Yakutsk (Russian: Яку́тск, yah-KOOTSK) is the capital city of Yakutia (an ethnic autonomous republic the size of India) and one of the oldest and coldest cities of Siberia.
Yakutsk has gained attention as potentially the coldest city in the world, but is worth a visit more for the great natural beauty of its surrounding countryside, unique cryogenic museums, and just for the spirit of adventure in the most remote lands of the world.
Yakutsk was founded by Pyotr Beketov in 1632. A detachment of cossacks under his command founded the city as the Lenskii fort, on the right bank of the Lena River (the tenth longest river in the world), which grew into (and changed its name to) Yakutsk in 1647.
As one of the most important Russian outposts in eastern Siberia, Yakutsk became the economic and administrative center of the region—a base for probes (and later scientific expeditions) into the Far East and the extreme North.
In 1822, Yakutsk was officially designated a city, and in 1851 became the official administrative capital of the Autonomous Republic of Yakutia. Today Yakutsk is a major administrative, industrial, cultural, and research center—standing out as one of the most dynamic and fast-developing cities in the Russian Far East.
Russian-Asian bank (from the end 19th century). To the left is a tower of the Yakutsk ostrog (palisade tower), the city symbol. Behind is the glass facade of the Komdragmeta building.
Yakutsk is situated at the extreme latitude of 62°N. Its climate is definitively continental, leading to summer highs in the 90s (+38° Celsius), and extreme winter lows in the negative 80s (-64° Celsius)—that's a range of over 100° Celsius! The average temperature in January is around -45°(-42°C); in July—+66° (19°C). The ideal time to visit (unless you're traveling here purposely to experience the extreme cold) is from March to July. The sunny spring months will allow you to enjoy winter sports like skiing, ice-skating, dog sledding, ice sculptures, etc., under temperatures permitting outdoor human life. The average March temperatures, of course, are still cold at an average of -8.5° (-22.5°C). The summer months of June-July are great for the opportunities to see the Northern wilderness in its full glory, to enjoy the White Nights when the sun never sets, to set off on adventures along the Yakut rivers, and to experience the Yakut national holiday "Ysyakh."
There are two airports. The international airport, "Tuimaada," gets regular direct flights from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, and a few other major cities in Russia. It also gets a direct flight by Yakutia Airlines once a week -on Thursday- from Harbin, China. The domestic airport, "Magan," mostly serves flights within Yakutia, as well as private flights.
To get from the international airport to the city center, you can take a taxi (15-20 min), or one of the buses #4, 5, & 20 (30-40 min). Magan is a bit further out, and a taxi ride to the city center will take 30-40 min; the bus "Yakutsk-Magan" will take a little over an hour.
As of now Yakutsk has no connections to the Russian rail network, the nearest train station is in Tommot (453 kilometers away). A railway line is under contruction and is expected to be completed by 2013.
You can however buy train tickets leading from Tommot or Neryungri in advance at Yakutsk's main travel agency at 8 Ordzhonikidze St (ул. Орджоникидзе, 8). Catching a train from Tynda to Neryungri or Tommot and from there continue by long-distance taxi to Yakutsk is an option. After Tynda there are no first- och second-class carriges (spalny vagon and kupé) only third-class platzkart. This train is usually very crowded and if you are a non-Russian speaking westerner expect to be stared at and talked about constantly. When the train arrives, passengers will hurriedly make their way over to get a seat on group of waiting long-distance continuing to Yaktusk. The 14 hour taxi ride costs around 9,000 RUB and is only for the toughest ones. Be prepared to be crammed in a van with a driver who travels rough ice roads like they were the autobahn. Sleeping is not an option here. There will usually be a few brief stops at roadside cafes.
Unless you are looking for an challenging travel experience, flying to Yakutsk is highly recommended.
A Lada boarding the ferry across the mighty Lena River. In the winter you can just drive across!
