From old gulag camps, exploring abandoned cities and towns, learning the dark history of the region, seeing how people live here now, to the lively city of Yakutsk built entirely on permafrost, the bizarre and seriously remote mining settlement of Mirny with its signature enormous pit - this is the tour if you love adventure, and don’t mind roughing it in a little-seen remote and mind-blowing part of the world
Read on for a description of our 2018 Russia tour;
We’re proud to be able to offer our Magadan tour in 2018 that will take the willing traveller on an odyssey from the remotest corner of Russia deep into the interior, travelling along the world’s longest road; the Kolyma Highway – known as the ‘road of bones’ from Magadan (the name of which alone is enough to raise hairs on the back of the neck when its history is examined) all the way to the city of Yakutsk, capital of the vast province of Yakutia – now known as the ‘Sakha Republic’).
Along the way we will camp at the chilling and evocative gulag site of Dneprovsky – a place where iron was mined by Stalin’s prisoners, we’ll explore the site and learn about the history from local experts. We’ll travel on to the small city of Susuman, a decaying town deep in Magadan province, visiting abandoned towns and factories along the way (some amazing photos and souvenirs can be found in such places, unforgettable views and experiences!), we’ll spend more than a day exploring every corner of the major ghost city of Kadykchan, opened to the world by Koryo Tours in 2011 and a place few have ever been, but those who have will never forget it – by turns melancholy, exciting, tragic, thrilling, frightening, but truly a place that etches itself into the mind!
We’ll stay overnight in Kadykchan, bedding down rough in a remote once-vibrant pioneer community of many thousands, now a totally abandoned city slowly being reclaimed by nature - an experience of the end of the world at the edge of the world!
We’ll travel on into Russia’s vast Yakutia province (it has three time zones!), stopping at the most northern part of the Road of Bones; the settlement of Ust-Nera, and along the way seeing other sites of industry left to freeze in the deep Siberian winters that last for up to 11 months a year, we’ll stay in settlements almost unknown to tourists, and Russians too! We’ll cover the last section by plane and arrive in the deep interior city of the Sakha Republic, the end of the road but a place almost as remote as where we started. Here we will be able to enjoy some relaxation and even a bit of nightlife in this relative Metropolis (in that it hasn’t been abandoned; seriously though, this city has a fun nightlife and restaurant scene, relief from the hard road travelling!).
We’ll visit the highlights of the city, both conventional (the town square for example), and wacky (for example the Kingdom of Permafrost!) and then it’s on to somewhere just as fascinating but slightly odder (if that can be true!). We will take a flight from Yakutsk to the mining settlement of Mirny on the far western edge of the province. Mirny was the USSR’s main diamond producing town and when we arrive we will see where they dug the shiny and valuables little stones from – a giant pit right on the edge of town, at 525 metres deep and 1200 metres in diameter this is the second largest man-made hole in the world, a feature so stunning that helicopters are forbidden to fly over the top of the pit as they would be dragged into its depths. A quick Google search will show you pictures of this awe-inspiring sight – and you know how much better it will be up close!
So if you’re looking for the holiday of a lifetime, massive bragging rights when the holiday conversation comes up, a serious tick on the bucket list, some photos to dazzle your friends and family with, a trip to report to the world in a travel publication, or even to just get away from the normal world for a while, then we would be honoured to have you along. We’re taking bookings now and space is strictly limited, so get in touch and let us know if you’re interested!
Please contact us to register your interest in our next tour to Russia
Epic trip at the edge of the world. Magadan
- Yakutia and all kinds of madness in
From 7,300 USD per person
Please apply by 31st May, 2018.
Epic trip at the edge of the
world. Magadan - Yakutia and
all kinds of madness in between
From 7,300 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 - see the unexpected and the unbelievable
Wednesday July 11th. 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 12th. 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 14th. 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 15th. 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 16th. 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 17th. 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).
Wednesday July 18th. After a leisurely morning (a rare thing on this fast-paced and action-packed tour!), we will have a tour of the highlights of Yakutsk in the afternoon, including 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. 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!
Thursday July 19th. 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!
Friday July 20th. 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. We’ll have lunch at a local restaurant before taking the flight back to Yakutsk, on arrival in the city everyone is set loose for the last bit of freedom of the tour, so explore with great gusto, or settle down in a café to think about all that we have experienced in the last days, there will be much to think about, and you’ll have taken more photos that you would think, that’s for sure! We’ll find a good spot for a final dinner of the trip.
Saturday July 21st. Departure Day – There are flights this day to Moscow (from where almost anywhere in Europe can be reached, as well as North America), and to Harbin (in Northern China, from where you can easily move on to anywhere in China or East Asia and down to Australasia), and other destinations too. So head home, continue to explore Russia, or embark on even more adventures! The end of the trip but the start of remembering the trip for many years to come!
Please apply by 31st May, 2018.
Abandoned Russia tour 2018View tour