Read on for a brief description of our 2021 Norilsk - Remote Russia tour - AVAILABLE FOR BOOKING
Above the Arctic Circle, where the mighty Yenisei River meets the Arctic Ocean there sits a vast deposit of valuable Nickel. In 1937 the Soviet Union forced prisoners to open this inhospitable area to industry and the city and area of Norilsk was born properly. Since that time this has been a 'closed city' with access to foreigners not permitted, but we have a (legal) way in and we would love to take you there with us!
The tour in summer 2021 will see us first arrive in the remote settlement of Igarka, then after exploring there make our way further north to the Norilsk area by boat up the Yenisei River. We will explore the three cities of Dudinka, Norilsk, and Talnakh, staying overnight in each of them. See daily life, the history of the fascinating area, descend into a training mine to see the industry that sustains and pollutes this place, gulags, abandoned areas, learn about indigenous peoples, exploration and opening up of the area and just so much more besides this - join us for an epic adventure at the top of the world!
Read on for a description of our 2021 Magadan - Abandoned Russia tour - AVAILABLE FOR BOOKING
from the regional centre of Magadan (a fascinating town, both dark and fun at the same time), to old gulag camps, exploring abandoned cities and towns, learning the dark history of these regions and seeing how people live there now. If this tickles your travel nerve then this is the tour for you! If you love adventure, and don’t mind roughing it a bit in a little-seen remote and mind-blowing part of the world you will have stories to tell for a lifetime after a visit to the deepest and most astonishing corner of Remote Russia
We’re proud to be able to offer our Magadan tour in 2021 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’ visiting the chilling gulag site of Dneprovsky, the utterly unforgettable abandoned city of Kadykchan, other semi-inhabited settlements in this stunning, rugged, and remote part of the world - much more than you would ever imagine is included in this adventure. Come with us on a journey to the edge of the world, and beyond!
This tour will be led by our general manager and travel specialist Simon Cockerell. Fascinated with the history of Russia and the Soviet Union, Simon has considerable knowledge of these areas, and has been to Russia over 30 times, to every corner of the country — the known and unknown, famous, infamous, and ignored!
Please contact Simon to register your interest in our next tour to Russia
Explore Norilsk - an epic journey
to a unique and forbidden place!
From 2,800 USD per person
Please apply by 30th April, 2021.
Explore Norilsk - an
epic journey to a unique
and forbidden place!
From 2,800 USD per person
Closed to outsiders since its foundation as a forced-labour nickel mining colony, Norilsk has since grown into an absolutely fascinating and utterly remote region of apocalyptic industrial landscapes, stunning natural beauty, a fascinating and hardy local population, and so much more for pioneering adventurers to discover – see this very remote and very special area with Koryo Tours!
We start the tour in Igarka, an unknown and super-remote place. It is reachable only by a very rare flight and home to some fascinating museums. From here, we travel up to Norilsk by ship along the Yenisei River.
Norilsk is a closed city in the arctic circle, known for being the world's most polluted city and the base of the largest nickel mines in the world - but is so much more than this! We will also travel to Dudinka - Port settlement controlling access from the arctic to the Siberian interior, and Talnakh, a Fascinating town and the base of some of the dirtiest and most apocalyptic industry on the planet. Beautiful and terrifying all at once.
IMPORTANT NOTE: These dates are provisional but planned. Final confirmation will come in October when domestic flight and boat dates are confirmed. We recommend not booking flights to/from Russia until that time
Tuesday June 29th
Our epic adventure begins on arrival in Igarka (flights to here are only from Krasnoyarsk, we can assist in buying these tickets as well as any pre-tour accommodation or tour in Krasnoyarsk via our local partners, get in contact for more information on this). deep in the remote north of Russia. A tiny town known (if at all) for being the centre for gulag prisoners working on a never-completed railway project. This unlikely spot is where we begin this unlikely trip. We will have a walking tour of the town including the Museum of Polar Aviation to get us oriented and then some free time before we stay overnight in the local hotel
Wednesday June 30th
We have a full day in Igarka as our onward transportation doesn't depart until the following day. So we will be led on further explorations in the morning until lunchtime in a local restaurant, then in the afternoon we will visit the award-winning Museum of Permafrost. Something crucial to any and all structures and indeed life itself in these regions. A free evening to explore and make the most of the time in this remote area follows, we depart the next day on a river cruise!
