The Sakha (Yakutia) Republic

Kisilyakh Range

'Kisilyakh' (or 'kigilyakh') in Yakut means something like 'human-shaped'. This is the name of the weathered pillars of bizarre shapes that rise above the surface of a flat mountain, like stone people. Similar natural monuments are found in different parts of the world. In Russia, most of them are located in the Trans-Baikal Territory and especially in Yakutia. The Kisilyakh Range was explored for the first time by Ferdinand Wrangel's expedition to Chetyrekhstolbovaya Island in the East Siberian Sea. The island belongs to the lands of the Yakut, therefore the name is a traditional Yakut one. The most well-known Kisilyakh pillars are located in the range of the same name in the Republic of Sakha (formerly called Yakutia). The stone sculptures look so evocative and mysterious that the Kisilyakhs are called the Yakut Stonehenge or the Northern Shambhala.

Address: Verkhoyansky Municipal District, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
Site on the map

The Kisilyakh Range is part of the larger Chersky range, located in the watershed of the Yana and Alycha rivers, far from civilisation. The height of the mountains is 1,070 m and the length is about 25 km. Kisilyakh is a sacred place for the Yakuts. Until recently, it was virtually inaccessible, and tourists were able to go to Kisilyakh only in the 21st century.

The first impression is worth all the difficulties of getting there: the stone giants appear before the traveller's eyes, frozen in strange groups in the middle of a majestic deserted landscape. It is hard to believe that this was made by nature. Thoughts about northern gods and spirits arise as if of their own accord.

According to a Yakut legend, in ancient times it was warm here, and people lived in the mountains. When the cold began, they wanted to go south, but the mountain demons stopped them at the pass and turned them into stone. According to another legend, the kisilyakhs are the deities of the mountains, the higher Aiyy.

One way or another, everybody feels a special atmosphere at the top, and esotericists claim that the climb to the stone idols cleanses and fills one with energy.

Of course, everything has a scientific explanation. Geologists suggest that at first, about 120 million years ago, after the collision of the North American and Eurasian plates, folds of rock formed. They gradually collapsed under the impact of the winds and frost weathering. The frost splitting left the stone pillars, which were further weathered and took on fantastic shapes.

In 2016, the torch of the first Children of Asia Winter Games was lit on the Kisilyakh ridge, according to the ancient Yakut traditions and the shamanic algys blessing rite, to nourish the fire with the power of the ancestors and natural spirits.

Getting to the Kisilyakh Range requires several stages: first, you go to Yakutsk, then to the village of Bagatay in the Verkhoyansk ulus, and from there you go to Kisilyakh. In summer, the road from Bagatay to the destination can be covered on foot and partly by boat, in winter—by snowmobile. The most convenient but expensive way is by helicopter: there is a working airfield in the village, from which helicopters fly to the mountains and back.