Arctic adventure tour: Explore the Wilderness

March 2018. Two weeks. Two jeeps. 1600 USD / pax. Russia­­

Several photos were made by: A. Tulupov and A. Ermachkov

The Arctic

One of the most under-explored, seldom visited, mysterious and least understood places on Earth. Why are we so drawn to the peculiarities of this great land to the North? We have all watched the documentaries on television, read the books about the Arctic… so popular even amongst the children.

We gaze curiously at the photos and fact filled articles but there is one fact that we know for sure: We will likely never really know the truth or reality of the Arctic… the land, the climate, the wildlife, and the people who live there will remain a mystery to us and only be known by what we read or see and not by actually walking on the ground and experiencing that life in real time.

A Rare Opportunity to Explore the Russian Northland and Arctic. Experience It’s Rugged Beauty and Famous Mystery in real time!

This March we will travel across Russia from the modern and sophisticated European city of Moscow to the primitive and extreme northern city of Vorkuta, the fourth largest city of the Arctic region and the easternmost town in Europe.

Starting from the bustling city of Moscow, we will quickly escape the angry traffic and congested urban live and move into a different Russia that many will never know. It’s a vast countryside, sparsely populated and underdeveloped. Moving from Moscow towards the great Northland feels like we are traveling back in time.

As we travel along the rural highways we see many changes taking place. Vast tracks of virgin forests appear, interspersed with occasional lakes and rivers. The highways become smaller and narrower and full of bumps and potholes… we become more cautious in our driving… we can even encounter horse drawn wagons and loose herds of cattle or stray animals who suddenly appear.

We will see many small towns and villages as we continue northwards. We will visit several Ancient and history filled Golden Ring towns where you will see some amazing and rare features of a culture still living in the past.

By the third day we arrive at the beginning of Nowhere. We will now enjoy another level of travel as during the next days we will fight our way to Vorkuta by winter roads. It’s an unforgettable experience! Here we will see the life of a typical Arctic town, visit historic and memorable GULAG sites, wander around abandoned settlements, travel to visit with the reindeer breeders, and do some trekking to the Ural Mountains.

See the prices below and contact us to join!

Ours is a true exploration and adventure. We don't want to set any rigid schedule, we just want to be road tripping, actually off-road tripping in the middle of nowhere. This is how to really experience the country and all it has to offer.

We want to face the hardships and challenges, absorb the pristine nature of the Russian North, experience the unique and hardened life of the local people, become hypnotized from the brilliant and exotic glow of the Northern Lights and, most importantly we will bond with our new friends and enjoy the company of courageous and enthusiastic travel mates who are on the same wave length with us.

We will travel in two rugged and fully equipped and outfitted 4x4 jeeps that become our home and will be our best friends in this adventurous travel. There will be two Russians drivers/guides/mechanics. Meet the talented, experienced, and sometimes outrageously funny Tony Terentev with his side kick, an equally talented and just as funny Andrey Minogin. You will be in the hands of two of the most experienced and versatile travel companions in the world who are dedicated to providing you with the safest, yet most memorable and delightful trip possible.  

But you must remember, this is the Arctic Expedition! You should be willing and prepared to face the difficulties. If we get stuck in a snowstorm, it will be our shared problem requiring the cooperation of all. It's the mandatory and expected way to live and travel in Arctic!

I once saw a TV travel program where groups of people flew into some Arctic city… maybe it was in Canada… stayed in a luxurious Hotel, ate gourmet meals, and then boarded a huge ‘Expedition’ vehicle which drove out of town to witness real snow, a rabbit or two, one Arctic fox, and yes, they even saw a polar bear…at a great distance. But since their ‘vehicle was 20 feet in the air and they were viewing though strong Plexiglas windows, there was no thrill of danger. Not like having a polar bear with his face to your window wanting to eat you?!

Which of these would give you a true Arctic Adventure?

Fly to the Arctic for a three day all comfort and sheltered and distant experience like this:

Or, experience the true rugged Arctic with feet on the ground for 14 days with this:

I could hardly put one soaking wet foot in front of the other in a deep snowdrift. Only 100 meters separated me from UAZ jeep, my home for last two weeks. It hit my eyes helping me to break through the snowed-in road. It was strange, I was sure that we have dig it free only 10 minutes ago… I walked past my travelmate's car and he gave me a piece of chocolate. I took it with my wet and dirty gloves and started eating it. With dirt, with snow. Snow which fell from the sky and rose with the wind from the ground. Snow was everywhere, it was on the back of my neck, in my shoes, in the hat and in my gloves. We'd been fighting our way off this snowy land for almost 8 hours. It seemed that I knew that it was a f*cking bad day!

Our upcoming Arctic expedition prompted an interesting question from a friend. “Why are people so in love with that region?” I am not talking about a sunny summer tundra full of berries, a few flowers, a few budding plants, and variety of young wildlife. I'm talking about a wild and rugged, freezing and snowed-in, winter tundra wilderness between the end of September and the beginning of May. I asked my friend what he had thought and heard something vague and weird about open spaces of snow and the White Silence… Since my imagination is not rich enough, I just decided to look for photos - WOW...

