are the biggest attractions for extreme tourists visiting the Arctic. While Russia’s North-West offers modern conditions for that, regions to the east offer unpredictable trips, where success will depend on a positive combination of many factors.
Experts say, the Putorana Plateau in the northern Krasnoyarsk Region is most attractive for tourists. A traveler Denis Sergeyev told TASS - visitors must be ready for unpredictable situations. "Getting to some areas is possible by air only, but in storms travelers may have to wait weeks for the helicopter to come," he said.
Tourism in the Krasnoyarsk Region depends on local weather conditions and cannot be limited by strict time frames, head of the region’s biggest tourist company Poloniya, Natalia Strizhova, told TASS. Extreme tourists often travel by themselves, they do not need tourist companies, they have all the outfits and lots and lots of equipment, she added.
Those who dream of seeing Chukotka, will face difficulties, but the impressions they get would remain for life. Most often tourists are taken to see reindeer or whales; another route takes tourists to Eurasia’s easternmost point - the Dezhnev Cape, or to polar bears’ dens. Some are lucky to see the unique Elgygytgyn Lake or the Wrangel Island natural reserve, but experts warn it is a very costly and long trip.
"Chukotka’s explorers are the tourists who are ready for hardships and challenges," the NORTOKO Tourist Company’s representative Mikhal Rezyapkin told TASS. "They have to realize they may fail to get to the destination because of bad weather or may have to spend a week at a local airport waiting for a local flight, but anyway, on Chukotka they see the virgin nature, animals, can see how the locals live there."
Impressions in exchange for respect
Seeing herders is best in Komi, where tourists are even invited to stay at those tents for a while, to feel how people live there. "However, coming to the reindeer herders’ holiday, celebrated annually on August 2, would be possible only for experienced travelers, who would be tactful and respectful to the tundra’s masters," head of the Metelitsa tourist bureau, Tatiana Andreyeva, told TASS.
In Komi’s Vorkuta district, tourists see the Pemboi rocks and a waterfall on the Halmer-Yu River, some enjoy visiting the Kara Sea, and the bravest even take a swim in the Arctic Ocean.
People come here to have a rest from civilization, a local tourist expert said. Travelers should be prepared to the changing weather, big temperature differences - after plus 16 during the day, the night temperature may be minus 2, and snow in mid-July is not an exception. Organizers give to tourists lists of necessary clothes and boots, as it may be rather chilly on the water even when the air temperature is plus 20.
On the other hand, it is the Polar Day there now - the Sun hardly touches to horizon to be up again - tourists may enjoy walking, travelling or sailing practically round the clock.
Tourism with pilgrimage elements
The North has many religion objects to offer, and many pilgrims and tourists want to test themselves going there. The most popular object is the Solovki Islands, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, a center of the Orthodox Church and a unique historical and architectural complex. Almost 62,000 visitors came to the Solovki Museum in 2017, where the share of foreign tourists was 10%.
True adventurers go to Pustozersk, which is 20km off Naryan-Mar in the Nenets Region. It is the first Russian city, founded north of the Polar Circle. The city’s history began in 1499. Tourists most often get there by water, when the river gets free from ice. Others prefer more exotic means. "Those, who decide to come here, are highly motivated; some manage to drive here, others may prefer catamarans or even bicycles," the local museum’s director said, stressing - during a trip like that, travelers must have down coats, hats and warm gloves even in summer.