Epic trip at the edge of the world. Magadan
- Yakutia and all kinds of madness in
From 6,800 USD per person
Please apply by 1st March, 2020.
Epic trip at the edge of the
world. Magadan - Yakutia and
all kinds of madness in between
From 6,800 USD per person
For fans of adventure, history, the obscure, and the evocative — this is the experience of a lifetime! See remote settlements, people living all kinds of lives across the region, abandoned gulags, abandoned towns and cities, stunning landscapes, enormous diamond pits, and so much more.
This tour will be led by our general manager and travel specialist Simon Cockerell, who first visited Magadan in the deep winter of 2010 to research this tour. Fascinated with the history of the Soviet Union, Simon has considerable knowledge of the area, and has been to Russia over 30 times and to every corner of the country — the known and unknown, famous, infamous, and ignored!
We have been running the particular tour every second year since 2010 and it is now in its 5th incarnation — and better than ever! The remote edges of Russia can be a harsh and unforgiving place, with long journeys, gruelling roads, and other logistical issues. However, the rewards of amazing landscapes, incredible people, and some unsettling and tragic-yet-compelling history having been lived and left in this area more than make up for it. See for yourself with the specialist who developed the itinerary specially for Koryo Tours’ adventurous travellers!
Wednesday July 15th. The tour begins in Magadan – it’s up to you to get here but we offer as much support as possible. There are flights from various places in Russia such as Moscow and Khabarovsk, easy connections from Vladivostok, from Harbin and Beijing in China, and we can help with those coming in from elsewhere. Regardless of your arrival time we provide a transfer from Magadan airport to the city centre for check-in so please look into flights and contact us for advice. It is not a problem to arrive a day early if this suits you better, we can arrange extra nights at the hotel for anyone who needs them.
On arrival in the city the group will meet our lovely local partners Vika, and Volodya. They will explain some basics about the history and geography of the region – we’ll learn more in detail later on. We’ll check in to the VM-Tsentr Hotel. The location is terrific and it’s a very comfortable place (the voucher the staff gives you when you check in is for one free drink in the hotel bar – it's only written in Russian). We’ll have a group dinner and then you’re free to wander the city. Our local friends can recommend places to go, things to see and do. Remember that it stays light late into the night here so you don’t have to worry about getting lost in the dark. The city isn’t huge and can easily be wandered around on foot without too much difficulty; you’ll find it a very interesting place indeed!
Thursday July 16th. Today we take a tour of the highlights of Magadan City; we’ll visit the Mask of Sorrow (Gulag monument dedicated to the victims of the Dalstroy forced labour system, a deeply moving monument on a hill overlooking the city), the local museum (which has a terrific display about the gulags as well as the local wildlife, both extinct and extant – the mammoth exhibit is particularly good), the workshop of a local bone carver (one of the quirkier businesses in this area is mining for mammoth ivory! This gentleman has a stock of the tusks as well as the bones of other extinct creatures in his basement workshop, he carves them into trinkets and works of art, it’s quite unique!), an observation point over the main bay of Magadan City (great for photos, also this is where the ships docked that brought prisoners to this place at the edge of the world, a chilling location), we’ll also go to a local beach (in true Magadan style there is an abandoned factory on the beach!) – where in the brief flowering of summer the locals like to sunbathe (the water is very cold, swim if you dare!).
Along the way we will stop for a group lunch and finally at the end of the day we’ll go to the local souvenir shop for all our Magadan-themed goodies and then you’re free for the evening. A big day tomorrow!
Saturday July 18th. We’ll break camp and head for a few more Gulag sites here, including a demolished factory site. Then we’ll make our way back to the highway and switch from the Kamaz truck to some comfortable mini-buses that we will now use along the Road of Bones. In the buses we’ll drive onwards enjoying some amazing scenery and surroundings for most of the rest of the day, stopping at a truck-stop for lunch and finally arriving in the remote and unusual city of Susuman in the late afternoon.
Susuman is very run down and some parts even seem abandoned, but thousands of people live here, there are shops, a restaurant (where we will have dinner), and a guesthouse run by a local factory (where we will spend the night), it also has some interesting things to see on a wander around the town such as a young scientists institute which for some reason has an airplane sticking out of an apartment building, some soviet-era apartment building murals and signs, a church, and often curious locals who are happy to chat and interact with the rare visitors to their city. If you want a night out in Susuman then go right ahead but it’s definitely a good idea to get some rest, something truly amazing awaits us the next day!
