YAKUTIA

towering pillars, freezing temperatures, mammoth tusks, socialist urbanism, traditional settlements and the glorious vastness of the soviet tundra 

Yakutsk – Lena – Oymyakon – Verkhoyansk – Tiksi


Tour dates

Regular monthly departures: this tour is offered regularly once a month. Let us know your desired departure month by clicking on the ask-us button below and we will match your preferences with the relevant scheduled group departure. If you are unsure about the month you wish to travel in, then simply tell us a period or a season of the year and we will provide you a range of scheduled group departures: just pick up yours! 

Our scheduled group departures don't suit your plans? If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences.


ITINERARY

The following itinerary refers to our two most popular routes in Yakutia. The itinerary for the first two days (Yakutsk and the Lena Pillars) is the same both in Summer and in Winter; from Day 3 onwards the tour will follow two different itineraries according to the season you choose to travel in. If you are interested in a particularly remote area, unusual activity and/or off-the-beaten-path attraction within Yakutia or if you are just looking for an hit-and-run visit to Yakutsk and its surroundings, we can easily meet your needs with a unique tour individually designed according to your preferences. Thanks to our deep knowledge of the territory and longstanding collaboration with independent local tour operators we are, indeed, able to offer you a wide range of tailored routes and bespoke itineraries across and beyond the white vastnesses of legendary Yakutia. We also regularly cater for biologists, conservationists, ethnologists, historians and documentarists alike interested in conducting field research in the region. Get in touch for more info on our private tours to Yakutia

DAY 1 - Yakutsk

  • Our guide will meet you at Yakutsk International Airport and drive you to our hotel of choice (exact hotel name and address will be communicated well in advance per email); currently the best flight connections to Yakutsk are offered by Yakutia Airlines and S7 Airways: we will gladly assist you in the booking process. 
  • Introductory briefing about the region, the route and the set of rules to observe while travelling in Yakutia.
  • Yakutsk sightseeing: Lenin Avenue, Permafrost Museum, State Drama Theatre, Transfiguration Cathedral, WWII Memorial and plenty of Soviet architecture and socialist monuments. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Yakutsk

Day 2 - Lena Pillars

  • Today we'll enjoy a long day trip to the majestic Lena Pillars, the world-famous rock formations towering over the Lena river just a couple of hours south of Yakutsk
  • In summer the trip will be done by speedboat, whereas in winter you will travel by jeep on the so called "winter road" (that is the frozen surface of the river).
  • The excursion will last between 10 and 12 hours and includes a short ascension hike to the panorama deck and some free exploration time in the park, which you can spend either wandering along one of the many trails crisscrossing the surrounding forest or simply enjoying a Yakutian-style picnic at the camping area. 
  • Along the way to the pillars, if time permits, we will stop in Bulgunnyakhtakh, a traditional Yakutian village with an impossible-to-pronounce toponymic. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Yakutsk

WINTER ROUTE

Day 3 - Khandyga

  • We'll leave Yakutsk early in the morning and embark on an epic journey along the Kolyma Highway, also known as the Road of Bones, because the skeletons of the forced laborers who died during its construction were used in many of its foundations.
  • Right after Yakutsk, we will cross the Lena River. In winter time we'll drive on the frozen surface of the river.
  • We’ll also pass through Nizhny Bestyakh, an important transport hub where two federal roads – the Amur-Yakutsk Highway from the southern town of Neryungri and the Kolyma Highway to Magadan – meet each other.
  • We'll then head east-northeast to semi-abandoned Khandyga, a Soviet-made town that used to be quite busy and prosperous back in the good old days, as the area was intensively mined for coal and gold and its airport served as one of the main hubs for the Alaska-Siberia Air Route during WWII.
  • Besides the routine pauses for food, toilet and random landscape pictures, we'll break the 8-to-10-hour journey to Khandyga in several traditional Yakutian settlements, such as Cherkyokh, where we'll visit the local open-air museum. 
  • Along the road, it’s also possible to see roaming Yakutian horses, native horse breed adapted to dwell in the extreme cold climate, and able to locate and graze on vegetation hidden under the deep snow cover.
  • Dinner and overnight in Khandyga

Day 4 - Oymyakon  

  • We'll drive to the Soviet outpost of Teply Klyuch and then continue onto the village of Kyubyume through the mountain passes of the Verkhoyansk Range.
  • We'll stop en route to visit some truly stunning natural sights such as the Tomporuk Pass and the Zayachya Petlya.
  • After an early dinner in Kyubyume and fuel and photo stop in Tomtor, we'll reach Oyamyakon, the notorious Pole of Cold
  • Overnight in Oymyakon

