Under Stalin the once-nomadic Sami people were brutally suppressed and forced into kolkhozy (collective farms). Today, of Russia’s roughly 1600 Sami, close to 900 now live in the administrative village of Lovozero (Luyavvr), where the excellent Sami History & Culture Museum delves into their troubled history and their way of life, which continues to be threatened. It also celebrates the heroic efforts to keep Sami culture alive, and the revival of the Sami language and of traditional Sami crafts. Here you can both admire and purchase knives in carved reindeer-antler sheaths, bone jewellery and wooden vessels inlaid with bone by Nikolai Anisimov and Vladimir Chuprov, leatherwork and beadwork by Maria Kalmykova and Maria Khvashchenok and other beautiful, delicate creations by local Sami masters. The museum staff have their contact details if you want something made on demand. Traditional costume, hunting tools and photos of ancient stone labyrinths, rock carvings and Sami fighters during WWII also feature prominently in the museum.
A pair of buildings in the city centre resemble oversized chumy (tepee-shaped tents). One of these is the Sami Cultural Centre, which hosts occasional exhibitions.
Fourteen kilometres east of Lovozero is Husky Park Lesnaya Elan, with dog and reindeer sledding in winter and husky encounters in summer. Further west towards Olenegorsk, the main road branches into two – take the Murmansk road for Sami Village 'Sam-Siyt', where you can go reindeer sledding and snowmobiling in winter, learn about Sami traditions and lunch on traditional Sami cuisine year-round. Both can be booked through Kola Travel.
Twenty-or-so kilometres east of Lovozero, and then 8km south, is unpretty Revda, gateway to a spectacular, rugged eight-hour hike over the Lovozyorskiye Tundry Mountains to pristine Lake Seydozero – holy to the Sami – where you can camp in blissful wilderness.
The only place to stay in Lovozero is mediocre Hotel Nadezhda, a converted apartment with room for up to six guests and shared facilties. For groceries, there's a small produkty.
Lovozero is reached on an 80km road that branches off the Murmansk-bound M-18 dual carriageway at the transport hub of Olenegorsk. Olenegorsk is connected to Murmansk by frequent trains and buses. If you're reliant on public transport, buses run from Olenegorsk to Revda (R156, 45 minutes) at 10.30am, 6.05pm (except Sunday) and 8pm, returning at 5.55am (except Sunday), 8.35am, and 5pm. From Revda there are buses to Lovozero (R55, 30 minutes) at 8.15am, 1.20pm, 4.40pm and 7.55pm on weekdays, and 8.30am, 2.20pm and 7.55pm on weekends. Returning to Revda, buses depart at 9.10am, 2.05pm, 5.25pm and 8.40pm on weekdays and at 9.25am, 3.30pm and 8.45pm on weekends. Revda is also the closest place to Lovosero to fill up on petrol.