Life Above the Arctic Circle: Things to Do in Murmansk

Life Above the Arctic Circle: Things to Do in Murmansk

Life Above the Arctic Circle: Things to Do in Murmansk

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Last updated:
11.12.2019
 

Those who have the colorful aurora lights on their bucket list should definitely know that Scandinavia is surely not the only destination in the world for catching Northern Lights. In fact, people from all around the globe come to the untouched Russian north to gaze at unspoiled nature and immerse themselves in the fairytale magic of winter. In the first part of the travel guide about Murmansk, we've introduced you to the city's unusual history and gave tips on when to go there, how to get there, and what to keep in mind when planning your trip. In this piece, we're glad to share the most exciting activities to make your time touring Murmansk simply irresistible! Let's have a closer look at its wonders.

 

Top Activities to Add to Your Murmansk Itinerary

Searching the Northern Lights in Russia

Did you know that Russia is one of the best places in the world for viewing Northern Lights? In fact, the unparalleled city of Murmansk is a unique place to go and hunt this dazzling phenomenon, and hundreds of people come here in the hope of gazing at the miracle of Aurora Borealis with their own eyes. As a rule, the best chances of catching the colorful light show is when going to the outskirts (farther from the city lights).

If you are among those who want to try their luck, then you need to plan your holiday somewhere between September 1st to April 15th. But keep in mind that December and January are considered to be the most auspicious months for this activity as this is the time when the polar night reigns in the area, thus the chances to observe the magical phenomena are at their highest. Can you think of a more magical way to spend the holiday season than having your own Russian winter fairytale?

Northern Lights, Murmansk
 
Lenin Nuclear Icebreaker, Murmansk

Visiting the Lenin Icebreaker

Amazing Murmansk is home to another unique item, the nuclear-powered icebreaker Lenin, the first surface ship fitted with nuclear propulsion in the world. The icebreaker served its country for over 30 years until 1989 when it was withdrawn from the navy because it was wearing thin from ice friction. And subsequently, it has been turned into a museum!

During its glory days, Lenin covered over 1 000 000 km (654 000 miles) and 906 km (563 mi) were through thick ice! Interestingly, although there is a long-standing belief that a woman on board a ship brings bad luck, brave young women constituted 20% of Lenin's crew. The first nuclear-powered icebreaker in the world was supposed to become a symbol of the mighty Soviet Union, so the interior of the ship was carefully designed to correspond to this high status.

 

It was decorated with expensive woods unheard of at the time. "Lenin" didn't go through any reconstruction and almost everything you can see onboard are the original items which have remained there since the 1960s.

 

Have you Heard of Russian Fjords?

Yes, as we've mentioned above, wonderful Norway is not the only place boasting natural beauty of such. Russia's Murmansk also has something special to offer during your Russian trip. The most well-known Murmansk fjord is called the Kola Bay and it is just as spectacular as the famous Norwegian inlets. What is more, you don't need to travel far or hike for hours in order to enjoy the amazing views, Murmansk was built on it!

At the east side of the Kola Bay is located one of the most significant Russian objects of military importance, the port of Murmansk, famous for never being ice-bound even though Murmansk is one of the northernmost cities on the planet (no, it has nothing to do with magic, the secret is in the warm underwater currents). What is more, the Kola Bay is home to the town of Polyarny, the main base of the Russian Federation's Northern Fleet.

Murmansk Fjords
 

Travelers who wish to see and find out more about the beautiful Murmansk inlets are welcome to rent a sailboat (preferably with a local guide who has some interesting stories about the area to share) and enjoy a memorable boat ride across the Kola Bay.

Husky Farm, Russia

Spending Time at a Husky Farm

If you are a dog person, there is one very special place you can't miss during your Murmansk travel. Nestled a 15-minute ride away from the city, "Ulybka Alyaski" (translated as "The Smile of Alaska") Husky Farm is one of the favored tourist attractions in the Murmansk Oblast. Every visitor will have a chance to bask in adoration, coming from the friendly residents of the farm.

All the dogs there are happy to be hugged and petted, and a knowledgeable guide will share some fascinating stories about the breed's history as well as the husky sledding competitions. In winter, you can even have a chance to try your hand in this sport and see for yourself that a husky is never happier than when it is working. After the ride, you'll be asked for a mug of hot tea with the traditional Russian pastries.

 

Paying a Visit to a Saami Village

Located not far from the Husky Farm, the Saami Village is also a great place to put on your bucket list of Russia travel. Saami are the indigenous people of the north, boasting a unique lifestyle, rich heritage, and traditions.

During the visit, you explore the history of Saami, see their traditional buildings and magical idols (it's better to have some change on you to be able to make a wish), and taste national cuisine, including salmon fish soup, lovozerskiy bread, and pakula, the traditional Saami drink made out of the Chaga mushrooms.

To top it all, travelers are invited to enjoy reindeer sledding, participate in the traditional games, and even to take photos in the national Saami clothing!

Saami Village, Murmansk
 
Snowmen, Murmansk

Enjoying the Snow Village

The Snow Village is a kingdom of snow, ice, and wonder. Just imagine a huge enclosed structure, made entirely out of snow (hence the name of the fairytale place) and covering an area of 2 400 square meters (2 870 yards). Impressive right? And this incredible complex is a place that brings back that thrill and thirst for adventure that we all felt, thinking about snowy winter as children.

Inside you can find an amazing snow labyrinth, decorated with snow and ice sculptures and reliefs, depicting various fairytale and historical characters, images of local flora and fauna, as well as classic popular winter activities and much more. As a highlight, to brighten up your experience even more, in one of the numerous rooms there is an icy postbox, and everyone is welcome to use it to send a letter to the main winter magician in Russia, Grandfather Frost (the Slavic version of Santa Claus).

 

Murmansk's Celebration of the Sun

As noted previously (as well as in our first piece dedicated to the incredible city), Murmansk's polar nights offer the best conditions for those travelers who want to experience the wonders of the Northern Lights. But there are more reasons to go to Murmansk while the polar nights last. If you happen to travel to the largest town in the world located above the Arctic Circle around the 11th of January — the 40th day when the non-stop night darkness starts to give in to the light of the day — you can take part in one of the most important annual events in Murmansk, the Celebration of the Sun.

When the sun rises above the horizon for the first time after such a long absence, the citizens of Murmansk get together at the Solnichnaya Gorka Observation Deck to celebrate the first dawn and share this long-awaited moment.

Dawn
 

Although the sun won't stay up for long (usually the first sun after the polar nights appears for about half an hour), in a week's time the daylight will last for 3 hours. As January goes, the sun "grows stronger" and by the end of the month, the full disk of the sun will appear over the horizon.

On the last Sunday of January, the city celebrates one of its main holidays, "Hello, Sun!" Different festive events take place all over the city, but the main celebrations, including dancing, games, and concerts happen at the main square of Murmansk, the "Square of Five Angles".

But the polar night and the Northern Lights aren't the only interesting phenomena you can catch in Murmansk. In summer, the citizens of the city live through the polar day when the sun stays above the horizon for 62 days straight!

 

We've started our first piece about marvelous Murmansk by telling you about the wondrous place that seemed to belong to a fantasy novel instead of being one of the cities in immense Russia. Now, we hope that our two-piece guide was enough to prove our point and show you what a truly magical place the biggest city above the Arctic Circle, fairytale Murmansk, is! It has all the chances of becoming your favorite Russian city, and if you are interested in seeing everything we've told you about with your own eyes, one of our travel specialists will be happy to answer all your questions and plan a perfect vacation for you.