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  • Lena Pillars, Siberia, Russia
    Lena Pillars, Siberia, Russia

This great Siberian river flows into the Arctic from its source in the Baikal Mountains at a height of 1640 metres (5381ft). From here, the Lena flows northeast and is joined along its route by several other rivers including the Kirenga, Vitim, Olyokma, Aldan and Vilyuy. It is the eleventh longest river in the world (4472km, 2779 miles) and its delta covers a vast 30,000 sq km (11,583 sq miles). It empties into the Laptev Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, five degrees north of the Arctic Circle. In its upper section, it loses altitude rapidly and is navigable only in parts by rafts but this is a wild and empty part of a vast and pristine region.

The central part of the Lena has treacherous sections, a route that twists its way through steep cliffs and suddenly opens into flood plains. It is the final section that is mostly used for cruising where, in summer, travellers can experience the White Nights when the sun never sets and see natural wonders such as the Lena Pillars – towering rock pillars 200 metres high – and the ice floes of the Arctic. There are manmade wonders, too, such as the petroglyphs in Sinsk. Perhaps the cause of most wonder should be the people who eke out an existence in fishing and farming reindeer. Generally, though, the Lena offers an endless stream of untouched nature. The Delta alone is awe-inspring. A frozen tundra for seven months of the year, in summer it becomes a lush wetland and a haven for wildlife, both in the water and on its more than 1500 islands –where mammoth tusks have been found.