Kamchatka is a peninsula in the Far-eastern Russia, right across the Pacific Ocean from Alaska, not far from Japan. It’s also the land of fire-breathing mountains, pure ice-cold water springs, hot thermal bathing pools, wild animals and pristine, untouched nature. If you wish to feel connected to the world around you and experience nature at its purest, Kamchatka is the place to go. Although travelling to this remote place can be rather expensive, here are at least 7 reasons why spending your vacation in Kamchatka can become the experience of a lifetime:
Climb an active volcano
Kamchatka abounds in volcanoes: there are 30 active and about 300 dormant volcanoes on the peninsula. While Kluchevskaya sopka, the biggest active volcano in Eurasia, is a choice for the strong and the brave, being hard-to-reach and accessible only to experienced climbers, there are plenty of great choices located near the city that provide an easier climb. For example, the Avachinskiy volcano is situated just 40 kilometers away from Petropavlovsk, the biggest city of Kamchatka. There is a comfortable camp at the Avachinskiy mountain pass at the height of a 1000 meters and the actual climb to the top (2741 m) can be done within one day. The view from the top of the Avachinskiy volcano in good weather is stunning and makes you feel on top of the world. Climbing the Avachinskiy is also a great opportunity to see cold lava and volcanic activity – for example, fumaroles, which are spurts of sulphuric gas, at a close distance.
See geysers erupt
If you want to see something truly unique, go to the Valley of Geysers in Kamchatka. Over 30 geysers are located in the 5-kilometer-long valley lost among snow-covered mountain ranges, one of the six places in the world where geysers are to be found. Having enjoyed a one-hour helicopter ride (the valley is only accessible by air), you’ll get to experience the eruption of geysers, see the biggest concentration of pulsating streams and geysers on a single platform in the world, watch mudpots froth and boil away, walk around warm lakes and thermal rivers. If you are really lucky, you could even meet a bear while on the path!
Meet the brown bear
Speaking of the bears, Kamchatka is a great place to observe them in their natural habitat! Kamchatka abounds in brown bears that often come to rivers and lakes to fish in summer months. Kamchatka bears are considered to be less aggressive than some of the other species. Walking around lake Kurilskoye – which is thick with fish in July and August – you can observe bear every-day life from a close distance in a safe way. Mother bears going fishing for their little cubs are the real stars of bear watching there! Bears are used to visitors at the lake and just go about their business as usual, catching their meals, fighting over territory, taking care of their young. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take great shots of the bears and the visit is surely going to become a treasured memory.
Take a dip in the hot springs
Kamchatka is rarely portrayed as a health-resort but its thermals are surely worthy of the title! Natural hot water pools make it possible to bathe outside the year round. Imagine enjoying a hot steamy bath while snowflakes gently settle on your face! Thermals are common on the peninsula, both wild springs (untouched knee-deep pools) for nature-lovers and real pools for those who like their comfort. The water inside the pools may not look like much, but don’t judge on first sight. While most beneficial for those who have skin complaints, the mineral contents and the blue-green algae in the thermals tend to give your overall health a nice boost – especially if you take thermal baths a few times in a row.
Discover Itelmens and Koryaks
We all watched the “Avatar” movie, right? Remember the reverence the locals showed to their world and the way they believed everything around them was alive and sentient? Well, you don’t need to watch movies to experience that kind of relationship with nature in Kamchatka. Come and meet the local indigenous people – the Itelmens and the Koryaks – in their traditional villages. There are several places not far from the city where you can really feel a part of our planet as a living, breathing, intelligent thing. Take part in the Koryak ritual of fire-cleansing. Feed the spirits with the Itelmens. Hear their stories about the woods, and the rivers, and the ocean. Get to know the Kutkh – the raven spirit, the protector – and learn the aborigines’ version of how and why the world came to be. After the visit, be sure to buy some herbal tea made from fireweed leaves and herbs in the local shop.
Ski in the wild
Kamchatka offers skiing possibilities the year round. There are several steep slopes with ski-lifts and equipment renting points within the two main cities that open for mountain skiing and snowboarding in December or January – or whenever enough snow falls – and close around May. There are also plenty of places for cross-country skiing, complete with amazing views on some of the tracks. But the best skiing opportunities, of course, are open for those who have the skills – and the spirit – to go free riding away from the popular spots. While snow usually melts in and around the cities by the middle of May, some volcanic slopes are good for skiing and snowboarding the year round. That said, the air temperature is a lot milder in summer even high up in the mountains – makes for fantastic pictures in lighter clothes on snow-covered volcanoes!
Spend a night outside the cell phone-coverage area
Modern technology is so deeply ingrained in our lives, we never really stop and think about how much time our devices take from us or how we’ve come to depend on internet, social media and different apps. But the truth is, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Sometimes it is important – healing, even – to disconnect from the rest of the world for a few days and go completely offline, get to know yourself better and enjoy other people’s company in a natural, pre-technology way. While there aren’t many places left on the planet without wi-fi or cell-phone signal, Kamchatka abounds in spots where absolutely no kind of connection with the world is possible. So turn off that phone and have a look around: it may not be easy, but you are in for a trip you’ll never forget!