The Murmansk Region is the northernmost region of the European Russia. Most of the Region is located beyond the Arctic Circle.
The Kola Peninsula is one of the few corners of the world where the primeval beauty remains preserved. It is a land of bleak and cold coastal cliffs, vast tundra and the northernmost pristine forests of Europe. In the Region, there are over 111 thousand lakes and 20 thousand rivers that are 60 thousand kilometres long in total, which is 1.5 longer than the equator.
The regional landscape and climate, cultural and historical potential attract people fond of different types of tourism – from rafting down the tumultuous rivers and fishing to mountain skiing, mineralogical, event, environmental, sport and extreme tourism.
Over 300 thousand tourists visit the Murmansk Region each year. Over 40 thousand of them are tourists from abroad who have begun to discover this polar land.
They are attracted by the natural diversity, forests, endless tundra, rivers full of rocks and trout, mirrors of lake surface and an opportunity to see this amazing and mysterious land with their own eyes and learn about the authentic culture of small indigenous peoples of the North, their daily life and traditions. Those who love extreme tourism come here to experience unforgettable and breathtaking adventure, ski down the snow-covered slopes of Khibiny, see the beauty of the underwater world of the Barents and White Seas, and participate in a motor rally in the impassable tundra and in major international sports competitions. There, one has a unique opportunity the famous aurora borealis, midnight Sun and polar night. The annual polar Olympics – the Festival of the North – are a colorful event in the regional tourism and sports life.
The Kola Peninsula has been a most popular location for those who like to travel and is capable of becoming a major tourism development center of the north-western Russia in the future.
There are 100 active tourism companies in the Murmansk region, 34 of the being orientated at domestic tourism.
Sport and amateur fishing have seen a surge in popularity for the recent years. There are more than thirty tourist camps operating on Kola Peninsula, which provides comfortable facilities with experienced guides for ensure safe fishing in the places far away from civilization.
20 companies are active in organizing sport and amateur fishing. There are about a hundred of bodies of water allocated for use by those companies. 78 of these bodies of water are Atlantic salmon rivers. Atlantic salmon fishing traditionally takes place in the most popular rivers: Ponoi, Varzina, Rynda, Karlovka, Yokanga, Varzuga, Umba and Kola. An increasing number of smaller salmon rivers have become available for sport and amateur fishing. Wild Atlantic salmon has become a sort of “tourist brand name” of the Murmansk Region. The cost of week tours for tourists from abroad is USD 10–20 thousand.
The town of Kirovsk is a centre for alpine skiing and other active outdoor tourism. There are three alpine skiing complexes in the town.
The “Bolshoi Vudyavr” complex is the highest not only in the Khibiny Mountains but also for the whole north-western Russia. The elevation difference is 550 metres. A distinctive feature of the resort is its wide European-standard FIS-certified pistes suitable for both professional alpine skiers and beginners.
Kukisvumchorr Mountain is where freeriding (off-piste skiing) takes place. Each spring an international freeriding tournament is held at the “Kukisvumchorr” complex. Dozens of athletes from all around the globe come to compete in this extreme sport. At “Kukisvumchorr,” there is a park of ski-jumping hills (a snow park) and a natural half-pipe for those who prefer them. “Kukisvumchorr” attracts visitors with its unforgettable extreme skiing experience.
The international project Salla Gate – Business and Tourism Partnership is being implemented in the Murmansk Region with the aim of cross-border cooperation in tourism, primarily alpine ski tourism, and in the cluster providing services to mining companies. The project area includes towns of Kirovsk and Apatity, and Kandalaksha, Tersky and Kovdor districts.
An investment project to build an infrastructure for alpine skiing leisure in Khibiny is being currently implemented to provide comfortable conditions for 500 thousand enthusiasts of extreme tourism each year.
The Murmansk Region is a paradise for those who love extreme tourism. The Khibiny Mountains are traversed with deep gorges and fast-flowing rivers. The Khibiny plateau rises up to 1,200 metres above the sea level. These places are attractive for real aficionados of extreme hiking and water touring as well as mountain climbers.
Exciting snowboard tours along routes of different length and complexity will let you see the beauty of Khibiny.
By choosing one of the modern types of leisure activity – off-roader or four-wheeler tour – you get a unique opportunity to see the heritage of nature and history hidden in distant places, experience difficult and rocky roads. The routes run through picturesque passes and gorges of the Khibiny Mountains, along the White Sea coast and in the Sredny and Rybachy peninsulas. Thanks to experienced guides, tourists will always feel safe.
Diving in the northern Russia has is increasing gaining popularity. The presence of reliable and high-quality cold-water gear on the market and the underwater world of the White and Barents Seas – bleak, but beautiful in its own way – have made the global diving community pay attention to Arctic waters.
Few know that there are over 100,000 rivers and lakes on the Kola Peninsula. Umba is one of them. Umba springs from the centre of the peninsula and runs for 150 kilometres, enveloping thousands of islands, boiling with foam on the rocks, down to the White Sea, to mix with its waters. Rafters know what makes Umba such an attractive site. One can go downstream in rafts and catamarans to test one’s strength in different water and weather conditions.
