Pole of Cold Festival

Journey to a land where going to extremes is part of everyday life. Experience the annual Pole of Cold Festival in Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on earth!

The “Poles of Cold” are the places where the coldest temperatures on earth have 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. 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! 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. This tour is about much more than 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. You’ll be astonished not only by the incredible fortitude of the people who survive here, but by their extraordinary warmth and

DAY 1: WELCOME TO YAKUTIA

Welcome to Yakutia, Siberia’s arctic wonderland. Our group meet at the airport early in the morning and transfer to The Lena Hotel, a typically classic style Russian hotel in downtown Yakutsk. After a hearty breakfast and rest, we head out in the afternoon on a tour of the city starting with a visit to the ethnographic complex Chochur Muran. We get acquainted with the delightfully friendly Yakutian Laika dog and dog sled on the lake Ytyk Kuel (max 3 rides) We stop for lunch at the Chochur Muran restaurant, a traditional Yakut style wood building with its amazing décor of Siberian beasts of the wild. After lunch we visit the beautiful underground ice cave, the ‘Kingdom of Permafrost’. We then go back to the city with a visit to the Museum of History and Culture to give us a bit of background on the northern people of Siberia. We also take in the Mammoth Museum, which features a fascinating menagerie of Ice Age animal exhibits. In the evening, we enjoy a delicious dinner, tasting the “cuisine of the north” at the lively Muus Khaya restaurant and bar.

DAY 2: JOURNEY TO THE POLE OF COLD

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 OF BONES

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: MEET THE LORD OF FROST

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 Yakutian 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: REINDEER HERDERS CELEBRATION

Today, we visit Yuchyugey village, 50km from Tomtor, in time for the annual reindeer herder’s 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: TRAVEL BACK TO KHANDYGA

Departure to Khandyga (500km), double and triple accommodation in a family style hotel

Meals included: B L D

DAY 7: TRAVEL BACK TO YAKUTSK

Departure to Yakutsk city (430km), transfer to the Lena Hotel, double accommodation, rest

Meals Included: B L D

DAY 8: TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Our extraordinary adventure to the Pole of Cold has come to an end. In the morning, we transfer from our hotel to Yakutsk airport, ready for the journey home.

Meals included: B