A sense of Siberia in the Altai Mountains.

What images spring to mind when you think of Siberia, a vast region in Russia? A place of harsh eternal winter, where there is frozen untraversable wilderness? A place of exile?Whilst those notions may have held some truth in the past, my desire is to show you the reality of modern Siberia.I explored the Altai Mountains of Siberia with Follow Up Siberia, a cross-cultural digital project sponsored by Nornickel and Euronews. They are showcasing different regions of Siberia in the lead up to the 2019 Winter Universiade, which will be held in Krasnoyarsk.

 Winter in Siberia.

Despite my preconceived notion of winter in Siberia, it wasn’t actually that cold! I know, I know, you’re going to think I’m crazy for saying that, especially when I’m sharing photography of snow covered landscapes. However, I was anticipating it to be -30c and I predicting that we wouldn’t be able to stay outdoors for a long period of time, how wrong I was! I’ll admit, I panic bought a LOT of merino wool base layers before flying out and whilst I’m sure they did help in keeping me toasty, I shouldn’t have worried too much. Most days we were there, the temperature was around -2c to -8c, totally fine if you are prepared. I’m sure there are days during winter when the temperature drops to lower than you or I would believe possible,  but people do not hibernate – life goes on as normal!That being said, winter in Siberia is soulful! Snow covers the incredible landscapes making them almost glisten in the light. The ground is crisp and crunches when you walk, the snowflakes are huge and float from the sky almost like there is magic in the air. 

The People.

The frosty weather is contrasted by the warmth you are met with when you go inside, both physically and from the Siberian people. There is a stereotype that Russian people are stern and cold, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – they are kind, welcoming and generous.

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia

No, people won’t smile at you in the street, but this does not mean they are rude, it’s very much a cultural difference. There is even a Russian proverb that translates to “laughter without a reason is a sign of a fool.” Isn’t this a joy of travel, to visit a new place and get an understanding of their culture? Don’t assume that Russian people are unwelcoming, rude or harsh because they don’t have the same customs as where you are from – and you know if you get a smile from a Russian it comes from the heart!

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia

Whilst we were in Siberia we visited Taiga Zaimka, a picturesque village located in Belokurikha. We received a traditional Russian welcome, a man was playing music, there was singing and dancing and a lady offered us bread and salt. The offering of bread and salt is a traditional way of greeting important guests – once you break a piece of bread with the salt it signals that a friendship has began between the two people. To me, this symbolised the Russian hospitality we received throughout our visit, we laughed and danced together, such a great memory!

What to do:

There are an abundance of activities to enjoy in Siberia, during both summer and winter. We were able to partake in so many different experiences and I even ticked something off my bucket list, which had always been a dream of mine. 

Explore Siberia’s incredible landscapes.

Siberia is home to some of the most naturally beautiful locations in the world, don’t just take my word for it, let these pictures speak for themselves.

We explored the Altai region of Siberia. One spot we visited was the Blue Lakes at Katun river, which do not freeze even during winter! The water is so clear and vivid blue, you can even take a dip if you are brave enough.

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia

Walk on a frozen river! 

Would you walk across a frozen river to reach one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen? For me, the answer is YES!

Walking on the frozen Katun river was an experience in itself. At first I was SO unsure, questioning the safety as there were signs around saying not to walk on the ice, but our guide ensured us that it was totally fine and local people who know the area walk across with no worries.

The ice crunched underfoot, surrounded by untouched snow-covered landscape – I was in awe of the magnificent nature of Siberia.

Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride. 

Is there a more romantic image than taking a sleigh ride through a snow covered forest? The stunning scenery whizzing by as you enjoy the ride.

The horses did look well kept and healthy, so I took a short ride to show my appreciation for the hospitality of the local people. I then got off the sleigh and walked the remainder of the journey, I wanted to ensure the load was not too heavy for the horse and we were still able to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings on foot.

Ride Snow mobiles. 

If you’ve never rode a snow mobile, add it to your wish list now!