The Region is the only place where it is possible to go to the North Pole aboard a nuclear icebreaker. Two-week tours are very popular with enthusiasts of exotic tourism worldwide. The most popular routes include tours to Svalbard and Franz Josef Land where one can see walruses, seals and whales, visit picturesque harbors with bird colonies and where polar bears sometimes come to the icebreaker surrounded with ice. Apart from disembarkations in distant places, the cruises also include historical programmes by experienced scientists and polar explorers.
Murmansk has every chance to become a hub for Arctic cruises. The Arctic Harbor project is to be implemented by the 100th anniversary of the Murmansk city. It includes a number of works for building the required infrastructure for accommodating and servicing cruise ships and ferries including extension of the pier for long-distance routes, reconstruction and expansion of the passenger terminal, installation of a checkpoint in the Murmansk port passenger area. It will give the city a substantially new look from the sea, help to organize regular ferry link with Norway and increase the number of vessels of foreign cruise companies entering the port.
Ethnographic tourism developing with involvement of small indigenous peoples is gaining popularity in the Murmansk Region. These peoples live here in their traditional ways remaining almost unchanged over the last centuries. For those who like exotic experience, there are tours available that include staying at families of small peoples of the North, learning about their daily life, making traditional dishes and participation in putting up chums (mobile dwelling) and in traditional rites.
The Tersky coast of the White Sea is of a particular interest. Main heritage sites of Russian Pomors are situated there, the most known of them being the Varzuga wooden Dormition church, a church with a steeple which was typical of northern Russian architecture. Several ancient labyrinths and petroglyphs (also called rock engravings) were found in the south of the Region.
There are three nature reserves in the Murmansk Region: Kandalaksha, Lapland and Pasvik.
The Kandalaksha Nature Reserve is located on the White Sea coast in the Kola Peninsula, just beyond the Polar Circle. The Reserve was founded in 1932 for the protection and study of the Common Eider (Sīmateria mīllissima). Over 70% of the Reserve's territory is sea and islands.
The Lapland State Natural Biosphere Reserve was established in 1930 and is a territory of federal significance included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in 1985. The total area of the reserve is 278,435 hectares. One of the major valuable things of the reserve is its primeval old forests. The age of trees in those forests is up to 400-500 and even 600 years. They are up to 30 metres high, their stems reaching 70 centimetres. This is unique for such high latitudes. The House of Father Frost is located in the reserve.
The Pasvik reserve is situated in the Pechenga district in a closed borderland. Several tourist routes have been developed. The most visited location is the Varlamsaari Island where the first explorer of this area, Norwegian ornithologist Hans Skonning lived in early 20th century. His house was restored from the old drawings, and an ornithological tower was built nearby. In the framework of a trilateral agreement, Norway, Finland and Russia develop the cross-border park “Pasvik-Inari.”
A Polar Alpine Botanical Garden-Institute is 7 km from Kirovsk and is the northernmost in Russia and one of the three transpolar botanical gardens existing in the world. It occupies an area of 1,670 hectares. In the garden, work is carried out on acclimatisation of plants and on studying flora and plant communities. Apart from the park, there is a reserve as well. This a garden reserve: in an area of 1,250 hectares plants from all altitudinal belts of the Khibiny Mountains are preserved. There are also special nurseries of the local flora in the garden. Over 400 species of plants growing in the Region can be seen there.
The Snow Village Excursion & Tourism Complex is an unique construction made exclusively of snow and ice. Using the magical power of water to change its structure and acquire new forms, and human creativity and skills, snow builders create stunning constructions: halls, corridors, ice furniture, sculptures and ice hills. The structure is built every year with new concepts and attractions but with obvious nods to Russian history and culture aside. A wedding hall made of ice has been working since 2011.
Annually several tens of colorful thematic events take place in the Murmansk region, attracting more participants and becoming more and more recognizable outside the region. They are: traditional holidays, based on the culture of the northern indigenous peoples – the Pomors rowing regatta and the International folklore festival in the Tersky district, the International Day of reindeer herders and Sami festival "Sampeyyv" in Lovozero district; the North Festival, the Festival of snow and ice sculptures "Snegoled", cultural events in the capital of the region - the International festival of documentary films and television programs "Northern character", the Theater festival "Polar Star" and many others.
In the Kola Peninsula great attention is paid to traditions and festivals based on the culture of the northern indigenous peoples such as the International Day of Reindeer Herders (March), Sami festival Sampeyyv (June) in Lovozero district and Pomors Rowing Regatta (June) with the International Folklore Festival (August) in the Tersky district.
Northern Sport Fest (March-April) is the main sport event in the High North. The 80th anniversary of the Northern Sport Fest was in 2014. The program of event every year is full of various events such as competitions in skiing race, biathlon, national kinds of sports, speed skating, ice hockey, winter surfing, snowkiting and snowboarding, winter swimming, as well as skiing competitions between disabled.
During traditional Festival of Snow and Ice Sculptures Snegoled (January) there is unique show – competition of ice sculptures Crazy saw when participants from all over the world need within sight of the spectators make ice cubes into the objects of art.
Every year The International Festival of Documentary Films and TV Northern Character (November) gathered in Murmansk film producers from all over the Barents Region to share their work and unite journalists of the Northern countries. During the week of the Festival Polar Star (November) audience enjoyed performances of the best Russian and foreign theatre ensembles.