«White» is not about just a singular white color, it is about more than 50 shades of white (if you understand me). Apparently, for a lack of other colors, our eyes adapt, beginning to distinguish every possible play of shades, tints, and textures that make the white space enchanting. Then you cast your eyes skyward and see how the snowy land contrasts with white clouds and the mist of a blue sky making all scenery look like a paradise!

Surely, instead of knights in shining armor you will instead see strange looking people waddling around in many layers of clothing and goose down filled jackets, but so what? The rest of the visible world still looks like heaven! You might say that winter tundra rarely delight travelers with such a blue sky. Nevertheless, when everything is grey, the wind is howling and dense fog is coming down from the misty mountains, the scenery may look even more impressive (especially for Game of Throne fans). Truly the end of the Universe!

Winter roads… That is a lot of punch for just two words. Siberian winter road is not just a road; it is a life itself. They exist only in winter, such a wide lanes crossing taiga and tundra wilderness. Each has its own short but rich story. A lot of cars… everyone tryes to take the moment and make their own path through arctic before arctic shows its terrifyingly dark side.­

There are a lot of other surprising things in the winter arctic that are more down-to-earth. This corner of planet is so wild that winter roads become feral due to the lack of quality construction and proper maintenance, of course! A lot of emergency vehicles are on duty day and night. They rescue local optimists during severe weather and help trucks to go up the hills. Taking care of trucks is a big deal here, because local people want to eat, get dressed, and shower, too. Everything is delivered by truck… food, clothing and yes, even water. And, as you can guess, movements of goods are less costly and much easier by land than by air and water.

Oil and gas workers are another story. They are everywhere! They drive pretty sizable cars, wear bright uniforms and know at which depth true Russian wealth lies. Rare are the arctic settlements which bear no connection to any sort of minerals. We even saw the monument to ‘Coal’ – a huge black cube standing in the depressed area of typical Russian five-story apartment blocks. A surprising and amazing sight!

Rampant destruction and desolation are the other sides of this region. Since the time of USSR, the coal industry experienced recession and then came to the current lean and curious state. We don't need as many miners now, especially here, in the middle of nowhere. That's why a lot of mining settlements are empty now. I particularly like the photo of a five-story apartment block – with one-half abandoned with broken windows and snowy walls; but there was a glimmer of life in its other still occupied half. The total surrealism!

It can be perplexing when you think about it. I can understand shift teams that earn fast money and go away. But why do local people still live there? In the end, you can buy a ticket to Moscow for a maximum price that is equal to the cost of two local apartments ;)

The habit of fixing suspension before each trip was very useful. Everything worked well... Only iPad felt down from nowhere and hit me in the head!

 Surely, the Arctic is not the best place for living but people have lived here for centuries despite the severe northern nature. For generations now it has become not only their birthplace and home, but from birth to death it is recognized and loved as their country and they have learned to survive and work here. Many years ago, they hunted for furs; now it’s for oil and gas. However, the tundra wilderness was always only sparsely populated. It's not easy to enjoy the snow and the cold for 9 months in a raw and biting winter. The Arctic summer doesn’t sound too much like a summer; it’s much closer to European spring. Even the magical views of the Northern lights can't help you much to live better in the Russian North.

Ironically, the Russian arctic is much more accessible in the winter because of good roads. That's why our 4x4 Arctic adventure tour starts in March. What about summer? The snow and ice roads melt every year because they are made of snow and ice! There are many ice hotels and animal figures made of snow in Scandinavia but very few people know that this is the most popular material for roads in the Russian North! Locals especially love to build them by the rivers – what can be better than driving on a curvy and slick ice highway without trees and speed limit signs?

Winter roads can be unpredictable. A thaw or snowstorm can easily destroy the path (and your adventure, too)! Sudden freezing after a thaw allows you to drive hundreds of kilometers in any direction. Crossing rivers is also an easy task in a winter. What about summer? You will rarely find any bridge closer than many kilometers from you. It’s possible that a VERY OLD ferry will come to the rescue, but usually not. What about the spring and the autumn? Just wait, it's Russian North! Maybe seeing the Magical Northern lights will offer a slight relief you.

What about our plans?

An Experience of a Lifetime!

This March we will begin our travel expedition to the Russian Arctic. It’s a rare onetime event with no schedule planned to continue at any time. We may offer it again in the future but we may not, so don’t pass this opportunity by.

Originating in Moscow and slowly moving North to the Arctic city of Vorkuta, this voyage will be purely an exciting and exotic exploration adventure and not just some preplanned and prescheduled tourist trip. You will walk on ground never before touched by humans. You will see things never before seen or documented. We dig deep into every nook and cranny to find the unique and unusual and rare features. This will be one of the most memorable events of your life and your memories of this outstanding trip will stay with you forever. Not just with photos and video clips but mind centered memories that are yours to keep or you can share with family and friends. It’s truly the Experience of a lifetime!

