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.
The Kola Peninsula (Murmansk Province), along with Arkhangelsk Province, is the easiest part of the Russian Arctic to reach from Moscow, St Petersburg or even Scandanavia. 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.
As well as trips on Kola itself, we organize overland trips between Kola, Karelia and Arkhangelsk Province. Reindeer herders, rock paintings, Neolithic sacred sites, stone labyrinths, mountains and coastal log cabin villages and log churches of the Pomor people.
These trips really combine the all the best things that Kola has to offer. Starting from Lovozero village, the end of the road, guests will travel by tank through the mountains, lakes and forests of the interior, visiting reindeer herders and sacred seyd sites on the way.
We will stop at the isolated reindeer herding village of Krasnoshchelye right in the centre ok the Kola Peninsula, before continuing on via some ancient rock paintings to Sosnovki reindeer herding village on the peninsula’s eastern coast on the White Sea.
From there we will travel south west along the Tersky Coast. This part of Kola is inhabited by people called Pomors who fled serfdom in Russia in the Middle Ages and came here to live in the Arctic, which was previously only inhabited by indigenous people. Their culture, homes and style of speech remain different from those of mainstream Russians to this day, and some of their villages (such as Chavanga, which we will visit) are completely inaccessible by road.
At the village of Varzuga, with its impressive trio of log churches, we find the beginnings of a dirt track leading 250km to the town of Kandalaksha. We will leave the tank here and be picked up by a minibus, which will takes us the rest of the way, stopping at Pomor villages and a stone labyrinth built by a mysterious Neolithic culture that inhabited the area.
The trip can stop at Kandalaksha, or can be combined with journeys further south in Karelia, Arkhangelsk Province or to the Solovki Islands.
4000 reindeer circling down a mountainside
The world’s most spectacular reindeer herding event (and the best reindeer photos we have ever shot, and in general the world’s best opportunity for getting good reindeer shots), occurs around April 27th in a certain place among a certain group of reindeer herders in the interior of the Kola Peninsula.
On the first day after 25th April with clear, sunny weather and no wind, this group moves its 4000-head herd down from their winter pastures among the mountaintops to their summer grounds in the tundra 70km to the north. The process of getting them down the mountainslopes alone takes a whole day, during which time the photographer has ample time to shoot the whole herd from above and below, assuming he has the energy to run up and down the mountainside!
It is also the best opportunity possible to shoot the bizarre phenomenon of “circling” from above. This occurs when a large group of reindeer is herded tightly together then left to its own devices. They form a ring shape, all sides of which are around ten reindeer thick, and begin walking. The ring stays put in one place and does not lose its shape, but it is constantly rotating as the reindeer move.
As this event does not take place on a set date but simply on the first possible day with good weather, any travelers keen to witness it will most likely have to spend several days in a small cabin with the reindeer herders at the bottom of the mountain, doing nothing but waiting for the right weather!
The natural beauty of the Kola Peninsula in the lens of photographer Alexander Ermolitskii:
sources: http://aermolitsky.com/, http://www.arcticrussiatravel.com/kola-peninsula/