We took a snow mobile ride through the forest, speeding past the snow covered trees and having so much fun, all in time to see the sunrise over the mountains.

I was so thankful that my driver was a speed demon like me and made sure that we had the most exhilarating ride!

Take a cable car to the top of Tserkovka Mountain. 

Tserkovka mountain is home to some of the most beautiful scenery and a view that is not to be missed.

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow up Siberia

You can take a cable car to the top to enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and walk through this winter wonderland.

Try Snowboarding.

As you can imagine, winter sports are widely available in Siberia and it’s definitely worth going skiing or snowboarding if you have the opportunity.

I’d never snowboarded before this, so I was really excited to try a new sport. Turns out, snowboarding is not my forte. I spend most of my time sat down haha! At least there are plenty of other options for activities in Siberia and we still had a great time giving it a go – we laughed a LOT!

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia
Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia

Ice Skate on a frozen lake. 

If you know me, then you would have immediately known this was my bucket list item! I love figure skating and have always dreamed of skating on a frozen lake, but that’s not possible where I’m from.

Whilst we were visiting Chemal, I saw a bunch of kids skating outside of their home and they were having so much fun, I mentioned to our guide that I would LOVE to do that and….. it happened!

I’m so thankful to Igor for renting the boots and hopping on the ice with me, so I could skate around on the frozen lake outdoors and live out a dream of mine.

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia
Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia
Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia

Sample Russian cuisine. 

No, Russian food is not all Borscht! We were treated to so many delicious meals, from Georgian food to traditional Russian cuisine and we even got to sample locally brewed beer, cheers!

Photographer: Vitaly Gololobov for Follow Up Siberia

It’s pretty common knowledge that I LOVE dumplings, so I was very excited when I found out we were trying Siberian Pelmeni – they were beyond tasty!

Experience Russian Banya! 

Have you ever heard of Russian Banya? It’s a traditional and unique activity. You go into a sauna and are massaged using foliage – which is a much more soothing experience that it sounds, then you rinse down with water and relax.

We enjoyed cups of tea and snacks in the cosy cabin whilst the snow fell outside. And you can repeat the banya experience many times – if it gets too hot, go outside and jump in the snow!

Impressions.

It would be impossible to define Siberia in a blog post, there is so much to discover in this vast region that my travels barely scratched the surface! However, I do hope you got an insight into this incredible place and can now say for sure that stereotypes do not reflect reality. Siberia has naturally beautiful locations, welcoming people, an abundance of activities and is home to rich and diverse cultures. Altai Mountains

Only in coming to Siberia do you begin to understand why so many of Russia’s famous exiles didn’t rush back to Moscow when their sentences were completed. There is a sense of serenity that you can find here. I wouldn’t hesitate to come back and explore more!  

Let me know your thoughts on Siberia, is it what you expected?

 

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33 Comments

  1. March 1, 2019 / 3:19 pm

    Siberia sometimes remains in the imagination of people only as a desolate land of goulag and captivity, but instead it is much more. How much wonder in these shots. How much emotion in your words.

    • March 2, 2019 / 10:01 am

      Thanks, Cristina. Your comment means so much! It’s absolutely so much more than people imagine!

  2. March 1, 2019 / 6:50 pm

    not at all what i expected. i imagined it being desolate as so many other uninformed people. it looks beautiful and there are so many things to do!

    • March 2, 2019 / 10:39 am

      We’re not uninformed, Danielle. We just don’t hear much about Siberia, right? So happy to share this place with you 🙂

  3. March 1, 2019 / 7:23 pm

    WOW!!!! Those photos are absolutely amazing! What a beautiful place, but definitely looks cold!

  4. March 1, 2019 / 8:31 pm

    Great place for a winter retreat. The snow is so beautiful for a background.

  5. March 1, 2019 / 8:57 pm

    I wish I could go visit, it looks so beautiful. I’m more of a beach person but Siberia just made my list anyway!

  6. March 1, 2019 / 11:04 pm

    Siberia looks absolutely beautiful in the winter. As someone from Florida I am fascinated with colder places to visit.

