тext: ANNA IVANOVA
Winter is the best time to truly understand and enjoy the beauty of yakutia. truly exciting adventures aWait travellers: ice fishing, hunting, dog and reindeer sledding, extreme sports, and natural Wonders.
Regardless of where you choose to stay — in the capital of the republic, in its coldest place (the Pole of Cold), or in the wild engaging in extreme and relaxing activities — the experiences will be unforgettable.
The Kingdom of Snow and Ice
Oymyakon is the coldest inhabited settlement on Earth and a must-see for anyone who is exploring wintertime-Yakutia. The unofficial temperature record in the settlement was recorded in 1938: – 77.8 °C.
In the Yakut language, “oymyakon” means “non-freezing water”. It’s nothing less than a miracle that there are ice-free rivers, streams, and lakes at the world’s coldest point, right on the edge of the permafrost. The brave souls who dare to swim in those streams in winter talk about it with deserved pride.
OYMYAKON IS THE COLDEST SETTLEMENT IN
THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE, AND A MUST-SEE
FOR THOSE WISHING TO DISCOVER THE TRUE
Oymyakon is about a thousand kilometres away from Yakutsk. From the airport, tourists are taken by off-road vehicles along the Kolyma road either to Oymyakon itself, or to Tomtor, a village in the very centre of the Oymyakon Plateau, one of the harshest places on Earth. One can also get from Yakutsk to Tomtor by plane by taking the Yakutsk — Ust-Nera flight and onwards by car.
A view of the majestic mountain glaciers and the legendary ice-free Labynkyr Lake will open up before your eyes. The lake has long been subject to searches for a mysterious underwater creature called the Labynkyr Devil — known as “Nessie’s Yakut cousin” and a character in the “Russian Fishing 2” computer game.
Chyskhaan, the Guardian of the Cold
For twenty years now, Oymyakon has hosted the international Pole of Cold festival: a folk event where authentic Yakut and Evenk cultures intertwine.
The festival can teach you a lot about the everyday life, history and culture of local residents: their national costumes, traditions, sports, cuisine, music, dances, and legends. Another must visit attraction is the ice residence of Chyskhaan, legendary “Guardian of the Cold”. The palace was created inside the sacred Ebe Haya mountain, where an underground ice gallery and luxurious corridors lead you to the throne hall of the Lord of the North.
During the festival there’s traditionally a fair when one can purchase pieces of local folk crafts. But the most anticipated event of the program is the rally to the Pole of Cold — an extreme rally along the Yakutsk — Tomtor route, passing stunning views of the mountains and northern nature. Also popular with the audience is the “Miss Pole of Cold” contest which attracts the most beautiful Yakutian girls. In the meantime, the strongest and most dexterous of men compete for the top spot in the “Chyskhaan Games” sporting event.
And in addition to all that, here you can also enjoy reindeer sleigh rides, national cuisine tasting master classes (“Taste of the North”) and quiet nights in an authentic Evenk chum (raw-hide tent). Extreme sports fans can enjoy ski tours and climbing the Muus-Khaya (2,959 m), Aphrodite (2,054 m) and Yurbe (2,111 m) mountains of the Pole of Cold.
Winter Adventures Capital
If you’re limited in time, Yakutsk alone can make for a wonderful trip — there are lots of interesting places to visit and things to do here. The Permafrost Museum is definitely in the top ten. It was established in the underground geocryological laboratory of the Permafrost Institute (also the museum’s main exhibit). The Daily Telegraph included the laboratory in its list of Russia’s 20 most interesting attractions.
Another of Yakutsk’s gems is the Mammoth Museum. It exhibits several animal mummies found in Yakutia, some of which are over 12 thousand years old. You can also get a souvenir made from animal bones or tusks at a kiosk anywhere in the city.
Another must-visit is the famous Krestyansky (“peasant”) fish market (in Yakutia they freeze only freshly caught fish). Those market people selling fish “bouquets” on foggy, frosty days are quite colourful characters. Restaurants too will offer you frozen fish, including the delicious stroganina (sliced fish), along with other culinary delights from local chefs: salamat (custard made of flour and butter), foal meat, and venison (much loved by the locals and guests alike), northern fish dishes, khaan blood sausage, and a fantastically delicious kerchekh dessert (whipped cream with berries).
Traditional Yakut cuisine even has its own festival, “Taste of Yakutia”, held in the capital annually in early December. It coincides with another festival (with a very telling name), “Winter begins in Yakutia”. Indeed, where else can the coldest season of the year begin? Every year during the festival, Father Frost (who visits from his hometown, Veliky Ustyug) and Chyskhaan, Lord of the Cold, meet in Yakutsk and light the country’s first New Year tree.
YAKUTIA HAS PLENTY OF TOURIST CENTRES WHERE GUESTS CAN ENJOY SKIING, SNOWBOARDING AND TUBING, DOG SLEDDING, AND FISHING EVERY TYPE OF WINTER ENTERTAINMENT.
One of Yakutia’s most important tourist attractions and a true natural wonder, the Lena Pillars are located not far from Yakutsk. These majestic cliffs, stretching for miles along the banks of the Lena River, are over 400,000 years old. The sight is wonderful regardless of the season, but only in winter can you get to the pillars by ice, driving a car or snowmobile along one of the world’s most powerful rivers.
Hunting, Fishing, and a Snow Selfie
Yakutia has plenty of tourist centres where guests can enjoy skiing, snowboarding and tubing, dog sledding and fishing — every type of winter entertainment imaginable. The sledge dogs used here are the famous Yakut huskies. Since ancient times, this local breed has helped people to transport goods and has been used for hunting. Many believe they even drive evil spirits away from homes. Brown- or blue-eyed, with a luxurious fur coat, these dogs are very friendly and not at all aggressive.
Always remember that everything in Yakutia has its ritual, and both hunting and fishing are sacred acts wrapped in tradition. Fishing and hunting tours are one of the most popular pastimes in the republic — in winter that means ice fishing for muncha or kuyuur, and hunting for what’s considered the best trophies: wild reindeer, wolf, fox, Arctic fox, wolverine, lynx, and sable.
No one coming to Yakutia in winter ever leaves without taking the famous snow selfie with “winter fireworks”, the ones you make by throwing hot water up into the freezing air. Water instantly freezes in the extreme cold, creating a cloud of icy fireworks. And remember, photos are best taken at sunset. Also, don’t forget to try “snow make-up”. To get those thick snowy eyelashes, cover your mouth with your hand or scarf and breathe fast — after only a couple of minutes you won’t recognize yourself.
Enjoy and explore wintertime-Yakutia, embrace its fresh and vivid flavours and colours! TLR
PHOTO: DRIVE2.RU / NLO-MIR.RU / INYAKUTIA.RU /
SHTISH.LIVEJOURNAL.COM / TRIPPLANET.RU / AYAR VARLAMOV