Hiking in the Khibiny and Lovozero Mountains (Russian Lapland)

Khibiny MountainsMy friend Andi and me made a long planned hiking trip into the Khibiny mountains, on the Kola peninsula in summer. For me it was the first part of an almost three months lasting trip. First we went by train to Moscow to visit a friend before we went on by train to Apatity, from where we took a taxi to Kirovsk, visiting another friend for a few days. We used this time there to get some better maps for the region, since there are no marked trails and we had to hike by following our compass. The Khibiny mountains seem to be untouched by humans, even though there is some big mining going on in the area (like in Kirovsk or Revda). This mountain range is not only very, very beautiful but also geologically a unique and interesting area. It is the world’s biggest pluton (an intrusion) and started to exist about 360-370 MIO years ago. The world richest mineral diversity can be found here (which is also the reason why a lot of mining is happening in the area). As in many remote places in Russia, the cities around the Khibiny mountains were found in the early times of the Soviet Union for the purpose of resource extraction. Our target however was to reach the village Lovozero, which is the place with the biggest number of Sámi people in Russia.

After we first hiked for a week in the western part of the Khibiny mountains, we made a break for two nights at Kuelporr, where a station of the mountain rescue as well as a humble hotel is based. Fortunately we were also able to go to a sauna there, helping us to relax a little bit after carrying around 25-30 kg heavy backpacks. We also used this break to go back to Kirovsk, which is connected with a bumpy road to Kuelporr, to get some more food supplies.We tried to fish also in the mountains, but the water was too cold to catch fish that would have served as food. After filling up our luggage with these necessities we continued our hike towards lake Umbozero, where we had to cross a rather big ford. Arriving on the eastern shore of that lake, the landscape changed dramatically. Whereas the Khibiny mountains are full with lichen and also other plants, the Lovozero mountains were much more deserted, water was less available and sometimes led us to further go down into the valleys to pick up some water. Nevertheless we safely came closer and closer to Lovozero, which felt much to quick (even though it almost took us three weeks). In the village of Lovozero we went to the Sami cultural center, to ask for the meaning of some rock sculpture we found in the mountains. That way we coincidentally meet a few really great, local guys, who invited us on a boat trip to an wonderful island on lake Lovozero, where we also got to taste some fish soup, prepared by our new friends.

The time passed by way to quickly and thinking back about this trip, there are plenty of stories that could be told. But, since we only had a one month tourist visa, we needed to leave the country – but not before visiting the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. From there we took the train to Helsinki, were the paths of my hiking comrade and mine split. I needed to go on by ferry to Stockholm, to catch my airplane to New York City, where another amazing part of my trip was already waiting for my arrival ….

5 Replies to “Hiking in the Khibiny and Lovozero Mountains (Russian Lapland)”

  1. Hallo Gerald,
    habe grade Ihre interessanten Fotos über die Kola Halbinsel, sowie einige andere Berichte Ihres interessanten Blocks.gesehen. Vielen Dank für die schönen Berichte Ihrer Hiking Touren! Wir werden in diesem Sommer zum 2. Mal auf die Kola reisen und sind auch fasziniert von dieser gewaltigen Landschaft und den freundlichen Menschen, die dort leben! Das 1. mal fuhren wir mit unserem Hund und Campingbus von S. Petersburg durch russ. Karelien gen Norden, ins Outdoor – Camp “Lodochny Spring” von Svetlana und Frank De Wit an die Tersky – Küste und weiter über Murmansk nach Kirkenes. Heuer geht es bei Kuhmo über die Grenze nach Russland und erst ins Camp zu unseren Freunden und dann Oktjabrskij und nach Livozero zu Vasili, einem sehr freundlichen Samen, den wir damals auch kennen gelernt hatten. Wir hoffen vielleicht noch mehr von den Bergen und Seen in dieser Gegend kennen zu lernen. Kennen Sie vielleicht auch den heiligen Berg der Samen, “Kujwa”? Ich habe leider im Internet keine nähere Auskunft bekommen können.
    Ich wünsche Ihnen noch weiterhin viele interessante Wandertouren und lese gerne weiter Ihre schönen Berichte mit den Fotos!
    Beste Grüße Ingrid

    1. Hallo Ingrid,
      nein, von dem Berg “Kujwa” habe ich leider noch nichts gehört. Der Grund warum ich erst jetzt antworte ist, weil ich (da ich auf Reise war) noch auf meinen Karten zu Hause nachsehen wollte, ob ich den Berg wo finden kann. Sollte dieser in den “Lovozero Bergen” sein? Wir haben dort ein großes Steingebilde gefunden, dass von einem Schamanen gebaut wurde – war nicht weit weg von Lovozero. Allerdings konnte man uns im Sámi Kulturzentrum im Dorf auch keine näheren Auskünfte darüber geben. In der Galerie gibt es auch ein Bild davon; der Grundriss glich im Übrigen der roten Holzgravur im nächsten Bild, und war exakt nach Norden ausgerichtet.

      Wünsche jedenfalls eine wundervolle Reise – die Pläne hören sich ja ganz gut an :-)
      Liebe Grüße,
      Gerald

      1. Hello Gerald,
        I thank you very much for your kind reply, …and bringing the google translation of my last posting in a better form. :-)
        ( therefore, I try to write in English now. ;-) )
        That “rock sculpture” – you saw on your Hiking Trip in 2009 near Lovozero in the Mountains is very interessting. It might be wonderful to find it too. Do you remember – may be – the way from Lovozero there by geographic coordinates, or perhaps please could you give us a recommandation of a special map, where we could find that place?
        In our search of the holy saami mountain “Kujwa” we will ask the Saami People, perhaps they know????
        I thank you very much in advance, and I noticed the nice homepage of Koru Laakso, we want to visit on our way back to Finnland, Sweden, Norway.
        Have a beautiful summer! :-) I enjoy very much,following your blog!
        With my very best regards
        Ingrid

        1. Dear Ingrid,

          after giving it some thoughts, I decided that I don’t want to publish the location of that place. We didn’t find it on a map, but simply coincidentally stumbled over it, when we were hiking in the area.

          I talked with some Sámi in Finland about that place and showed them some pictures. They thought, it could illustrate the sun and/or the moon, as well as the year cycle (polar day and night), and that it might be a spiritual place (of a shaman) to make some kind of celebrations there.

          In respect of this, I prefer to not publish the location; also considering that this place was not connected with a trail.

          For your search about this mountain “Kujwa” I guess it would be best (to start) asking in the Sámi cultural center in the Lovozero village. Maybe there somebody can help you.

          But in any case, I am sure you have another exciting trip ahead of you. I really enjoyed my trips to the Kola peninsula and to meet its inhabitants, and I am looking forward to future visits.

          And if you should visit Enontekiö and the shop Koru Laakso, who knows – maybe we meet somehwere for a coffee :-)

          Good luck with your travel and all the best,
          Gerald

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