In the heart of the Russian Arctic
Anastasia Gubanova
Director of the Norilsk Tourism Development Center

In the heart of the Russian Arctic

Norilsk has recently been actively developing as a promising tourist destination. Anastasia Gubanova, Director of the Norilsk Tourism Development Center, told EcoTourism EXPERT about the Taimyr’s tourism anchors.

- The Arctic nature is fascinating. What ‘points of attraction’ are must-visit places on the Taimyr peninsula?

- The Putorana Plateau, one of the Taimyr’s main ‘points of attraction’, is worth covering thousands of kilometers to come here. The Plateau is located almost entirely north of the Arctic Circle and stretches over a huge area. The endless expanse and mountains without peaks closely resemble the Martian landscapes. The mountain range includes many deep canyons and gorges with the rivers and beautiful waterfalls. The Bolshoy Kureysky Waterfall, the most powerful in Russia, is among them as well as the Oransky Waterfall, the widest in the country, and the Talnikovy Waterfall, the highest in Eurasia.


The Putorana Plateau is the world’s second largest trappean rock plateau that is of unusual origin. About 180 million years ago, volcanoes erupted in this area, basaltic lavas solidified in layers dozens of meters thick. Even today, fossils of marine creatures can be found in this area, which is of scientific interest to paleontologists. It is no coincidence that the Putorana Nature Reserve recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site is located on the Putorana Plateau.

Norilsk is the closest city to the Putorana Plateau. However, there is no road from Norilsk to the Plateau. Tourists can get there by helicopter, water transport or snowmobile. Tour operators offer various package tours, both short ones - for a weekend, and longer ones with accommodation in comfortable ‘barnhouses’ or in tents on the shore of Lake Lama. There are original tours with river rafting directly into the buffer zone of the Putorana Plateau, jeep tours along the northwestern shoots of the Putorana Plateau, climbing Mount Sokol, and visiting the Twelve Waterfalls’ valley, as well as various snowmobile tours, combined snowmobile/hiking tours, and helicopter excursions.

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The Red Stones Mountain Gorge and the Red Stones Waterfall in the valley of the Ugolny Stream, in the Kharaelakh Mountain Range are among the tourism anchors of Taimyr and located very close to the city. This place is often called the ‘Putorana Plateau in miniature’. The Red Stones Waterfall is located between two peaks about 600 meters high and falls in three cascades into a clear lake.

The Red Stones Mountain Gorge is a specially protected natural area of regional significance and is located close to the town of Talnakh, just 28 km from the center of Norilsk. This is a favorite vacation spot for local people and an ideal training ground for mountain-climbers. You can get to the Red Stones Mountain Gorge area by car, and climb up the mountain on foot along a rocky path.

- It turns out that it’s the best way to start a trip around the Taimyr peninsula from Norilsk. What are must-see attractions in Norilsk?

- Norilsk is the northernmost city in the world with a population of more than 180 thousand people. Everyone is amazed at its location and the architecture of buildings made in permafrost conditions. The main street of the city, Leninsky Prospekt (Lenin Avenue), and Oktyabrskaya Square, are made in a real Empire style in the very heart of Taimyr and resemble the St. Petersburg’s streets and squares. The Norilsk’s architecture cannot be seen anywhere else in the Arctic.


To understand the tragic and heroic history of the city, tourists need to visit the Norilsk Museum, with the first house built in Norilsk that is located in the museum’s courtyard; the members of the winter expedition of 1923-1924 lived in this house. In the Norilsk Museum, one can feel the true romance of the North with its amazing stories. The Norilsk Golgotha, a memorial complex dedicated to the prisoners of the NorilLag (Norilsk Corrective Labour Camp) is also a must-visit. In the 1930s, the first prisoners were brought to this punishment camp and the most difficult task was set before them - to lay the basis for the industry development in the Arctic conditions. At that time, there was no experience in the world in constructing such facilities in very severe climatic conditions of the Far North. From the 1930s to 1957, about 300 thousand prisoners convicted mainly on political charges went through the NorilLag.

There are good historical tours of the city that help visitors in getting to know, for example, that in the 1960s, such ‘politically unreliable’ actors as Georgy Zhzhenov and Innokenty Smoktunovsky, very famous in Russia later on, were in the professional company of the Norilsk Polar Drama Theater, the northernmost theater in the world.

After the closure of NorilLag, young Komsomol members and workers came to Norilsk to earn money which changed the life in the city greatly. Today, a large-scale renovation is underway in Norilsk, new social and cultural sports facilities are under construction or have already been built, such as the Aika ultra-modern sports complex, where all-Russian competitions in mini-football and other sports are held.

People also go to Norilsk to see the Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis - and enjoy the local cuisine cooked from Arctic fish and venison fillet; they can taste and enjoy yukola (sun-dried fish), sagudai (also spelled ‘sugudai’, fresh marinated fish without heat treatment), and stroganina (slices of frozen fish or meat served cold), coffee with unusual local flavors, and ice cream with venison and cloudberry confiture for dessert.

- Norilsk is an important industrial center. What industrial enterprises can tourists visit as part of a tour?

- The Anhydrite mine of the Kayerkansky mine are among the most interesting places of industrial tourism. During the industrial tours, people can also feel like a real miner and go down 60 meters underground wearing a full professional uniform, and operate a drilling machine.

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Over the past 2-3 years, several enterprises have opened their doors to tourists, including the northernmost greenhouse complex, the Norilsk Brewing Company, the dairy factory, as well as the local bakeries and the Bit Cluster mining farm.

- What new areas of tourism are under development on Taimyr?

- The event tourism is among the new directions under development. In the summer of 2023, we organized the summer tourism festival dubbed ‘Norilsk Calling!’ for the first time; it was held in the valley of the Ergalakh River on the Lake Tabornoe shore, and the participants could enjoy SUP boarding, kayaking, hiking, climbing up the mountains, and cooking contests were also held.

Other interesting events taking place in Norilsk include the Tourists’ Sports Rally on the Kharaelakh River, X-waters competitions in adventure/extreme tourism when participants swim across the Siberian Yenisei River (one of the longest rivers in Asia, and the world’s sixth largest river in terms of discharge - ed.), Norilsk Trail cross-country race, Snow Ride Putorana snowmobile race, as well as the Depth of Putorana freediving festival on the magical Lake Lama, and the Northern Berry festival that combines ecotourism, cultural and gastronomic events. This winter, we are going to hold a winter tourism festival for the first time, with various winter activities.


For the convenience of tourists, we have developed a mini-guide that contains the detailed information about the city and the surrounding area, excursion options, many offers from our tour operators, as well as a list of accommodation options and catering facilities - everything that may be of interest and help to tourists. It can be obtained at any hotel in the city or tourists can use the electronic version on the official website of the Center -

Photos courtesy of the Norilsk Tourism Development Center