Lonely Planet Writer

Instagram's latest hotspot is...a waste dump in Siberia

Instagram’s latest influencer hotspot isn’t a remote Caribbean island boasting crystal-clear cerulean seas, though you’d be forgiven for mistaking the two. 

Novosibirsk energy plant's ash dump site
A chemical waste dump in Siberia is drawing Instagrammers galore. Image by ROSTISLAV NETISOV/AFP/Getty Images

It has all the makings of an idyllic oceanfront paradise, but the cheekily nicknamed “Maldives of Novosibirsk” is actually a chemical waste dump in Siberia – and people are flocking there in droves. 

A travel shoot on the shores of a man-made chemical dump.
The coal-ash dump takes its vibrant turquoise shade from deposits of calcium salts and metal oxides. Image by ROSTISLAV NETISOV/AFP/Getty Images

Even though, as the New York Times reports, “that irresistible blue hue is not the color of pristine waters reflecting off the sky, but rather the deposits of calcium salts and metal oxides,” visitors to the lake aren’t afraid to show a little skin, from strategically covered nudes to scantily clad sunbathers to bare-legged paddleboarders, not to mention the brave souls who ventured out onto the water in inflatable unicorn floats. One couple even staged a (fully clothed) newlywed photo shoot by the water’s edge. 

Man takes selfie by Siberian chemical waste dump.
The coal-ash dump has gotten so popular that its operator had to warn selfie-hunters not to fall in. Image by ROSTISLAV NETISOV/AFP/Getty Images

Located in southern Russia, just outside of the industrial city of Novosibirsk, the power plant has proved so popular in recent weeks that its operator has had to release a statement warning of its hazards. Stressing that the dump itself has normal levels of radiation and therefore isn’t poisonous, the company nevertheless noted that swimming is prohibited – the water has a high alkaline content because of the coal ash that’s disposed of there, which could cause an allergic reaction, and the bottom of the reservoir is so muddy that it’s almost impossible to get out of it alone. “We strongly ask that while hunting for selfies you don’t fall in the ash dump!” the Times translates from the Russian-language post. 

One user, whose image features a man on a unicorn float leaving a trail of fuchsia, orange, and purple fumes in his wake, ponders the chances of HBO shooting a film on the lake, or Netflix featuring it in a new season of Black Mirror. Maybe even “We are children of #chernobyl?” he wonders with an eye-roll emoji.