Four months out of the year, Yakutsk has a high temperature that is still below zero. The wind chill and icy Siberian temperatures make Yakutsk practically uninhabitable. Yet 200,000 brave, or insane depending on your outlook, Russians live, work and try to stay warm in the city.
Although it is technically not the coldest inhabited area, it is by far the coldest city on earth. It lies just 4 degrees under the arctic circle and was constructed to deal with permafrost, almost year round. At its worst, Yakutsk has a daily mean temperature of -40 degrees celsius. Its daily mean temperature stays below freezing for seven months, making it one of the most horrible winters known to man.
Yakutsk was founded in the mid-17th century and became a large city when gold deposits were discovered in the vicinity. Pushed into industrialization by Stalin, Yakutsk continued to grow into the 20th century as well. Even though the city was growing, many precautions had to be taken to manage the cold weather. Considering the amount of preparation that goes into living in the extreme cold, it’s remarkable that people have stayed at all. Concrete pilings hold all of the houses together, to make sure frost doesn’t wrench them from the ground, and locals can’t wear glasses in the winter for fear of them freezing to their faces.
To get the true Yakutsk experience, visit in winter, and you will be greeted by fur-clad citizens bustling through the insane cold.
Photography by Bolot Bochkarev
Know Before You Go
Accessible by plane from Yakutsk domestic airport