The only road that is passable year-round, connecting Yakutsk to the rest of the world, is the M-56 "Lena" from Never to Yakutsk. The road is in a dilapidated condition, and not entirely paved. That dilapidation, of course, is owed mainly to the nearly year-round extreme temperatures, ice, and snow. There are many small rivers and ponds along the road, and most of the "bridges" lie beneath the water. In 2006, the road won the dubious distinction of "worst road in the world."
In the past couple years the condition of the road is improving, with serious reconstruction work ongoing. But regardless, in the rain, many sections of the road are extremely difficult to get through (especially the section between Uluu to Kachikatsy). The last stretch, from Nizhny Bestyakh to Yakutsk requires a ferry in the summer across the Lena River; in the winter you can just drive across the ice! In the months in between (May and October) there really isn't a way to make the crossing.
The other road is to Magadan. This road (the Kolyma Highway) is serious adventure travel, and should not be attempted on a whim. Dirt or gravel roads extend across several unbridged rivers for 2025km. As of 2008, the road is technically passable in both summer and winter by standard cars, however don't use your own. Reports (presumably from people crazy enough to go this way) suggesting that a 30km section of the trip is prone to natural gas seepages are not correct. Sections of the road are prone to gas seepages from mineral springs, but do not directly cause problems due to lack of confinement. Many accidents occur due to drivers falling asleep after marathon drives, particularly in winter when turning off the car engine is almost certain death.
Two buses per week travel Yakutsk–Neryungi (18–20 hours) from the train station, and Yakutsk–Aldana (12-14 hours). There are also mini-buses, which run between local towns and Yakutsk, provided they can fill enough seats to make the trip profitable.
Regular passenger travel by boat along the Lena River to/from Yakutsk is possible to/from Olekminsk, Lensk, Zhigansk, Khadygu, and several other small localities in central Yakutia. There are no regular passenger connections beyond the boundaries of Yakutia, but there are occasional passenger boats coming in from Ust-Kut (Irkutsk Oblast), where there is a train station along the Trans-Siberian Railway. There is also regular freight traffic through the North Sea from the ports of Northwestern Russia (Murmansk, Arkhangelsk), by the name "Northern Delivery" (Северный завоз).
Bus is the basic mode (and really the only mode) of public transport within Yakutsk. A well developed network of marshrutkas can take you to practically anywhere in the city. A few suburban routes to the nearest inhabited localities also run from the main bus station. All routes cost 16 rubles, although kids less than seven years old ride free.
There are several taxi companies in Yakutsk, which you can call for service. The prices are not fixed, and depend on the length of the trip (and likely how much they think they can take this foreigner for). The average price for a cross-town trip is about 100-120 rubles. You can also hire a cab for the day, which will cost you about 350 rubles per hour.
Icicles on traditional Siberian wooden architecture.
Take note: Yakutsk is far off the beaten path in Russia for international tourism. Consequently, you should expect all museums exhibits to be explained only in Russian. Fortunately some exhibits (like the cryogenically preserved mammoth head) don't require too much explanation!
- Yakutsk Historical and Cultural Museum of the Northern peoples, Em. Yaroslavskovo (Якутский государственный музей истории и культуры народов Севера им. Ем. Ярославского), пр. Ленина, 5/2, 42-51-74.. 10AM-5PM daily. The main museum in the city, with an impressive collection of artifacts from various periods in the history of Yakutsk—beginning with the prehistoric and ending with the events of the 1990s. Of especial interest is the rich collection of stuffed wildlife from the North, and one of the world's few complete wooly mammoth skeletons. Free.
- Mammoth Museum (Музей мамонта), ул. Кулаковского, 48, 4 этаж (inside the Campus of Physical and Natural Sciences (КФЕН)), ☎ 36-16-47. 10AM-6PM daily. This museum has one of the world's most diverse collections of exhibits from the Ice Age. The centerpiece of the collection is the cryogenically (and completely) preserved head of a wooly mammoth. The mammoth head often travels to museums outside of Yakutsk, so check ahead to make sure it's on display.
- Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Yakutsk University (Музей археологии и этнографии ЯГУ), ул. Кулаковского, 48 (inside the Campus of Physical and Natural Sciences (КФЕН)), ☎ 49-68-41. T-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 11AM-4PM. The exhibits here show the history of the peoples of Yakutsk, exhibited in an interesting exposition of objects of everyday life and the mythology of the Sakha, Eveny, Evenki, Yukagiry, and other Yakutian ethnic groups since ancient times.
- The Underground Laboratory of the Institute of Cryogenics (Подземная лаборатория Института Мерзлотоведения), ул. Мерзлотная, 36, ☎ 33-44-76, 33-43-38. Call in advance to schedule a tour. The only museum in the world of natural cryonics. The trip underground is accompanied by detailed lectures (in Russian, naturally) about the essence of this natural phenomenon, and also displays of the preserved exhibits within the natural "freezer." Do not forget to wear very warm clothes!
- National Art Museum (Национальный художественный музей РС(Я)), ул. Кирова, 12. 10AM-6PM daily. A huge collection of artwork, including works by Yakuts, Russians, international artists from the 16th century through today. The expositions also include a rich collection of traditional Yakut folk arts and crafts.
One of Yakutsk's one-time fortress towers, this one a replacement for the original, which burned down in 2002.
There are a bunch of smaller museums, which don't have the broad appeal of those listed above, but you might nonetheless be interested. Addresses aren't really necessary, since the city center is pretty small. Just tell the taxi driver where you want to go.
- The Government Literature Museum, P.A. Oiunskovo (Государственный литературный музей иь. П.А. Ойунского) 10 Oktyabrskaya, +7 4112 42-89-12, Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM
- International Museum of Khomus Music (the Khomus is a traditional Yakut mouth harp) (Международный музей хомусной (варганной) музыки, ul. Kirova 33, +7 4112 42-86-75,
- Museum of Music and Folklore of the People of Yakutia (Музей фольклора народов Якутии), 31 ul. Kirova, +7 4112 35-38-84, Tu-Sa 10AM-5:30PM
- House-Museum of the Political History of Yakutia (Дом-музей "История политической ссылки в Якутии"), ul. Yaroslavskaya 5, +7 4112 45-01-98, currently closed for renovations
- Art Gallery "Simekh" (Арт-галерея "Симэх") (inside the Kulakovskovo Cultural Center) Tu-Sa 11AM-6PM, 20 rubles
- Art Gallery "Urgel" (Арт-галерея "Ургэл") 35/1 Lermontova, M-F 9AM-5PM, +7 4112 42-57-14, 25 rubles
- Numismatic Museum of the Yakutsk State University (Нумизматический музей ЯГУ), pr. Lenina 1, 5th floor, room 503, +7 4112 36-46-64, M-F 10AM-2PM, 10 rubles
Architecture and monuments
- The Old City (Старый город). The Old City, reconstructed in the architectural style of the 19th century, is located at the very center of Yakutsk, and is bordered by the streets Ammosov, Arzhakov, and the Plaza of the Fallen Soldiers (Аммосова, Аржакова, плошадь Павших бойцов). The streets are off limits to traffic, paved as they are with wooden billets, and there are cafeterias, markets, all in the city's favorite place to relax. Here you'll find the restored Preobrazhenskaya Church, the founders monument, the memorial to fallen soldiers, a stone column dedicated to the 375th year anniversary of Yakutia joining the Russian Empire, and the M.K. Ammosov museum (Ammosov was a prominent Yakut political activist who led an active role in bringing Soviet power to Siberia).
- Victory Stele (Стелла Победы). A large stele located at the north end of Victory Square (Площадь Победы) dedicated to the Soviet victory in WWII, topped with a statue of the hero (N'urguna Bootura) of the Yakut national epic "Olonkho."
- Abakayade Memorial (Памятник Абакаяде). At the intersection of Kirova and Poyarkova streets (Кирова, Пояркова). The statue represents the first interethnic marriage between a Russian settler and his Yakut wife, and also their child—the symbol of the coming together of the two peoples.
