Yakutia: The Pole of Cold Festival

A real place, where the cold brings people closer to each other, both literally and figuratively. You’ll be astonished not only by the incredible fortitude of the people who survive here, but by their extraordinary warmth and hospitality.
The “Pole of Cold” is a place where the coldest temperatures on Earth have ever been recorded. In the northern hemisphere, the honour goes to a remote Siberian township known as Oymyakon, widely regarded as the coldest permanently inhabited place on the planet. Our Oymyakon tour is not just about experiencing one of the most unique cultural festivals on Earth. It’s about immersing yourself in a completely different reality, a place where people rely on time-tested traditions to live in a place that challenges the very limits of human endurance.

This is the harsh, frozen Siberia of your imagination. A real place, where the cold brings people closer to each other, both literally and figuratively. During the Pole of Cold festival, you’ll be astonished not only by the incredible fortitude of the people who survive here but also by their extraordinary warmth and hospitality. On this tour, you’ll travel by road from the Yakutian capital, Yakutsk, to Oymyakon, 970km to the east. In Tomtor, a small village in the Oymyakon valley, Russian scientist Sergey Obrychev recorded a bone-chilling, record-breaking temperature of −71.2 ° back in 1924. Around here, the average low temperature for January is −50°C. Our Pole of Cold tour takes place during March when the average low is a comparatively comfortable −40°C!

Astoundingly, around 500 people make their homes in this seemingly uninhabitable environment, mainly engaged in traditional occupations such as reindeer herding, hunting, and fishing. In the last few years, another small, specialised industry has emerged here – tourism. Tourism in Oymyakon is reserved for the hardiest of travellers, hoping to get a taste of daily life in the most extreme of climates. The Pole of Cold International Tourism Festival has taken place in Tomtor village annually since 2001. During the festival, you’ll witness lively celebrations showcasing the traditional costumes, music, and dance of the indigenous Evens people as well as reindeer racing, ice fishing, dog sledding and native cuisine.

Arrival

Departure

Accomodation

Yakutsk

Yakutsk

Mixed (hotels, guest houses)

Duration

Action rating

Group size

Type of tour

8 days / 7 nights

     

6-12 people

Scheduled

Itinerary View map

Day 1 :Welcome to Yakutsk

Welcome to Yakutia, Siberia’s arctic wonderland. Our group meet at the airport and transfer to a hotel in downtown of Yakutsk.

In the afternoon, we head out on a tour of city starting with a visit to the Old City district.

Next we drive to Chochur Muran, a fascinating cultural ethnographic complex and reproduction of the original Yakutsk fort built by Cossacks
in 1632.

After lunch, we spend a few hours with the famous Yakut Laika dogs. Enjoy dog sledding experience! Next, we wander through the extraordinary underground gallery, The Kingdom of the Permafrost.

Relish a cool drink from the ice bar and admire the gallery’s stunning ice sculptures, which are stored year round in natural permafrost.

After we will be transferred to Ytyk-Khaya Tourist Center, which is famous for its traditions, and hospitality. It is an introduction to a world of ancient rites such as fire taming, sun welcoming, purification, and shaman fortune telling.

Day 2:Journey to Khandyga village

Our journey by road to the northern Pole of Cold begins!

Today we’ll travel for 8-9 hours to the small settlement of Khandyga, 432km east of Yakutsk.

Our route passes through four districts: Megino-Kangalassky, Churapcha, Tattinsky and Tomponsky.

On the way, our bus will navigate two ice crossings over the Lena and Aldan rivers. En route, we stop to visit the Cherkehsky Musuem complex.

This open air museum was opened as a memorial to the exiles banished to Gulag camps in remotest Yakutia. Built on the banks of the peaceful Tatta River, it contains several fascinating reproductions of the houses and yurts of Russia’s political prisoners.

We arrive in Khandyga by late evening for a traditional meal and homestay accommodation.

Day 3:Road to Oymyakon

We continue onwards to Oymyakon, 540km (about 12 to 14 hours) further east.

This historic route passes through the spectacular Verkhoyansk mountain ranges on the iconic Kolyma Highway, Russia’s infamous “Road of Bones”.

Built under the rule of Joseph Stalin, the Kolyma Highway was notorious - back-breakingly carved out of the sides of mountains by over 800,000 slave labourers – political prisoners and captives from the German-occupied territories.

Scores of prisoners died from cold and hunger, and their bones were buried just below the surface and rolled into the road, giving the highway its haunting nickname.

We arrive at Oymyakon at night in time for dinner and a well earned night’s rest.

Day 4:Pole of Cold Festival

Our time in the coldest inhabited place on earth begins with a morning tour of the township.

We visit the official Pole of Cold monument. You’ll be given an official certificate from the local government commemorating your visit!

We’ll also drop into the Ice Residence of Chyskhaan, the mythical Lord of Frost.
Set underground beneath the permafrost, this icy gallery contains unique exhibits on the local history and wildlife, the throne room of Chyskhaan, numerous icy tunnels to explore and an ice bar where you’ll taste Yakutia dishes and local vodkas.

Our next stop is the Literary Museum which reveals the harsh realities of life in the Gulag prison camps.

In the afternoon, we’re absorbed into the colourful celebrations of the Pole of Cold Festival.

Today’s events include folklore performances, an ‘extreme tourism’ photo exhibition and the annual Miss «Pole of Cold» beauty contest, featuring some mightily inappropriate outfits! Our evening is spent at a homestay in the village.

Day 5:The reindeer herders

Today, we visit Yuchyugey village, 50km from Tomtor, in time for the annual reindeer herders celebration.

This fascinating show is based on the ancient customs of the indigenous Evens people.

Reindeer sleds are elaborately decorated in traditional ornaments, ready to take guests for a ride through the Taiga.

The main event is the reindeer races, where herders demonstrate the strength and agility of their animals.

The reindeer has a vital place in Yakutian culture, providing transport, meat, milk and the fur clothing essential for survival in these freezing conditions.

We spend the night in Yuchyugey village, in the cosy, wood fire warmed home of a reindeer herding family.

Day 6-7:Journey back to Yakutsk

Our return journey to Yakutsk takes place over the next two day

Day 8:Farewell hugs

Our extraordinary adventure to the Pole of Cold has comes to an end.

In the morning, we transfer from our hotel to Yakutsk airport, ready for the journey home.

Inclusions

Accommodation

3* hotel in Yakutsk

Homestay accommodation in the Oymyakon region -  extremely remote region, so accommodation is limited to small family-run guesthouses.

Meals

Meals as specified in the detailed itinerary.

Transportation

Group arrival and departure airport transfers

All transportation on tour, according to the itinerary (4WD cars)

Guides

Local English speaking tour leader, experienced drivers

Activities and sights

All activities and sights indicated in the itinerary

Other

Russian visa support documents

*Russian visa can be arranged by 56th Parallel for an additional cost (for Australian citizens only). Apply for comprehensive visa service here.

Not included

Flights, travel insurance, visa, optional excursions, individual transfers, tips

If you have any urgent questions or enquiries, please give us a call +61 2 9388 9816