Here's What It's Like to Live in the Coldest City on Earth

Here's What It's Like to Live in the Coldest City on Earth

Nancy Mitchell
Jan 12, 2015

With much of the country blanketed in icy air, you may feel like you live in the coldest place on earth. But your hometown is probably positively balmy compared to Oymyakon, Russia, the coldest city in the world.

In this town of 500 people, January temperatures average -47° Celsius (or -53° Fahrenheit). It also holds the dubious distinction of having recorded the coldest temperature of any permanently inhabited place on Earth, a chilly −67.7 °C (−90 °F) on February 6, 1933. Here are a few other facts of life in the far north.

1. You'll never have to worry about eating your vegetables.
Oymyakon is quite remote — it's a two-day drive from Yakutsk, which with a population of 300,000 is the world's coldest major city. The extreme cold makes it difficult to grow anything, so the residents of Oymyakon subsist mostly on meat: reindeer, horse, and Arctic fish. Reindeer soup, anyone?

2. Carports are not an option.
Car engines freeze in the inhospitable temperatures, so vehicles have to be kept in heated garages. If you plan on driving anywhere, the engine must be left idling the entire time your car is outside. Of course, there aren't many places to go — Oymyakon only has a single store (pictured up top) for its 500 residents.

3. No snow days.
In my hometown of Houston, Texas, school gets canceled if there's even a possibility of snow. Meanwhile, children at Oymyakon's one school only get a day off if the temperature dips below -52°C.

4. Going to the bathroom is a bit of an adventure.
Since it's impossible to lay pipes in the permanently frozen ground, most of Oymyakon's homes have outdoor toilets. The man pictured above is bundled up for a trip to the loo. He is much more cheerful than I would be.

5. You might find yourself drinking a lot of 'tea'.
How do the locals deal with the bone-chilling temperatures and the lack of daylight in a place where the sun rises at 11:15 AM and sets at 3:45? They drink a lot of "Russki chai, literally Russian tea, which is their word for vodka," according to photographer Amos Chapple, who took the pictures you see above. There's also a hot spring, where reindeer herders once watered their flocks, if you fancy a dip.

And if you're feeling very adventurous (and you really love the cold), you can even plan a trip to Oymyakon. Visit Yakutia offers tours, and the views are pretty breathtaking. Just don't forget to bundle up.

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