Adventure tour: Ice caves of the Russian North
Road tripping from Moscow to the North. Ice Caves, Northern Lights and Taiga Forests!
•Ice caves with frozen waterfalls, crystals, and rivers
•Pristine taiga forests of the Pinega National Park
•Cold, snow and ice of the real Russian winter
•Many-days road tripping from Moscow to the North
•Ice crossing of 3-km width of the North Dvina river
•Real Russian countryside "off the beaten" tracks
•Exotic Northern lights experience
•Local life of the traditional Russian village
•Unique museum of wooden architecture
•Abandoned villages, building, and ancient churches
• Off road in authentic Soviet military van
Explore what others only dream about!
Welcome to the Ice Caves of the Russian North!
We invite you to join us in April as we enter the Wild Russian Northland, to explore a place forgotten in time. We offer you a rare opportunity to personally witness a Monument to Nature that is found nowhere else in the world.
Journey with us as we explore the unique and seldom seen beauty found deep in the Ice Caves of the Russian North. If we’re lucky (and we almost always are), we can experience the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights which will shock you with its especially vibrant colors, shapes, and ever-moving patterns. Allow this hypnotic Light show to take your breath away as you stand in shock and awe of the display.
We will visit mysteriously abandoned villages and creep through the empty churches and buildings that sit ignored and alone in a stark landscape of emptiness and nothingness. We will experience unique local cultures, pass through massive forests, witness true wildlife in its natural state, and bask in the breathtaking wonders of this stark landscape at every turn!
The Russian North 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 Russian North is a place of endless curiosity and one of the last vast and untouched regions on the planet.
In April, as we will travel across this vast landscape of Northern Russia we will finally see the natural wonders of the Pinega nature reserve. We will finally have a chance to explore the amazing Ice caves with frozen waterfalls reaching several meters height, with Ice rivers and creeks, hundreds of amazing ice stalactites and stalagmites, unique crystals and snow shapes. Be prepared to see every possible state and shape of Ice! It’s startling in its beauty, it’s mysterious and hypnotic, and the mystery of this exotic place will live forever, deep in your heart and soul, it’s an unforgettable experience!
You need no special training to join our cave expedition; just a thirst for adventure, an open-minded and eager spirit, and a love of nature.
Our expedition will start from the busy and bustling city of Moscow and move quickly into a different Russia that many will never know. It’s a vast countryside, sparsely populated and underdeveloped. Passing several Golden Ring towns and visiting ancient churches and rare museums of wooden architecture, we will gaze at the rare features of a culture still living in the past. Rural highways will take us through small towns and villages interspersed only by vast tracts of virgin forests with occasional lakes and rivers until we reach our destination.
For more than 1200 km, we will drive in our authentic Russian military van which is specially designed and fully equipped to survive in the rugged and wild Russian countryside. It was 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 it did in 1965! UAZ-452 looks very similar to a VW transporter, but there is also a huge difference: VW was designed and built in Germany, the country of beautiful highways. Our «CrazyBu» van is a Land Cruiser 40 at the back of its mind – axles, frame, underdrive, and robustness in everything. Why do you need to build superhighways when you produce such vans?
Don’t wait for inspiration… Go after it!
The road to mysterious underground crystal Ice Palaces of the deep Russian northern region
About the Pinega nature reserve
Our April 2018 Ice cave tour will take a place at the Pinega nature reserve. This place is located about 1500 km from Moscow to the north, only 200 km from the White Sea. The nature reserve was created to protect natural landscapes: swampy flatland, hilly plateaus, and the Karst caves. Whereas the first two are somehow typical for Russian North, the karst is unique here! There are more than 500 caves, ravines many kilometers long, and Karst lakes in the Pinega area. Two of the creeks vanish below the earth, with one of them reappearing after 5 kilometers at the side of a ravine.
The nature of the Pinega reserve was untouched by people until the 20th century! There were no wars, no large settlements except the traditional Russian village Pinega, and no agricultural activities. There is the only one winter road to the Pinega reserve and it is through the pristine forests with the ice caves, the absolute clearest water, and of course the Northern Lights are a common occurrence. The area is unique and known for its gypsum rocks forming all these caves and cliffs. It’s a amazing place for ecotourism!
Despite the unspoiled natural landscapes and the beauty of the ice caves, this place is off the beaten tracks even for Russians. And we have never seen any foreigners there... Only an occasional tourist!
Join us in April for one of the most amazing travel adventures of your life! Be prepared for a rugged journey and to feel some minor discomfort because of the cold, long trips and crawling in caves. Believe me… It's worth it!
•Arriving in Moscow and check in to the Godzillas hostel. Pre-departure meeting in the morning… time to check visas, papers, clothes and to meet each other.
•Walking tour of Moscow City Center. Decathlon shopping. Pub-crawl in the evening.
•Up nice and early to get aboard our authentic Soviet van. On the way, we stop for breakfast at a roadside cafe near Moscow.
•Stop at several Golden Ring towns (Sergiev Posad, Rostov, Yaroslavl) famous for their historic city centers with UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Stop at the Vologda town hostel for the night.