  7. March 2, 2019 / 4:53 am

    I was so fascinated with all your photos. Some of them look like a painting. What camera did you use?

    • March 2, 2019 / 10:41 am

      Thanks, Camille. I used Canon 2000D in Siberia and edit with Lightroom.

  8. Dalene Ekirapa
    March 2, 2019 / 9:19 am

    How I just love nature! I would love to be in Siberia and enjoy exploring the landscape because it is so beautiful in winter! Also, take the cable ride and walk on the frozen river. That would make my day!

  9. Sarah
    March 2, 2019 / 9:42 am

    Oh wow this looks like a dream of a trip! Amazing photos of the snow and that food!

  10. March 2, 2019 / 12:20 pm

    Oh wow looks incredible, what gorgeous surroundings and pictures. What a wonderful place to get away to and explore. And oh all that food!

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:47 pm

      Thanks, Rachel! It is the perfect place to escape and explore. The food is not bad either 😉

  11. Jessica Taylor
    March 2, 2019 / 5:19 pm

    Oh wow! Such stunning views! Wish I could see it in person!

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:46 pm

      Thank you! I hope you’ll see it one day – such a beautiful unspoilt region of the world!

  12. March 2, 2019 / 5:21 pm

    These are some pretty impressive photos! Looks like a great place to relax and to have quality time with ourselves or with our significant other. I’m intrigued by their food and culture. Thanks for sharing!

    Xo
    Candace
    http://www.thebeautybeau.com

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:46 pm

      Thanks, Candace! Siberian food and culture is definitely worth trying for yourself. It’s a place full of wonderful people and amazing natural beauty.

  13. March 2, 2019 / 11:13 pm

    You were right I pictured stereotypical things when thinking of Siberia. I also pictured a wolf lol. I say it all of the time but i love reading/seeing these post because i am continuously cultured

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:45 pm

      Haha glad I was able to break some stereotypes for you! I didn’t see a wolf but definitely saw some cute puppies – does that count? 😉

  14. March 3, 2019 / 12:33 am

    Your pictures are amazing! Such a stunning place, definitely makes me want to go on a trip!

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:44 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m really pleased to hear it – I think you would LOVE Siberia, it’s such a magical destination.

  15. Alexandra Cook
    March 3, 2019 / 6:10 pm

    Honestly, I understand what you mean by “it wasn’t that cold.” I went to Alaska during the fall and it wasn’t near as cold as I thought it would be.

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:41 pm

      Right? Like it definitely WAS cold – but not as cold as I had built up in my mind haha. Hope you enjoyed Alaska!

  16. March 3, 2019 / 8:27 pm

    As much as I don’t like the cold, I love the snow! Siberia looks so white and beautiful. I love that you got to experience parts of the culture too. To me, that is the best part of traveling!

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:40 pm

      Thanks, Tisha! It was cold but incredibly beautiful. Experiencing different cultures is definitely a great part of travel, I’m glad you liked it 🙂

  17. March 3, 2019 / 8:29 pm

    As much as I don’t like the cold, I love the snow! Siberia looks so white and beautiful. I love that you got to experience parts of the culture too. To me, that is the best part of traveling!

  18. March 4, 2019 / 12:36 am

    OKay you’ve convinced me! I am already daydreaming about visiting Siberia. I love that you’ve shared pretty much everything someone would need to know to plan a visit 🙂

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:39 pm

      Thank you so much! I hope you do get to visit – it’s such a unique and underrated destination. I would go back in a heartbeat!

  19. March 4, 2019 / 12:48 am

    how cute are those kids in the local outfits? This looks like such an amazing trip to go on.

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:39 pm

      Right? Aren’t they so cute and a great way to showcase their culture.

  20. Bindu Thomas
    March 5, 2019 / 12:43 pm

    What a beautiful place and these photos are really amazing. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • June 26, 2019 / 3:38 pm

      Thank you so much. I am really pleased you enjoyed the photos.

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