Most people outside of Russia know Yakutsk for one reason: it appeared in the classic game of Risk.
For centuries Siberia has been known for being cold, rugged, and isolated. But within this rugged land there is a world of icy wonder.
Yes, Yakutsk may be the coldest city on the planet, but it is worth a trip. If you look beyond the surface and you’ll find one the most unique cities on Earth.
Show Table of Contents
- What is the Permafrost Kingdom?
- History of the Permafrost Kingdom Yakutsk
- Things to See at the Permafrost Kingdom
- Ice Sculptures
- Ice Caves
- Ice Bed
- Ice Slide
- Where is the Permafrost Kingdom?
- How to get to the Permafrost Kingdom
- Things to do in Yakutsk near the Permafrost Kingdom
- Melnikov Permafrost Institute
- Mammoth Museum
- National Art Museum
- Gorodskoy Plyazh
- Aqua Center
- Where to stay near the Permafrost Kingdom in Yakutsk
- What is the weather like in Yakutsk?
- How do people live in Yakutsk?
- Has Climate Change Affected the Permafrost Kingdom?
What is the Permafrost Kingdom?
The Permafrost Kingdom is a site made completely of ice. Originally built to be a refrigeration complex for food storage, it is now one of the world’s most unique bizarre tourist attractions. You can even walk through an ice cave or two.
The Permafrost Kingdom is Yakutsk’s biggest tourist attraction. It is an amazing site that offers visitors a unique look at how humanity has adapted to the almost permanently cold conditions (even in the summer) that Siberia has to offer.
The Permafrost Kingdom is an elaborate complex of ice tunnels that are about 500 feet underground. In these ice tunnels are amazing displays of artistry that focus on Yakutsk’s primary resource: ice. Even the walls and ground are made of ice. There are dozens of ice sculptures within the complex, but the fun doesn’t stop there. You can walk through an ice cave or enjoy some local vodka in glasses made from ice.
There’s a full office on display in the tunnels, complete with Wi-Fi and telephone access. You’ll feel like you are in one of the city buildings. You can even take a snooze on their queen-sized ice bed. Don’t forget to take a photo in the ice cave. There’s even an ice slide that’s intended for the kids to use, but you’ll be tempted to take a slide down it yourself!
History of the Permafrost Kingdom Yakutsk
Yakutsk was founded on the Lena River, which streams from the beautiful Laptev Sea. If you didn’t know, the entire land of Yakutsk is built on permafrost frozen soil. The infrastructure has been built by scientists to thrive on the frozen ad thawing land.
The people who live in the Yakutsk region, the Yakut, originally founded the city by building a fort on the river. The Yakut have found a way to live through the frozen winter and the thawing summer. The people know that nature and fresh air make living here worth the many months of frozen ground.
The area is one of the most important outposts in Siberia. It has become a frigid base and rest stop for scientific expeditions into the extreme arctic north (where it gets even colder) and the far east.
Today Yakutsk and the Permafrost Kingdom are major growth centers of the Far East and Russia. Scientists flock to this city to measure the effects of methane gas on the region and to record the great “thawing” that is happening in the permafrost of the Earth.
Things to See at the Permafrost Kingdom
First off, Yakutsk is the largest city built entirely on permafrost. There are very few places in the world where you can take a trip to walk on permafrost soil and have a number of things to see.
There are so many things to see at the Permafrost Kingdom, other than the permafrost ground of course. From walking through an ice cave to viewing ice sculptures, there is a lot to enjoy on your trip to the Arctic.
A benefit of being built on a permafrost layer is that it provides the perfect ecosystem for ice sculptures that don’t melt, they won’t even thaw.
Food that doesn’t need a freezer at home to stay edible. At the Permafrost Kingdom, the ice sculptures are highlighted by unique lighting to give the entire ice cave complex the feel of an artistic experience.
Deep blues, greens, and other colors highlight the ice sculptures throughout the ice cave and also highlight the artifacts on display, giving visitors a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
Don’t forget to visit the world’s largest block of frozen milk before you leave the ice cave!
Sure, you have taken a trip to an ice bar in a major city and worn the big fluffy coat, but have you walked through a real ice cave preserved by permafrost ground?
The ice cave experience in Yakutsk is unlike anything else on Earth. The permafrost ground prevents ice from melting and keeps temperatures at the perfect degrees to preserve ice structures.
