Adventure to the Pole of Cold: living at -50°C

Trip review to Siberia in winter at extreme cold temperatures

January 4 - 22, 2007

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Suggested travel itinerary
| Travel info and tips
| Travelogue and pictures
| How to dress and take pictures in cold weather?
| Contacts and copyright
| Pagina in Italiano

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Where to go to feel extreme cold?

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The Republic of Yakutia, called also Jakutia or Sakha and located in north-east Russia (Siberia), is an area having the coldest winter of the northen hemisphere, featuring the lowest minimum tempertaures after Antarctica. However, this place is populated by about one million of pepole, living in small villages, as well as bigger cities. How is the life at -50 degrees centigrades? How the landscape changes during a so extreme cold winter? What happens to trees and animals? I've answered these questions during this amazing and unforgettable trip to the Pole of Cold, made during the siberian winter, when the temperature falls frequently well below -40 (both Celsius and Farhenait, as the two scales meet at such low value). The expedition to Yakutia follows a route from Yakutsk to Oymyakon, via Tyoply Kluch, Tomtor, Ust-Nera and other villages, one way by airplane and one way by car (actually, a military vehicle converted for civilian use). The itinerary includes also three nights in St. Petersburg, two nights in Novosibirsk (the Siberia's capital) and three nights in Moscow.


Getting to Yakutsk, in the heart of Siberia, requires a long trip with a few stopovers in Russia, so I take such opportunity to visit also other cities in Russia and Siberia. Before arriving in Yakutia, I visited St. Petersburg for 3 days and then Novosibirsk (the "capital" of Siberia) for one day. On the way back I've instead Moscow for 3 days. This itinerary is advisable for tourists coming from Europe, but from Japan, Oceania or the USA, it may be advisable to travel through other gateways in Russia (like for example Vladivostock), since Yakutia is actually located in eastern Russia. Because of the unreliability of internal flights, mainly dictated by extreme environmental conditions, you shouldn't plan international flights with short connecting time (during my journey, one of the flights was delayed by 24 hour due to freezing fog).


There is no best season to visit Siberia, but the exact choice of travel period depends on your interests and what do you expect from the tour. If you want to experience the effects of extreme temperatures, the best period goes from mid December to the end of January, when the lowest values are recorded. Siberia and Yakutia offer excellent opportunities for summer tours in unspoiled nature dominated by vast taiga forests interrupted only by a few unpaved track (summer temperatures are high and may even exceed 30 degrees Celsius: Siberia is not only ice and snow, but it has seasons with different features just like all the other regions of the planet).


Detailed information on how to organize a similar trip to Siberia in order to experience extreme cold are available HERE where you will also find useful information about photography at low temperatures and information about The North Face's Himalayan Suit. My sincere Thank You goes to TourService Centre Co., Ltd located in Yakutsk, for the excellent and top-quality services provided throughout this very special trip. If you wish to book a tour to Yakutia, please visit their website at

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St. Petersburg Trip to St. Petersburg <<-- GO
As my flights to Yakutsk require an overnight in St. Petersburg when coming from Europe, I take this opportinuity to extend my stay in St. Petersburg for additional two full days, visiting the Arctic and Antarctic museum, the famous Hermitage palace-museum, the Church of Our Savior and the Krassin icebreaker ship (she has saved the members of Umberto Nobile's expeditions to the North Pole).
Novosibirsk Trip to Novosibirsk, the Siberia's capital <<-- GO
On the way to Yakutsk, I stay also two nights in Novosibirsk, the third biggest city in Russia and its geographical center, as well as the "capital" of Siberia. City tour of Novosibirsk, hiking in the downtown under a temperature varying from -10 to -18 degrees centigrades, visiting the Opera theatre (known to be the world's biggest at the time of this review), the Transiberian railway station and a park where ice sculptors were at work.
Yakutsk (or Jakutsk) Tour to Yakutsk (or Jakutsk) in Yakutia (Sakha) <<-- GO
Day tour to Yakutsk in the heart of the winter, the capital of Yakutia (Sakha or Jakutia) autonomous region where about 240000 people live at the time of this review. The temperature in Yakutsk was often around -40 degrees (both Celsius and Farnheit because the two units of measure meet at such cold). Hikes in Yakutsk meeting people in their everyday life, visit to the interesting museum. Excursions to the dock onto frozen Lena river and to the Permafrost institute.
Yakutia (or Jakutia / Sakha / Sakha) Travel from Yakutsk to Tomtor via Ust-nera through Yakutia <<-- GO
The real expedition through Siberia's winter starts in Ust-nera, where I get after a two hours flight from Yakutsk aboard an Antonov turboprop aircraft. Ust-Nera is a town home to about 8000 people at time of this review, where I visit the local museum and have some sightseeing in the cold. From Ust-Nera, the tour continues to Tomtor by car, crossing valleys, mountains and villages having the lowest winter temperatures of the northen hemisphere.
Tomtor Day tour Tomtor in the extreme cold <<-- GO
Tour to Tomtor, a small town within the "Pole of the Cold", as area so called because during winter there are the world's coldest temperatures for inhabited places and where the January average is well around -50 degrees Celsius. The excursion in Tomtor includes a visit the abandoned gold mine where nice ice sculptures are located and then to an hot spring where most water never freezes (but just freezes instantly above the trees all around after the evaporation).
Oymyakon Trip Oymyakon, the world's coldest inhabitated place <<-- GO
Oymyakon is a town hosting many charming small houses, where about 1200 people live. This small village is known to be the world's coldest town (and also the northen hemisphere's coldest place) as the extreme temperature of -71,2°C was recorded. The excursion in Oymyakon includes an hike on a frozen river with a fisherman to try ice fishing, therefore spending a few hours out in the wild at -52° degrees Celsius. A visit to a nearby siberian pony farm is included.
Winter in Siberia Overland trip in Yakutia from Oymyakon to Yakutsk via Tyoply Klyuch <<-- GO
The total distance from Oymyakon to Yakutsk is about 1000km, requiring two full days by car and an overnight halfway in the small town of Tyoply Kluch. The landscape is dominated by wonderful mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers, taiga, where everything is white and frozen "up to the bones". Everything is immense and isolated, only very few cars can be found on such long distance. A visit to a meteo station is also included.
Moscow tour Travel to Moscow and city tour of Moscow <<-- GO
My return flight from Yakutsk to Europe requires at least one night in Moscow so, once again, I take this opportunity to stay longer and visit Moscow under an intense snowfall. The sightseeing in Moscow includes the famous Red Square, the St. Basil cathedral, the Kremlin complex and the church of Christ the Savior. I move mainly using the very efficient underground that features also very beautiful train stations.
Winter equipment Siberia trip info, equipment for cold weather, photography at low temperatures <<-- GO
Such adventurous trip requires some care about planning, especially for choosing the right equipment for protection from cold weather and in preparation to take pictures in such extreme environment. In this section there are useful information about the equipment used, a short description of the Himalayan Suit by The North Face and how my digital camera Panasonic DMC-FZ20 has performed in the cold. A short trip dossier is also included.

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