Thursday July 1st
We depart from Igarka heading north on a boat trip up the mighty Yenisei River. Our ship is the V. Chkalov, a comfortable vessel equipped with cabins, furnishings, bathrooms, and so on. We will ride in relative comfort (Especially considering where we are at this point!) and leave Igarka at 09:00. the views of the river along this route are known to be excellent and the remoteness of the journey emphasised by the experience. Lunch and Dinner will be served on the ship and we will make final arrival in the port city of Dudinka (part of the Norilsk area) at around 21:00. from there we disembark and check into our hotel for the night.
So here we are in the Norilsk Area - being a closed region all foreigners need a special permit to enter this area (which has been closed to foreigners since 1937) and we will provide this. Dudinka was founded as a settlement in 1667, due to its position giving it access to both the interior of the Russian north as well as the river flowing from the arctic ocean down deep into Siberia. The modern town functions mostly as the site from where the main product of the region, nickel, is shipped to the outside world on barges. A somewhat sleepy but highly interesting settlement you can find sports facilities, shops, monuments, and much more here.
Friday July 2nd
Welcome to Norilsk! You need a special permit to enter this area (which has been closed to foreigners since 1937) and we will provide this.The first settlement we explore in this region is Dudinka, on the mighty Yenisei River. Dudinka was founded as a settlement in 1667, due to its position giving it access to both the interior of the Russian north as well as the river flowing from the arctic ocean down deep into Siberia. The modern town functions mostly as the site from where the main product of the region, nickel, is shipped to the outside world on barges. A somewhat sleepy but highly interesting settlement you can find sports facilities, shops, monuments, and much more here.
We will visit some of the highlights of Dudinka, including the port area itself with its fascinating collection of aged cranes, the de rigueur Lenin statue, the city museum which contains fascinating exhibits of northern culture, indigenous peoples, and the often-tragic history of this area, War Memorials, and more! We’ll walk around the city centre and soak up the vibes too – prepare for an amazing first day! We will finish off by heading for the city of Norilsk, a 90 min drive away. We’ll make the time to stop at some of the outer mining settlements, amazing for photos and dotted with quirky sites such as an old plane used as a town marker in one case, as well as other scenic spots. On arrival in Norilsk, we will check into our hotel. Free time in the evening for dinner and evening exploring – remember it doesn’t get dark at all so keep an eye on the time if out on the town in the evening!
Saturday July 3rd
After breakfast we begin a long walking tour of this most-amazing of cities. Leninsky Prospekt, the main street through the centre, is designed to evoke St. Petersburg’s Nevsky Prospekt (you have to squint a bit and use some imagination, but the similarity is there!), we’ll walk this street, see some monuments around the city, pass the World’s most northern Mosque, see good old Lenin again, stand on the foundation stone of the city, see the First House (built by prospectors surveying the area), a WW2 monument, the Zapolyanrnik recreation ground (with one of Russia’s omnipresent Pushkin parks nearby), and so much more too! We will stop for a hearty lunch, coffee shop break and so on but we will cover as much ground as possible and see as much of the city as we can. While Norilsk is not a huge place it is still big enough to contain many gems and a range of buildings. Of specific architectural interest are some of the older buildings (of which several are derelict now), as well as some of the utterly massive Soviet-era apartment buildings that stretch for enormous distances. As this is the arctic all buildings are on stilts above the permafrost, gas pipes run through the city also providing heating and energy, churches, shops, bars, restaurants, and much more exist here too – for the free time in the evening you’ll find much to do as well – it’s a surprisingly lively town for somewhere so remote and shrouded in mystery!