If all goes well, our 4x4 adventure tour will reach the Arctic Ocean, see the famous Ural Mountains, and gaze towards the North Pole. (Weather and conditions permitting). Our Arctic adventure trip will then continue to Vorkuta the Russian Jewel City of the Mysterious North. We will spend a couple of days exploring old and abandoned mining towns and other surprise locations that may contain some shocking views and experiences. Time will tell. We will also drive snowmobiles out into the frozen hinterland to make a rare visit to reindeer herds and their breeders at the Aboriginal settlements. A rare and unknown experience and unavailable elsewhere!

Our Lovely, Somewhat Beautiful, and Dependable Jeeps

We will drive two jeeps which are fully equiped to survive in tundra wilderness. One of our jeeps, "CrazyBuuu" van is authentic Russian military UAZ-452 van (year of issue 2010) designed in 1950s as a support car for military forces. Now it‘s still producing as it was sixty years ago… And, surprisingly, it looks almost like in 1965! UAZ-452 looks very similar to VW transporter, but there is also huge difference: VW was designed in German, the country of highways. Our «CrazyBu» van is Land Cruiser 40 at the back of it's mind – axles, frame, underdrive and robustness in everything. Do you need to build highways if you produce such vans? Our second jeep is UAZ Patriot, modern Russian jeep. Years from now, it will become a legend, too. These jeeps are experienced travelers... We drived more than 50 000 km traveling all Russia for last 5 years. 

About the tour

This is not typical a luxurious all-inclusive tour that you usually find in Europe or Asia :) It is a rare and creative Exploration and Exotic ADVENTURE trip to the Arctic. This means that you should understand and be comfortable with rugged living and exploring. Be ready to face the difficulties. You will always be treated kindly and with respect and be safe, warm, and well fed, but you much be ready to help in overcoming obstacles. Be ready to cook food, pitch tents and decide what to do next. If we will get stuck in a snowstorm, it will be our shared problem requiring the cooperation of all. It's the single way to live and travel in Arctic!  

Want to learn more?

What is the price?

Price: 1600 USD / pax

Duration: 2 weeks in March 2018

Included: Food, "CrazyBu" and UAZ Patriot vans, gazoline, camping and winter equipment, two guides, hotels.

Not included: Visa, tickets to Moscow, tickets to Syktyvkar (if you choose a flight), meals in road cafe, clothes.

Available seats: 4 seats are still available


 

Want to visit Arctic, but...

not sure where and when? Find other adventure vacation packages.

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Tundra wilderness tour (July 2018, 1200 USD / pax)

Ice cave adventure tour (April 2018, 550 USD / pax)

Our schedule

The 4x4 Arctic adventure trip starts in March 2018. This is the best time to visit Russian North because of long days, good state of winter roads and better weather than in the middle of the winter. Since Arctic trip starts from Moscow, we recommend you to arrive 2-3 days before the journey to enjoy Russian capital. It will be interesting to compare it with the real countryside... Besides that, we could check our equipment and get to know each other better.

In the first day of Arctic tour we willl drive to the North-East from Moscow and visit such wonderful Golden Ring towns as Yaroslavl and Kostroma. They are amazing for architecture and history lovers because of their 12-th century monuments and churches (a lot of them are UNESCO heritage sites). Night from second to third day we will spend in Syktyvkar town. If you have limited time, it's better to fly here from Moscow. You can also arrive by train - another adventure travel in Russia. Third day you will see how dramatically the nature changes... A lot of evergreen forests, open spaces of snow and only rare settlements. We will still drive normal roads. Night from third to forth day we will spend in Ukhta town, the last bastion of civilization in front of tundra wilderness. Ukhta town is the middle of nowhere even for Russian countryside.

Our next plans will hardly depend on the road conditions and, more globally, on the weather. Ukhta is the last town with normal roads, after we will drive winter roads of local oil companies. There will be rescue teams with emergency vehicles as well as a lot of tractors, buldozers, rovers and just trucks. A lot of people live and work there, usually for gas and oil companies. If the weather is OK (not snowstorm), we will drive about 100 km of winter road for about one or two days. These roads will get us to the federal winter road to Vorkuta. In contrast to oil company roads, it is officially open for everyone, not just for cars with HUGE tires or tank tracks.

If all goes well, we'll reach Vorkuta town at sixth day to enjoy its main attractions - five-storey block of flats and everything about the coal inluding its monument, coal companies, coal miners and their abandoned settlements :) If you want to see how post-apocalyptsys looks in Arctic, you will be in the right place! We also visit GULAG memory sites and learn more about Arctic region development at the soviet times. If the weather is still good, we will drive to the Arctic ocean to enjoy Polar Ural mountains, jump by pressure ridges of the Arctic ocean ice cover and gaze into the North Pole direction.

It the weather is not OK, we will spend two days near Vorkuta traveling through Ural mountains by old train and then by snowmobiles to see reindeer breeders of aborigenious ethnic origin. We will have a banya (Russian sauna), play with reindeers, talk to reindeer breeders, have a lunch in their tent and maybe do some trekking to mountains. Finally, depending on the weather, our wishes and time limits, we will slowly drive back to Moscow.

Explore the real Russia and find what others only dream about!