The Lena Pillars are one of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage sites in Russia and one of the most difficult to get to. This geological formation is located 200 kilometres from Yakutsk and 100 kilometres from the nearest town. However, it's not so difficult to get there. The park that the pillars are located in is accessible year-round by boat or snowmobile. The price for a one-day trip organised through local travel agencies starts from 3,500 roubles ($60.30) per person, including lunch.
During a trip to Yakutia, you can stay in one of the traditional Yakut yaranga houses for a night, but there are also more traditional accommodations. For example, Tygyn Darkhan, one of the best hotels in Yakutsk, costs about 7,000 roubles ($120.60) a day, although you can find a bed in a hostel for 1,500 roubles ($25.85).
Budget travellers need to be ready for the fact that grocery prices are higher on average in Yakutia than in the rest of Russia, even at supermarket chains. For example, a kilogram of apples costs 200-250 roubles ($3.45-4.30), a dozen eggs cost 70-90 roubles ($1.20-1.55) and a kilogram of beef costs 600-700 roubles ($10.35-12.05).
The main attraction of Yakutia is its wild and untouched environment. There is enough space for solitary relaxation in the fresh air even within the city limits of Yakutsk. A very popular recreational site is Lake Chochur Muran, where an eponymous ethnographic complex is located. Travellers here not only can try traditional Yakut food but also get acquainted with the life and history of this land.
The ethnographic complex has a small underground gallery called the Kingdom of Permafrost. You can take a picture with a mammoth, get frozen to the bone and then warm up right there at an underground bar.
You can take a look at real mammoths, or rather their remains, in the Museum of Mammoths at the Northeastern Federal University.
The Mir kimberlite pipe in Mirny, the diamond capital of Russia, is sometimes called the largest quarry in the world. Even though it's not, it’s still impressive in size at 525 metres deep and 1.2 kilometres across in diameter. Open-pit diamond mining has been discontinued since 2001, although an underground mine has been in operation since 2009.
Diamonds are Yakutia’s main souvenirs. At local jewelry stores, you can find the smallest stones for 1,000 to 2,000 roubles ($17.20 to $34.40) or large ones fetching a million roubles ($17,208) or more.
Yakutia has the largest herd of wild reindeer in Russia. According to data from 2015, there are about 170,000 of these animals in the region.
Many Russians have learned about the existence of the town of Neryungri thanks to KVN comedy team Deja Vu. The locals, of whom there are only about 50,000, call their city "Niurka."
Yakutia's indigenous population today lives the same way as they did a century ago. There are rough wooden houses heated by furnaces and people live on what they find, grow or breed. Clothing and shoes are often made of reindeer hides. Yet the benefits of civilisation are welcome here, and many houses have satellite television, Internet access and mobile service.
In 2006, Canadian wood bison were brought to Yakutia to reintroduce the once-plentiful species to the area. Visitors can see these animals in a nursery at the mouth of the Buotama River. Group tours are available and the cost of accommodation in the nursery’s hotel starts from 800 roubles ($13.80) per night.
The Labynkyr Lake and eponymous river became famous thanks to a creature unknown to science that supposedly dwells in these waters. In 2016, Andrey Solovyev of Voronezh spent more than 100 days at the lake in anticipation of the animal but never managed to see it. There is excellent fishing there, especially for Labynkyr graylings.
The flight from Moscow to Yakutsk takes six to seven hours. Round-trip tickets can be found for 14,000 roubles ($241.25) and many more expenditures await travellers once they’re on the ground, since one has to use travel agencies to get to and from the region’s natural wonders, and these trips aren't cheap.
The Sakha Republic is Russia's largest region, surpassing Argentina in size, but its population of less than one million makes it less populous than an average regional centre. Yakutia is full of interesting things for any traveller and nature lover. Lenta.ru both explains why Yakutia is this season's main tourist destination in Russia and debunks myths about getting there and back.