Day 5 - Oymyakon

  • We'll devote the entire day to Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on Earth.
  • Average winter temperatures here regularly reach –55°C with a record of –67.7°C (−89.9 °F) registered in 1933. 
  • We'll pay a visit to the Soviet-era Pole of Cold Stele and meet the local Chyskhaan, the Yakut "Keeper of the Cold".
  • You'll also enjoy some extreme temperature experiments (such as making snow out of boiling water), participate in a traditional ice-fishing session and meet local families.  
  • Lunch, dinner and overnight in Oymyakon

Day 6 - Teply Klyuch

  • Today we'll slowly head back to Teply Klyuch crossing again the wonderful mountain Taiga around Tomtor.
  • Besides the usual photo and toilets stops, we'll break the long journey twice to visit a traditional Yakut stud farm and the Chyskhaan ice tunnel. 
  • We'll reach Teply Klyuch in the late afternoon and enjoy some well deserved rest and tea time at our hotel.
  • Dinner and overnight in Teply Klyuch

Day 7 - Topolinoye

  • In the morning we'll visit the GULAG History Museum in Teply Klyuch and then head north to the traditional Yakut village of Topolinoye, mostly inhabited by reindeer herders.
  • En route to Topolinoye we'll have the chance to comb the eerie remains of the vast GULAG network of Yakutia.
  • We'll eventually reach Topolinoye in the evening, just in time for a warm and restoring dinner with a local family. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Topolinoye

Day 8 - Emandja

  • We'll start the day early and continue our journey to the Great North heading to the winter-fairytale lake of Emandja, where we'll camp surrounded by a magical atmosphere of eternal silences and endless whites. 
  • Dinner and overnight at the lake

Day 9 - Batagay

  • After some last dreamlike moments at the lake we'll continue our trip to the northern town of Batagay.
  • The road to Batagay we'll lead across end-of-the-world Yakut hamlets, abandoned Soviet towns and lost military outposts
  • In the afternoon we'll eventually reach Batagay, where we'll enjoy the long craved for comfort of a proper hotel. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Batagay

Day 10/11 - Batagay and Verkhnoyansk

  • We'll spend two entire days in the Batagay area, meeting the local inhabitants, taking short walks in the frozen nature and enjoying the reinvigorating influence of a proper Russian banya (sauna).
  • We'll also embark on a day trip further north to the village of Verkhnoyansk, the local contender against Oymyakon for the dubious honour of the coldest inhabited place on Earth and visit the local meteorological station. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Batagay

Day 12 - Yakutsk

  • Morning flight back to Yakutsk.
  • Free afternoon in town for souvenir shopping.
  • Dinner and overnight in Yakutsk

DAY 13 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations  

  • After enjoying a last Yakut-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.  
  • For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Yakutsk International Airport for your flight back home.
  • For those wishing to take the bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the local bus station.
  • End of the tour. 

SUMMER ROUTE

Day 3 - Batagay

  • Morning flight to the northern town of Batagay.
  • Drive to the traditional village of Betenkes on the Adycha River.
  • Boat trip from Betenkes up to the Tuostakh River.
  • Stops en route at the Shaman Tree and the Mammoth Hill.
  • Dinner and overnight in Soviet base camp.  

Day 4/5/6/7 - Kisilyakh Mountains

  • We'll spend four full days driving and hiking around the almost unexplored Kisilyakh Mountains, a pristine region of remarkable natural sights, ancient archeological sites, secretive people and mystic traditions: this will be a mesmerising time you are going to remember for the rest of your life. 
  • Dinners and overnights will be at local traditional guesthouses
  • On the seventh tour day we'll then drive back to Batagay

Day 8 - Batagaika Crater

  • Today we'll visit the Batagaika Crater, a thermokarst depression in the form of a one kilometre-long gash up to 100 metres (328 feet) deep, and growing (more info below). 
  • After a picnic lunch we'll embark on a short hiking and paleontological tour of the crater before eventually driving back to Batagay.
  • Dinner and overnight in Batagay

Day 9 - Yakutsk

  • Morning flight back to Yakutsk.
  • Free afternoon in town for souvenir shopping.
  • Dinner and overnight in Yakutsk

Day 10/11/12 - Tiksi

  • Morning flight to the polar city of Tiksi, where we are going to spend three days. 
  • During the Cold War, Tiksi saw military construction projects at Tiksi North and Tiksi West airfields.
  • Since the dissolution of the Soviet UnionTiksi population has declined markedly and many of its apartment blocks have been abandoned; despite its rapid population decline, it remains the most northerly located large settlement in the world. 
  • Highlights of our time in the area will include deserted Soviet bases and military installations, eerily photogenic concrete blocks amid the tundra, stunning natural sights such as the Stolovaya Mountain and the Tiksi Bay, fishing time with the local along the Soginka River and reinvigorating sauna sessions at our traditional guesthouse. 
  • Dinner and overnight in Tiksi and flight back to Yakutsk on the twelfth tour day. 

