Siberia - Tofalaria

Russia, Siberia, Tofalaria – July 2016.

Siberia is full of places that are barely accessible even for locals. Tofalaria is one of them. This beautiful word refers to a small area in the Sayan Mountains west of Irkutsk. The area has three tiny settlements: Alygdzher, Verkhnyaya (Upper) Gutara and Nerkha. It is the only place in Russia inhabited by the Tofa (or the Tofalars), a small indigenous nation with a population of about 700 (seven hundred).

Located about 600 kilometers from Irkutsk, Tofalaria is covered with impassible taiga stretching over 20.000 square kilometers.

You can’t take a train or a bus here, as only special off-road vehicles can make their way across this terrain. Alternatively, a MI-8 helicopter can take you to the villages, but it flies only four times a month when the weather cooperates, and with no more than 20 passengers on board.

It is incredibly difficult to get a ticket, as priority is given to locals.

Text by Anna Gruzdeva