Ready for an Instagram picture? The ice bed is a wonderful spot to lie down and take a photo. On top of the ice bed are some cozy furs to protect you while you take a short rest on a slab of ice.
Ready for adventure in an ice cave? Stop by the ice slide and enjoy a quick flight through the ice cave. Kids and adults enjoy this easy ride, don’t worry it is safe for all ages!
Where is the Permafrost Kingdom?
The Permafrost Kingdom is in Yakutsk, Russia. The Permafrost Kingdom is located in the East of Russia, one of the last larger cities in Siberia.
How to get to the Permafrost Kingdom
To get here you’ll need to do more than conquer half the planet! Even though 200,000 people call this city home, getting there isn’t the easiest of tasks.
Travel in the summer months is usually pretty easy by plane: get to Russia and then take a flight to one of the two airports in Yakutsk. There is also one flight per week that comes into Yakutsk from Beijing.
You can fly into the Yakutsk airport from Fairbanks, Alaska. Once you land, you can take a car (book in advance, don’t be a New Yorker and think you can hail a cab), or if you’re feeling bold, public transportation into the city.
In the winter months, however, it is not uncommon for the city to be covered in freezing fog which makes landing an aircraft difficult. This fog can last for days at a time, which means a trip by air to Yakutsk in winter may not ever make it!
That makes taking the train a viable option because recently the Trans-Siberian Railway connects with Yakutsk via Irkutsk.
The M-56 “Lena” is the only road that is open all year to Yakutsk and because of the extreme temperatures, the road is a difficult one to drive. Accommodations are available in the city year-round. Make sure you are covered and dress warm!
Things to do in Yakutsk near the Permafrost Kingdom
Remember, the climate in Siberia is unlike any other region. There are extreme colds, frost, and thaws, that change the makeup of the city and what you can do.
Melnikov Permafrost Institute
When you visit Yakutsk make sure to visit the Melnikov Permafrost Institute. Also known as the Permafrost Institute, MPI scientists are collecting data to monitor the warming climate and its effects on permafrost soil.
Scientists have estimated that Mammoths are bigger in Russia…just kidding. But the Mammoth Museum in Yakutsk is definitely worth a visit.
National Art Museum
Did you know that Russian art cannot be exported? That means if you to see Russian art (ann antiques) you have to visit a museum in Russia. It is very, very rare to see such art around the world. Especially soviet era art. Stopping by the National Art Museum will truly give you a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
A beach in the permafrost? Sign me up! You won’t find many lakes in this area but this permafrost beach is the perfect spot to spend time in the sun when the temperature rises. In the summer two-thirds of Siberia will come to this beach. I made that statistic up, but the beach is very fun and a great place to visit when it gets warm!
If you can’t make the beach, or the permafrost is frozen, you can enjoy this nearby water park during all seasons.
Where to stay near the Permafrost Kingdom in Yakutsk
There are many places to stay in Yakutsk. The closest place to stay by the Permafrost Kingdom is Manor Atlasova. But it is best to stay in downtown Yakutsk. There are more buildings and options for exploring.
Staying downtown is also great for finding excursions. From here you can go on the river, or take public transportation to a nearby town.
What is the weather like in Yakutsk?
Temperatures can often plummet to -83F/-63C. Although due to rapidly warming temperatures and greenhouse gases, the temperature is rising. Over thirty years ago it was much colder. Today, the winter is brutally cold, but after the spring thaw, the summer is warm. Sometimes in the summer, the heat can be a lot, and there is not much air conditioning here.
How do people live in Yakutsk?
Though life in Siberia may be difficult, it has been home to many for thousands of years. Well-insulated buildings and beautiful nature make the cold bearable. And the region of Yakutsk has all the modern amenities residents need, no matter what the temperature is.
Has Climate Change Affected the Permafrost Kingdom?
Yes. With rising temperatures across the planet and the arctic thawing, data around the Permafrost Kingdom shows a risk of increasing heat and higher degrees during the winter. Dozens of scientists have estimated, based on data from the permafrost institute, that the surface will thaw after increasing just a few degrees.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a seasoned traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers find their next adventure, whether it’s exploring new places or revisiting old favorites.
He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wonderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). He loves listening to people’s stories from around the world as well as sharing his own experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.