Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

Southwest Life

Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

Travelers cross Arctic Circle on two-week journey
The Cambrian sandstone pillars were carved along the Lena River because of the extreme temperature ranges from summer (up to 100 degrees) to winter (down to minus 75 degrees). The Lena Pillars Nature Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is about 125 miles south of Yakutsk. Short-duration cruises to the park are offered in summer.
Nikolai Stepanov, a fisherman, chats with a cruise passenger from Finland about life on the Lena River. The fisherman and his wife live on a hill high above the river, although you can see high-water marks in nearby gullies. The fisherman travels by boat in the summer and snowmobile in the winter, when the river is frozen. His compound includes several work and storage buildings as well as his home.
Residents of the village of Kyusyur perform a skit about welcoming a newborn to the village along with songs and dance at the local community center. The village is north of the Arctic Circle. The men are engaged in fishing and reindeer husbandry, and the women make national clothes decorated with fur and beads, as seen in the performance.
A Yakut woman welcomes tourists to tour her home on a hill high above the Lena River. The six-room main house had two back rooms filled with beds – for when their children and grandchildren visit from the cities to which they have moved.
Travel tips

The cruises from Yakutsk to Tiksi are in July and August, and there are generally four each summer, each 14 days and 13 nights. The cost in 2017 was about $2,500 and included meals, programs and translator/guide. Airfare was also about $2,500.Pack lots of bug spray and mosquito netting (some netted hats were sold on board the ship; some repellent was available to use for free at the reception desk).Pack light and in small suitcases; large suitcase won't fit under the pull-down beds. No fancy clothes needed. Spend an extra day or two in Yakutsk and take a city tour and/or one offered into the surrounding region. For more information, visit visityakutia.com.Buy souvenirs in Yakutsk – little else is available along the cruise, although you can pick up some small local crafts in a couple of villages.If you enjoy wine in the evening, buy a few bottles in Yakutsk. The wine onboard was expensive. Or, you can just drink vodka.Close your cabin window whenever the ship is moored to avoid a room full of bugs.Cash only on the ship; easiest to exchange money in Moscow; while there's not much to spend money on during the cruise, cash is required for your bar bill (and laundry if you use those services).For more information, visit http://lenaturflot.ru/en/ and http://visityakutia.com/.

Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

The Cambrian sandstone pillars were carved along the Lena River because of the extreme temperature ranges from summer (up to 100 degrees) to winter (down to minus 75 degrees). The Lena Pillars Nature Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is about 125 miles south of Yakutsk. Short-duration cruises to the park are offered in summer.
Nikolai Stepanov, a fisherman, chats with a cruise passenger from Finland about life on the Lena River. The fisherman and his wife live on a hill high above the river, although you can see high-water marks in nearby gullies. The fisherman travels by boat in the summer and snowmobile in the winter, when the river is frozen. His compound includes several work and storage buildings as well as his home.
Residents of the village of Kyusyur perform a skit about welcoming a newborn to the village along with songs and dance at the local community center. The village is north of the Arctic Circle. The men are engaged in fishing and reindeer husbandry, and the women make national clothes decorated with fur and beads, as seen in the performance.
A Yakut woman welcomes tourists to tour her home on a hill high above the Lena River. The six-room main house had two back rooms filled with beds – for when their children and grandchildren visit from the cities to which they have moved.

Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

The kitchen crew of the Mikhail Svetlov often prepared local dishes for the passengers to try, including this traditional Russian barbecue, schashlyk, on the banks of the Lena River. Passengers were also offered a chance to taste fish soup, an appetizer of raw frozen fish cubes seasoned with salt and pepper, traditional Yakut pudding of flour, milk and butter and Stroganina, thin slices of frozen fish served quickly as the fish was carved. The schashlyk was served near the end of the cruise, before an onboard farewell party in which passengers also performed.

Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

Although the skies often were overcast and light rain was not uncommon during the 14-day cruise, sunsets were quite beautiful on the river. This one occurred just before we crossed the Arctic Circle. Mornings were more likely to be foggy.

Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

A Lenin statue stands in downtown Yakutsk, a bustling city of about 300,000 people on the Lena River and the capital of the Sakha Republic in Siberia.

Lena River tour explores remote, rugged northern Russia

A bull at the bison farm along the Buotama River eyes a herdsman that is opening a bag of feed. The farm is a bi-national effort to reintroduce the wood bison to Yakutia in northern Asia. In 2006, 60 bison were shipped from Canada to Yakutia, and the herd has since grown to 170. The first release into the wild was expected within the year, a herdsman said in August.
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