The Komi Republic

The Manpupuner Weathered Stone Pillars

In the Troitse-Ilychisky reserve between the Ilych and Pechora rivers, in the Troitse-Pechorsky district of the Komi Republic, lies one of the seven wonders of Russia: the weathered stone pillars on Manpupuner plateau. Here nature has created huge geological sculptures of such bizarre shapes that they have become objects of worship for the Mansi people.

'Man pupu ner' in the Mansi language means 'small mountain of idols': the reindeer herders believed that the huge boulders were giant shamans from a hostile tribe, intent on destroying the entire Mansi people, but they became petrified at the sight of the sacred mountain Yalping-ner. There are six petrified giants, the tallest of them is the 'leader' with a raised hand, towering up to a height of over 40 metres.

Site on the map

Geologists believe that these rocks were formed from the effect of winds, water and changes in the temperature, which, over millennia, wore away ancient sandstone mountains.

Over time, the sandstone turned into sericite and quartzite schists. Their stability is surprising: fantastic uneven figures somehow stand on rather narrow bases. This is due to the veins of quartz that hold the rock together.

Mansi believe that one should not climb the plateau and disturb the peace of the idols. This does not stop curious travellers, but many say that near the pillars one experiences an irrational feeling of fear. The strength of the impression does not depend on the season: they look impressive in any weather; in winter, the frozen snow-covered 'giants' look like crystal statues, while in autumn the frequent fogs add a certain mystery to them.

The main problem is inaccessibility: it is difficult to get to this harsh region. There are three ways to get to the plateau. The easiest, but also the most expensive, is by air: a helicopter transfer from the village of Nyrob, to which the organisers will also take you by helicopter from Perm.

A cheaper and longer way requiring travel both by car and on foot starts from the Sverdlovsk Region, from the city of Ivdel, which can be reached by train. From there, you need to go by car to the village of Ushma, then walk towards the ridge by way of the famous Dyatlov pass. From the pass, you need to go north along the ridge for another 120 km. The whole trip will take from 10 to 20 days.

Another way is from the Komi Republic, from Troitsko-Pechorsk through the village of Yaksha, by boat 200 km up the Ilych River, then another 38 km on foot.