Overland to Chukotka
The Road of Bones, considered by many to be one of the world’s most hardcore road trips, is a well-trodden walk in the park compared to the ice road to Chukotka.
Most guide books and travel sites will tell you that the only way to get to Chukotka, Russia’s northeasternmost, remotest and most exotic province, is by air. This is not correct. In summer you can get there by sailing up the Kolyma River from Magadanskaya Oblast and through Northern Yakutia. In winter, a zimnik (ice road) opens up on the frozen river surface, and it is possible to drive straight from Yakutia to Chukotka. This route takes you through some of Yakutia’s most beautiful mountain scenery, to villages thousands of kilometres from the nearest permanent road, and to Arctic tundra inhabited by nomadic reindeer herders.
Click this link for an itinerary entirely within Chukotka, including nomadic reindeer herders, traditional whale hunters, polar bears, enormous walrus colonies and bird rookeries, sacred / burial sites, and more. Otherwise continue down on this page for the Overland to Chukotka trip.
Time of year: February – April
Number of travellers: 2 – 7
|Day 1||Fly from Moscow to Yakutsk|
|Day 2||Arrive in Yakutsk early morning and do a day trip to the Lena Pillars, a forest of rock pillars up to 300m tall lining the banks of the River Lena. Overnight in hotel.|
|Day 3||Drive 500km along the Road of Bones from Yakutsk to Khandyga. Visit gulag museum. Overnight in hotel.|
|Day 4||Drive 500km along Road of Bones from Khandyga to Oymyakon, the world’s coldest settlement, where the colest temperature ever officially registered was -71C. Overnight in local home.|
|Day 5||Visit nearby indigenous Evenki reindeer herders. Overnight in Oymyakon home.|
|Day 6||Visit indigenous Yakut horse herders. Go ice fishing. Overnight in local home.|
|Day 7||Drive 300km to Ust Nera. This is where we will turn north off the Road of Bones and start on the temporary winter road (zimnik) that leads north to Arctic Yakutia and Chukotka. Overnight in hotel.|
|Days 8 – 9||Head off on the winter road into the Momskiy Mountains, among the most beautiful in Russia, highest point 2533 metres. Cross the Indigirka River. On day 9 overnight in a small private hotel in the indigenous Even village of Sasyr, population 600.|
|Days 9 – 12||Continue on the winter road through the stunning Momskiy Mountains, until we reach the village of Zyryanka, population 2000, on the bank of the infamous Kolyma River, where all of Russia’s most feared gulag camps were located. Overnight in a hotel on day 12.|
|Days 13 – 17||Continue north, driving on the frozen surface of the Kolyma River. Cross the Arctic Circle. Arrive at the village of Srednekolymsk, population 3,000 mixed Evenki, Yakuts and Russians, founded as a fortress in 1643 by Cossacks exploring Siberia. Overnight in a hotel.|
|Days 18 – 19||Continue north on the winter road to the indigenous herding, hunting and fishing village of Argakhtakh, population 400 and located 300km north of the Arctic Circle.|
|Days 20 – 21||Continue north on the winter road to Andryushkino, a village of indigenous Yukagir hunters and reindeer herders, population 700. 30km away from Andryushkino are some of Yakutia’s most spectacular and least documented kisilyakh, spread out over a vast area of tundra stretching away as far as the eye can see.|
|Days 22 – 24||Continue on the winter road to the hunting, fishing and reindeer herding village of Kolymskoe on the banks of the River Kolyma, population 700. Kolymskoe is the only village in Yakutia to be inhabited by the indigenous Chukchi people.|
|Days 25 – 26||Drive north along the frozen surface of the River Kolyma to the village of Cherskiy, population 2,000. This is very near the point where the Kolyma River feeds into the Arctic Ocean, and Cherskiy has a large sea port called Zelyoniy Mys. Overnight in hotel.|
|Day 27||Cross the border between Yakutia and Chukotka, driving through spectacular mountain scenery and very likely seeing nomadic Chukchi reindeer herders on the way. Arrive in the town of Bilibino, population 5,000, in western Chukotka. Overnight in a hotel.|
|Day 28||Fly from Bilibino to Magadan. Overnight in hotel.|
|Day 29||Explore Magadan and surrounding area. If so desired, we can do a day hike along the coast to a beautiful peninsula with a view out over the Pacific Ocean. Overnight in hotel.|
|Day 30||Fly to Moscow|
|Number of people||price|
Included in the price:
* All flights and transport throughout the itinerary as detailed above, starting in Moscow and ending in Moscow.
* All activities as detailed on the itinerary above.
* Accommodation in hotels and local homes as detailed in the itinerary above. Guests must be prepared for the fact that some of these hotels are in extremely small isolated communities and are impossible to contact in advance. If there are not enough spaces at such hotels, we will try to get guests put up in local homes. If even that is not possible, there are of course 8 sleeping places in the vakhtovka truck.
* English-speaking interpreter
* satellite phone for emergency use
* Letter of invitation for Russian visa
* Food and drinks
* international flights
* Equipment or clothing
It must be noted that from day 8 – 27 this is a serious expedition. This is a road very rarely travelled by locals, let alone outsiders. Distances between villages can be over 500km. Even more so than our other trips, this trip requires a certain kind of traveller – those with a real spirit of adventure, no desire for a completely fixed itinerary but just keen to visit some of the most isolated places and people in the world. It is perfectly possible that we will arrive at some villages sooner or later than indicated on the itinerary, as everythig depends on the condition of the ice road, which can be unpredictable.
Payment: A 30% deposit must be paid to reserve the dates of your trip. The balance payment must be paid no later than 2 months before the trip start date.
Entry permits to a closed Arctic area:: This trip takes travellers through areas where all outsiders, Russian or foreign, require a special entry permit. This permit is completely separate from your Russian visa and takes 2.5 months to process. We therefore kindly ask you to send us scanned copies of your passports a minimum of 2.5 months before the trip start date.