Although famous as the coldest inhabited place in the world with temperatures known to have hit the -80s Centigrade, Russia’s largest province has much more to offer travelers than just a freezing climate. Mammoth graveyards, mammoth tusk hunters, polar bears, nomadic reindeer herders, nomadic horse herders, professional wolf hunters, well preserved gulag concentration camps, dozens of unexplored mountain ranges, vast, inexplicable sacred stone pillars hundreds of feet high and protruding from otherwise rock-free hill tops – this is just some of what the province has to offer.
Yakutia is the same size as India but has a population of only 900,000. This, combined with the fact that the Lonely Planet Russia guide dedicates only one page to this vast territory, gives one an idea of just how far off the beaten track it is.
Yakut has not only survived as the first language of hundreds of thousands of people in this unusual province – it is also the only Siberian language which spread from the indigenous to the Russians. While in other areas of Siberia Russian became the lingua franca, here Yakut did. To this day there are both Yakuts and Russians living here who speak little to no Russian, Yakut being their first and only language.
The province has a wealth of unusual professions unique to it – wolf hunters who are hired to spend months out in the forests hunting down wolves which are menacing local nomads‘ or villagers’ herds; mammoth tusk hunters who every year cross the sea to the New Siberian Islands in the Arctic Ocean to root through the graveyards of mammoths which died out there only 3000 years ago; nomadic horse herders who roam the taiga forest with their unique, long-haired Yakut horses, probably the world’s only breed capable of surviving such temperatures.
We offer eight itineraries in Yakutia:
This trip includes visits to indigenous horse herders, woolly mammoth graveyards with guaranteed finds of mammoth remains, trekking to the sacred kisilyakh rock pillars, visiting one of Arctic Siberia’s largest sinkholes, an extremely well preserved gulag concentration camp and more
2. Nomadic Dolgan reindeer herders. A trip hundreds of kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle to the northernmost part of Yakutia. Guests will live with a family of nomadic Dolgan reindeer herders at their encampment in the tundra.
3. Horse and Reindeer herders.
Trip to live with indigenous Yakut horse herders and Evenki reindeer herders.
Epic overland journey in a Russian vakhtovka truck, following a 2000km ice road through some of Siberia’s remotest territory.
Cross 60km of open sea on snowmobiles with mammoth tusk hunters from Yakutia’s Arctic coast to reach the rich mammoth graveyards of the New Siberian Islands.
2200km overland trip from Yakutsk to Magadan on a dirt track built by gulag prisoners. Visits to well preserved gulag concentration camps, nomadic reindeer herders, horse herders, treks to sacred kisilyakh standing stones, abandoned towns, good chance of spotting bears and more.
7. Dog sledding on the River Lena
Dog sledding down Russia’s largest river, with visits to indigenous horse herders, the spectacular Lena Pillars UNESCO site, quaint log-cabin villages, ancient rock paintings, sacred shamanic sites and more.
8. Polar bears, walrus, muskox, 1 million reindeer and 1 million birds
This tour takes place mostly on the Taymyr Peninsula, but also includes a couple of days on the Arctic Ocean island of Preobrazheniya (Transfiguration) and Begichev which belong to Anabar District, the northernmost part of Yakutia. Guests will have the opportunity to see polar bears, 2 large walrus rookeries, parts of the 1-million head Taymyr reindeer herd migrating across the Khatanga River, the 1-million nesting birds on Preobrazheniya Island’s cliffs, muskox, seals, white Beluga whales, lemmings, Arctic fox and indigenous Dolgan people who live either as nomadic reindeer herders or fishermen, wild reindeer hunters and mammoth tusk hunters.