Cherish the beauty of the Dragon’s coast

Cherish the beauty of the Dragon’s coast

Teriberka has had a special allure for a long time. The rough beauty of the rocks in the Kola Peninsula, the icy power of the Barents Sea, the calm northern beauty and the abyss of anguish - this kaleidoscope of images attracted people to go on a journey to this mysterious place.

The famous film Leviathan by Andrei Zvyagintsev was filmed in the village of Teriberka. It was awarded international prizes and played a breakthrough role in the life of this small and quietly fading village that woke up famous one day not only throughout Russia, but throughout the world. And today, the village is an attraction very popular among tourists, bloggers and professional photographers who draw their inspiration there.


So, we realized that the time has come for us.

Our travel by car turned out to be long and we got a lot of experiences. We started from Moscow, spent one night in Veliky Novgorod, and then we stopped at Staraya Ladoga, which is sometimes called the ‘first capital’ of Ancient Rus’. Later on, we made several stops in Karelia, including in the village of Kvartsitny on the shores of Lake Ladoga where the Vepsians, members of a Baltic Finnic people of North-West Russia, live, as well as in the small old town of Sortavala and the Kem town settlement known to tourists as a transit point on the way to the Solovetsky Archipelago.

After a night in Kem that was an unforgettable experience and left a strange impression (those who have been there can understand us very well), we went to the town of Kirovsk located near the beautiful Khibiny Mountains. We spent a couple of days there, and then headed for the village of Teriberka.


The road to the village used to be famous for being impassable for vehicles - it was not for ‘weak’ cars and only tough off-roaders ‘survived’ there. We also traveled by such a really ‘iron horse’ and its horsepower helped us a lot. Along the way, however, we saw that active construction of a new wide road was in progress, it was scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2024.

In general, it should be noted that the roads became one of the main experiences during our trip to the Russian North in 2023. Of the five thousand kilometers of our journey, only two to three hundred kilometres of the road were with very poor pavement, and sometimes, the road was unpaved at all. Really, there were cracks, and potholes and road waves (Oh, Kem, you are forever in our hearts!), and even roads where it is better for travelers not to go. But all this was an exception to the rule: it was hard to believe, but we drove most of the way on a high-quality, smooth road. On one of the highways in Karelia, the workers were paving the road as if specially before our arrival, and through the windshield we watched an asphalt paver working on the horizon, and an ideal hot black stripe was left behind it.

We did not immediately recover from such a ‘culture shock’.


So, a week after starting from Moscow, we finally were at the edge of the earth, in the very village that filmmakers and photographers loved so much. The beautiful nature of the Arctic still looked almost untouched and pristine. Looking at these ancient gloomy stones, we were carried back into the depths of the centuries.

Of course, it is interesting for ecotourists to visit the Teriberka Natural Park. It is literally breathtaking there because the 3-billion-year-old Baltic Shield is under your feet, and there is the fascinating nature of the tundra, as well as crimson rocks, canyons, gorges, huge stones in bright algae around you, and, of course, the great ocean. The travelers can admire the picturesque lakes Bolshoye Batareiskoye and Sekretarskoye. The Batareisky Waterfall is amazingly beautiful, and some tourists take great risk by standing on the edge of the cliff to take a picture of it from the most advantageous point. The park beach, unofficially called the ‘coast of dragon eggs’, is of great interest to travelers. This comparison is explained by many huge gray-white oval boulders that are perfectly smooth after being ‘worked out’ by sea waves and northern winds. It turns out that some tourists were so impressed by the way they look that they took unusual stones as souvenirs, which is strictly prohibited and can be punished with a fine of up to four thousand rubles. These are harsh, Draconian laws.


But normally, where there are eggs, there must be a nest. And it really was nearby. Not far from the beach, there is a small cave marked on the interactive maps as the Dragon’s Nest. Apparently, tourists gave this name to this place inspired by the fairytale beauty of these places. In the Dragon’s Nest, tourists can also see more than a dozen ‘dragon eggs’ surrounded by bizarre rock formations. During the tourist season, there is a queue of people eager to make spectacular pictures.

A seashore colony of kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) on the rocks is a real ‘fest’ for birdwatchers. These birds feed mainly on capelin, and they do not have a hind toe. According to experts, seashore colonies of birds are unique natural formations that behave like a huge living organism depending on the state of the sea and the human actions. The ecological health of the region can be assessed thanks to studying these colonies of birds.


