Magadan is one of the few ports in this remote part of Russia, kept open over winter by resident icebreakers. The town is quite isolated - there is no railway, and the only road out of town is impassable in summer to all but the most hardy of off-road vehicles.
The city was founded in 1930 and named after the river with the same name. During Stalin's reign, the isolated settlement gained importance as transit centre for prisoners sent to gulags. Prisoners were coerced into forced labour, most of them in construction projects such as the infamous Road of Bones, and in the Dalstroy gold mining operations. It grew into a shipping hub for the export of gold and precious metals mined in the Kolyma region, expanding quickly with revenue from exported gold.
Magadan has an airport with regular flights to Moscow. The airport is actually located at the town of Sokol, some 50 km (31 mi) along the Road of Bones, and as at July 2011 it was refreshingly free of rip-offs. Unusually for an airport, it has a fishmonger's counter offering fish and shellfish. Bus 111 connects with town centre every 45 minutes during daytime (55 руб, 70 min).
Interavia Airlines: Magadan to Moscow Domodedovo Wednesdays and Fridays.
Yakutia Air Company: Magadan to Moscow Vnukovo Intl via Novosibirsk on Wednesdays. Magadan to Yakutsk on Wednesday (and via Khabarovsk most other days). Magadan to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on Tuesday (fortnightly in off-season) - expensive flight on Antonov 24, but much cheaper/quicker than going via Vladivostok or Khabarovsk.
Vladivostok Air: Magadan to Vladivostok direct and via Khabarovsk Novyy on Tues/Wed/Saturday - varies seasonally
Transaero: Magadan to Moscow Domodedovo - daily flights in peak season, four times per week in off peak.
- Main article: Kolyma Highway
There is a road connecting Magadan with Yakutsk and rest of Russia, the M56 Kolyma highway. Its discouraging nickname Road of Bones gives a clue to its construction by slave labour in the 1930s. This route passes through extremely remote areas; although improvements have been done in recent years, it is still not recommended to traverse the road without serious consulting and preparation.
All regional buses departs and arrives at the central bus station located at the corner of pr. Lenina and ul. Proletarskaya. Most villages and towns has daily connections. There's no public transport that traverses the whole journey from Yakutsk on the Kolyma Highway but there's a service from the gold mining town Susuman which lies about 1/3 on the route.
There are no passenger ferries to Magadan but SASCO runs regular cargo shippings from Vladivostok that can accommodate passengers. Knowledge of Russian is essential for inquiries.
- 1 Mask of Sorrow (Маска скорби (Maska skorbi)). 24/7. The Mask of Sorrow is a 15 m tall concrete monument to the victims of the Gulags, for which this region was well known, on a hill on the outskirts of town. You will need transport to get here, but it's worth the effort. It is a tribute to the prisoners who were subjected to forced labour in the construction of the R504 Kolyma Highway also dubbed as road of bones because of the gulag prisoners that died during construction in harsh conditions. Because of the permafrost conditions in some areas, it was deemed more practical to interment corpses into the fabric of the road rather than digging graves to bury them. Sections of the road have thus become a burial memorial. Free.
- 2 Regional Museum, pr. Karla Marksa 55. The Regional Museum has an extensive display devoted to the Kolyma Gulags, with many artefacts from them - annotations all in Russian, but interesting even without translation. Other galleries include interesting natural history displays, including a mummified mammoth. 50 руб.
- 3 Lenin Statue. The Lenin statue was recently moved from the site where the local Russian Orthodox Cathedral was rebuilt. It now sits in pride of place in a park, alongside which (fittingly perhaps) is the local headquarters of the FSB.
- 4 Church of the Nativity. One of the rare Roman Catholic churches in the Far East, serving worshippers who survived Stalin's forced labour camps from the 1930s to the 1950s. Many of them were adventurers looking for gold and other precious resources in the subarctic climate. It became a monument to the millions of prisoners who suffered and died in gulags. The church was built between 2001 and 2004, one of the most recent religious buildings in the city. Free.
- DVS Tour. DVS-Tour can arrange tours to Gulag sites in the region
- Magadan Beach. When the weather is warm, it seems that half the town heads for the beach, so it's a great opportunity to mingle with the locals. Hardy individuals might care to try a swim in the sea of Okhotsk, but while the weather might be sunny, chances are the water will feel crisp.
There is a relatively plentiful supply of Mammoth Tusks unearthed in the area, and these are made into interesting carvings which can be bought in souvenir shops - but cheaper at the workshop, if you can find it. Price of raw Mammoth Tusk was approx USD600/kg as at July 2011.
Some souvenir shops at the airport and in town sell T-shirts and postcards of a convict against a background of a prison camp holding a sign "Welcome to Kolyma" — locals say this is a reference to a disrespectful Russian movie, and prefer that tourists do not buy them.
- 1 Steak House (Стейк Хаус), Ulitsa Gagarina, 12, ☏ . American owned, good western and tex-mex food and free wi-fi. Go to the top of the hill on Lenin St and turn left, the steak house will be on your right beside/behind an apartment block. There are 2 sections, the Sports Bar offers much the same fare and is cheaper.
Okean Hotel - has an interesting pole-dancing bar, admission 200-250 руб, beers 150 руб, definitely worth a visit if this is your thing, or even if this is your first experience. Ladies welcome, very non-threatening.
- 1 Best Eastern VM Central Hotel Hotel, ul. Lenina 13, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Said to be the best hotel in town, well located on the main street and with a lively bar.
- 2 Okean Hotel, ul. Portovaya, 36/10. Said to be a good second choice hotel (but having sampled the first choice, I'd be looking at this one next time).
- Yakutsk (see Get in)