Virgin Komi Forests
The Virgin Komi Forests comprise a vast virgin boreal forest ecosystem, bordering the alpine tundra of the Ural mountains.
The designated area consists of Pechoro Ilychsky Nature Reserve, Yugyd-Va National Park and a buffer zone. This serial nomination covers dozens of protected areas, totalling 3.28 million ha.
Dominant tree species include Siberian spruce, Siberian fir and Siberian larch. Brown bear, moose, wolf, otter, beaver, sable, wolverine and lynx are mammals that can be encountered here.
The area is located in the Komi Republic, one of the subjects of the Russian Federation. It lies to the west of the Ural mountains, in the north-east of the East European Plain.
Map of Virgin Komi ForestsLoad map
The virgin forests of Komi Republic are one of the more remote WHS of Russia. When I thought about visiting them, I was mentally preparing myself for something akin to a trip to see the Putorana Plateau which involves a week-long fishing trip out in the nature with all of your things with you and no cell signal.
Fortunately, Ivan came with a solution that turned out to be I guess the craziest WHS trip we took so far. And we did it over the weekend! Night flight from Moscow to Perm. Dmitrij, the owner of a travel agency we booked the trip with took us to his hotel where we waited until about five in the morning. When the whole group of about 14 people assembled, we took a five hour-long marshrutka trip to Nirob, the last inhabited town on the border of the National park, still in Perm oblast and a location of a well-guarded prison. The village itself has a church, a museum and a place where Mikhail Romanov was imprisoned.
From Nirob it was 1.5 hour helicopter ride to the Manpupuner mountain with its famous rock formations - parts of the former hilltop that remained after erosion. They're 30 - 40 metres high and a very impressive site, one of seven wonders of Russia. It's a breathtaking sight and a very unique experience. The stone giants are out of this world with extra bonus of our group being the only one there at that time. The only other way to reach the stone formations is via three-day trek and that's one way. We stayed for two hours and then flew and rode back to Perm.
Presently, the helicopter flights from Perm have been renewed after being cancelled for some time as Komi Republic did not like the fact other subject of Russian Federation is making profits from their natural treasure and the Nordic Ural tour agency is making weekend trips from Perm again. They should speak English, but if you need help contacting them, let me know!
This is the most remote and the least visited (not counting fresh entries) WHS on European continent and going there is definitely an adventure. But at least minimal visit is doable without too much hassle . You may avoid two day travel by train from Moscow flying to one of the following three locations - Syktyvkar (quite frequently), Vorkuta (the closest to the park, but planes, as of 2016, are only once per week on Wednesday) or Salekhard in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. I chose the latter which was the most adventureous. It is interesting to know that before January 2015 going to Salekhard by foreigners was forbidden unless you had a hard to obtain permit from Russian authorities.
After coming to Salekhard (which is not connected with 'mainland' Russia by road or train) I had to take a ferry on Ob river to Labytnangi, small town which has its own train station and connection with Moscow. Then I followed the advice of Jarek Pokrzywnicki (another WHS fan and a member of this site) and took two trains to small station Kozhym. The tickets may be easily booked online.
The station is literally in the middle of nowhere but has one advantage - lays on the border of the Yugyd-Va National Park (the biggest national park in Europe), being the core WHS zone.
Theoretically going to the park requires, as still too many things in Russia, a special but free of charge permit issued by the park authorities. I did not expect to meet anyone during my short visit so I skipped applying for a permit.
From Kozhym you have to walk around 3km on the rail track, cross the river Kozhym and carefully look for a small passage to the track on the left (it is near small shed named 1952km, meaning that this is in this distance to Moscow). The views are not particularly stunning, it is small forest, some water and literally THOUSANDS of mosquitoes. Forget the repellent, see what locals do and wear anti-mosquito net on your head. You pass by the billboard with the park name and UNESCO plaque, which is used by the visitors as a butt for armed visitors.
If you want to visit the park and see its bests, I suggest arranging one of many activities offered by its authorities. Most of them start in Inta, being the park HQ.
Visit in June, 2008. Area consist of Yugyd Va National Park, Pechorsko-Ilychski Reserve and buffer zones (including Yaksha Forest). Personally I was visiting only parts of Yugyd Va NP. One of the most difficult to reach places in Russia. There are no roads, no airports nearby. The only possibility is to get to Inta by train (2 days from Moscow) and from Inta either by organised trip. It is quite expensive as they organise foreign groups only and use lorry cars for transportation - some 80 km to Yugyd Va Park borders) or like me by train to Kozhim-Rudnik station (direction back to Moscow because the fast train from Moscow doesn't stop there) and than by foot. For individual trip you must have all food and accommodation (tent) on your own. Also (strongly, believe me) recommended nets agains small flies and mosquitos and local maps (there are no maps in Inta - use internet databases). Yugyd Va NP is the biggest national park in Europe with a big diversity of nature landscapes (meadows, bogs, forests, lakes, rivers and mountains)
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