- Oyunsky Memorial (Памятник П. Ойунскому). On Oyunskomu Square (which also goes by the Soviet name, Ordzhonikidze Square). The sculpture is of P. A. Oyunsky, a writer and prominent communist, who stands as a symbol of the fertile beginnings of reason, and a metal ark in the form of the Russian letter "П," engraved with Oyunsky quotes.
- The Lena-Friendship Historical-Architectural Museum-preserve ("Ленский), Усть-Алданский улус, с. Соттинцы (2 hours from the city center by bus/marshrutka). The museum is located on the right bank of the Lena River, right on the spot of the initial fort that led to the creation of Yakutsk. The principal attractions in the museum are outside—reproductions of the Spassky Church of the Zashiversky Fort and the boat of Peter Beketov (the founder of the fort). No less impressive are the old examples of the architecture of the peoples of Yakutia. Inside the exhibited buildings you'll find expositions dedicated to the cultures and daily life of the peoples of Yakutia: clothing, worship, weapons, burial complexes, arts, etc. In the museum you can also try the food at a restaurant specializing in Yakut cuisine. In the spring there are folk festivals. One of the most memorable sights of the preserve is the observation on top of the nearest hill, from which opens a breathtaking view of the Lena River.
You might also come across:
- The restored towers of Yakutsk's 17th century palisades.
- The 18th century treasury building.
- Shergin's Mine—an extremely deep, private, hand-dug mine suspended in eternal frost
- A. E. Kulakovsky Memorial—a writer and public activist (i.e., communist).
- Various other memorials to standard Soviet and Imperial personae (Lenin, Dzerzhinsky, Marks, Kraft, Yaroslavsky, etc.).
- Two Mammoth monuments, at the Institute of Criogenics, and at the circus.
- Various architectural monuments to traditional Siberian architecture from the first half of the 20th century, particularly in the neighborhoods of Zalog and Saisar (Залог, Сайсар).
One day in Yakutsk
In the morning, it's best to try to see the sights at the main museums: the Mammoth Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography. From there, weather permitting, stroll along the bank of Warm Lake (Тёплое озеро), a favorite among young locals (and locals in love). Bridges unite the two sides of the lake—on one side the University town, on the other an old neighborhood with old wooden architecture. In the summer dancing fountains run within the lake, in the winter locals ice-skate.
Having turned back to the north west onto the intersection of Lenin and Kulakovskaya streets (пр. Ленина, ул. Кулаковская), you'll find yourself at Friendship Square (площадь Дружбы) by the Kulyakovsky Monument, the Opera House, and the 18th century Treasury building. One of the newer buildings there is a branch of the National Art Museum. Go further northwest along Lenin Prospect until you reach Lenin Square, from which, walking along Kirova St to the southeast, heading towards the cupola of the Preobrazhensky Church, you'll find the "Old City." After looking around at the architectural sights here, try Yakut cuisine at the hotel restaurant "Tygyn Darkhan" (Тыгын Дархан).
Not far from the restaurant, in the store "Kudai Bakhsy" (Кудай Бахсы), there's a wide selection of Yakutsk souvenirs. After the fleshly pleasures of lunch, set off for a dessert of the soul with a trip to the National Art Museum (Национальный художественный музей РС), which stands right there on Lenin Square. But it's worth bearing in mind that even a "running tour" of the expositions would require one-two hours. To fill the rest of the day you could visit the museum of local lore (Краеведческий музей), which is just 10 minutes on foot from Lenin Square to the northeast. If you want a really great dinner before ending your day, head to the Yakut-Russian restaurant "Chochur Muran" (Чочур Муран), which is located in a picturesque setting, and which contains its own museum's worth of various 19th century curiosities.
In the first half of your second day in Yakutsk, it's best to head down into the Underground Laboratory of the Institute of Cryogenics, and for the second half check out the very interesting museums of local folk music and folklore. Then finish off the day with a dinner at "Tamerlan" (Тамерлан), and a visit to a show at the Sakha Theater (in Yakut!).