Wear good shoes for this day – we will see and do a great deal and cover a long distance – at the end of the day you’ll have a much better sense of what it is like to live in such a city
Sunday July 4th
This morning we will take a drive to Staryy Gorod, the ‘Old Town’ in a place founded less than a century ago. This is the original mining settlement here, an area still used for mineral extraction as well as some of the administration of the mines. Here some buildings survive form the early days such as the first hospital, former gulag admin buildings and so on, most re-purposed and still in use for various reasons. The first mine can be seen and the difference between this simple wooden structure and the modern behemoths is stark. The first miners here didn’t come voluntarily; they were prisoners and victims of the Great Terror. Shipped here in their thousands and put to work in this unwelcoming environment very few of them ever left. To the memory of these unfortunates there is a Gulag Memorial; a tasteful small chapel and some evocative monuments in this area, we will visit these and have an explanation of how this place came to be and the dark history of the area.
We’ll continue our drive around the old town and stop at some curios such as a small abandoned factory, a quirky marker stone, and a well-done Komsomol Monument, before crossing back to the ‘new’ town for lunch and the rest of the day at leisure (we can recommend some extra activities if you like, there is much more to see and do and areas of the city to explore)
Monday July 5th
There are in fact three main settlements in the Norilsk area, and today we head for the third of these; the town of Talnakh. This is just a short distance from Norilsk but strangely seems to have a different micro-climate and general vibe too. We take a drive through a wooded area, doted with (some derelict, some still in use) sanitaria and dachas. We will stop at the bridge over the Norilskaya River and see some of the fishing and pleasure boat fleets that are moored here (also great for photos), and on arrival at the edge of the town of Talnakh will have a peek at their very own ski resort (one slope, no other real facilities, quite quirky). We’ll drove on to a hilltop viewpoint that will give us a good sense of the topography of the area and show how dominated by mines this part of the world is. There are many massive nickel mines surrounding the city and employing almost the entire labour force here. We’ll have a picnic on this hill and then descend to visit the massive abandoned Noriskgeologiya Research Facility site. This was a geological research and study centre which fell into disuse and lies derelict – locals use it for various things such as a base for free wood as well as a place to play a violent form of Russian paintball set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, you will see how very apt this is when you’re there!
After exploring here we finally make our way into the town itself, past monuments to miners we will go to a central viewpoint to see what the settlement looks like from up close and above (there is a cliff in the middle of the place, allowing for amazing views), and then get down into the streets to see the local museum and have a walking tour of the central part. This town is much smaller than Norilsk but it is compact and easy to navigate, you’ll love it!
A free evening follows (we can recommend interesting places to have some dinner and drinks)
Tuesday July 6th
As you know now, and as will be abundantly clear when we are there, nickel mining is the lifeblood of this entire area. Without nickel there would be no larger settlements here at all (and much less environmental damage too!). We will have the rare chance to visit one of the nickel mines here, to speak to workers and to find out what they do, where they come from, what it is like working in such a place, what nickel is and does, and so much more about the place; direct from the mouths of local people. The degree of access to the mine is not confirmed yet (don’t expect to be hacking away at the rock-face underground though!) but we will get as much as possible and see this heavy industry up close – essential to modern technological life, but disastrous for the environment and the health of many who work up close to it, this industry in many ways characterizes the harshness as well as the stark beauty and wonder of the environment and the place we have come to visit
We head back to Norilsk city – on arrival checking back into our hotel and then you’re free for a final afternoon of exploration, souvenir shopping (yes there are some places to get local souvenirs – we will show you where), relaxing, sending postcards, walking around some of the remoter parts of town, whatever you like really! We will meet up for a group dinner at an excellent restaurant - a final dinner for this fast-paced but comprehensive and guaranteed life-changer of a trip!
Wednesday July 7th
Departure Day – Flights depart from Norilsk airport, again all are domestic flights within the Russian Federation. We arrange transfers to the airport and then you can head home or continue your adventures in the amazing and massive country. Let us know if we can be of any assistance in recommending further travels of course! This is the end of the adventure but the start of many years of amazing memories of this remarkable place!