•Road tripping to the Pinega town (800 km from Vologda). Enjoying the beer and the conversation while driving rural highways and stopping at the roadside cafes to see local life and taste local food. Just Russia as it is with vast tracts of virgin forests and towns.
•The crossing of 3-km width North Dvina River by ice (it's the official road). Then 100 km of slow driving by slippery, bumpy, and winding winter road. Russian winter, Bible black and billions of stars will surround us in the middle of the empty Northern Wilderness pushing our minds to all kinds of philosophical thought.
•Acclimatization with only light trekking along nearby canyons to see taiga forests. Visiting the first cave with small river inside, a «subway» tunnel and a large hall
•3-hours of snowmobile driving through taiga forests to the Kumichevka Cave. A full day outdoors. Russian traditional bathhouse with jumping into the snow in the evening.
• It's time to leave the comfortable house with electricity and drive 12 km off-roading through taiga forest to find a very small wooden house without even the slightest facilities. You can finally turn off your iPhones. No one will find us in Bratislava ©
•Next three days we will live in the middle of the taiga surrounded by millions of amazing caves and virgin forests. Be ready for trekking and hiking on snowshoes. Some caves are far away from the house! The place is a heaven for photographers with a lot of natural wonders, ice in its every possible condition and various caves.
•Moving back from the Taiga. The road to Archangelsk includes visiting the unique Museum of Wooden architecture «Malye Karely». Departure by train or by plane.
•If someone loves the road tripping as we do, we can spend 2 days more driving Moscow.
Join our expedition in 2010!
Guest Comment About Our Previous Ice Cave Expedition
“Our last year's adventure tour to Pinega ice caves started from the interesting city of Moscow. After 4-hours of getting organized and fitting all our bags into the van, it finally accepted its regular features as a mobile home. We’re officially ready to take off!
I have no words to describe how cozy I feel spending time in the middle of several sleeping bags and watching the endless winter roads through all the windows of our van. There is a lot of space inside the van. You can crawl, toss and turn, and not disturb the other passengers. VROOOM-VROM sound of the UAZ engine and muffled talks of driver make your sleep sound. In one moment, all your problems hide in the corner of your subconsciousness. In this meditative state, we traveled all Russia and finally arrived at the beginning of nowhere near the Arkhangelsk town.
We bought a lot of food and stopped by the last gas station for many hundred kilometers ahead to fill up our cans. Next 200 km to Pinega were VERY bad even for Russians – too many ruts and potholes of all sizes and depths! It was very loud inside the UAZ van. When it was designed, people needed just an off-road van to support military forces in the deep corners of Russia. Surely, they did not think too much about people's comfort. That's why even small pits had the van roaring, moaning, and rattling. Only Rammstein music could accompany such sounds, so we made it louder and went on. At few stops chaos of moving was finally staggered with the cold silence of Russian winter. Bible black and billions of stars surrounded us in the middle of northern wilderness pushing minds to all kinds of philosophical thoughts. Then again Rammstein, roaring engine and narrow ice road with navigation signs (yes, it is a waterway in the summer!) We arrived at traditional Russian village of Pinega about the midnight.
Pinega nature reserve is a kind of the heaven for nature lovers! However, instead of palm trees and warm breeze, you should enjoy evergreen pines and chilly wind from New Earth islands… But does it make difference in the age of modern technologies and warm clothes? We went there in March, so there were NO -40C degrees and polar nights. In the contrary, we had about -5C, a lot of sun, bright white snow and very long days. We walked on snowshoes between all these gypsum cliffs and canyons, climbed into ice caves and watched how the spring slightly changes the nature… Such an amazing activity to feel the Russian winter!
There are two types of accommodation in Pinega. First, you can stay at the quite good hotel with all facilities for about 2000 RUB/night. Second, you can stay at Nature reserve old houses with only weak facilities for a cheaper price. Surely, we decided to support the reserve because it had no funding for many years (Russia, sweet Russia…) Their houses were old but warm and cozy, we enjoyed them so much! If you are the first time in Russia, you will also have a lot of fun with traditional Russian toilets. Using them in the cold winter morning is the task for mentally strong people only :) But if you are one of these guys who is dreaming about Antarctica or the North Pole, it will not be challenging at all!
The closest ice cave was located in the amazing gypsum canyon, a brief 5-minute walk from our little house. Other caves were scattered all over the reserve area. We visited two caves in a row some days! Actually, they are not ice, they are karst and made of gypsum. However, in winter, ice crystals cover all walls and ceiling making caves look like you get into the Ice Kingdom! What about ice, we saw every possible state and shape of ice there! There were frozen waterfalls of ice reaching several meters height, ice rivers, and creeks, ice stalactites and stalagmites, crystals and snowflakes. These caves are heaven for photographers especially if you have experience of shooting in the dark. What about cave exploration, you can search for new ice caves from the surface or try to find its continuation from the within.
On our way back, we spend several hours visiting a unique open-air museum of wooden architecture "Malye Karely". We have already seen such museums but that was probably the best one. We saw a lot of peasant wooden houses, churches, and windmills of hundreds of years old that were collected all over traditional villages of the Russian North.
Overall, this was one of the most magical cave expeditions I ever had. We spent a week there but I still love to watch millions of photos to remember each tiny details of such a great trip!“