In northern Russia, just a few hundred kilometers from the Arctic Circle, there is a village called oymyakon. It is the coldest permanent settlement on earth, and further north there is no one but scientists.
Oymyakon means “unthawed waters” in the local language. The average temperature from December to February is below -50°C. Sometimes it’s very cold in the summer, below zero, but almost no lower than -10°C. On February 6, 1933, the weather station at oymyakon recorded a temperature of -67.7°C, the lowest ever recorded officially in the northern hemisphere, and the village built a monument to it. The world record was recorded at the South Pole, where a temperature of -89.3°C was recorded at the east Antarctic station in 1983.
Oymyakon is located in a valley that draws the wind to the village, making it cooler. Originally, people stopped here only because of the discovery of hot springs, which never froze even in winter, and reindeer herders used it as a stopover. At its peak, the village had a population of 2,500, when it was a central town in the region, but by 2018 that number had fallen to less than 900. Unable to grow crops, the 900 residents rely on meat, mainly venison, horsemeat and fish.
When you walk outside, lashes and saliva freeze into painful little needles on your face. Even the vodka will freeze if the bottle is left outside. The cold makes the whole village virtually devoid of traffic, the car’s fuel tank freezes, the car doesn’t start, the battery loses power at an alarming rate, pens and ink freeze, and electronics are almost useless. The villagers have little to do except for reindeer, who fish in the frozen lake every day. In the winter of the village, there are only three hours in the day. Except for the extreme night, the village has the longest 21 hours of darkness in the world. Every march, the village holds activities to celebrate the end of the dark winter.
Every year after march, the village begins to receive visitors, who can experience reindeer racing, dogsledding, fishing in the frozen lake and so on. The most famous tourist attraction is a hot spring, where villagers dig warm water out of thick ice.