Founded in 1632 Yakutsk is one of the oldest cities in the Far East. For quite a long time Yakutsk served as a base for expeditions to the Pacific coast. Famous Russian explorers Vitus Bering and Semen Dezhnev started there expeditions from here to discover the Bering Strait and Dezhnev Cape.

Cossack Peter Beketov the founder of Yakutsk

Cossack Beketov is looking at his doing

Lenin is greeting him solemnly

Famous Russian explorer Semen Dezhnev and his family

Replica of old Yakutsk

National restaurant Muus Haiya

Places to visit: the Permafrost Institute. A tour includes a trip 12 m below the institute to see 10,000-year old deposits of vegetation and a model of a baby mammoth. To see some of the best preserved mammoth skeletons go to the Mammoth Museum and Archeology Museum.

Yakutia’s top attraction is the Lena Pillars – peculiar rock formations located 220 km south of Yakutsk along the Lena River. Jagged spires and picturesquely crumbling fronts look like ancient ruins. A car traveler can reach the Pillars by car only in winter along the frozen Lena River. In summer, access is by boat only.

If you are traveling in June, do not miss Ysyakh – the major Yakut folk festival held right after the summer solstice (June 21 and 22). The biggest celebrations take place in the village of Zhetai just 20 km north of Yakutsk.

There is only one all the year round road leading to Yakutsk - the M56 Lena federal highway. The road is for from being a highway, occasionally is not even a road at all. Please have a look at some views of the Lena highway. The pictures were taken in August 2012.

On the border with Amurskaya Oblast

The M56 Lena federal highway is still a bit bumpy.

Got stuck. Can happen to any car traveler.

Due to red granite deposits blueberry leaves acquire a surreal purple hue.


If you are an adventure-minded car traveler then this road has been built specially for you. The M56 Kolyma federal highway, also known as the Road of Bones, connects Yakutsk and Magadan. The length of the road is about 2200 km. It is literally the only road in the area. It was constructed in the Stalin era. The construction continued by inmates of gulag camps until 1953. While building the road, thousand upon thousands of gulag prisoners died. Their bodies were simply left on the side of the road or actually put into the foundation of the roadway. Thus, the road of bones came to be. Nowadays, it has become a challenge for adventure-minded motorcyclists and motorists.

The area is extremely cold in winter. Three settlements: Verkhoyansk, Tomtor and Oymyakon - claim to be the coldest inhabited place on earth outside of Antarctica: -71.2°C. The Pole of Cold is marked with a monument reading the lowest recorded temperature. Perhaps the best time to visit the Pole of Cold in Oymyakon is March when the temperatures are relatively comfortable and rivers are still frozen and can be easily crossed by car. Besides, winter setting becomes the Pole of Cold better than mosquitoes in summer time.

Before recently, the road was in a state of disrepair, not passable by standard vehicles because of flooded rivers, creeks, streams and other aqueous hurdles. One has to ford them as bridges have been long destroyed by time and harsh environment. The most reliable vehicle to travel this road was a Russian made Ural truck. In a warm season after rains, rivers swell and even Ural trucks have to wait for days until the water subsides.

In October 2008 Russian TV showed a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicated to the opening of the Kolyma highway. The ceremony was staged in the Yakutian town of Ust-Nera. The Magadan governor and Yakutian minister of transportation declared the Road of Bones trafficable for all vehicles big and small.

Currently there are two roads leading to Magadan. Actually, it is the same road that forks and converges twice. See the map.

The so-called “new road” opened in October 2008 goes from Kyubyume to Ust-Nera. The road is definitely passable by a normal 4WD vehicle all the year round. It is not smooth, not without hurdles but traffic is regular and road construction is under way. From Ust-Nera to Magadan no problems at all.

The so-called “old road” runs from Kyubeme to the border with Magadan oblast. The road before the border is passable. Yakuts somehow maintain it. Traffic is rare. Can be as heavy as just one truck a week. From the border, there is a length of 150km not maintained for many years. This stretch is a truly extreme one. For sure passable only by Russian made Ural trucks.

Enjoy views of the "new road"

Both Lena and Kolyma highways are hard on tires and bumpers

Awaitng a ferry across the Aldan River

Yakutian horses graze outdoor all the year round, even at minus 60C.

Yakutian cemeteries are very peculiar: a mix of pagan, christian and Soviet time traditions

Every village has a ritual ground to hold folk festivals

It would be nice to combine a drive along the Road of Bones with a visit to a mysterious place – Lake Labynkyr . The lake is 100 km away from the road but accessible by foot, horse or specially designed all-terrain vehicle. Lake Labynkyr is a very scenic, rarely visited, unpopulated place and is presumably inhabited by an unknown prehistoric animal. Yakuts reported a number of sightings. In 1953, two Russian scientists sighted the monster. A renowned Russian geologist and his assistant.


Located approximately 210 km east of Yakutsk along the Kolyma highway, the village of Cherkekh is a home to a nice ethnographic museum with a good collection of Yakut wooden architecture plus some documents, silver articles, etc.

Visitors can climb the belfries and ring the bells.

Specimens of Yakut wooden architecture

Countryside as viewed from the Cherkekh church belfry

Yakut warrior named Bootur guards the road near Cherkekh