Join our amazing adventure to Magadan! If you haven't had enough of Remote Russia by this time then com with us on this additional adventure - we can help with flights from Norilsk to Magadan and then you join our group there exploring abandoned cities, sleeping in a gulag, travelling on the epic Kolyma Highway (the Road of Bones) and so much more. Check it out and let us know if you're interested. We offer discounts for combining tours of course
Please apply by 30th April, 2021.
Epic trip at the edge
of the world - Visit Magadan!
From 4,200 USD per person
Please apply by 1st June, 2021.
Epic trip at the
edge of the world
- Visit Magadan!
From 4,200 USD per person
For fans of adventure, history, the obscure, and the evocative — this is the experience of a lifetime: Magadan!
See remote settlements, people living all kinds of lives across the region, abandoned gulags, abandoned towns and cities, stunning landscapes, and so much more. T
his 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 at select times since 2010 and it is now in its 6th 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 especially for Koryo Tours’ adventurous travellers!
Magadan City - evocative settlement at the edge of Russia - famous for being a transit point for prisoner transfers but now capital of the region and a fascinating and eve fun place to visit!
Dneprovsky Gulag - once a tin ore mine and home to thousands of 'zeks'. closed in 1953 and left for the tundra to reclaim. See what is left and camp in this saddest of places. Hear tales of how this dreadful system came to be.
Kadykchan - once-thriving pioneer city from the early 1960s. home to thousands of optimistic young adventuring families. Not an abandoned ruin and testament to Russia of the 1990s. not a soul remains, but the city's structure is all there to see and explore.
Kolyma Highway - traverse this crucial but sinister trail, the 'Road of Bones'. Artery of the region hacked from the forests and permafrost by gulag prisoners. On this tour we drive th Road of bones out and back again to Magadan, but we follow two completely different routes - something very unique indeed!
Our 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, Novosibirsk, 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 (join us for a welcome beer in the hotel bar!). 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! We will have a meal in the best restaurant in Magadan to welcome you all and start the tour in the best way possible!
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 Magadan History 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 Nagaeyev Harbour (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), the home of famed singer and composer Vadim Kozin, (one of the most famous of the prisoners in Magadan, learn his tragic story, one of many millions) stop off at the Lenin Statue of course! and see even more of the city than we list here, including a stop at the China Town Market for any supplies needed for the next day; come and see Magadan with us on this action-packed day
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 (we can recommend bars, restaurants, and other activities). A big day tomorrow!
We head off along the Kolyma Highway (known in the west as the ‘Road of Bones’) – the longest road in the world and one built by prisoners to ease the passage of many more unfortunate souls into the inner-depths of the Kolyma area, from where many would never return. We’re heading for the Dneprovsky Gulag Camp – one of the most complete remaining camps in the area (note that these camps are not preserved as museums, they are left to crumble and decay, in a few years almost nothing will be left to see of this dark place). The drive will be done in a Kamaz truck – a large multi-axle Russian vehicle that can traverse the 20km of deep forest we need to drive through to make it to the Gulag site. Along the way, we’ll make some stops for rest and refreshment including at the abandoned town of Atka, which we will have time to explore.
We should arrive at the Gulag in the early afternoon and then we’ll set off on a hike around the area; we’ll be guided by a local gulag historian and expert, he’ll give us a fascinating insight into what went on here and has many a heart-breaking story to tell, and some amazing statistics, feel free to ask anything you like about the Gulag, he knows a great deal indeed! Bears do pass through this area but fear not! We also take a couple of local hunters and drivers with us who know the Russian outdoors very well, they will ensure our safety and security on this part of the trip, and also pitch camp for us to rest and eat a terrific meal of local specialities after we have finished exploring the Gulag site. Some of the highlights of this exploration include guard towers, the mine entrance (it was a tin mine), the cemetery, bread making buildings, officers houses. It’s a chilling and fascinating place to visit, let alone spend the night. The sun will be up until about 2AM here but get some sleep if you can we surge onwards the next day!
OVERNIGHT: Camping at Dneprovsky Gulag
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 until we turn off the main Kolyma highway and head for the settlement of Sinegorye. Here we will pass through some very unexplored areas and see the Sinegorye Dam, some gulag and abandoned infrastructure along the way, as well as a regional museum. Arriving in Sinegorye we will be back in a small piece of civilisation and will be spending the night in a retro sanitarium; health treatments are on offer or just relaxing and exploring the town.
