Guide “Kandalakshsky area – the gateway of the Kola Land”

kandalaksha_putevoditel Information about the transport and tourist routes, fishing rules, settlements Kandalakshsky district. Mode of the border crossing “Salla” and the other.

Lots of really useful information but it is in Russian only. However, the author of the guide is our good friend and we will work with her on English-language edition of the guidebook.

It is not cold and dead. Against a popular misconception about the White Sea.

By Alexandra –

Contrary to common opinion, the White Sea (which can be considered a bay of the Barents Sea)is not cold and dead. I’d like to present my colleague and namesake Alexander, whose job and passion is to photograph White Sea creatures. He spends a lot of time in the Moscow Sate U. research station near Poyakonda, right on the arctic circle.


This White Sea jellyfish photo by Alexander Semonov won recent “Wild Nature of Russia” contest by the National Geographic (Russia) magazine


This worm made it to Nature Magazine

Here is an article about him by  in Time – Science and Space – Wildlife, January 15, 2013 >>

More pictures of Alexander Semenov on his website (English)and in his blog (Russian).

Unfortunately, perhaps one of the country’s and the world’s greatest underwater photography experts profoundly lacks interest in organizing diving tours in exchange for contemptible $$. If you happen to be real hot about immersing yourself into this see with a camera, tell me, and I’ll put you in touch with people in or around Kandalaksha. Write to or leave a comment below. Or, better, do both because at least 5% of e-mails seems to get lost in transit.




Good-by asphalt. The “road” is there till the next storm. Better have a good sense of direction. And a compass. Not sure if GPS will work there – so much out of this world the place seems.

Why travel to Kuzomen’

Sami descendants, wild horses (!), ghosts that the local **educated** priest says are real, northern sand desert…

Where to stay in Kuzomen’

Rely on local’s hospitality. Housing conditions will be sub-standard, unlike in the nearby Varzuga where the locals mysteriously live much better. Hire me with a jeep and trailer. Camping in the summer.


Desert, gloom, and decay

Kuzomen people

Wild horses

I’m playing with the idea of going there in winter, bribing horses with oats so that by spring, when they are hungry and weak, they are firm in the erroneous conviction I’m the good guy. Once they are tame I’ll show my true nature by enslaving a couple. If they survived in these conditions they are indestructible and I want a low-maintenance horse. Also on the pictures they are the ugliest animals I’ve seen and I sort of fall for anti-esthetics.

Kuzomen’ in winter



Huge spaces, lamp poles unable to stay straight, weathered building, young men trying to act tough by swearing, smoking, and turning music full blast, young women desperate to look attractive only to give up on themselves in a few years, ageing men by store entrances hoping to be treated for a free drink… Luvenga has a good chance of becoming part of my Russian Misery Travel (c) tour.

Congratulations again. You are now on the north side of the Kandalaksha Bay (or the south edge of the Kola Peninsula), moving south-east. “North side” means that the hills are facing south so you get plenty of sunlight. The scenery is there but you are travelling to nowhere. The asphalt will be getting worse till, in about 150km from Kandalaksha, it will turn a trail that, after Varzuga, will disappear into a desert. Yes, a real desert. Sand, dunes, and even a herd of wild horses. For out of this world experience plan a trip to Kuzomen‘. That’s it. If you insist on continuing by car you’ll have to wait will low tide and use bared strip of sand as your road. If you get seriously stuck…

The road from the Nature Reserve outpost to the Village of Luvenga

If you go down to the sea from Luvenga, you’ll find the station of the Kandalaksha Nature Reserve where Alexandra Goryashko has been living and working every summer for the last 30 or so years. Her work consists of measuring Common Eider eggs in June and writing biographies of obscure and often semi-insane turn-of-the century polar scientists. I’m trying to sell her as someone able to compile biographies of your Russian ancestors, for a good fee.

Luvenga Station of the Kandalaksha Nature Reserve

There are still a few Pomor type people in villages along the cost. Ethnically Pomors are Russians or of mostly Russian origin. What sets them aside is history, culture, values, and lifestyle. Think of Pomors as the Russian equivalent of Protestants. One outstanding feature of the Pomor culture is active women who fish, hunt, and hold official or even church posts.

The middle of July. Hot. Swim all you like in the sea. Or go into the hill if you feel like playing in snow.

No hotels in Luvenga. If you for whatever mysterious reason want to stay here, talk to me. I’ll probably set you up with one of the hospitable locals. The closest hotel is by the ski slope, on your right as you exit Kandalaksha towards Luvenga.

The famous Stone Vagina that to the Sami symbolized the Great Goddess, is somewhere in the hills over Luvenga.


Also here there is an obelisk to guerrilla fighters who ambushed a group of British soldiers sent to clean up Luvenga from the Bolsheviks sometime in 1919. In this land obelisks are usually erected in honour of the bad guys..

Looking for your ancestors? Lots of 19th and early 20th century graves with Pomor names and very typical Pomor photographs. For a list of names from the graves along the south-west edge of the Kola peninsula see (Russian). Things here in the north go back into primordial chaos slowly, and chances of finding a grave or an archive record are better than in the faster and more disturbed central Russia.


The name “Luvenga” comes from Sami “luvi” and means “shake”. Luvenga is in a a seismically active zone even though actual earthquakes are extremely rare. But a local geologist told me that all prerequisites for big trouble are here.