Sunday July 19th. Up early, first we hit the shops for supplies, then we drive on a further 90 mins to the largest abandoned city in this region; Kadykchan. This truly is the ideal abandoned town (if such a concept even exists!) – it’s the right size to spend a whole day wandering around without going through the same buildings twice, but small enough to know where you are all the time, the buildings haven’t been inhabited in two decades but most of the apartment blocks have held up very well. We can explore apartments, the city government building, schools (the highlight we believe, just for the murals alone), hospitals, restaurants, shops, etc. all left to the ravages of nature. It’s spooky and mind-blowing and we can guarantee that you’ll never forget this day! On previous visits some amazing souvenirs such as old school books, license plates, signs, etc. have been found too, so you’ll definitely be able to get yourself some amazingly unique mementoes of this fascinating day. Trust us when we say this will be among the most memorable days of your life – it has to be experienced to be believed!
We’ll eat a picnic lunch on the spot and then in the evening you have a choice of accommodation; either return to Susuman for another night in the hotel there, or occupy an abandoned apartment and become one of the very few Kadykchan residents of the 21st Century. If taking the second option then expect no electricity, no running water, no furniture (we will have camping equipment) and a general sense of post-apocalyptic living. It’ll be a night like no other; you’ll almost not want to sleep at all!
Monday July 20th. Those who stayed overnight in Susuman will head back to Kadykchan to collect those who camped out with the ghosts and memories, for the latter group if you get up in good time you can squeeze in a couple more hours of Kadykchan exploration (after comparing notes with what everyone else discovered this is a very good idea), otherwise have a lie-in until pick-up and we’ll head off along the highway mid morning, stopping for lunch at a rest-stop along the way.
Our destination today is Ust-Nera, a riverside settlement on the northern edge of the Road of Bones. We’ll arrive here late afternoon and we’ll try out a Central Asian cafe very far from the 'Stans! There will be free time to relax or to explore the city today as well (remember it gets dark very very late!) and we’ll stay overnight in a local hotel.
Tuesday July 21st. A free morning in Ust-Nera! Our local partners can show us around or you can go off on your own to see what there is to see in the town. We’ll have lunch at leisure and then assemble again to go to the small local airport. Here we will board one of the few flights that leaves Ust-Nera and take the 2 hour flight out of Magadan province and to the city at the other end of the Road of Bones, the capital of the vast Sakha Republic; Yakutsk! On arrival in this city we’ll get picked up and head for the city centre, our hotel awaits so we will check in and then have a brief orientation with a local expert about what Yakutsk is all about; its history, ethnography, geography, and more. Look for Yakutsk on a map – it’s nowhere near anything else so the very fact of its existence is an oddity, one that we will learn all about! Also (for trivial fans) it’s the largest city in the world built on permafrost – see the stilts that hold up all of the buildings around the city for a quirky architectural feature here. Tonight have a free evening to do whatever you like (our local friends will advise if you need some help, it’s a safe town with plenty of nightlife options for drinks, wandering around, restaurants, and so on).
July 22nd.We’ll take a flight from Yakutsk to a place even more remote and obscure; a
town called Mirny, about 2.5 hours deep into the heart of Siberian Russia, a
place remote even by the standards of Russians. A place that exists for one
reason only; Diamonds! In the heart of the town is the second deepest pit ever
dug by man, a giant hole from whence untold tons of diamonds have been hauled
from deep within the earth. The raw statistics tell one story (you can read all
about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mir_mine) but getting to visit the site is
something else entirely. The exact level of access we can gain is not finalised
yet but we’ll have gone somewhere very unusual and somewhere to shame the holiday
destinations of your friends! We’ll spend as much time here as possible and
stay the night in Mirny too. It will be a long, expensive, and arduous journey,
but one that will provide an unbeatable experience in deepest Russia, something
that will stick in the mind forever!
Thursday July 23rd. The
morning is spent exploring the town of Mirny, even though the mine may not
operate any more there is still a population of people living in this seemingly
unlivable remote place, we’ll see what life here is all about and see what
local businesses and people are up to. Human interaction is important on any
holiday and we’ll get as much as we can at this point. An organised tour int he morning, lunch at a
local restaurant and then free time to do some more exploring. the locals are friendly, the streets are easy to navigate, one coffee shop has very good wifi (best for hundreds of miles!) and there are even some well-hidden local souvenirs! enjoy a busy or leisurely time in this amazing remote settlement!
July 24th – We set off for the airport and fly back to the local capital, Yakutsk. When we hit the ground we will begin a city tour of this fascinating place - the highlights of Yakutsk include
old and new buildings so we can see the evolution of the architectural style, a
truly remarkable church, a massive war memorial along the mighty Lena River, and
much much more – including the Kingdom of Permafrost – a subterranean look at
frozen ground, much more interesting than it sounds, as well as the mammoth
museum where you can see how specimens of this extinct beast are recovered from
the area, and meet a local expert who travels around digging them up from the
ice. We will have a final group dinner in a very nice local restaurant and then the evening will be free for us to have a night out in the quasi-European
local bars and restaurants and to wander the city, interacting as much as
possible with the very diverse local population, a highlight in and of itself and an amazing way to finish off a remarkable journey!
All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra 40 EUR per night.See more
Please apply by 1st March, 2020.