Overland from Tynda to Yakutsk

Travellers in Tynda often have their sites on Yakutsk in the Sakha Republic. To get to Yakutsk you must first take a train to Neryungri, 5½ hours north (from R576). From there you can either fly with Yakutia Airlines (R10,500, 1¾ hours, daily except Sunday), or embark on one of the Far East’s classic overland journeys: 15 to 20 bumpy hours in a Russian UAZ jeep or van to cover 800km on the AYaM (Amuro-Yakutskaya Magistral) highway.

Daily departures from the Neryungri train station are timed for the 6.25am arrival of the train from Khabarovsk. Most trips are in 11-passenger vans, but if passengers are lacking you may end up in a four-passenger jeep. The price varies with the season, but typically costs around R4000 per person. It’s a pretty trip that cuts over a mountain pass and through tracts of virgin taiga (mountain pine) before traversing the Lena by car ferry an hour south of Yakutsk. However, it’s extremely rough in patches and quite dusty in the warmer months.

Passenger services on the AYaM train line run further north to Aldan (six hours) and Tommot (eight hours), but you’ll keep well ahead of the train (and avoid a possible overnight stay in either Aldan or Tommot) by getting a head start from Neryungri.

The AYaM train line actually extends a couple of hundred kilometres beyond Tommot, although passenger services terminate there. The line is being extended to Nizhny Bestyakh (opposite Yakutsk on the Lena River), and plans are to open the entire route to passenger services, but work had been suspended at the time of writing, and despite confident announcements of a further extension of the same line to Magadan, it remains to be see when or if this ambitious project will ever be completed.