Vodohod Russian River Cruises: Discover the Soul of Siberia

A spectacular sunset over the Yenisei,
A spectacular sunset over the Yenisei River in Russia.

Russia’s Divided Geography Provides a Fascinating New Cruise Destination

By Jared Shein

Seventy-three percent of the Russian population lives west of the Ural mountains.  This fairly industrial and densely populated land area offers reasonably temperate climates, populated and connected cities, and is home to the vast majority of Russian industry and commerce.

The indigenous peoples of Dudinka
The indigenous peoples of Dudinka

Cross over the Ural mountain range however and you will find yourself at the doorstep of an entirely different region.

The Ural range is the official border between the European and Asian continents, and east of the Russian Urals lies the desolate, sparsely populated region of Siberia.

Harsh Winters

With an area of 13.1 million square kilometers, Siberia comprises 77% of the total Russian landmass, but its remote location and harsh winters make it a less than ideal place to live.  Only 27% of the Russian population lives in this region, making Siberia one of the least densely populated areas in the world.

The sparse human population, however, allows for nature and wildlife to flourish, and while Siberia isn’t an ideal place to live, it is a great place for nature lovers.  The region is home to a host of different natural features and animal species, from deer and huskies to tigers and leopards.

Vodohod Cruises

One of the best and most compelling ways to view Siberia’s natural majesty is with Vodohod Russian River Cruises.  The company offers a number of different cruise options, but the voyage along the Yenisei River in Northern Siberia is particularly spectacular.

This Krasnoyarsk to Dudinka cruise takes passengers through some of the most remote and untouched places on earth and is a truly unforgettable experience.

“This trip can perhaps be considered to be the most diverse and remote water-based trip in the world,” says John Warner, Marketing Director at Vodohod. “From the 6-hour helicopter trip around the mind-blowing Plateau Putorana to the vast expanse of the Taiga, Siberia is a land of extraordinary contrasting nature.”

Cruising Down The Yenisei

the 50,000 year old Permafrost tunnel in Igarka
the 50,000-year-old Permafrost tunnel in Igarka

The Krasnoyarsk to Dudinka cruise begins with a bus tour of Krasnoyarsk “the city of incredible combinations” that features both industry and nature side by side.  The next day brings guests to the stunning UNESCO heritage site and one of the seven wonders of Russia, The Pillars Reserve with its exotic volcanic rocks.

The ship then leaves Krasnoyarsk and heads through Galanino, where guests meet the indigenous Cossack people; Nikulino, where the local people live a traditional lifestyle without internet or television; Baht, where guests fish and pick berries with locals; Ermakovo, where guests get a glimpse of the horrors of Stalin’s Gulag; and a handful of other unique remote places.

The cruise ends 10 days after it began in the city of Dudinka where guests visit a museum, an ethnocultural complex, and take a helicopter tour.

The remoteness and diversity of the 11-day cruise make it a truly unique and exciting experience. “This is not your usual river cruise,” notes Warner, “This is a river expedition.  The lack of mooring infrastructure means that we need to use zodiacs in order to disembark at places that no tourists have ever had the chance to visit!”

An inside look at a deluxe cabin aboard Vodohod's Russian Maxim Gorky
An inside look at a deluxe cabin aboard Vodohod’s Maxim Gorky

Maxim Gorky

All Dudinka to Krasnoyarsk and Krasnoyarsk to Dudinka cruises take place aboard the luxurious Maxim Gorky cruise ship.  The four-deck state of the art ship was built in 1974 and has recently been refurbished into a 5-star expedition vessel with a maximum occupancy of 98 guests.

The ship features a colorful interior design that mirrors the colors and materials of the Siberian landscape, 48 luxurious cabins, a restaurant, and entertainment complex (that includes a karaoke bar, Siberian bar, and wine library), and a spa and gym area with a sauna, yoga room, jacuzzi and massage room.

Guests can kick back and relax with a drink in the Russian Maxim Gorky Wine Library
Guests can kick back and relax with a drink in the Maxim Gorky Wine Library

There are three accommodation options on board.  The cheapest option is the standard cabin, which includes two single or one double bed, elegant natural decor, a fridge, radio, TV, and hairdryer as well as two large windows for watching the scenery.  Passengers may also book a deluxe cabin with a bigger bed and more space or a suite with a separate bedroom and sitting room.

The Yenisei River

Warner offers a history and overview of the area.  “The Yenisei is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean and the fifth-longest river in the world, with 1.5 times the flow of the Mississippi.  Rising in Mongolia, it follows a northerly course to the icy waters of the Kara Sea.

Nomadic tribes have lived along the banks of the Yenisei river since ancient times, before being assimilated politically into Russia during the 17th through 19th centuries, after Russians first arrived in the upper Yenisei in 1605.”

Vodohod saw something unique and exciting in the rich history and landscape of the river and is currently the only touring company that offers an expedition dedicated to the Yenisei and it’s surrounding areas.

Reindeer in the Native Siberian North Village
Reindeer in the Native Siberian North Village

This new expedition is only a small step in Vodohod’s long term goal of really opening up Russia for tourists.  “Currently 99.9% of people who visit Russia travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg, so the move to offer a dedicated passenger ship that cruises the Yenisei river is part of that long term vision,” says Warner.

Trip Highlights 

When I asked Warner for some trip highlights he had trouble picking just a few, “How many pages does your publication have,” he joked while trying to settle on just one answer.

He finally settled though, telling me that, “One of the main highlights is the undiscovered and diverse wilderness of the region.  From the UNESCO world heritage site Plateau Putorana to the Igarka above the Northern circle with its endless midnight sun, to the Stolby Nature reserve, the natural majesty of the Siberian region is truly unforgettable.”

Warner’s colleague, Vodohod Director-General Rishat Bagautdino echoes this sentiment when reflecting on the trip, “The trip turned out to be very diverse, extraordinary, full of contrasts, unexpected finds, and impressions.  What we saw cannot be described in a few words.  The vast expanse of the Taiga, the power of the river, amazing people, various ethnic groups, Old Believers, Siberian Cossacks, ancient rites, national cuisine, fishing, communication with nature and, of course, great history with all it’s bright and tragic moments. ”

Book your spot on a Yenisei Russian River Cruise here.

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