Life in Moscow not exciting enough for you? From rafting to ice-diving to flying MiGs over the city, extreme tourism Russian-style offers a number of ways to get your heart racing. Intrepid traveler, let’s just hope you make it home alive.
PHOTO GEORGY IVANOV/ TEXT PHILIP WATT feedback
There are many who would say that a stay in Moscow is extreme tourism enough, what with cops shaking you down for money, bureaucratic mayhem on all fronts, and temperatures in the winter dropping to -20°C. But if you’re interested in delving deeper into what Russia and outlying areas have to offer, let’s explore your options.
So what floats your boat? A trip to the Black Sea, only a day’s train ride away, will ease you into the extreme tourism market. Not-so-scary windsurfing has been a pastime here since Soviet times. Local retailers rent equipment for as low as $5 a day, so this is also the budget-friendly extreme tourism option.
Not extreme enough? Feeling the need for speed? Siberia has world-class river rafting in the Altai and Sayan mountains. Like the ride, the prices are steeper. A 12-day trip on the Sayan Oka river weighs in at $2,750, including meals and lodging, through California-based Raft Siberia.
Need something a little more deep-end? Russia may not be the first locale that springs to mind for diving, but it’s rife with opportunity. One of Russia’s most infamous sports, which may well claim the honour of most extreme sport of all, is ice diving. The White Sea, which freezes over in the winter, is a popular destination for this activity. Divers cut a hole in the ice and, wearing a nothing more than a protective suit, dive down to enjoy the near-freezing water and beautiful sea fauna, as there is perfect visibility in the White Sea. Contact the Underwater World Group at Moscow State University to arrange an ice-diving expedition.
Extreme in every sense would be a trip to the North Pole. Ultra Travel will get you there for a chilling 6,500 euros express single day trip, or 8,500 euros for a three day trip. This price includes a helicopter transfer to the ice camp, accommodation in an arctic tent, artic gear, and medical service if necessary. If this sounds appealing, check out their helpful English-language website at www.ultra-travel.ru.
If you’re like me and prefer to stay warm, things are heating up in Chernobyl as far as tourism is concerned. The Sam travel company offers tours to the site of the 1986 nuclear meltdown, also known as “the worst environmental disaster in history.” Technically, it’s still radioactive but Sam will take you on a tour of collapsed power plant and surrounding ghost towns for $350 a person, with discounts for groups. How extreme is that?
Not high-octane enough? Try the “MiGs over Moscow” package offered by Incredible Adventures, which allows you to fly in fighter jet with one of Russia’s top pilots. \"Unless you have slammed full burner in a MiG-25 out of Zhukovsky Air Base and popped out at 72,000 feet pushing 2.5 Mach, then you’re not worthy,” quotes their website. Worthiness can be yours for $16,500. Or take it even further with the “Edge of Space” package, in which you fly up 24,400 meters to where the sky is black above and blue below. This amazing view of Earth costs merely $15,345. And that’s about as extreme as it gets. Any further than that and you would actually be in space and that’s just silly, isn’t it?