An adventure tourism company that specializes in trips to obscure and off-the-beaten-path destinations in northeast Asia has announced plans to visit the abandoned Soviet-era city of Kadykchan -- which in Russian means "death valley."
Beijing-based Koryo Tours is this summer returning for the second time to the remote Magadan region of Russia -- famous for its gulags in the era of communist repression -- but adding a tour that it says no other travel firm has even considered trying.
"Meaning 'death valley' in Russian, this was a fairly populous mining town with, at the time, modern facilities and buildings, schools, apartment complexes, and so on," the company said.
Until the mid-1980s, life in Kadykchan continued as it had for decades. But then the global economic downturn triggered an exodus of the population and the situation became desperate in the unusually harsh winter of 1996, when heating pipes froze and relief vehicles were unable to make the journey to the beleaguered community. The residents came perilously close to starvation.
Evacuated by the Russian military, they left behind what is today one of the largest and best-preserved ghost towns in the world.
The travel firm says Kadykchan is exceptionally difficult to get to, but will be "utterly worthwhile."
The trip includes a 650 km road trip to the town of Susuman -- where the airport was converted into an orthodox church -- which will serve as the base for exploring Kadykchan.
"See a place which once bustled with life but is now being reclaimed by nature," the company said. "In this city you can go inside apartment buildings, the hospitals, schools, technological institutes, the city government, Olympic centre and much, much more.
"See the bust of Lenin, which is now full of holes since being shot at by evacuating local residents," it said, adding that the trip will be life-changing.
The Abandoned Russia trip is being offered for a minimum of six people and a maximum of 20 as an extension to Koryo Tours' Magadan trip at a cost of â¬1,750 per person and scheduled to take place between July 10 and 16.
The four-night Magadan trip starts on July 7 in the Russian Far East port city of Vladivostock and includes visits to the monument to prisoners of the gulags, bone and gold carving workshops and the nearby Novaya Vesolaya beach.
In Kamaz trucks, participants will visit the site of the Dneprovsky Gulag -- one of the most notorious in the entire gulag system and primarily the last destination for "thought criminals." Visitors will see the guards' watch towers, the mining equipment that was left behind and the prisoners' cemetery, before camping on the site overnight. The trip costs from â¬1,390 per person.