Exploring the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

You’ve probably never heard of Kamchatka. It’s a peninsula on the far eastern edge of Russia. During the days of the USSR, Soviet controls meant that no foreigners were allowed into Kamchatka – even Russians required special permission to travel. Thus the area today remains one of the most unexplored regions in this part of the world. But with its many volcanoes, geysers, and a lake of acid (a geological feature, not a leftover from previous governments), the area should be on your bucket list of things to see.

The view from the top. Photo credit - Sputnik Mania.

The view from the top. Photo credit - Sputnik Mania.

The Volcanoes of Kamchatka

The Volcanoes of Kamchatka are a UNESCO World Heritage Site; there are nearly 300 of them and 29 are still active, although as the link above mentions, no serious eruptions have happened in recent years. As far as volcanoes go, I think these are some of the most majestic and beautiful – sharp peaks, snow covered sides, and pools of water so thickly colored they looks solid.

Karymsky Volcano is where you’ll find the largest natural reservoir of acid water in the world. An unusual geological combination of events caused Karymsky Lake – which is almost four miles from the volcano – to literally boil, killing off everything in it and turning the freshwater into a salty, acidic mess. Swimming not recommended.

Abundant wildlife in the region. Photo credit - AP Photography & RobNunn.

Abundant wildlife in the region. Photo credit - AP Photography & RobNunn.

Wolves, Bears, and Fish – Oh my!

Given the little human involvement in the area, it’s no surprise that wildlife is thriving here. The best shot for sending your postcards home is one of the adorable brown bears – there are far more of them here than humans. Steller’s sea eagles also breed, never mind the other many species of wolf, fox, wolverine, lemming, reindeer, and moose. Kamchatka is also home to the world’s most diverse set of salmon – Kurile Lake has one of the largest sockeye salmon populations in the world.

Keep in mind if you wish to hunt, a license is required and they are in limited supply. Hunting is also restricted by season. It is best to work with a travel agent or specialty tour company to make necessary arrangements.

Snow-capped mountains. Photo credit - Val.

Snow-capped mountains. Photo credit - Val.

Hiking and Skiing

Depending on the season you visit, you’ll probably opt for either hiking or skiing. Hiking is the best (only?) way to see many of the most intriguing sites as there isn’t exactly a robust transport infrastructure. Hikes will take you to some of the many hot springs and geysers and let you get up close – but not too close! You’ll also have some great photo stops of scenic views and vistas – remember this is a peninsula so the ocean is never too far away – as well as checking out all the local flora and fauna. Recommended is to combine your hike with a helicopter tour – some of the best sights just aren’t accessible on foot or via four-wheeled transport.

Speaking of helicopters, a popular skiing option is the heli-ski; a helicopter drops you in an otherwise inaccessible location and off you go. I’ve seen this in action in Switzerland and I have to say, this is only for the brave of heart – if you’re a little unsettled on the skis, then this is not for you. For generic downhill ski, head to Moroznaya Hill – that’s where the Russian Olympic team has been training for the past ten years. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you. Other hot spots include Krasnaya Sopka, and Edelweiss; like any typical ski area, there are runs for all skill levels and instructors can be arranged for lessons and refresher courses.

If You Go

Book your airline tickets now, as that’s the only way to reach Kamchatka. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is the second-largest city in the world which cannot be reached by road. Flights into the airport (called Elyzovo, not Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky) connect with various cities in Russia, as well as Alaska and seasonal charter service to Korea. Once you arrive, you’ll note the lack of public transport and a lack of accurate maps. Thus, it is highly recommended only to travel to Kamchatka via a reputable travel agent, to ensure safe travel with the appropriate visa paperwork and permissions.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.


6 Comments on "Exploring the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia"

  1. Nathan on Thu, 23rd Jul 2009 6:10 am 

    Can you recommend a travel agent to use?

    Also, when does the seasonal charter service from Korea run?

  2. How I Lost 30 Pounds in 30 Days Without Diet on Mon, 27th Jul 2009 6:44 pm 

    Thanks for posting about this, I would love to read more about this topic.

  3. Andy Hayes on Mon, 27th Jul 2009 9:38 pm 

    Nathan –

    Not sure what country you’re in, but this website has a lot of info and some local agencies:

    I’d caution you to check out any provider before booking.

    The summer charter is provided by Korean Air – more details are on their website:

    Happy Travels!

  4. Central Asia | Kazakhstan, The Stans Part I | Unearthing Asia on Mon, 29th Mar 2010 6:31 pm 

    […] is the largest of the ‘stans and the world’s nine largest country, bordering on Russia which is just to the north. This part of Asia was under the Soviet Union’s control until 1991, […]

  5. Seven Great Lakes in Asia | Unearthing Asia on Mon, 31st May 2010 11:01 am 

    […] far from there, check out as well our exploration of Kamchatka, at the far eastern edge of Russia. Photo credit – George […]

  6. Karma Generator on Sun, 30th Jun 2013 7:46 pm 

    You are so interesting! I don’t think I’ve truly read through something like
    that before. So good to find another person with a few unique thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is needed on the
    web, someone with some originality!

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