The valley of Oymyakon in Yakutia (northeast Russia) is known as the Pole of Cold and with average January temperatures of -50C, it is no wonder the village is the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the world. The coldest ever temperature recorded in Oymyakon was -71.2C. This is the lowest recorded temperature for any permanently inhabited location on Earth and the lowest temperature recorded in the Northern Hemisphere. This area truly experiences the ‘Siberian winter’ as it is known around the world.
The village of Tomtor in the Oymyakon valley is located around 750 metres above sea level and the length of a day varies from 3 hours in winter to 21 hours in summer. Despite its extremely cold temperatures in winters, in June, July and August (summer time) temperatures over 30C are not uncommon. In August, as the weather beings to change, the temperature can easily drop down to -15C.
The only reliable way to get to Oymyakon is a two-day drive from the city of Yakutsk, the regional capital, which has the coldest winter temperatures for any city in the world. Yakutsk has daily direct flight connections from Moscow (6h 30 min).
The Pole of Cold is located not far from Kolyma Highway (also known as the Road of Bones) which was built in the 1930’s by Stalin’s prisoners. The road starts off from Yakutsk and heads off up to Magadan and surmounts three major mountain ranges, which in combination with other climatic factors create the unique climate of the area.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the village was a stopover for reindeer herders who would water their flocks from the thermal springs. Ironically, Oymyakon actually means ‘non-freezing water’, but even alcohol freeze here. Most homes in Oymyakon still burn coal and wood for heat and enjoy few modern conveniences, some homes have outside toilets.
Astoundingly, around 500 Siberian 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. The place is worth visiting! It is something to do at least once in a lifetime. Those people who have been to this place can be called “True subjugators of Earth”.
The Pole of Cold Festival
Every year in March a traditional Russian so-called festival is held in the Pole of Cold, the coldest place on earth. It unites experienced travellers and locals who can be regarded as true explorers of the world. Even Santa Claus, of Lapland, and Russian Ded Moroz , of Veliky Ustug, have visited and founded their residences here. These fabulous heroes meet their colleague Yakutian Chyskhaan (the Lord of Frost) who considered as the Pole of Cold host.
During the festival, visitors witness lively celebrations showcasing the traditional costumes, music and dance of the indigenous Even people as well as reindeer racing, ice fishing, dog sledding and native cuisine.