Time to get out of the city—spend the day at one of the sights in the surrounding areas. Pick one of the ethnographic complexes, either "Orto Doidu" (Орто Дойду) for its zoo and restaurant, or Friendship (Дружба) for its open-air architectural museum.
If it's a Saturday or Sunday, you can get on a swift boat (Восход or Ракет) for a one day trip to the Lena Pillars Nature Park (Ленские Столбы), an impressive set of stone pillars along the rocky coast of the Lena River. The boat will set out from the river station pretty early in the morning and will return around 10PM-11PM in the night. It's probably better, though, to set up the trip in advance with a Yakutsk tour agency (probably through your hotel, unless you've got a good command of the Russian language), since the riverboat cruises only go out if they get enough passengers, and it's possible that they might not have enough on one day to make the cruise profitable.
- Oyunskovo Sakha Academic Theater (Саха академический театр им. П. А. Ойунского), ул. Орджоникидзе, 1, ☎ 34-13-31, 23-28-21. Dramatic theater in the Yakut language. There is a simultaneous translation in Russian.
- The Suorun Omollona State Theater of Opera and Ballet (Государственный театр оперы и балета им. Суорун Омоллона), пр. Ленина д. 46/1, ☎ 36-06-90, 36-14-12, 36-11-65. Opera and ballet performances of Russian and international classics, as well as Yakut-written performances. There are also local concerts and the occasional guest artist.
- The Pushkin State Academic Russian Dramatic Theater (Государственный академический русский драматическией театр им. Пушкина), пр. Ленина, 21, ☎ 42-46-91. Dramatic productions in the Russian language. Classics and modern works.
- The Estrada Theater, the Charont Musical Salon (Театр эстрады, музыкальный салон «Чароит»), ул. Каландарашвили, 2, ☎ 2-11-72, 35-11-42. Nights of music and concerts by Yakut musicians.
- Theater of Humor and Satire (Театр юмора и сатиры), ул. Кирова, 25, ☎ 43-43-28, 43-35-90. Comedy shows and various humorous programs in the Yakut language. There is no simultaneous translation, so uh, brush up on your Yakut. There are also concerts performed by Yakut artists, which may be more accessible than Yakut standup comedy.
- The Kulakovskovo Cultural Center (Центр культуры им. Кулаковского), ул. Дзержинского, 13, ☎ 44-24-96. More Yakut concerts and other cultural performances.
- Circus, ул. Пояркова, 22, ☎ 42-95-73, 42-96-46. The state circus holds the title of the northernmost (and coldest) circus in the world. The Yakut circus is a mixture of traditional Russian circus performances (which, if you haven't seen before, are really fun) with the national Yakut culture of the extreme north. The core of basic Yakut circus performances is in the acrobatic tradition of China (also a lot of fun), and the Yakuts produce serious acrobats who have won in a lot of international competitions. The circus here also attracts major guest performers from all over Russia.
- The Orto-Doidu Zoo (Орто-Дойду), Покровский тракт, 50 км., ☎ 22-52-59. You'll find some 150 types of animals here, beginning with invertebrates and finishing with more charismatic megafauna, including extremely rare Amur tigers, polar bears, and Siberian mountain goats. The core of the exhibition is fauna of the Russian Extreme North and Far East (with good reason, since they're suited to survive the winters!). More needy creatures find home in a sheltered terrarium and and aviary. You can get there via bus #202 and the Yakutsk-Pokrovsk marshrutka, both running from the bus station.
