Dudinka-Norilsk road

A frozen road from Dudinka to Norilsk above the Arctic Circle

Located above the Arctic Circle, the Dudinka-Norilsk Road is one of the most extreme roads on Earth. Dark, usually covered in chemical smog, closed to foreigners and cold, this highway links the capital of Taimyr, Dudinka, with the airport and big mining town Norilsk, in Russia.

The paved road is 88.3 km long running through the tundra, a kind of subarctic desert covered with low-growing scrub. It links the port of Dudinka, on the Yenisei River and the industrial city of Norilsk, one of the ten most polluted cities in the world due to the intense mining (palladium, nickel, copper and other metals). A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions, with very long, severely cold winters and very short, mild summers. It is covered with snow for about 250–270 days a year and with snow storms for about 110–130 days. Snowstorms and other severe winter conditions are a challenge for keeping the road open.

Drive with your headlights on at all times as it is easier for oncoming vehicles to see you because the area is pitched into perpetual darkness for three months of the year. The winter temperatures remain under 30 degrees below zero, and the air is, literally, the dirtiest on the globe.The uneven highway jounces up and down, the inevitable consequence of trying to put asphalt on permafrost. The experience of using this road is very impressive. It runs along the gas pipeline ending at Norilsk, the northernmost city on Earth. Once a slave labor camp, the city now prospers as a source of palladium. The life expectancy in Norilsk is one of the lowest in Russia and its cancer rates are one of the highest. The Russian Security Service requires a special permission to enter Norilsk and Dudinka, all foreigners must apply in advance, better in 40 days before arrival. Both are two of 46 Russian cities that remain officially 'closed' or restricted outsiders, Russians as well as foreigners. Norilsk is visited by about 200 foreigners a year.
Pic: Sergey Kashin


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