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One Fifth of Russia or What to Do in Yakutia
March 24, 2010 19:05

What is Yakutia (Sakha Republic) usually associated with? Diamonds, the Pole of cold, huge territories with wild northern nature, almost uninhabited, huge rivers, tundra, taiga, reindeers and Northern shining. 40 per cent of its territory is situated beyond the polar circle. It is a real paradise for the hunters and fishers. This region, occupying one fifth of all the territory of the Russian Federation, is populated mainly with the Yakuts ingenious people of this land, whose origin and ethnogenesis goes back to antiquity and is still not very clear. They still keep their traditions and beliefs, and you can see it. This country is however available by train and by air.

1.Places to visit
The main tourist attractors of Yakutia are The Lenskie Stolby National Nature Park and Labynkyr Lake.

The Lenskie Stolby Park is situated in the Khangalassky uluss, 100-200 km southwards from Yakutsk, the capital of the Region. The accommodation for the tourists is provided on the park territory, in the lodges of Buotama" and "Verhniy Bestyah". The object the national park is called after is Lenskie Stolby, the rocks on the bank of the Lena River. These rocks are a real masterpiece of nature. They look like huge abstract sculptures or gothic fantasies, or rests of the terribly ancient cities built by unknown creatures long before the people, from Haward Lovecraft’s fantasies, with colonnades, arches, towers and fortifications. They are extremely beautiful in the every season. The taiga forests grow on the territory of the park, and suddenly, in the middle of this taiga, one can see sand dunes called tulkans, reminding more the desert or the shore of the Baltic Sea, than the climate zone they are situated in. The rests of such fossil animals as mammoths and bisons were fond on the park territory. The people of antiquity have also left their pattern there: the samples of old Turk runic writing can also be seen.

The tour operators offer hiking, water touring, and other activities here.


The Labynkyr Lake is situated not far from the Pole of cold in the Oymyakon uluss of the Sakha Republic, on its north. This exotic place attracts the people fond of mystics and everything strange and exotic. According to the legend, there a monster lives in the lake. It eats dogs, reindeers and even people. Once upon a time the beast of Labynkyr Lake ate a whole caravan of Evenki people. There are plenty of stories and documents evidences left by the witnesses. The wide public got acquainted with the monster in the 50's because of the diaries of soviet geologist Tverdohlebov. Many expeditions have visited and observed the Labynkyr Lake, but they could neither confirm, nor contradict the legends and stories about Nessy’s nephew living in the lake. There are many versions, who could it be, more or less crazy, for example, that it could be a huge pike, a water mammoth, a reptile or a plesiosaurus, or even something from the parallel world. What it is in actually, is still a mystery. Maybe you will have luck and have a glance to it without being eaten at once?

The Pole of cold, if you still don’t know, is situated near Oymyakon. There are even special expeditions for those who want to visit this place in winter. The lowest fixed temperature there amounted to – 71, 2 degrees Celsius. It is the record of the cold for the Northern Hemisphere of our planet. It was fixed in 1926. The mid-January temperature here is -50 degrees Celsius. Sometimes it drops down to -60. If you want to see this place and to find out, how do the people and animals manage to survive in such aggressive environment (because they do!), what happens with equipment and machinery there, you should visit it. The expeditions are carried out from the December, 1 to the April, 1.

2. Events and people to meet
The most exiting event to visit in this region is Yakut New Year fest of Ysyakh (literally it can be translated as abundance), which is celebrated in the beginning of the summer, between June, 10 and June, 25, depending on the uluss and the local preferences. This fest is devoted to renewing of the humans and nature after the winter. It consists of the prayers, shaman rite ceremonies like feeding the fire, dances, spread and kumiss drinking (kumiss is a traditional low alcohol drink made from mare’s milk (most Turkic peoples know it)). The high spot of the fest is horseracing and sports. The roundelay dance of Osuokhai symbolizes the unity of the people.

The Sakha people (Yakuts) come to the fest wearing their best clothes. It is provided by the rules of decorum and it is a tribute to the folk traditions as well. They prepare all the year for that fest, making festive clothes with accessory and headdress made of birch bark. The costume competition is carried out every year for the sake of preservation of national culture.

What about the Yakuts, or Sakha people, as they call themselves, this people is a Turkic one, but they live very far northwards from the other Turkic nomadic peoples. They also distinguish considerably from small peoples of the North who are hunters and fishermen. Instead of them, the Yakuts are engaged into animal husbandry. They breed cows and horses. In the summer the animals are pastured, in winter they are in the stable. As it is clear from their epos, they especially respect horses, like all the Turkic peoples. The traces of the horse cult are still to be observed in the worship, material culture and mode of life: the Yakuts make wares like hats, bags, panels and carpets of the horsehair, they like mare’s milk products and eat the horseflesh which is believed to be the best kind of meat (The Indo-European peoples however respected the horses as well but eating the horseflesh was taboo).

In the North the Yakuts breed the reindeers, like the peoples of the North. Moreover, they have mastered fishing, and the ice fishing as well, when their ancestors were adapting to the new circumstances when they had come here from the south.