Festivals and holidays
- Ysyakh (Ысыах). This is the big festival, the biggest traditional Yakut festival there is. It's the Yakut national festival celebrating (and wishing for) fertility, usually celebrated on the Summer Solstice (21 June). In some years the date can wander around. There's an all-nationality parade in the suburb of Us Khatyn (Ус Хатын), which sees tens of thousands of people from all the various peoples of the Russian Federation (and make no mistake, there are tons of different ethnicities within the country). The main event, as a rule, of the two-day festival, is the painted blessing ceremony of the harvest by the White Shaman. No less important for the Yakuts are the sacred rites of the second day's sunrise. The festivities are conducted with competitions in traditional Yakut sports, like Yakut archery, stick fighting, "Khapsagai" (Хапсагай) wrestling, and also national arts: singing, Vargan mouth harp, reciting of traditional oral epics, and others. There are also competitions to make the best national dishes, folk costumes, traditional folk concerts, as well as local popular music. In short, it's a blast and this is the time to visit.
- Workers Day (1 May)
- Victory Day (9 May)
- Yakutsk City Day (at the beginning of September)
- Day of the Republic (27 September)
- New Year's (1 January)
- The International "Tabyk" (Табык) Festival of Modern Music (every year in December, although it hasn't been celebrated every year due to lack of funds—it was skipped in 2005).
The city's commercial center
- Clothes. If you are coming here from abroad during the winter, you will find that your clothes are insufficiently warm. Russians and Yakuts know a thing or two about keeping warm, so Yakutsk is a fine place to pick up a coat or some fur lined boots. The cheapest options, and they are very affordable, are without a doubt in the city markets, Stolichny (Столичный) and Mann'yttay (Манньытаы). To avoid the stresses of haggling and "foreigner" pricing, you can pay a bit more in any of the shops and boutiques in the small downtown commercial center along Lenin Prospect, like Atlant (Атлант), Optimist (Оптимист), Favorit (Фаворит), Apel'sin (Апельсин), and many others.
- Groceries. The lowest prices on groceries are at the wholesaleers trading on Chernyshevskovo (ул. Чернышевского) and in the smaller supermarkets in the quieter sections of town, outside the city center. Look for Tokko (Токко) and Solnechnaya Tuimaada (Солнечная Туймаада). There's also great, fresh local produce at the Krestyansky market (Крестьянский). You can find deli sausages cheeses in the stores name Elisey (Елисей) and Poyarkov (Поярков). 24 hour convenience stores are around in all quarters of the city, frequently near bus stops.
- Drinks. Note the ban on liquor sales from 10PM to 8AM daily (although this doesn't hold for bars). There are a few local brews worth trying, like Ellei (Эллэй) and Yakutskoe (Якутское). There are also a few local liquors to try, the most interesting of which is undoubtedly Pantoff, a vodka made with the extract of the velvet from reindeer antlers.
- Souvenirs. The widest selection of various souvenirs are in Merkurii (Меркурий), 202 caliber (202 калибр), Bainaai (Байнаай), and Tsarskaya Okhota (Царская охота).
- Books and maps. The best stores for books include the Book Market (Книжный маркет), Knigolyub (Книголюб), Argys (Аргыс), Subscribers' editions (Подписные издания), and Propagandist (Пропагандист). Maps of local areas are at Globus (Глобус).
- Printing House cafeteria (Столовая Дома печати), Ordzhonikidze, 31, ☎ +7 4112 34-38-25. noon-3PM daily. This cafeteria is located in the main printing building in Yakutia, where the government puts out all the republic's newspapers. The prices are for the masses, with large portions and a good old-fashioned Soviet feel, from the menu to the ambiance. A utilitarian place for the most undiscriminating palates. ~70 rubles.
- Buon Appetito (Бон Аппетито), ul. Ikrupskaya, 37, ☎ +7 4112 32-17-33. noon-2AM daily. If you are here for a while and want to really et away from horsemeat and kumis for a meal, this place serves up good wood-fired pizzas and various Western adult beverages, with patio seating by the water in the summer. 300-600 rubles.
- City Life Cafe (Кафе «City-Life»), ul. Kirova, 18 (Inside the Business Center, block B, floor 2), ☎ +7 4112 42-10-02, . noon-4AM daily. Kind of a wild place where you can have Japanese food including sushi, bento boxes, udon, yakitori, tempura; sit on the floor, at high tables, or at the bar; play billiards; and (perhaps best of all) use the free WiFi. Fun atmosphere. 250-800 rubles.
