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18:12 | Feb 27 | 2012

Visiting Chyskhaan

“The Kingdom of Permafrost” is One of the “Trademarks” of Yakutia.

Climate is one of the defining characteristics of Yakutia. Permafrost which reigns here not only impresses all those who first encounters with its manifestations, but also actively “does the trick” with the development of tourism in the region.

How to Warm up amidst Ice
One place obligatory for tourists when visiting Yakutsk, is a tourist complex “Kingdom of the Permafrost”. This ice grotto of 2000 square meters of area was dug in Soviet times in the permafrost as a place to store strategic food reserves for emergencies. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, at a time when privatization started far and wide, the grotto ended up in private hands. In 2009, after years of changing hands, the object was acquired by the National Tourist Company “Yakutia”. Gradually, the grotto has been converted into a functioning year-round tourist destination where the temperature remains stable from -7 to -10 ° C summer and winter alike. Due to this thermal stability all guests of the “Kingdom” have an opportunity to experience very unusual sensations: in summer to find themselves in an icy world, or go here to “warm up” in winter, when frost outside is being a fierce minus forty degrees.
Today, “The Kingdom” consists of two parts: one is used for tourist purposes, and the second is empty for the time being

Touch the Permafrost with Your Hands
The “lived-in” part of the “Kingdom of the Permafrost” is a complex of various rooms designed by professional ice sculptors. Here there is even a throne room, where visitors are greeted by the master of cold Chyskhaan, and a ceremonial hall, which is intended for the ceremonies of blessing and purification. By the way, the ceremonial hall is of particular interest to newlyweds, as the swans, which decorate it, - symbolize purity as per the Yakut mythology and fidelity as per the European culture. The accompanying guide will certainly tell the legend of the Master of the North – a hummock-man made of a block of ice that sits in the next room. He creates living beings out of frost and breathes life into them. In another room of the Kingdom there is a mini-museum of paleontology. A small display of the remains of mammoths and other Ice Age animals is accompanied by a short story of the guide on the permafrost and fossil retrieved from it.
In addition, visitors of the complex can slide down an icy-run and get a snowflake, in exchange for which the archivist, sitting in the adjoining room – the icy office – will issue a personal certificate of attendance. Here on an ice office desk stands an ice computer, an ice fax and an ice writing set. Having walked around the rooms, the guests share their experiences sitting at an ice bar counter and treating themselves to drinks from ice glasses. Thus, tourists have an opportunity not only to meet unique Yakut national culture, but also to literally touch the permafrost with their hands.

A Hot Reception at an Ice Hotel
Preparations are now under way in the empty part of the ice cave. Soon there will be an ice hotel here. The main feature of this project will be the consistency of its operation: if similar facilities in other countries are seasonal and melt when spring arrives, the Yakut hotel will be open to visitors all year round.
“At first, there are plans to build two or three fully-equipped rooms, where all dishes and furniture are made of ice. It is common practice for such guesthouses while our main feature is year-round operation: in the July heat when temperature rises to +35 ° C in Yakutia, it will be possible to stay overnight quite comfortably at -7 ° C here”, tells about the hotel in the depths of the permafrost Georgy Gavrilyev, general manager of the national tour operator. “National color in the performance of work will be another “zest” of the hotel. Its guests will be able to taste the real Yakut cuisine, listen to ethnic music and enjoy the beauty of ethnic weave.”
The construction of the unusual hotel is expected to be started this autumn. “We could have started earlier, but some features of the grotto do not allow that,” says Georgy Gavrilyev. “Usually, the ice is harvested in January when it has a maximum thickness of up to 2 meters. We will not be able to build a hotel in a couple of months, and carrying out construction in the summer is fraught with serious consequences for the entire complex. When the outside temperature exceeds +30 ° C, and there are a lot of people inside the grotto it can be bad for the ground temperature and lead to melting, which, of course, is impermissible. Therefore, we plan to start construction in October - November to complete the process in the first half of 2013 and already invite the first guests.”
Commenting the news on the construction of an ice hotel on the territory of Yakutia, the experts agree that this unusual project will not only be a good investment for the company, but also quite likely turn into a major tourist brand of the whole region. Which means it will contribute to the dynamic development of tourism in the Republic.