Rare species of plants and animals listed in the Red Data Books of Russia and the Murmansk Region inhabit the Teriberka Natural Park. Before visiting it, it is necessary to register on the website of the regional Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Fisheries, which can be done at any time of the day. Travelers should pay for their entrance to the Teriberka Natural Park, a ticket can also be bought online. But when we visited the Natural Park, there was no one to check our tickets.


As for tourist entertainment in Teriberka, people come to the village to enjoy boating in the sea among whales, dolphins and seals, and to take snowmobile excursions, go fishing, tasting delicacies from sea urchins and many other local specialties. Sports lovers enjoy diving and snowkiting there, and, of course, everyone is delighted with the Polar Aurora.

Teriberka used to be one of the fishing centers of the Murmansk Region. The Ship Graveyard, one of the most famous attractions in the village, reminds the travelers of the days of prosperity of the fishing industry in the Far North. These are the remains of wooden ships lying on the bottom of the river right next to the sea coast.


And in Teriberka, there is The End of All Roads. Long ago, they began to lay a route that was supposed to lead to a future gas processing plant. But the plant was not built, and the road ran into a rocky dead end. This is a real tourist attraction now. The way to this place is very difficult and we were not able to get there due to heavy winds and rain. But the Internet promises very beautiful views at The End of All Roads, if you are lucky to get there.

We made our trip to Teriberka in mid-August. The air temperature was about plus 18 and 20 degrees Celsius, sometimes the sun was shining, and we could walk without jackets in the afternoon. But just a few days later, the weather turned bad. The owner of the hotel we stayed at said that just a week before our arrival, the temperature in Teriberka was plus 35 degrees Celsius. The visitors complained about no air conditioning, but the hotel owners could only shrug their shoulders: they rarely had such ‘surprises of nature’ in the Far North.


There is something alluring about these places. Local residents told us the story of a Ministry of Emergency Situations’ rescuer who came to Teriberka from another region to work there and decided to stay in the village forever.

The local nature also attracts people from other countries who are ready to travel thousands of kilometers to see its harsh beauty. The owner of our hotel said that one day, she was unexpectedly visited by unusual guests - a married couple from China traveling by a Jaguar car. There were no vacant rooms at the hotel, but the guests asked to let them stay at least at the parking lot where they could spend the night in their car. The driver’s wife was determined and she dreamed of watching whales in the Barents Sea by all means. As already mentioned, this is one of the main activities for travelers in Teriberka. Special tours are organized to the sea, and if you’re lucky, you have a chance see the whales emerging from the water, waving their tails at you and making 5-meter-high fountains. A seat on the ship must be booked in advance, as tickets sell out very quickly.


Not without difficulty, the hotel owner got the last available seats on the boat for her Chinese guests. Returning from their walk, they looked very happy with their eyes glowing with joy, although they were very cold as they had no warm coats on.

By the way, sometimes whales come straight into the Teriberka Bay. You can often watch seals surfacing there. But you cannot be sure to see them during a short visit to the village.

In recent years, the Murmansk Region has seen rapid growth in the tourist flow, and there was a tourist boom there last summer. During the high tourist season, Teriberka cannot cope with such a tourist flow - there are not yet enough hotels and restaurants there to accommodate every traveler coming. Therefore, one-day organized tours starting from Murmansk are popular now. But it is obvious that the number of hotels, glampings and campsites in the village will increase, which means there will be more other tourism infrastructure facilities. Leaving Teriberka, we were pleased to see the construction of a new guest house.

Now let’s talk about the very depressive abyss of anguish that we expected when planning a trip to Teriberka. Everything turned out to be not so clear with it in this village. Well, the signs of decline and hopelessness are still in the village with its rickety huts, shabby abandoned buildings, scrap metal overgrown with grass and crows above the roofs. But now, with the modern hotels, restaurants and other civilization appearing in this place, it seems that all these old buildings arousing bittersweet feelings look more like movie scenery than the cornerstone of Teriberka, as it was quite recently.


And an ambivalent feeling arises. On the one hand, I wish, of course, prosperity to the village of Teriberka and the villagers. However, there are fears that the ‘development’ could kill the melancholic charm of the place and turn it into a typical tourist attraction. It is necessary to come up with an optimal solution that will allow the development of Teriberka while preserving its unique distinctive character.


Today, the village still remains a northern exotic one, a kind of a wild place, a ‘hermit’ who has found peace somewhere on the far side of the world - among whales, seagulls and rocks. But it seems to be dying and springing up at the same time. And I really want to believe that the ‘incubator’ Leviathan will never hatch from the magic egg on the coast of the Barents Sea.