- Eli-Pili (Ели-Пили), ul. Kirova, 13, ☎ +7 4112 44-41-95. 8AM-midnight daily. Literally "Ate-Drank", a free-flow restaurant in the European culinary tradition, with a Southern Russian ambiance. The big hall is split into smoking and non-smoking sections, there's a long menu, and relatively low prices. As an added plus, there is WiFi, but you must pre-pay. 150-200 rubles.
- Tamerlan (Тамерлан), pr. Lenina, 8, ☎ +7 4112 34-28-01. 9AM-midnight daily. Yakut and Central Asian cuisine, and an interesting interior a la Mongolian. A highlight is that they fry any and all dishes before you on the heated table, dishes which you yourself create from various suggested ingredients. 150-400 rubles.
- Chochur Muran (Чочур Муран), Viliusky trakt, 6 km, ☎ +7 924 661-61-00 ([email protected]), . noon-midnight daily. A restaurant just outside the city in a picturesque location in a tower of the on-site replica of the Lensky Fort. Chochur Muran specializes in Yakut fish dishes. The ambiance is nice, with a Yakut mini-museum, dog-sledding and snowmobiling outside in the winter, and ice sculptures. 600-2000 rubles.
- Tygyn Darkhan (Тыгын Дархан), (Inside the Tygyn Darkhan Hotel), ☎ +7 4112 34-34-06, . 8AM-10AM, noon-3PM, 6PM-11PM daily. This is the best place in Yakutia (and thus likely the world) to try Yakut national cuisine. Some iconic Yakut dishes to look out for include Oiogos (Ойогос)—baked foal ribs, Salamat (Саламат) porridge, and Indigirka (Индигирка) salad—made with frozen fish. ~1,000 rubles.
- Drakon (Дракон), ul. Oktyabr'skaya, 20/1, ☎ +7 4112 42-88-11, . 8PM-9AM daily. This is the biggest club in the city, in a four-floor building with a restaurant, pub, and pool tables. There are two dance floors, allowing up to 800 people to dance at once, which play R&B, pop, and light house F-Sa, and house/trance Su-Th. Every now and then they'll have special 80s nights. (At this point, some shock should register that this all goes on in the coldest and remotest corridors of Siberia!) The cover charge (as well as the expensive drinks, 80+ rubles for 0.5 liter beers) make this a fairly upscale hangout for wealthier Yakutskie. from 300 rubles.
- Garage (Гараж), kvartal Novoportovskaya, 1, ☎ +7 4112 75-73-54. F-Su 10PM-7AM. A welcome change from the homogeneous techno at the other clubs; here you'll find cheap beers, local rock bands, and the occasional big-name guest Russky-Rock bands. Danila Bagrov would be happy. Low covers, beers 65 rubles/0.5 liters.
- JET, ul. Lomonosova, 45, ☎ +7 4112 42-89-38, . Dance floor: 20:00-7:00; restaurant: noon-midnight daily. This club is popular with the student crowd, and is right next door to Drakon. On the dance floor, expect house, Russky-pop, and some drumb 'n' bass and trance on weekends; off the floor expect Japanese food and the chill-out room. The bar is notable for its Chinese beer Harbin (from 150 rubles).
- Muus Khaya, ul. Petrovskovo, 13, ☎ +7 4112 44-55-08, . Su-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-3AM. This is a nice, friendly place to hang out, with a lot more to do than just music and dancing. Most importantly, they have a bowling alley! (Really, a rock 'n bowl in Yakutia?) They also have billiards and a full service restaurant serving "the cuisine of the north." Event covers: ~300 rubles; bowling: 350-950 (depending on day and time of day).
- Vertolyot (Вертолет), ul. Lermontova, 37, ☎ +7 4112 34-04-34, . Club: 20:00-7:00; restaurant: noon-midnight daily. The crowd is a little older than at JET or Drakon, and the music is generally house or pop. The restaurant is believed to be the coldest locale (outside the restaurant, that is) in the world to eat Mexican food!
