As Far as It Gets

PHOTO by YURY7TARANIK / Depositphotos
A brief guide to the wonders of Northern Russia

The Russian North is a truly amazing place. For many travelers with real wanderlust, it's love at first sight – but many live here for years and never really get used to its inhospitable nature. As a tourist destination the region definitely has a lot to offer. Lenta.ru looks at Russia’s northernmost must-sees.

The Northernmost Desert in Russia

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Chara Sands

Russia isn’t exactly famous for its deserts. In fact, it has only two of any fame: the Archeda-Don Sands and Tsimlyansk Sands in the Volgograd and Rostov regions. The Transbaikal Region hides another, lesser-known desert, measuring just five by ten kilometres. Like the Sahara or the Kara-kum, the Chara Sands have wind-swept roaming dunes as well as oases. In the cold season, the desert is covered with snow, while in the spring a traveller can be drenched to the bone in a matter of minutes by a passing shower.

The Northernmost City

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Norilsk

Norilsk is considered the northernmost city in the world with a population exceeding 100,000. In the 16th century, the only city in the area was Mangazeya, the trade and manufacturing centre of the Russian Arctic. The city suffered a decline in the 17th century and was eventually abandoned.

The first building in the modern history of Norilsk was constructed in 1921 during an expedition headed by Arctic researcher Nikolay Urvantsev. The log house has survived till today and can still be seen at 14 Leninsky Prospect. Norilsk received the city status in 1953; six years later, its population exceeded 100,000 for the first time. Today, the city is home to over 176,000 residents.

The Northernmost Church and Airport

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The Nagurskaya frontier post of the Federal Security Service of Russia at Alexandra Land, Franz Josef Land

Nagurskoye may have remained an obscure point on the Russian map if it hadn’t been for its location. Perched at the northern tip of Alexandra Land on the Franz Josef Land archipelago, it is considered to be the northernmost populated point in Russia. With just 52 residents (most of them FSB border guards), Nagurskoye can also boast some other world records, such as the planet’s northernmost Orthodox temple (St. Nicholas Church), monument to St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker, and airport.

Nagurskoye is notorious for having one of the most technically difficult airfields on the globe. In their book, “You Don’t Mess with the Antarctic,” Pilots Evgeny Kravchenko and Vasily Karpiy give a vivid description of the Nagurskoye runway, dubbed “The Log.” The airstrip starts on the shore, continuing along a narrow rocky ridge shaped like a tree trunk with a bend in the middle. After years of disuse, the airport is facing overhaul and modernization, plans for which were announced in 2014.

The World’s Northernmost Water Park

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Tropicana, the northernmost water park on earth, opened its doors in Norilsk at the end of 2015. The park has a children’s zone with two pools and an area for adults, which offers four water slides and a plunge pool. The centre can receive up to 400 visitors simultaneously and is complete with a gym, sauna and massage tables.

The World’s Northernmost Forest

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Located on the right bank of the Khatanga River in Krasnoyarsk Krai, the Lukunsky Grove is part of the vast Taimyr State Biosphere Reserve. The winter here lasts from September to June, with temperatures often dropping as low as -45C (-49F).

The polar day, when the sun almost never disappears behind the horizon, occurs from June to August, with the thermometer sometimes running over +30C (86F). The only tree species growing here is the Dahurian larch, which may reach 5-7 metres in height.

The Northernmost Delicacy

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Historically, stroganina, or finely sliced frozen fish, used to be a staple dish of Northern Russia. Today you can try it in any decent restaurant in Krasnoyarsk, Norilsk or any city located in the Arctic circle. Stroganina is sometimes served with fresh onions, vinegar and makanina (a mixture of black pepper and salt).

Like stroganina, sugudai is also made from raw fish, but it is eaten fresh rather than frozen. Thin slices of fish are mixed with spices, onions, oil and vinegar, then left to marinade for 15 minutes.

Both dishes are enjoyed in many homes as excellent appetizers.