Permafrost Kingdom

Museum in Yakutsk

At Permafrost Kingdom, two neon-lit tunnels burrowed into a permanently frozen hill have been filled with dozens of fabulous, never-melting ice sculptures of local pagan gods and a host of more recognisable objects and characters – a sitting Buddha, a pharaoh, Ded Moroz (Russia’s Santa Claus), a woolly mammoth and an icy interpretation of Picasso’s Guernica. Silver coats and woolly boots are given out to keep you insulated.

Permafrost affects almost every aspect of life in Yakutsk, obstructing drainage, causing unstilted buildings to bow and then collapse, spontaneously chucking up mounds of earth, and emitting enough methane to possibly alter the earth’s climate catastrophically. The Permafrost Kingdom is a great way to get up close and personal with this nebulous and omnipresent beast. In this subterranean permafrost zone, the temperature ranges from –7°C in summer to a balmy (relative to outside temperatures) –20°C in winter. Indeed, caves adjacent to the kingdom are used for electricity-free cold storage in the warm months. This is by far Yakutsk's quirkiest attraction and makes for a great little excursion year-round. It's 13km west of Yakutsk’s centre; buses 7 and 25 go here from pr Lenina, or a taxi is around R300.

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