Among the traditional crafts of the Yakuts are smiting and jewelry, they manufacture wood and birch bark, bone, leather and fur. Instead of the other Siberian peoples they make molded ceramics as well.

The beliefs of Sakha people were influenced by the Russian colonists, who were Christians. But it would not be rights to speak about established Christianization. Shamanism is still the main component of the Yakuts’ spiritual life even if they are baptized. They believe that the shaman is a medium between the world of the people and the world of the spirits. According to the ancient world conception of the Yakuts, there are three worlds, connected by the World Tree of Aal Kuduk Mas. The first world is heaven, where the gods live, the third one is underworld for daemons, called Abaases, and there is also middle one, populated with the people. The model of the Universum, represented with the sculpture of the World Tree, carved from wood, is to be seen on the Ysyakh fest. The mistress and patroness of the middle world lives also in the tree, the very big and old, and beautiful tree, growing in the centre of the meadow. The Yakuts respect big trees like larch, birch and spruce. They do not chop such big trees growing next to their houses and do not let the children to play near them. They believe that the spirit of the earth lives in such trees and decorate them with horsehair, colored cloths and bands.

3. Species to catch

Although fish is not considered by the Sakha people as food of prestige, they are very skilled in the summer fishing and ice fishing as well. The rivers and lakes of Yakutia are very rich in such species of fish, like sturgeon, different kinds of whitefishes, inconnu, grayling and many others in the rivers and minnow, carp and pike in the rivers. But the main trophy for the spinner fisherman is the taimen. You will surely catch one from 5 to 20 kilograms, but the luckiest spinners obtain exemplars weighting 25 – 30 kilos and even more.

The summer fishing season in the region is June – September. But the fishermen say that the best time within this period is from the August, 10 to September, 15. The water is still, the fish is active, and there are almost no mosquitoes. Mosquitoes and similar pests can spoil every holiday, even if all the lakes and rivers are overrun with fish.

What about the ice fishing, it takes place from November to the middle of December.

The methods of fishing are spinning and fishing with angle from the bank and from the boat as well.

The region is under-populated, so sport fishing is allowed everywhere except the natural reserves. It means that the fisherman will be wondering about two things: the richness of the fish resources and the lack of civilization. There are no fishing bases for the fishermen tourists. You will have to stay in the tents or in the hunter’s huts. This lack of comfortable accommodation is almost is offset by the hospitality of stuff. The experienced guides will help you in their trip and give full information about traditions and customs of indigenous peoples.

Hunting is a traditional occupation for the local inhabitants of Sakha Republic. To specify, there are two main types of hunting: big game meat hunting and fur hunting. Among the species to hunt are elk, bear, deer, wild boar and different birds. The tour operators offer duck shooting tours. The goal is white-winged velvet scoter. These ducks are traditional species for hunting in Yakutia. The Yakuts believe these birds are stupid, because they are not afraid of hunters and available for drag hunt. The white-winged velvet scoter is hunted as a commercial species only in Yakutia.

The hunting programs are acute from the end of Mai to the first week of June and from the end of August to the middle of September. The typical 11 days/10 nights tour costs about $3, 000 (the price is counted relying on the dollar rate 30 rubles per dollar). It includes agent’s commission, health insurance, meeting and send-off in the city of Yakutsk, hotel accommodation in Yakutsk, three meals daily, transfer services for all the tour’s time, guided excursion program, interpreter for all days of tour, registration in the city of Yakutsk, transfer from Yakutsk to the hunting place and back, accommodation on the place of hunting (hunting lodges), hunting services like jaegers, cook, hunting licenses, veterinary health certificate and primary packaging and handling of your trophy.

4. How to get
Yakutsk city, the capital of the Sakha Republic, has regular air connection with all the Russian cities and one air service with Harbin (China). The foreign tourists are getting there mainly from Moscow.
From Moscow to Yakutsk flies Yakutia Air Company. The regular flight YAK478 is carried out every day on the aircrafts TU-154 and Boeing-747 from the Vnukovo International airport. Departure from Moscow takes place at 17. 00 (Moscow time, GMT+3). The aircraft lands the next day at 05. 40 in the morning (local time). The flight takes you 6 hours 40 minutes. From St. Petersburg
The flight YAK588 of Yakutia Air Company takes place on Thursdays from the airport of Pulkovo at 21. 40. Arrival to Yakutsk takes place at 09. 50 next day. The flight takes 6 hours 40 minutes. From Novosibirsk
The Yakutia Air Company flies from the airport of Tolmachevo to Yakutsk on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Departure time is 22. 35 and arrival time – 05.20. Duration of the flight is 3 hors 45 minutes. The aircraft is Airbus A320.

There is also a federal highway “Lena”, but it functions not all the year, because it follows across the Lena River. In winter the vehicles go along the ice, in the summer they are transported by a ferry. It is closed during the periods of ice-gang and freezing-over.

Yulia Buzykina


Tags: Yakutia     

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