- Guesthouse Sanaa (Гостиница «Sanaa»), ul. Khabarova, 11, ☎ +7 4112 32-55-07. A "mini-hotel" close to the center of the city with limited, but cozy enough accommodations. 800+ rubles.
- Hotel Lena (Гостиница Лена), pr. Lenina, 8, ☎ +7 4112 42-48-92, . Also in the center of the city, with a bar, barber shop, and money change. Breakfast and WiFi included. 2,000+ rubles.
- Northern Star (Полярный звезда), pr. Lenina, 24, ☎ +7 4112 34-12-15 ([email protected]), . The city's premiere hotel, right in the downtown center near the sights, with a cafe, bar, restaurant, business center, bowling (!), and a travel agency. Breakfast included. 5250+ rubles.
- Tygyn Darkhan (Тыгын Дархан), ul. Ammosova, 9, ☎ +7 4112 43-51-09, . In the center of the city, hosting one of the best local restaurants (see above), a souvenir shop, bar, conference room, exercise room, sauna, pool, money change, and breakfast included. 3,240+ rubles.
Postal code: 677000. Telephone code: 4112. Cell networks: МТС, Мегафон. Population: 225.5 thousand. Time zone: GMT +9 (Moscow time +6).
The center of the city, where you'll find the hotels, cultural activities, and the principal sights, are quite safe at any time of the day. The central streets are well lit and frequently patrolled by the police (who are probably more trouble than any actual criminal activity downtown). Do not drink in public at night or you will have problems with the police.
There are street robberies/pickpocketing (especially on public transport), but such crimes are very rarely violent or even overt. Demonstrate the minimum level of prudence and you should not have any troubles.
Avoid some of the poorer neighborhoods at night, like the 17th Quarter (квартал) and Saisary (Сайсары), where Rockys and Rambos are known to be around. Hold on to your things, or keep them in inaccessible pockets, on public transport and crowded markets. It's also worthwhile to note that some hold a ridiculous suspicion of the ethnic minorities here, but that's purely a myth. Yakutsk is a harmoniously multi-ethnic and tolerant city, open to anyone who's happy to be here.
The biggest danger in the city, without a doubt, is the extreme cold of the Siberian winter. In the winter, the cold can kill you quickly, and even if you're careful, you can very quickly lose a nose or a couple toes. When going out in -50° Celsius weather, layer every article of clothing you own (fur is best), and plan to spend no more than ten minutes outside directly exposed to the air. If walking, you will become exhausted very quickly—avoid walking entirely and take taxis door to door everywhere you go.
Also if you want to have a little fun, take a pot of boiling water and take it outside and immediatly toss the water into the air. It will freeze instantly in the air and make an extremely loud hissing noise, one of the coolest things ever.
You can finish touring all the principal sights of Yakutsk and the nearby areas in just 3-4 days. But there are a ton of activities (especially outdoor activities) beyond the city limits for the adventurous traveler. Travel agencies will help you set these up, and given that this is Russia, it may well be wise to plan your trips through one. Here are some ideas:
- Warm water cruises along the Lena River to the Lena Pillars and back (2-3 days)
- Warm water cruises along the Lena River to the Northern Sea (14-15 days)
- Road trip to the Buluus glacier (1-2 days)
- Air travel to the unique spires/hoodoo rock formations of the Northern Mountains by Kisilyakh (5-7 days)
- Air travel to the Northern Sea by Tiksi (3-7 days)
- Road trip to Oymyakon—the Northern Pole of Cold. The coldest place on earth outside Antarctica. No joke, it's a village (who the heck decided to live here?) with the lowest recorded terrestrial temperature in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Trip to the reindeer farm at Magaras (150km, 1-2 days)
- Rafting along the Buotama River (5-10 days)
- Rafting along the Blue (Синяя) River (7-10 days)
- Rafting along the Amga River (7-14 days)
- Winter trip to the Lena Pillars with ice fishing (1-2 days)
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