OVERNIGHT: Sinegorye Hotel, Sinegorye
Up and refreshed after a night in an actual hotel, we will hit the road once more, our destination this morning is the town of Yagodnoye, former gulag admin centre and now a small settlement mainly housing local gold miners. We will visit the Krivbas Gold Mine where we will learn how gold is extracted and processed here these days, as well as the Shalamov Museum - with exhibits to the great writer who was once an involuntary resident of this town. The Museums here are small but very well presented and staffed by people seriously dedicated to their mission, you will find this to be absolutely fascinating!
After lunch in the town, we will continue north, our destination at the end of the day is the remote and unusual city of Susuman in the mid-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 aeroplane 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!
OVERNIGHT: Susuman Guest House
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 we simply sleep on the roof of the secondary school or, if you prefer, 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!
OVERNIGHT: Camping in Kadykchan
Get up early and explore some more of Kadykchan while breakfast is prepared, or have a lie un while soaking up the uncanny feeling of being in a city devoid of human activity, free time in Kadychan starts the day. then we break camp and head for the nearby semi-abandoned settlement of Myaundzha - just half an hour's drive away. Myaundzha has actual living humans-in-residence as well as some amazing tragically derelict structures such as a lovely Palace of Culture.
We then begin a bit of an epic journey back to Magadan. This will take all day and we will arrive quite late, but it will be very much worth it! Our return journey is not the same as the path we have followed already, the Road of Bones is a loop in fact, and we will take the road less travelled this time. This road runs along the Kolyma River for much of the way, an amazing bit pf remote scenery, we will stop for plenty of views and also at some monument and significant spots along the way. Most notable the Ust-Omchug Gulag Museum, something very out of the way, but very special indeed. We will have lunch along the road and then when finally back in Magadan a 'welcome back' dinner! you will have earned this by now and be ready for a serious rest!
Back in the big city, we have a day of leisure for you. Still, we will assess how everyone is feeling on the spot and if there is still energy left in you then we will arrange a couple of side excursions for the morning. Once you are over the confusion of being in an actual inhabited city once more! For the rest of the day you have free time, visit some of the museums and galleries, shop for souvenirs and gold (mined by machines and free workers these days), visit a local banya, or consider a trip to the nearby local beach (of course this being Magadan it has an abandoned factory on the shores, and the water is absurdly cold, but where did you think you were after all?) We will meet for a final farewell meal with our local hosts, at somewhere very nice indeed, then the final night of the tour - to close out a long and arduous journey (follow it with a night out on the town if you like, we know some good nightspots!) but one that will provide an unbeatable experience in deepest Russia, something that will stick in the mind forever!
Departure Day – There are flights this day to Moscow (from where almost anywhere in Europe can be reached, as well as North America), and other cities around Russia (some obscure, some well-known). Check out this link for some info on these flights. If you want to extend the stay in Magadan we can arrange that for you and we can offer help and advice for other places that you can reach from here too if you wish to extend your stay in Russia, just drop us a line to ask what assistance we can offer.
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!
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
Accommodation throughout the trip - in hotels, camping at the gulag, and sleeping rough in Kadykchan! (tents and sleeping bags where needed)
Meals apart from during free time
Transportation by various means - mini-bus, Kamaz truck, etc
Entry fees at attractions visited
Russian visa support (LOI)
Guide and translation services throughout
The most amazing travel experience of your life - hard roads, tough travel, invaluable memories and experiences!
Flights to start and finish the tour (to/from Magadan)
Meal expenses during free time (approx 2 evenings)
Russian visa fee (varies according to nationality and place of issue)
Single room accommodation (it is optional. $40 supplemental per person per night)
Tips for the local guides, drivers
Camera fees where charged (usually around $1 in museums)
Incidentals such as souvenirs, laundry, alcoholic drinks, phone calls, etc
This tour requires 10 members to operate. The maximum number of participants is 16 members.
Please apply by 1st June, 2021.