Exploring Russia’s Vast Wilderness by Train

Siberian Taiga Exploring Russias Vast Wilderness by Train

The East Siberian taiga ecoregion is home to large spans of forests, rivers and tundra. It’s where brown bears, wolves and wild reindeer roam and where moose (Alces alces) and Altai wapiti live.

Bark beetles are decimating hectors of trees, and transportation development promotes informal roads that interfere with Indigenous subsistence activities.


The climate of taiga is typically subarctic, with a large range between summer and winter temperatures. A typical day temperature in summer is 18 degC (64 degF), but -20 degC (4 degF) is a common night time temperature in winter.

Coniferous trees are the dominant plants of taiga, with four main genera represented: spruce (Picea spp), fir (Abies spectabilis), pine (Pinus spp) and larch (Larix oleracea). In northern regions where the climate is most extreme, conifer forests are often mixed with small-leaved deciduous trees like birch and poplar.

In addition to these evergreens, taiga habitat is also dominated by grasses and shrubs such as willow, birch, alder and juniper. This diverse landscape is home to a wide variety of animals including moose (Alces alces), wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), brown bears (Ursus arctos collaris), Eurasian wolf (Canis lupus lynx), Siberian musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), Altai wapiti (Cervus ungus) and hares and squirrels.

These mammals are supported by the taiga’s abundant plant life, but also by water resources such as rivers, lakes and swamps. Many of the rivers and streams that drain the taiga are surrounded by permafrost, which means they have a constant surface layer of ice. These ice-covered waters support a rich diversity of aquatic plants, and are the source of food for spawning trout, brook trout and Arctic char.

Birds are a major feature of the taiga, with over 300 species breeding there. The most numerous are songbirds such as black-throated green warbler and Siberian thrush, but other notable breeders include northern pygmy warbler, rufous-sided towhee, snowy owl, great gray owl, barred owl and snow bunting. The taiga is also home to raptors that can hunt mammal prey, including golden eagle, rough-legged buzzard and Steller’s sea eagle.

The most popular way to explore this wilderness is on a journey by train, and few train trips can compare with the Trans-Siberian Railway. This iconic train journey crosses the full breadth of Russia from St Petersburg on the Baltic Sea to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean, visiting world-famous highlights and revealing traditional cultures along the way.

Train Travel

Embark on a carefully planned train journey and discover authentic towns, awe-inspiring natural wonders and much more. Choose from a wide range of scenic routes including the iconic Transsiberian railway that runs from Moscow to Vladivostok or extend your adventure to Beijing and St Petersburg.

A huge wilderness, the taiga is dominated by coniferous forests and contains many swamps, bogs and fens as well as rivers, lakes and mountain ranges. The region is characterised by low annual precipitation and a highly variable climate. It is home to a diverse array of animals and plants including the elk, reindeer, brown bear and lynx as well as moose, caribou and Siberian tiger. It also supports a great variety of birds including black grouse and common hamsters.

The taiga is an ideal environment for animal inhabitation because of the plentiful shelter and food available. The taiga is also a favorable habitat for the large predators such as the wolf and wolverine. Smaller animals like voles, hares and wood mice find their niche here too.

Despite the vast wilderness of the taiga, it is relatively easy to get around with the help of locals who live in the area and know how to navigate through the forests. The guides and hosts at the taiga huts are all experts at this, and many offer their services to travellers who wish to experience the wilderness of the taiga.

Pavel Fomenko yelped as his four-wheel drive came to a stop on the snowy track. To most eyes, the scene would have seemed innocuous, just another kilometre of bumpy road deep inside the endless Siberian forest. But to Fomenko, who lives in the nearby village of Sheregesh, something incredible was happening. From the corner of his eye, he saw a faint imprint in the snow.

If you want to experience the taiga in winter, a tour by Sibirskie ekspeditsii is a good option. The company offers tours of the Siberian taiga from Novosibirsk, which can be easily reached by plane from all major Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg. The price includes the work of guides and instructors, accommodation in hotels and taiga huts, meals, transport to and from the mountains, snowmobile support and Iridium satellite connection.

Staying Safe

As you make your way through the taiga on the Trans-Siberian railway you’ll encounter a largely pristine wilderness. It’s not the same as the lush rainforests of South America and Africa but it is a beautiful and unique ecosystem. The forests are home to a variety of plants and animals that have evolved in the harsh Siberian climate. The taiga is also home to predators such as brown bears, Eurasian lynx and wolves. These predators prey upon the herbivores that feed on the trees and berries and are an important part of the balance in the forest.

The taiga, or boreal forest, stretches across the northern part of Eurasia from Pacific coastal regions all the way through Siberia to Scandinavia. This extensive biome is characterized by coniferous forests, which are made up of spruce and fir, and deciduous forests that are dominated by birch or poplar. It also contains tundra and permafrost.

While the taiga may seem like a forbidding place to a 10-year old Rasputin, it’s actually full of life. This is because the taiga is an ecosystem that relies on balance. Its keystone species, the Siberian pine (Pinus strobus), provides shelter for wildlife and food for herbivores. If the pine were to disappear, then the taiga would quickly become a wasteland.

The Eastern Siberian taiga is characterized by huge spans of forest that are interrupted only by rivers and mountain ranges. It’s a region of immense biodiversity that’s threatened by commercial logging, climate change and invasive species.

The Eastern Siberian taiga holds some of the highest numbers of brown bears, wolves, moose and wild reindeer in Russia. The forests here are a habitat for the endangered Siberian tiger as well. It’s a land of extremes, from the karstic cliffs that line the Yenisei River to the vast expanses of snowy larch forest in the Verkhoyansk and Kolyma mountain ranges.

Getting There

The taiga is the world’s coldest terrestrial ecosystem. Trees, plants and animals in the taiga are well-adapted to the cold. For example, northern conifers such as spruce and fir can grow in the dark, snowy winter months without losing their needles. The taiga is also home to herbivores like moose (Alces alces), and carnivores such as bears and lynx.

The winter temperatures can be -30 to -40 degC. The taiga is also covered by the polar snowpack, which makes traveling in winter on foot extremely difficult.

Summer is a much better time to visit the taiga as it’s drier and there is less chance of encountering deep snow. It’s a good time for hiking and camping, and wildlife is still visible.

When travelling in the taiga, travellers are likely to see sables, gray wolves and moose in the forests, as well as Siberian brown bears, arctic foxes and wolverines. There are also endemic species such as Amur lemmings and the critically endangered Siberian crane.

Further south in the taiga, you may come across herds of wild reindeer and moose. The taiga is the highest population center for Eurasian brown bears and polar bears, with wolves found in almost every region of Russia. In eastern Siberia, you may also spot Siberian musk deer and the Asian elk or Altai wapiti (Cervus ungavensis).

Outside the forest, travellers can enjoy expansive grasslands filled with herds of yak, camels, goats, sheep and cattle. Mongolian yurts and livestock pen stations are common, and depending on where you’re traveling in Mongolia, the occasional white yurt or herd of yaks and camels will stand alone in vast, hilly grasslands.

The best way to get to the taiga is to book a tour with an operator that arranges your train tickets, hotel accommodation and excursions. A guided tour is a great option for solo travelers and those looking to avoid the stress of planning everything themselves. You’ll also travel in a group of people with the same interests, and there are English-speaking guides on hand to help you overcome any language barriers.

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