4x4 Expedition to the Arctic Circle: Overlanding Russia

Two weeks. Two UAZ jeeps. From 1200 USD / pax. 4x4 Overlanding Russian Arctic­­

Some photos were made by: A. Tulupov and A. Ermachkov
She was riding a bear! And the Aurora was swaying above them in golden arcs and loops and all around was the bitter Arctic cold and the immense silence of the North.

Philip Pullman

The Arctic

Behold the awesome splendor of the spectacular untouched landscapes! Rejoice in incredible and rare wildlife encounters, explore mysterious abandoned historic sites, experience unique local cultures, and soak in the breathtaking wonder at every turn!

Here is a very unique and rare chance to experience the true Russian Arctic on a rawboned exploration and expedition. Using all of your skills and all of your senses you will participate in a truly rugged adventure jam-packed with thrills as you travel on rough unmaintained roads through the pristine icy landscapes and picturesque villages.

And if we’re lucky, and we almost always are, you can experience the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights which will shock you with its especially vibrant colors, shapes, and ever-moving patterns. Amazing!

The Russian Arctic is one of the most spectacular under-explored, seldom visited, mysterious, and least understood places on the earth. A land of raw beauty at every turn, the Arctic is a place of endless wonder and one of the last vast and untouched regions on the planet. 

Arctic adventure tour highlights

Don’t wait for inspiration… Go after it!

This March we will travel across Russia driving two rugged and fully equipped 4x4 jeeps to explore the Russian Northland and Arctic. We will be on and off-road tripping in the middle of nowhere during for two cold but eventful weeks in order to experience Russian North Country and all it has to offer. Be ready to face the difficulties. Be ready to explore the wildernesses. Be ready to have a true adventure!

Starting from the bustling city of Moscow, we will quickly escape the angry traffic and move into a different Russia that many will never know. It’s a vast countryside, sparsely populated and underdeveloped. Passing several Golden Ring towns, we will gaze at the rare features of a culture still living in the past. Rural highways will take us to small towns and villages interspersed only by vast tracts of virgin forests with occasional lakes and rivers.

Moving towards the great Northland will bring us back in time… and back to nature! By the third day, we will arrive at the beginning of what we jokingly refer to as ‘Nowhere’. We will bid the rural highway a fond farewell at its last pothole and then only deep tracks of winter roads will be our travel mates as we will continue northwards. We will now enjoy another level of travel as during the next days we will fight our way through the wilderness of Russian Northland to the Arctic Ocean. Be ready to find what 4x4 is for!

We will spend a couple of days in a typical Arctic town of Vorkuta to see where true Russian wealth lies. In this Motherland of Coal, we will wander around abandoned settlements and memorable GULAG sites to see the former greatness of Soviet epoch and its dark traces. We will also do some exotic trekking to the Ural Mountain and drive snowmobiles to visit reindeer herds and their breeders at the Aboriginal settlements.

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

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 wavelength with us.

But you must remember that 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!

This is not typical of 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


What is the price?

Price: from 1200 USD / pax
Duration: 2 weeks
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.
Available seats: 4 seats are available
Arctic adventure tour map

There is a big difference between an organized ‘Tour’ and an ‘Exploration’ or ‘Adventure’!

I once saw a TV travel program where people flew into some Arctic city… 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 hardship or thrill of danger. Not like having a polar bear with his face to your window wanting to eat you?!

There are many different possible ways to experience the true Arctic! 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:

Comfortable arctic tour
Arctic expedition to the Russian north

Focus on the journey, not the destination!

“I could hardly put one soaking wet foot in front of the other in a deep snowdrift. Only 100 meters separated me from the 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 to 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 4x4 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 simply 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. But 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!
Some photos were made by: A. Tulupov and A. Ermachkov
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. A lot of cars… everyone tries 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. Oil and gas workers 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 five-story apartment blocks...

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 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!

Surely, the Arctic is not the easiest place for living but people have lived here for centuries despite the severe northern climate. 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.

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. 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 ;)

Some photos were made by: A. Tulupov and A. Ermachkov
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!

This corner of the planet is so wild that even 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.

Long and frozen winter roads can feel lonely like a “snow desert” (no towns, no people, no asphalt…) But actually, they are the only remnant of civilization here. Winter roads are thin but important lines of life; they connect small isolated villages and towns with each other. And if you step off of the road in any direction you will meet a primitive and harsh nature for many hundred kilometers.

Ironically, the Russian Arctic is much more accessible in the winter because even with our complaints of poor maintenance the winter has the best 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!

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

What about our plans?

An Experience of a Lifetime!

We will begin our overland expedition to the Russian Arctic in March. 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!
Our expedition will begin in Moscow and slowly move 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 the 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 equipped to survive in tundra wilderness. One of our jeeps, Soviet military van is an authentic Russian military UAZ-452 van (year of issue 2010) designed in the 1950s as a support car for military forces. Now it‘s still being produced 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 a huge difference: VW was designed in German, the country of beautiful highways. Our van is Land Cruiser 40 at the back of its 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 have driven them more than 50,000 km, traveling all over Russia for last 5 years.
There will be two Russians drivers/guides/mechanics. Meet the talented, experienced, and sometimes outrageously funny Tony Terentev with his sidekick, 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.
Arctic expedition to the Russian North

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Our schedule

The 4x4 Arctic Overlanding in Russia starts in March 2021. This is the best time to visit the Arctic Circle because of long days, good state of winter roads and better weather than in the middle of the winter. Since the Arctic trip starts from Moscow, we recommend you to arrive 2-3 days before the journey to enjoy our exciting Russian capital. It will be interesting to compare it with the real countryside we are about to explore. It’s also during that time we could make preparations, discuss our itinerary and check our equipment. It’s also a great time to meet and get to know each other better.
In the first days of the Arctic tour, we will drive 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 12th. century monuments and churches (a lot of them are UNESCO heritage sites). Then, for the second to third day, we will spend our time in and around 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.
By the third day, you will see how dramatically nature changes... a lot of evergreen forests, open spaces of snow and only rare settlements. We will still drive normal roads. From the third to fourth day we will spend some time in Ukhta town, the last bastion of civilization in front of tundra wilderness. Ukhta is the middle of nowhere even for our Russian countryside.
Our next plans will mainly depend on the road conditions and, more globally, on the weather. Ukhta is the last town with normal roads, after which we will drive on winter roads of local oil companies. There will be rescue teams with emergency vehicles as well as a lot of tractors, bulldozers, rovers and just trucks. A lot of people live and work there, usually for gas and oil companies. If the weather is OK (not a 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 by the sixth day to enjoy its main attractions – interesting town with five-storey block of flats and everything about the coal industry, including its monument, coal companies, coal miners and their abandoned settlements :) If you want to see how post-apocalypses look in the Arctic, you will be in the right place! We also visit GULAG memory sites and learn more about Arctic regional developments during the Soviet times. If the weather is still good, we will drive to the Arctic Ocean to enjoy Polar Ural Mountains, jump along pressure ridges of the Arctic ocean ice cover and gaze towards the North Pole.
It the weather is not OK, we will spend two days near Vorkuta traveling through Ural mountains by an old train and then by snowmobiles to see reindeer breeders of aborigines ethnic origin. We will have a Banya (Russian sauna), play with reindeer, talk to reindeer breeders, have a lunch in their tent, and maybe do some trekking to the mountains. Finally, depending on the weather, our wishes and time limits, we will slowly drive back to Moscow.

Overland the real Russia in our 4x4 Expedition to the Arctic Circle!


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