Lonely Planet Writer

Incredible photographs show daily life in the coldest city on earth

Located in the harsh region of Siberia, just a few hundred miles outside the Arctic Circle lies Yakutsk, the coldest inhabited city on earth. Here, daily life is a constant struggle against the freezing temperatures that can plummet to an astonishing -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit).

yakutsk
A woman clamps a mitten to her face to protect it from the cold on a -53 C day. Image by Amos Chapple
A local girl returning home from university.
A local girl returning home from university. Image by Amos Chapple
A local woman pictured with produce at a stall in the city.
A local woman pictured with produce at a stall in the city. Image by Amos Chapple
Coldest city on earth
Summer shoes waiting out the winter in a shed in the suburbs. Image by Amos Chapple
The broken landscape of Stalin's Kolyma Highway. Without a rail link to the city, the highway remains the only major land route in and out of Yakutsk.
The broken landscape of Stalin’s Kolyma Highway. Without a rail link to the city, the highway remains the only major land route in and out of Yakutsk. Image by Amos Chapple
A guard dog braves the weather in the suburbs.
A guard dog braves the weather in the suburbs. Image by Amos Chapple

Photographer Amos Chapple decided to brave the cold weather to discover what life is like for the people of the city, travelling to Yakutsk and the nearby Oymyakon, and taking beautiful portraits of the citizens, while documenting the objects and buildings in the area. The images show dark frozen roads lined by snow-capped trees, statues and structures speckled with frost, and the thick fur clothes the residents of the city wear.

A local woman enters Preobrazhensky Cathedral in a swirl of freezing mist.
A local woman enters Preobrazhensky Cathedral in a swirl of freezing mist. Image by Amos Chapple
A 52-year old retired teacher, dressed for a quick dash to the toilet.
A 52-year old retired teacher, dressed for a quick dash to the toilet. Image by Amos Chapple
A woman walks over an ice-encrusted bridge in Yakutsk. Oymyakon lies a two day drive from the city of Yakutsk, the regional capital.
A woman walks over an ice-encrusted bridge in Yakutsk. Oymyakon lies a two-day drive from the city of Yakutsk, the regional capital. Image by Amos Chapple
A view of Stalin's "Road of Bones", the route to Oymyakon, on a -50c evening.
A view of Stalin’s “Road of Bones”, the route to Oymyakon, on a -50c evening. Image by Amos Chapple
Ice crusted statues in a park commemorating the fallen of WWII in Yakutsk.
Ice crusted statues in a park commemorating the fallen of WWII in Yakutsk. Image by Amos Chapple
A toilet on the tundra at a petrol stop on the road to Oymyakon.
A toilet on the tundra at a petrol stop on the road to Oymyakon. Image by Amos Chapple

As well as feeling the physical effects of the weather himself, the trip posed many challenges for the photographer who was fascinated with the idea of showing how people lived. “Everything happens indoors there. From sports to school breaks, so as you can imagine it’s very hard to capture what daily life is like while wandering around outside,” Amos told Lonely Planet News. As growing crops in the hard frozen ground is not possible, the people in the city live on a staple of reindeer meat and fish, which is sometimes cut into thin slivers and eaten like sashimi. Some residents leave their cars running at night to help fight against parts freezing over, while outdoor toilets are mostly used to avoid indoor plumbing freezing.

The town of Omyakon's only shop, providing supplies for the isolated community.
The town of Omyakon’s only shop, providing supplies for the isolated community. Image by Amos Chapple
Cows walk back to their sheds after watering in the thermal spring in Omyakon.
Cows walk back to their sheds after watering in the thermal spring in Omyakon. Image by Amos Chapple
Oymakon village at dawn. The heating plant and its constant plume of coal smoke at left.
Oymakon village at dawn. The heating plant and its constant plume of coal smoke at left. Image by Amos Chapple
Dog sleeping in the carpark of Cafe Cuba, a petrol stop on the road between Yakutsk and Oymyakon.
Dog sleeping in the carpark of Cafe Cuba, a petrol stop on the road between Yakutsk and Oymyakon. Image by Amos Chapple
A frosty bus stop in Yakutsk.
A frosty bus stop in Yakutsk. Image by Amos Chapple
A Yakutian woman in the city centre. Steam from factories, cars and people creates a thick fog in winter which lingers through the coldest weeks.
A Yakutian woman in the city centre. Steam from factories, cars and people creates a thick fog in winter which lingers through the coldest weeks. Image by Amos Chapple

With adventure tourism taking off in regions all over the world, the photographer thinks that more people may make the pilgrimage there. “I think now the numbers of visitors to the city is growing, but the winter that I was in Yakutsk it was a rare thing for a foreigner to be there alone”, Amos said. More of the photographer’s work is available on his Facebook page.