Yakutsk - Coldest City on Earth


Yakutsk lies in the far-eastern part of Russia, about 450 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. It holds the title of the coldest city on earth, with winter temperatures dropping below -50°C. It is the capital of the Sakha province. Yakutsk has a population of about 200,000, with a million people living in the rest of the region.

Most of Siberia is covered with up to 1,500 meters of permafrost. Buildings and houses in the city are built on stilts, about 2 meters above the surface. During the Siberian summer temperatures can rise to 30° and more. Up to 3 meters of soil can thaw and the earth gets wet and muddy. The foundations of the houses must be built into the permafrost ground because the thawed layer is unstable and can move easily.


Yakutsk is six time zones away from the capital, Moscow. A plane trip takes about 6 hours. The other possibility is to go up the Lena River by boat. The road to Yakutia was built by former labor camp inmates. It is used mostly by trucks that bring supplies to remote villages.

The Yakutsk region came to Russia in the 1600s. The natives who were found there were nomads who raised reindeer.


road across the Lena River in winter

Road across the Lena River in winter - Natxo Rodriguez 


During the 20th century the Soviets found gold, diamonds and other minerals in Yakutia. They turned Yakutsk into a regional centre. During the Stalin era thousands of prisoners were sent to labor camps in Eastern Siberia where they worked in mines. Today mining is still an important factor in the region. Russian authorities bring people to Siberia by offering them more money and homes. Today Yakutsk is a modern city with hotels, cinemas, a university and even an opera house.

Although winter lasts up to 8 months near the Arctic Circle, locals here get used to it. The climate is very dry so that it is bearable despite the Arctic temperatures of up to -50° C.

In the wintertime nobody leaves their houses if they do not have to. And if they do  go out they make sure that they are wrapped up in warm clothes, mostly coats and boots made of rabbit, fox and reindeer fur. Work goes on at its normal pace during the winter. Construction workers, for example, can work until minus 50°. Below that metal can break easily. Children go to school up to temperature of -55°C°

Locals often leave their cars running when they go to the store; others leave engines on the whole day when they are at work. Summers, on the other hand can be even more unbearable. Temperatures rise to over 30°Celsius. It gets sticky and humid with mosquitoes all around you. This makes eastern Siberia the region with the world’s largest seasonal temperature differences.


Yakutsk - Location



Related Topics


  • although = while
  • Arctic Circle = the imaginary line around the earth that goes around the North Pole at a certain distance
  • authority = organization or government department that has the power to make decisions
  • bearable = difficult, but you can deal with it
  • boot = shoe that covers your whole foot, sometimes up to your knee
  • capital = most important town or city, place where a government is
  • century = a hundred years
  • construction workers = workers who make buildings, houses , roads, bridges etc..
  • covered = to have a layer of something on top
  • drop = fall, go down
  • engine = motor of a car
  • era = period, time
  • factor = here: sector
  • former = in the past
  • foundation = groundwork, basement
  • fur = the thick soft hair that some animals have
  • humid = wet
  • inmate = prisoner
  • labor camp = a place where prisoners have to do hard work
  • layer = cover
  • locals = people who live there
  • make sure = to see if something is true or not
  • metal = hard shiny material, like steel or iron
  • mine = place where you dig minerals out of the earth
  • mineral = material that is formed in the earth, like coal, salt or gold
  • mosquito = small insect that sucks blood out of people and animals
  • muddy = wet earth that is soft and sticky
  • natives = people who lived there before the Russians came
  • nomad = person who travels all the time to find food for their animals
  • offer = give
  • pace = speed
  • permafrost = a layer of soil that is always frozen in cold countries
  • population = all the people who live there
  • possibility = option, route
  • raise = to look after animals and plants so that they can be used as food
  • reindeer = large deer with wide antlers that live in cold areas
  • remote = faraway
  • soil = the top layer of earth on which plants grow
  • stilt = a pole that is put into the ground and can hold up a house or building
  • supplies = important things that  people need to survive
  • surface = the top layer for something
  • thaw = melt, become soft
  • time zone = one of the world’s 24 areas that has its own time
  • unstable = unsteady, does not stay in the same place
  • wet = watery
  • wrap up = cover in