DAY 13 - Flight back home or transfer to further destinations  

  • After enjoying a last Yakut-style breakfast together we'll take care of your transfer to the airport/train station of choice.  
  • For those flying out: we will arrange transfer to Yakutsk International Airport for your flight back home.
  • For those wishing to take the bus to reach further destinations: we will arrange transport to the local bus station.
  • End of the tour.

The Batagaika Crater by BBC Earth

Near the Yana river basin, in a vast area of permafrost, there is a dramatic tadpole-shaped hole in the ground: the Batagaika crater. The crater is also known as a "megaslump" and it is the largest of its kind: almost 0.6 miles (1km) long and 282ft (86m) deep. But these figures will soon change, because it is growing quickly. Locals in the area avoid it, saying it is a "doorway to the underworld". But for scientists, the site is of great interest. Looking at the layers exposed by the slump can give indications of how our world once looked – of past climates. At the same time, the acceleration of the growth gives an immediate insight into the impact of climate change on the increasingly fragile permafrost. There are two types of permafrost. One is from glacier ice, left over from the last Ice Age and now buried underground. The other type, the one present around the Batagaika crater, is ice that has formed in the ground itself. Often, this ice is trapped beneath a layer of sediment and has been frozen for at least two years. The Batagaika crater opens up a vast area of previously buried permafrost, some of which first formed many thousands of years ago. The trigger that led to the crater started in the 1960s. Rapid deforestation meant that the ground was no longer shaded by trees in the warmer summer months. This incoming sunlight then slowly warmed the ground. This was made worse by the loss of cold "sweat" from trees as they transpire, which would have kept the ground cool. "This combination of less shading and less vapid transpiration led to warming of the ground surface," says Julian Murton of the University of Sussex in the UK. As the ground surface warmed up, it caused the layer of soil right above the permafrost to warm. This caused the permafrost itself to thaw. Once this process started and the ice was exposed to warmer temperatures, melting escalated. For these reasons, scientists are actively monitoring the crater. One study, published in the journal Quaternary Research in February 2017, found that analysing the layers now exposed could reveal 200,000 years of climatic history. During the last 200,000 years, Earth's climate has alternated repeatedly between relatively warm "interglacial" periods and chilly "glacial" periods in which ice sheets expanded. The Batagaika sediment layers provide a "continuous record of geological history, which is fairly unusual," he says. "That should allow us to interpret the climate and environmental history there." However, for now the dates are not certain. "We are still working on the chronology," says Murton. Next, he needs to gather and analyse more sediments. Ideally, these will be collected using a drill in order to get a "continuous sediment series", which will help give more accurate dates. The permafrost record could then be compared with data from other temperature records, such as ice-cores from ice sheets. "Ultimately, we're trying to see if climate change during the last Ice Age [in Siberia] was characterised by a lot of variability: warming and cooling, warming and cooling as occurred in the North Atlantic region," says Murton. This is important, because the climatic history of a huge part of northern Siberia is little understood. By reconstructing environmental changes that happened in the past, scientists could help forecast similar changes [...].

Source: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170223-in-siberia-there-is-a-huge-crater-and-it-is-getting-bigger by Melissa Hogenboom.


Mirny Extension - Diamond Mine

For those travellers with two extra days to spend in Yakutia we'll organise a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mirny, an otherworldly Soviet town home to the largest and deepest diamond mine on Earth. We'll visit several famous sights and offbeat attractions in town and around it such as Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Kimberlite Museum and the Vyluysky Ring. Of course, the main reason to come here is the mine itself which we'll extensively tour with a local geology-geek guide. The diamond-bearing deposits were discovered in 1955, by Soviet geologists during the large Amakinsky Expedition in Yakut ASSR; the development of the mine started in 1957, in extremely harsh climate conditions. Seven months of winter per year the ground freezes, making it hard to mine. During the brief summer months, the ground turns to slush. Buildings had to be raised on piles, so that they would not sink from the warmth of the building melting the permafrost. Now the whole complex lies half-abandoned as an eerie reminder to the impossible and absurd efforts to put nature under human yoke. 


PRICE

Winter - 3 to 8 participants: 4390 € 

Summer - 4 to 9 participants: 3990 € 

Mirny Extension (year-round): 590


The price includes: double/twin room accommodation (breakfast included; single supplement: 18 euro/night), private transport in the region, entrance fees to the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service.

The price does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, visas if required, entrance fees to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance.

The route of this tour has been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to slightly modify the itinerary according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. Our motto is flexibility.


WHERE THE HECK AM I TRAVELLING TO?  

BELOW YOU CAN SEE THE DIFFERENT TOUR STAGES MARKED ON A MAP OF THE REGION YOU ARE GOING TO EXPLORE WITH US

CLICK HERE FOR SOME NICE PICTURES AND MORE INFO ABOUT THIS DESTINATION

POSSIBLE TOUR COMBINATIONS FOR THIS ITINERARY INCLUDE

Chukotka and/or Kolyma